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Years of

Wooden Wheel
31
Clock Making:
A Pictorial Review
by David Bailey (AUS)

T
his pictorial review features the clocks that I made in the
past 31 years. I am an amateur wooden wheel clockmaker, whose
inspiration is derived from early American and Black Forest wooden
clocks from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

1984. This 30-hour wall clock is the first clock I made, and through trial and
error I managed to get the clock to run. Edgar Randall Beard’s drawings give the
pivot-hole distances to the nearest 1/32'', whereas my experience has been that
an accuracy of at least 0.01'' is required. Clock making requires a high degree of
precision, and I now use
digital calipers and work to
an accuracy of 0.002''. The
clock has a Perspex® front
plate, and the escape wheel
and verge are made from
layers of Formica® glued
together with polyvinyl
acetate woodworking
glue. The case is made of
meranti. Initially, the wheels
were made from 3/16''-
thick commercial meranti
plywood and the pinions
from ramin. However, the
plywood was too brittle
and tiny chips jammed the
works, so I made another
movement with wheels of
solid Australian rose alder
and the clock now runs
well. I laid out the second
gear train using a depthing
tool.1 COURTESY OF DAVID
ROSE, ARMIDALE NSW.

www.nawcc.org NAWCC Watch & Clock Bulletin • July/August 2016 • 299


1985. This clock has a Perspex® front
plate, wheels of Australian rose mahogany, and
ramin pinions. To give the clock a skeletonized
appearance, the wheels have been crossed out.
It has a seconds bit driven by a 12-leaf pinion
meshing with the 8-leaf pinion on the escape
wheel arbor. The pendulum vibrates 96 times
each minute and the escape wheel turns one and
a half times each minute. The clock runs for 30
hours and is driven with weight of 4 lbs. 14 oz.
and has a counterweight of 8 oz. This clock has
an escape wheel and verge made from Formica®.
The case design was inspired by drop dial clocks
and is made of pine with an Australian red cedar
overlay and cross-banding. The lower octagonal
decorative cartouche features a Queensland
homestead painted in oils.2 COURTESY OF DAVID
ROSE, ARMIDALE NSW.

300 • July/August 2016 • NAWCC Watch & Clock Bulletin www.nawcc.org


1987. This 30-hour Eli-Terry-type pillar and scroll
clock has a Perspex® front plate, wheels of quartersawn
Queensland maple, and ramin pinions. The case is of New
Guinea red cedar (Toona calantas). The clock runs with
a weight of 3 lbs. 2 oz. on the time train and 2 lbs. 4 oz.
on the strike train, and it maintains an accuracy of 15 to
30 seconds a day. Changing humidity affects the running
of wooden clocks, because their wheels swell and shrink
slightly as the moisture content of the wood rises and falls.
This clock runs very well when the average relative humidity
ranges between 43 percent and 73 percent. Some clock
woods are more stable than others to changing humidity.3
COURTESY OF DAVID ROSE, ARMIDALE NSW.

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1989. This is a 10-1/2 day tallcase clock. The movement was awarded a gold
medal at the 1997 NAWCC Crafts Competition in Atlanta, GA. Its wheels are made
from pie-shaped segments of quartersawn Australian blackwood. The two top pinions
in the time and strike trains are made of European beech. Steel arbors and brass and
steel lantern pinions have been used in the lower parts of both gear trains to provide
strength to support a 14
lbs. 5 oz. weight on the
time train and 15 lbs. 6
oz. on the strike train.
The clock strikes once on
the half hour and strikes
out the hour using a rack
and snail. The moon dial
advances one tooth every
12 hours, revolves once
every 59 days, and shows
approximate high water
times at Sydney Harbor.
The pendulum beats
seconds and the clock is
accurate to one or two
seconds each day. The dial
has a seconds bit and an
aperture at the 6 o’clock
position that shows the
day of the month. The
case was inspired by a
Simon Willard tall clock
dated circa 1800 shown
in Chris Bailey’s book, Two
Hundred Years of American
Clocks and Watches. It is
made of Australian red
cedar with Queensland
walnut cross-banding
and Queensland maple
stringing.4 COURTESY OF
DAVID ROSE, ARMIDALE NSW.

302 • July/August 2016 • NAWCC Watch & Clock Bulletin www.nawcc.org


1998. This 7-day regulator timepiece with a 9-light Viennese-
style case has a maintaining power and a deadbeat escapement. To
ensure greater dimensional stability during changes in humidity, the
wheels and pinions are made of laminated Australian blackwood. The
clock was tested for 360 days against Telstra telephone time, which is
guaranteed accurate to ± 0.01 seconds. Careful records of the humidity
and temperature were kept throughout the test run and the data were
subjected to rigorous analysis. The clock had sufficient dimensional
stability to run nonstop for 360 days. It performed with creditable
accuracy and achieved an Allan variance of 0.4 seconds per day, which is
a little better than Big Ben, the clock tower of the Palace of Westminster
in London. Humidity was found to be more important than temperature
in determining the daily rate of the clock. The 22-lb. pendulum has a Q
value of 22,000.5 COURTESY OF DAVID ROSE, ARMIDALE NSW.

