Wally Brown’s

MUSICAL CLOCK MOVEMENT

One of the highlights for many visitors to the Midlands exhibition in 2014 was the prize winning clock movement shown by Wally Brown. It is to the design of the late Claude B Reeve first shown at the Model Engineer Exhibition of 1952. The following year, he described the clock in Model Engineer magazine, later reprinted in book form, first as a hardback and later as a paperback. Used copies of these books are generally available on Amazon or Ebay at sensible cost.

It would seem that the reason for plenty of the books being around is the simple one. Many model engineers bought the book in the mid 70s, like your editor,  to be worked on later. Many of us have yet to get started. Of those that did, only about ten were completed, according to John Wilding a few years back. Of course there may be more that are unknown, but the tally will still be small.

One reason for that is that the clock is complex, although as Claud pointed out there is nothing in making it that is beyond the average model engineer. Cost is another. Without the case, one of these clocks weighs in at around 80lb, much of it brass, including some large diameter tube. Brass tube for the Chiming and Striking weight is 13.5” of 3” diameter which will set you back £50 or more. Then there are the other two weights, pendulum, music rolls, and barrels. And that’s just the tube. You probably wont want to buy a set of bells at more than £2000 until your movement is well advanced.

When Claud says making it is not beyond the model engineer, a note of caution should be added. Many trained engineers make things too well for the clock world. Things fit together too tightly when they are ‘engineered’ where the clock maker builds in certain compliance to make sure the thing ticks. However, the idea of hand turning hardened pivots or taper reaming the holes they fit into are just the opposite of what the engineer has been trained to do. The results can be devastating, like the perfectly made frame plates and pillars which after the back plate has been put on will never come apart again!

Claud was an amateur clockmaker who used all the traditional methods and skills used by clock makers for a couple of hundred years. That is how he describes making this clock, although in his own clocks he used new materials that he used in his day job as a dental technician.

Since then, more has become available to clockmakers. The use of ball races, Loctite, and some other improvements have become possible. D A Wilson produced a series of articles in the late, lamented (but still available from TEE Publishing) Clockmaker magazine with a number of appropriate improvements, including the use of the more economical brass tubular bells to replace the traditional clock type. And Don Unwin wrote an article for Engineering in Miniature on how to make pressed brass bells for the clock in September 1994.