A Spanner in the Works – or simply a Stick

From previous posts you will be aware of my involvement maintaining the local church clock.   Over the past months my colleague and I have been nibbling away at various little problemettes with the movement and things are now looking quite good.   For the past two weeks it has run sweetly and maintained +/-1 second over that period.

Then last night it stopped.

This morning we wandered round to see what the problem might be.  The first thing we do on arrival is look at the front dial to see at what time it had stopped.   This time it had stopped at around 10.35 last night. We climbed the tower and inspected the movement.   

There did not seem anything obviously wrong so we decided to swing the pendulum and get it working again. We had arrived at just before 10am and our inspection took us over the hour and the front the dial was showing 10.35.  Because we were now ‘within the hour’ it was acceptable to wind the hands back to the correct time which was now just after 10am.   

I pulled out the motion work locking pin and began to move the hands (which were now independent of the movement) in a backwards direction to set the time. Except the hands would not move backwards.   There was resistance.  Something bad had happened to the motion work.   

We checked the mechanism to both the front and rear dial but there was nothing obviously wrong but the hands refused to go backwards under light pressure and I did not want to force anything at this stage.

We went outside again and this time checked the front and now also the rear dial and this is what we saw : –

church clock with stick jamming the mechanism

Our feathered friends had built a nest on the belfry window ledge and a stick had fallen from the nest and jammed itself in the dial.   The odds of this happening must be pretty thin.

A careful waggle of the hands back and forth broke the stick free and we then reset the time and hopefully all will now be well.

The interesting observation was that the stick was only brushing the hand in the forward direction but in reverse it was pushing against it.    The forward resistance was still sufficient to reflect back through the motion work into the main mechanism to stop the escapement and therefore the clock.

Another bit of knowledge gained.

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Stevenson Collet Block and the Angle of Dangle

Often a project comes along and it has you scratching your head how to go about it.   

The following job was simple and it could have been hand filed but my preference was to machine it.  The fact that I needed to make two added to my thinking.  (aka – I am fundamentally a lazy person …. and I follow my father’s adage that if a machine can do it a human shouldn’t)

You can simply regard the challenge as looking like a screwdriver blade but I needed to have it with the flats exactly on opposite sides, the end of the flats needed to come together to a defined blade point thickness (0.3mm) and the length of the flat taper had to be a defined length (30mm).   Here is a simple sketch.

taper milling

What I am about to describe is not magic and I am probably teaching many a granny to suck eggs (is this a universal saying or quintessentially English and how did it originate ?) but it might help someone somewhere save a few minutes of their life.

Stevenson Blocks in my opinion are the most elegant pieces of workshop tooling ever invented.   They consist of an accurately machined block of steel with an ER collet mounting.   Really quite simple.  They come in different ER sizes and the block can be square or hexagonal cross section.   These are they below and ArcEurotrade are one possible source.

stevenson collet blocks

If you have to machine a square head or hexagonal head on a piece of round stock they make the job so easy to run and make the result uniform, symmetrical and central.   Likewise centre drilling of round stock becomes so much more simple.  IMHO no workshop should be without Stevenson’s Blocks.

Back to the job in question.   I drew out the geometry and calculated I needed to set the 5mm round stock at an angle of 4.48 degrees.  Non scale sketch below.Angle calculation using Tangent Rule (Tangent rule – I can’t remember opposite and adjacent etc and remember it instead from – “Some People Have Curly Black Hair Through Persistent Brushing” where B = Base, H = Hypotenuse and P = Perpendicular).

I could have simply set the stock in the milling vice at the required angle but it would be a real pain getting it correct and protruding the right amount to skim flat. The resulting set up was as follows and you can see how the Stevenson Block came to the rescue.   

The 5mm stock was faced off and then marked at 30mm from the end and with a score line and then mounted in the Stevenson Block.

setup for milling round stock at an angle

My angle setter just fits nicely on the Block surface and has a magnetic base. This setup makes it so easy set the stock angle by  ‘hinging’ the Block up and down against the bottom edge of the Block and the angle plate surface.  (Clearly for other angles the height of the hinging point support would need to change).

Once set, the cutter is traversed in ‘X’ up and down the stock until the run out point coincides with the 30mm mark. Once the first side is cut, the stock and Block (could this be the name of a pub for engineers ?) are rotated 180 degrees which is fix defined by the Block lower surface edge.  The second side can now be run.

complete assembly set up for taper milling

I said it wasn’t magic but it beats filing and is far more accurate than I would have achieved by hand.   Good result.

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Droning On and another Toy

Another drift to the dark side I am afraid.

I bought a drone.

Yes I know ….. Lots of reasons why I justified it to myself and I went through the prior post decision making process and got a ‘yes’ as a result.

Seriously I have been considering one for sometime.   In France the house sits looking out over a valley and we often see deer and foxes (but not yet a wild boar) and I have always hankered for being able to get up close to them.  France aside my work on turret clocks often needs a close view of the clock face without the hassle of ladders and scaffolding.   So two good reasons (in my book anyway).

