Workshop resources all coming together like clockwork

Another JSN Job ?

You know how I keep on going on about how solutions to problems are often solved by coming at them from different and often unconventional directions, by utilising and marrying available resources ? It was a philosophy that I encouraged in my team while running my business and it has carried over into my way of working in retirement.   A recent job brought his home to me.

A client had a very old clock that had had a new barrel wheel made and fitted but the clock would not run for more than a few minutes.   There appeared to be an incompatibility either between the modulus of the new wheel and its mating pinion or the shape of the original pinion did not match the shape of the new wheel. 

If you spun the barrel wheel you could feel the resistance build up as the synchronisation between the two profiles drifted out.   Adding extra weight to the barrel helped but did not solve the problem.

So what to do ?   

The barrel wheel was serious engineering and I did not fancy making a new one.   The existing mating pinion was a seven leaf format and its leaves were what you might call pear drop shaped rather than the expected profile.  The pinion arbor had a 72 tooth wheel driving the next part of the clock train but we did have a spare one of these to hand from the minute dial.

Calculations from the geometry of the barrel wheel resulted in a modulus        figure of 1.86.  A rather large value and not one that conventional cutters are readily available for.  The pinion was perhaps something that could be drawn in Fusion 360 and then made on my Tormach CNC PCNC440 milling machine.   The only snag was that the profile needed on the pinion would likely be weird and the world’s supply of brass could diminish rapidly while getting the profile correct.

Using Gearwheel Designer I created what would be the expected profile for a 7 leaf pinion with a modulus of 1.86.  This was exported as a DXF line drawing into Fusion 360.  This outline was extruded in Fusion into a 3D design and a boss was added to mount the 72 tooth wheel. 

The design was 3D printed on my Sindoh 3DWOX printer and was mounted on a 6mm silver steel arbor.   I added a driving disc that interlocked with the printed pinion and the crossings on the wheel to drive the assembly.  Surprise surprise it didn’t run but it did mirror the regular pattern of stiffness of the original pinion. 

Original arbor , pinion and wheel with the driving disc and a test profile
The original arbor, pinion and wheel together with the driving disc and a 3D printed pinion test profile. The driving disc has screws to lock it to the wheel and two protruding pins to lock into the 3D printed pinion profile under test. The 3D printed profile was a tight pressure fit onto the new 6mm arbor.

I now had the test bed for quickly making and testing different pinion profiles. There followed a number of hours watching the engagement progression of the profile of the pinion into the barrel wheel and then trying to conceive a profile for the pinion that might run. 

3D printed test profiles
Various trial profiles and the temporary driving disc to engage with the 72 tooth wheel

 

Test pinion in place on the new arbor
A test pinion in place showing the 72 tooth wheel and the driving disc

Fusion 360 made this process so easy and round 10 printed test profiles later I had success with a clock that now ran.    The driving weight on the barrel was around 11kg and it looked to be worthwhile wasting some brass making a ‘proper’ one. 

I took the 3D design and produced CAM code in Fusion.   This would cut the profile ‘on end’ using an adaptive first cut with a 4mm end mill followed by rest machining the remaining material with a 2mm end mill. 

Images of the Fusion 360 process of creating the new 7 leaf pinion
The Fusion 3D model of the pinion, the CAM simulation of the leaf cutting, first adaptive cut of the leaves and rest machining final pinion

The resulting brass pinion was mounted on the arbor and the clock ran with a strong beat.   As expected the brass pinion gave less surface to surface resistance than the 3D printed part and the barrel driving weight was now able to be reduced down to 6.25kg.

new pinion mounted in the clock
The finished pinion mounted in the clock on the new arbor

I ran my Microset Timer on the clock overnight and had a first off timing error of 5 minutes per day which was fixable with a pendulum tweak. The movement had an instability of a few seconds per day which was quite astonishing.

The conclusion of the experience is that at first glance this seemed like a conventional pinion cutting exercise …. but M1.86 cutters are not readily available.   If a cutter could have been found at less than a King’s Ransom it is likely that the resulting conventional profile would have been wrong to match the barrel wheel.   

The alternative route that was taken of Gearwheel Designer to Fusion to 3D print to Fusion CAM to CNC machining solved the problem albeit with a final weird profile.    The purists and traditionalists will groan.   There will be a gnashing of teeth and a pulling out of hair. 

Does it really matter if the result is new life for what could have become a heap of scrap metal ?

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Making a Brocot Escape Wheel using Fusion 360 and Tormach PCNC440 CNC milling machine

A Steep Learning Curve

My wife has presented me with a sign that has just got JSN written on it.  It is to remind me when I answer the phone to a ‘can you just do’ enquiry…… to Just Say No.

I try my best to live up to her expectations but sometimes something comes along that should really be a JSN job but which scratches an itch.   You know what I mean.   You think about it and you do all the right mental arithmetic in your head and the answer keeps coming back to the same – don’t even think about it.  But the the other side of my brain is screaming at me … what a challenge, what a learning experience, what fun to have a go at it.   Providing the asking party is aware of your thought process or lack of it and accepts that it might just go belly up and never come to fruition then why not ?

Back to the story – 10 days or so ago I had a call from David Pawley who is a turret clock expert extraordinaire to say someone he knew was after an escape wheel for a turret clock and was desperate.   David passed on the details and a couple of days later the potential customer arrived on our driveway.  After a suitably socially distant conversation and a rubber gloves inspection of the old damaged wheel …. I got sucked in and turned the JSN sign over to face the wall.

Brocot 30 tooth escape wheel
The original Brocot 30 tooth escape wheel that needed a new one making

As you can see it is not an ordinary escape wheel and I had to delve into one of my favourite books ‘Wheel and Pinion Cutting in Horology’ by J Malcolm Wild FBHI in order to learn about Brocot Escape wheels.   Malcolm is a great guy and his book should be on any clock experimenters bookcase.

The Brocot is no ordinary escape wheel.   In fact it is a real challenge.   Not a simple fly cutter job.  Traditionally it would be cut in an indexing device such as a lathe with two different cutters, one for the curve and one for the notch.  I didn’t have these so I thought I would probably upset the traditionalists and try to use CNC.

Read all about the adventure and see the result in this pdf download …….

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Machining a job that is outside a milling machine’s table travel using Fusion 360

Introduction

This write up is not for the purists with years of experience but is an explanation of how I thought through how to machine something over size that would not fit into my Tormach PCNC440 milling footprint as a single operation.  Hopefully it might help others to grasp the process.

The challenge began when a local turret clock expert came to me and asked if I could machine a new Hour and Minute Hand for a clock he was working on.   The Hour Hand was around 14” long and the Minute Hand some 18” long.   

Here is the Fusion 360 view of the minute Hand.

clock minute hand milled in three steps

Clearly these lengths were way outside the 440 table X movement (10”) so a plan was needed.  There then followed a lot of staring into the distance at mealtimes and also at bedtime accompanied by vocal “hmmm”s as I tried to mentally visualise what was needed.  This idiosyncrasy is something my wife has come to terms with over the years…..

My conclusion from this mental preparation was that I needed to be able to accurately step the stock across the tooling table and then take two or three bites at the profile machining.  

What follows would almost certainly benefit from a video but sadly I am not set up for this. 

Click the link below to download the PDF document.

Milling an oversize object

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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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