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Industrial Vintage Collectibles Clock Works and Other Mechanical Antiques

Industrial Vintage Collectibles

Antique Tower Clocks..

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Old 05-07-2019, 12:27:24 AM
Lester Bowman Lester Bowman is offline
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Default Antique Tower Clocks..

Anyone have or collect Antique Tower clocks? I would be interested in seeing pics and hear its story. Are these greatly sought after or are they a pretty narrow collecting category ?

Not sure why but I think it would be neat to have one
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Old 05-21-2019, 04:07:43 PM
Joe K Joe K is offline
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Default Re: Antique Tower Clocks..

A fairly narrow field EXCEPT tower clocks are well past their age and are now regarded as collectable.

The couple I've seen on Ebay sell for beyond $10K.

Yes, I agree. a four second pendulum is a neat thing. (13.03 feet long)

I am reminded of my father who in 1963 was tasked with cleaning out the church steeple prior to re-erecting a new spire. The Board of Trustees decided to go with an 'all electic' setup with three clock faces appearing on the exterior of the steeple - all driven by separate electric motors.

The old setup which had a common drive in a MASSIVE cast iron clockworks was done mechanically using bevel gears and shafts. The mechanical clock even originally had a weight driven gong - the brass bell was long gone in a WWII scrap drive but you could see the mounting.

Dad and my brother (teenager) and I (8 years old) disassembled the clock as much as we could. Some of the disassembly was routine, but a lot was held together by driven keys most of which didn't want to be un-driven. MANY brass gears which Dad collected in a box. I was tasked with carrying down many of these parts to our waiting station wagon.

With most of the shafting, bolts, keys, and gears removed Dad then "broke up" the cast iron frame for its removal to the scrap yard. Dad burned wood and he had a splitting maul which he used to break up the frame.

So Dad then made his trip to the scrap-yard and when he returned he announced that he had made the church $75 in the brass.

I have often thought of that clock and what a cool thing it would be to own today.

A couple of parts of that clock still hang around my shop. The bolting was all "non-standard" and both the machine screws and larger nuts are still in the drawers here because they don't fit anything else.

The clock was British in origin, put in when the church was built in 1867, and probably was BSW threading - if not proprietary or even metric.

Those brass gears looked like something out of the pix you see of large clocks

Joe K
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Old 05-21-2019, 06:59:20 PM
Andrew Mackey Andrew Mackey is offline
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Default Re: Antique Tower Clocks..

We have a tower clock in Rockaway. it is in the old Lyondale bleach and dye works factory tower. The owners dont use it and wont let anyone in to see the works either. A friend of mine saw it many years ago, and said it had wooden gearing that was remarkably intact!. I believe it was built in the late 1800s.
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Old 05-21-2019, 07:12:18 PM
J.B. Castagnos J.B. Castagnos is offline
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Default Re: Antique Tower Clocks..

I did some repairs on our courthouse clock a few years ago. There's a central mechanism with shafts u joints and pillar blocks leading to a clock in the courtroom and one on the tower. I got involved when one of the local handyman guys tried to repair it. He tried to pull a brass bevel gear off of a shaft, brought it to me looking like an ocean wave. I annealed it and pressed it straight, surprised myself. Went into the tower with him and found a frozen pillar block bearing. A new councilman got interested recently and replaced the works with individual electric units. The original is a very collectable piece, although it had been converted to run with an electric motor. Originally it had a 100lb and a 500lb weight, one for time and one for the bell, it was a seven day clock. There were two winches, a short handled one for the clock, a long handled one for the bell. Plans are to move it down in to the courthouse for display.
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Old 05-21-2019, 07:55:40 PM
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FWurth FWurth is offline
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Default Re: Antique Tower Clocks..

My local church has it's original works still mostly intact. As long as someone tended to it, it was fine. About 15 years back we got a young priest and he wasn't interested in going up there to keep it on track and one of the bevel gear box for the hands was in need of new gears so is was off line for several years. Then we got a council that wanted to have the clock working again so they hired a firm to take care of it. The 4 hands and faces were removed and re plated and the hands got counter weighted to avoid the gear box wear issue. But they sold them a new drive set up instead of using the original works. Spent a lot of money but the tower has a working clock again. The janitors father in law was my neighbor and he invited me to see the new woks. While there they were trying to figure out how to remove the old works without destroying the little room it sits in. I reminded them that this new unit will not last too many decades and the fact that that area is off limits to most every one there fore not in anyone's way. Why not simply leave it alone, throw all those parts removed from the original drive shaft and such into the little works room and nail the door shut. Sooner or late some one will want to resurrect it when that new one goes bad any ways. They agreed and so it still sits where it had for the past 150 yrs. Originally it was weight driven but had an electric motor installed to run the works some time in the 40s or 50s.
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Old 05-21-2019, 08:58:58 PM
Joe K Joe K is offline
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Default Re: Antique Tower Clocks..

The church my family belonged to in Grafton, MA has a weight driven steeple clock. It was built by S. Willard who was a local clockmaker of some repute and who in the 1840s was himself a member of the church.

(The Willard Clockmaking family originated in North Grafton, MA where the early members made clocks in the craft tradition. The family expanded and so did the business to factory production later moving to Roxbury, MA where they really made their name.)

Anyway, the clock was/is there at the church on the Common and is periodically serviced by someone familiar with these sort of things. It was a 7 day clock and one off the church members lived in a house within earshot and he himself had been winding the clock weekly since a teen-ager.

But even 50 year olds (back when I was in my teens) like to have a week or two off to vacation in the summer, so I was trained to access the steeple (a climb possible by the skinny) and wind the clock.

I did it a few times over a few years - but always in the summer during vacation period - and when it was HOT and humid.

It was like about 400 turns of the crank to bring that bell drive weight back up. The square chute the weight was in was about 40 feet deep - not a place to lose your cuff-links. A cell-phone today would be at risk.

And, of course, after you do the winding, you have to hang around for a few minutes afterward to be sure the clock is running once the weight "takes hold" and the force is transmitted fully through the gear-works. And - being a teen-ager with LOTS of more important things to do I gave it short shrift one night.

I heard about it at 9 a.m. the next morning when ANOTHER of our church members reported to my mother that the clock had stopped and did I remember to wind it? My mother gave the standard excuse "He may have forgotten but I'll remind him." It was a quick trip downtown after frosty look and quick accusation from Mom.

And I see the women who called the next Sunday at church. And she greets me with "Oh I see you got the clock going - thank you - we missed it."


Joe K
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