I had been watching the market trying to decide when to jump.  The two big players for the semi professional market are DJI and Parrot.   Both these run out expensive.   Then in January I got a mailshot from Banggood about a new device to be launched by Fimi called the X8 SE.   This seemed to be only available from Banggood and was on back order status.    I missed out on the first delivery but finally my toy arrived last week.   

It is amazing.  And at a fantastic price.

Not ever owning a drone before I cannot compare with anything but it is so easy to drive and has so many automated flying routines.   Battery life is around 30 minutes and range is stated as 4km and it can skim along at 18m/s speed (yes that is 65km/hr ….).    It does 4k video and 12M stills.

So that is my entertainment sorted for summer, should summer finally arrive.

fimi x8 SE drone and controller
Fimi Drone and associated controller.

It is worth watching Dustin Dunhill on YouTube if you want a serious review of the device.  He does tech reviews and there are 3 or 4 Fimi videos on his platform.

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    Decision Making Process for buying a New Workshop Asset

    While reading a hobby related magazine I saw the following note that I think speaks volumes  …..

    When deciding whether or not to buy a new piece of kit for the workshop ask yourself three questions  :-

    Do I need this tool ?

    Do I want this tool ?

    Can I justify this tool ?

    If the answer to any of the above is ‘possibly’ then buy it.

    If the answer to any of the above is ‘no’ then ignore it as it is probably a statistical anomaly.

    If you feel you cannot afford to buy it then tell yourself you are in danger of becoming a cheapskate and buy it anyway.

    Enough said ?

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    French Connections, House Numbering, Shed Building, Left and Right Hand Threads

    Sorry it has been a bit quiet but we had three weeks in France albeit with not the best of weather.  As ever a few jobs on the list and some new experiences.

    The village where our house is located has always had very ambiguous addresses such that deliveries were a nightmare unless by Post.    The parish council decided to solve this with a ‘numerifcation’ and tasked a local man to decide on street names.   Given that there are probably less than 200 properties in the whole village and very few of these in our road, we were surprised to be allocated number 436.

    On arrival and taking a wander round the village the numbers appeared totally erratic and certainly not conforming to the norm of odds one side of the road and evens on the other.   It then dawned on me that the numbers were related to the distance from the starting point of each road relative to the village centre.  We were therefore 436 metres along the road from the first house.   A quick cross check on Google Earth confirmed this as the distance to the centre of our gateway.

    Now you could label this as French perversity but I think it is rather elegant.  Deliveries can now find us easily and if someone does a barn conversion mid street a new unique number can easily be created rather than 6A or similar. The council provided us with rather nice enamelled number plates and these match the new street name boards.   We noticed on the drive home that one or two other villages we passed through seemed to have had similar initiatives.  No doubt Macron will claim credit.

    The first test of the new address was when I ordered a garden shed (abri de jardin) from Alice’s Garden and it found us successfully.   The aim was to have a storage shed for our ride on lawn mower.   The shed was a bit on the low cost side but did arrive OK in two flat packs.   When opened up it all seemed a bit flimsy.   Two of our friends had arrived to stay and they got roped into putting it together.  The instructions called for two people and predicted 2 to 3 hours work.    It took four of us a bit longer than this and lots of self tapping screws later we had a shed. 

    alices garden shed
    Garden Shed from Alice’s Garden for ride on mower storage but with door too narrow …. another fine mess

    Given the flimsy nature of the materials it was surprisingly sturdy. The one flaw in the plan was the mower would not go through the door …. I had measured across the wheel width and not across the cutting bed.  We left our friends with the challenge of solving this minor issue …. so far they have managed to widen the door opening and it now needs a new enlarged door.

    We had also ordered an electrically operated sun awning and this was installed while we were there.   This is a seriously heavy piece of kit that the two technicians were struggling to lift between them.   The installation involved mounting three plates on the house wall and then ‘dropping’ the awning housing onto these with retaining fastenings.   Because of the style of block work used in France they tend to use chemical based fixings for anything substantial that needs mounting.   The technicians arrived, measured up, drilled and chemically bonded 12 lengths of M12 studding into the wall.   After the prescribed setting time they attempted to mount the plates only to find their logistics team had supplied them with left hand thread studding and right hand thread nuts.   Much French cursing ensued.   

    Out came the angle grinder and the studs were chopped off.   Rummaging around in their van they found some more right hand thread studding, re-drilled and re-bonded this in place and finally got round to mounting the awning – which was a real struggle to lift even with three of us wobbling on ladders.   They didn’t leave until gone 7pm so not the most cost effective installation quote by the salesman.

    awning in france also called a store
    Awning in place with correct thread studding used

    This excitement apart we had a good stay with a round of golf at Souillac, a village festival and an excellent meal with our neighbours and their extended family.   The house is looking pretty good now and perhaps next time we can just relax with nothing on the ‘To Do’ list – perhaps.

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