Monday, March 21, 2011

One more mechanical pet

kw: local events, anniversaries, clocks

I recently achieved a milestone at work, my 25-year service anniversary. Rather a surprise, that, because before joining this company I seldom worked anywhere more than five or six years. I may actually last long enough to retire.

One nice tradition is that the company gives folks gifts at every five-year milestone, and 25 is one of the better ones. The catalog they sent had quite a selection of jewelry, but I really didn't want a diamond tie clasp with the company logo (I wear a suit to weddings and funerals, and very rarely otherwise), or a ring. There was also a luggage set, and then there was a clock. I got a small carriage clock at 15 years, and it doesn't work well, so I was a bit leery. But this clock sounded nice, and it was mantel size. I looked at the Howard Miller web site and found what looked like the clock. The one shown was described as battery powered. I decided to choose the clock.

When it came (presented by my supervisor), it was clear that this is no battery powered clock. The winding holes give it away! (The third hole is just visible behind the hands.) I have five other windup clocks, and keep two of them running. Now I have six, and three are running. This one is a Westminster Chime, and we've so far decided to let it chime, though it has a Silent setting. The chimes are very gentle and beautiful. I have another Westminster Chime clock, not running because it needs a new mainspring, but I didn't have it running anyway because the chimes are quite brassy and were driving us nuts. Every fifteen minutes!

Here is a look at the works. The striking hammers are at the bottom. I do love a well made clockwork. When I was about seven my father gave me an old Baby Ben alarm clock, and invited me to take it apart. He said to be careful and keep all the parts. Then he said, "Why don't you see if you can get it back together?" I did, and I got it running again. That was a great feeling of accomplishment. Since that time, I have always had at least one windup clock running.

Although I grew up taking care of house cats and yard cats, I've come to realize that caring for a windup clock is also a little like having a pet. They need to be fed (wound up) regularly, and you have to clean them from time to time, though it is usually two or more years between the need to soak out the old lubricant and re-oil the bushings and jewels (two different kinds of oil). Dusting is needed more frequently. Also, a windup clock, even a good one like this one, needs to be carefully adjusted to keep good time, or you find yourself re-setting it every few days. I believe this one is capable of keeping time within a minute per month.

I don't expect to get as involved with clocks as my father did. He repaired old clocks as a hobby. At one time we had more than twenty running mantel clocks, and midnight was quite a noisy time! Particularly because while most just chimed the hour, a few were Westminster or Whittington Chime, and three were cuckoo clocks. You can hear different kinds of chimes here.

I am satisfied with just a few nice windup clocks. They are almost like pets, and I don't have to scoop up any litter.

No comments: