Monday, 12 August 2013

Non-Watchmaking Post #2: Ring-Making

Over the last few months, some of my spare time has gone towards ring-making. I decided I would like an awesome signet ring, but I couldn't find anything of the design I wanted for a reasonable price. So I decided I'd try making some rings. Here's three attempts, all with plenty of flaws, in varying stages of completeness.

Attempt 1: a simple steel ring. Not particular difficult, or interesting. I gave up without even completing the finish, you can still see some machine marks. This design is not "substantial" enough.

 Attempt 2: a steel signet ring with a wide flat and shoulders. I began with a 30mm mild steel rod I turned out the inside of the ring, then milled and ground down the other surfaces. After a few hours work, I had a ring that looked more like a one-finger knuckle duster.


I had a professional engrave the initials into the centre, whilst I attempted the framing lines. The difference in skill is quite evident. The significant advice from the professional engraver was: use a different material, the steel was much, much too hard. That reality really should have dawned on me, with all the work I was doing to the steel, the turning, milling and mostly, the grinding, had hardened the steel dramatically. The engraver found even those initials incredibly hard to finish with his available tools.

Attempt 3: a brass signet ring, with a more rectangular flat, and higher shoulders. I ground this entirely by hand with a Dremel, as I don't have any 30mm brass rod to turn (I do have 50mm brass rod, but that wouldn't be an efficient use of that stock). My goal for attempt 4 is to smelt some of my brass swarf (offcuts from lathe/mill) and to pour rings in sand moulds myself. Until that, this is my best attempt. Whilst there are still some machine marks, one more polish should give it a mirror finish, ready for engraving and hard gold plating.

Restoring a Tudor Prince OysterDate

I have been restoring this watch for a friend for some time, about 6-10 months. The watch came to me in quite a poor condition, it's obviously had a hard life:

The plexi was far from being anywhere near a state that could be saved. The case was rusted in places and scratched deeply in others.


Thankfully, the movement was in reasonable condition. Whatever foul conditions ruined the outside of the what had not significantly wended their way into the case. Inside we see a beautiful Tudor movement, speckled with plenty of dust. I believe (feel free to correct me here) this is an ETA 2836 movement.

The only real un-mendable aesthetic issues on the watch relate to the dial. Between 3 & 5 the edges of the dial are heavily worn/degraded. I'm only guessing, but I think this is water damage.

The restoration process largely focused on the case: cleaning, sanding and a great deal of polishing. The plexi was much quicker, but far more tricky to resolve. I consulted my parts expert at the local watchmakers/jeweller's tool shop, but we were unable to find a perfectly fitting plexi for the case. I opted for a slightly oversized plexi, that I turned down to fit the case - it was an unbelievably tight fit, and I'm certain it's not coming out in one piece (so I'm glad I took time to align it properly..). During the disassembly, parts of the hand lume fell away, and instead of leaving it half on one of the hands, I opted to remove all the old lume from each hand. Perhaps when I learn more about re-luming hands I'll be able to take another run at this watch.

The back of the case looks a lot better, but still not quite perfect.

Apart from the dial, I'm extremely happy with the overall result. A fantastic movement, running beautifully

Non-Watchmaking Post #1: My Pen Collection

I've decided that I need to share some of my other hobbies (obsessions really). I started collecting pens after using a Parker 45 that my father received when he finished working for a bank in the early 70s.
The Parker 45 is still to this day my favourite pen. It writes smoothly, clearly, is well proportioned, well balanced and wonderfully understated with it's hooded nib.
Here's some of my pens (as many that I could find in a few moments). Starting on the left - the Fisher Space Pen, an Esterbrook J fountain pen, a Parker 17 fountain pen, 3 Parker 45 fountain pens, a Parker 45 ballpoint, a Parker 45 mechanical pencil, a Parker Jotter fountain pen, and a Parker Jotter ballpoint.

After accumulating a few Parker 45 fountain pens, I wanted a complete set of chrome trim ("CT") writing implements. So, to go with my stainless steel Parker 45 fountain pen, I quickly grabbed a ballpoint of eBay for a dollar or two, and then the mechanical pencil. The Parker 45 mechanical pencil was the more expensive acquisition, completing the set.

Here's some close-ups of the Parker 45's hooded nib:


My Parker pen obsession didn't stop with the 45. Throughout my university years, I almost exclusively used a Parker Jotter whilst in lectures/tutorials on campus (fountain pens are better kept in a desk draw, and not your backpack where they may turn everything Quink Blue).

To go with my Jotter ballpoints, I recently got a Jotter fountain pen that takes cartridges. The nib has a simple, modern design. It writes very easily, but it's nothing exceptional.

This is my newest pen. I bought this simply because I saw a youtube video of Adam Savage discussing the Space Pen and Field Notes notebooks. I also greatly appreciate it's solid, superior construction and tiny size.

Lid off:

Lid on so it becomes "full sized" in your hand:

This is my least favourite Parker pen to write with, the Parker 17. I find that the nib spreads very easily on this pen, and it clogs readily. Given that this is my only Parker 17, I cannot conclude that this is a fundamental design fault, as it could be attributable to my writing style (pressure, angle) and the firmness of the nib (soft, medium, hard, etc.).

Finally, my almost-favourite - the Esterbrook J. I've seen a few tribute pages to this pen, it has quite the following. It's cheap(ish) and common - a pen for the people! Its also a classic design and writes tremendously well. I thoroughly recommend this instrument to any fountain pen enthusiasts.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Fixing the Calendar Mechanism On A Comete Diver's Watch

Earlier this year, during my usual daily perusal of eBay's used watches, I found this cheap wind-up watch and couldn't resist.

Looks great, it's reliable, and it's got a diver's bezel! There were two good reasons for it's low price tag though. 1: Condition - "well used" would be a generous euphemism for it's state. The following photo of the case back (hopefully) shows some of the deep scratches and dents that the watch has suffer when trying to be opened by and inept former owner.

2: The Calendar Mechanism: Didn't work, hence the reason for this post.
To start, the back is cracked open to show a nice, clean, simple and serviceable movement.

Out of the case with the dial removed:

And now to start the tear-down.

After the usual tear down, I found no problems so I flipped the movement over and started to investigate the calendar wheel.

I wound the crown forward and back, and now the calendar mechanism appeared to run smoothly. In watches that don't have a quickset function (usually one of the three crown positions that causes the clutch wheel to engage the calendar wheel - either directly or indirectly) there is a skip function between 9pm and 12 midnight where you wind forward and back to skip the calendar wheel forward. Watches that have a calendar complication, but no quick wheel advancement method (other than winding!) are quite rare.

To investigate why the wheel wasn't functioning whilst cased, but was when the movement was uncased, I wound the crown back to see exactly how the calendar wheel works.

As the calendar wheel rotated anti-clockwise (reversing the watch's time) the calendar wheel tooth recessed into the calendar wheel and a spring protruded from the opposite side of the wheel.

The calendar wheel tooth then slid over the date wheel index tooth.

And popped out, free to engage the calendar index tooth from the other side, to advance the date wheel when the crown was then wound forward.

So where's the problem? Well, the plate that holds down the calendar wheel tooth (which is actually a tooth on the end of a spring) is quite loose. It sort-of-but-not-quite floats on top of the tooth-spring.

I found that when even a little pressure is applied to this plate, the calendar tooth became jammed and did not have sufficient clearance to move. This then is the likely cause of the date mechanism malfunctioning. The remedy should simply be a more careful positioning of the dial which sits directly above the calendar wheel. The dial is not in perfect condition, so a little "persuasion" may be needed to generate the required clearance between the dial and the calendar wheel plate to prevent pressure on the calendar wheel tooth.

Monday, 10 June 2013

A Massive Bag Of Watch Parts!

Last week, whilst I was in my Jeweller/Watchmaker Supplies store acquiring a buffing rouge, one of the guys said "wait here David, I've got something you may be interested in". I indulged the mystery and patiently waited. When he returned he dumped a rather substantial bag of metal on the counter and said "25 a kilo".

Here's half of what he placed on the counter (I'd sorted half already when I took the pic):

And inside the bag:

The bag weighted 3 kilograms, and was the densest, most assorted jumble of watch parts I've ever seen. Every conceivable part, for wrist and pocket watches can be found. The vast, vast majority of the parts are still in useable condition - including the balance staffs. I thought with the haphazard packaging, weight and constant contact between parts would render the more delicate items unusable, but that is not the case.
I'm told these came from an old store down south (Sydney/Melbourne) and these parts have been collecting dust for quite some time. The problem for my wholesaler is that the time expense of sorting the parts would certainly exceed any possible benefit from their sale.
Now, for a borderline obsessive-compulsive individual such as myself, the 2-3 weeks needed to sit down and sort through the thousands/ maybe tens-of-thousands of tiny parts isn't much of an issue.

The remaining half:

 In my view, biggest benefit from this bag is the multitude of crowns and stems I now have. I have about 1 kilogram of stems & crowns which can now be put to work. Even if I cannot find an acceptable part within this substantial haul, I should be able to machine, file or cut parts to fit where needed.

Here's my current storage solution. It's a small case with internal dividers made from plastic rulers with tiny paper packets holding various different bits sorted according to function.

Unfortunately, this small case won't be housing the stems, crowns, balance wheels, plates, bridges and wheels (too numerous).

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

A Cheap Timex Automatic

This is a recent eBay acquisition, by memory I think it was around AUD30 inclusive of postage. The appeal of this piece was in the simple, traditional design and low cost.
I don't know too much about Timex, apart from that they typically manufacture/d cheaper, reliable timepieces. In fact, this is the only Timex watch I've owned, and the first I've cracked open.


When I popped off the back cover, I found a pretty simple pin lever automatic, thinking it would be nice and simple to dissect.

The first indication that this wasn't going to be straight forward was with the keyless works. It doesn't resemble any 'normal' keyless mechanisms that you've seen in other movements on my blog, The set lever is a little tricky to remove and reset, almost as if this movement wasn't designed to have a long functional life or to be serviced...

To remove the automatic winding bridge there are two screws accessible through the rotor.

The underside of the rotor shows the eccentric pillar.

This hastily prepared video shows how the rotor pillar interacts with the winding arm. Some may notice that the action is reminiscent of Seiko's magic lever, in that a rotation eccentricity is translated into a unidirectional crawl along a winding wheel. I actual like the 'look' of Timex's design better, however the design of Seiko winding mechanisms from days past are still the most reliable I've seen.

(I'm working on the video problems)

Further proof that this watch wasn't really meant to come (easily) apart is found by the way the dial is fixed to the movement.

You can see four dial feet/clips? on the margin on the movement plate. Once carefully straightened, the dial comes free. This is certainly not a design feature for a long-lived watch. After a few services, I can imagine these feet/clips becoming stressed and breaking off.

Now for the last interesting part of this watch: the date mechanism and obverse of the movement.
Feel free to write in and tell me I'm wrong - but I've never read/seen/heard of a watch (in the 'accessible' price range) that has a planetary gear set... A little incongruous considering the rest of the movement's design.