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1998. This 1-day verge and foliot clock is made from laminated Australian
blackwood. The clock has four wheels and an hour hand; the dial is graduated
in 15-minute intervals. It is accurate to 5 to 10 minutes per day, and two small
weight blocks on the foliot arms can be moved back and forth along the arms
to regulate the clock. The clock is driven with a weight of 1 lb. 13 oz. and has a
counterweight of 4 oz. The verge and foliot are suspended by a loop of polyester
sewing thread, and the foliot completes one complete oscillation in approximately
3.3 seconds. Clocks of this type are sensitive to variations in the driving force, and
a small increase in the driving weight can cause the clock to run several minutes
faster each day. Wooden wheel verge and foliot clocks were made in the Black
Forest from about 1670 to 1740. They were reproduced in the Black Forest in the
late 1800s and can be bought today, but they are usually made from synthetic
fiberboard to minimize the effects of humidity on their running.6

304 • July/August 2016 • NAWCC Watch & Clock Bulletin www.nawcc.org


2000. This 10-day musical clock with animation has
three gear trains and the wheels and pinions are of laminated
Australian blackwood. This clock has a 1 second beat
pendulum and the time train is driven with a 17 lb. weight
on a single line. Sixteen pounds are used to drive the strike
and music trains. Each hour before striking, the clock plays
the first eight bars of the Australian folk song “Waltzing
Matilda” on eight-tuned wineglass bells. The bells were tuned
by grinding their rims using a water-cooled Carborundum™
belt. An Armidale (NSW) musical instrument maker, Peter
Biffin, supervised the grinding and arranged the music. The
carillon of bells hangs above the music gear train at the rear
of the clock. Music is transferred from the pinned barrel
via a keyboard, wire rods, and small wooden rollers to the
bell hammers. The bell hammers fall by gravity. Each has a
wooden head with a small lead weight attached above to
give a crisp hammer action. There is a scene from “Waltzing
Matilda” at the top of the dial. This features a swagman or
tramp who revolves as the music plays, and he then chops
out the hour on a log near his campfire as the clock strikes.
Clocks of this type were made in small numbers in the Black
Forest in the second half of the eighteenth century and are
known as Glasglocken-Spieluhr. A few were also made in
Austria and there is one in the National Watch and Clock
Museum’s collection in Columbia, PA.7

www.nawcc.org NAWCC Watch & Clock Bulletin • July/August 2016 • 305


2003. This 7-1/2-day spring-driven timepiece has a fusee,
maintaining power, and a half-second beat pendulum. The
wheels and the pinions, except the first, are made of laminated
Australian blackwood. The first pinion meshes with the great
wheel and was hand-cut from steel for extra strength. A small
subsidiary dial graduated in half seconds is above the main dial,
and it completes one revolution in 30 seconds. The clock is
driven by a spring with a maximum torque of approximately 40
inch lbs. The spring is housed in a brass barrel and is connected
to a wooden cone-shaped fusee by a nylon line. The fusee
is designed to deliver a constant driving force to the clock of
approximately 15 inch lbs. The clock keeps time to about 15
seconds a day. The glazed case is 23'' high and is cross-banded
in Australian blackwood. The edging strips are made of lighter-
colored wood of the same species. The plate design evolved into
an urn shape through a series of sketches, and the top of the
front plate is decorated with a Grecian key frieze of blued steel.8

306 • July/August 2016 • NAWCC Watch & Clock Bulletin www.nawcc.org


2004. This is an eighteenth-century Black
Forest-type bell-ringer clock striking on a glass bell.
The clock has animation and an alarm function.
The wheels and cage frame are made of solid
scented maple (Flindersia laevicarpa) and the
lantern pinions have steel wire trundles. The time
train is at the front of the movement and strike
train at the rear. A wooden crown wheel at the
right side of the movement activates a clapper
that vibrates backward and forward to sound the
alarm on the glass bell. The clock has a bent strip
anchor escapement and a brass escapement wheel
protrudes through a slot in the top plate to allow
engagement with the anchor pallets. Movements
of this type were made from about 1760 and they
have three wheels in the time and strike trains.
A count wheel is mounted at the back of the
movement. The pendulum hangs from the back
of the movement and is about 25'' long. The clock
runs for 24 hours with doubled line, and is accurate
to 15 seconds a day. Each hour a hand-carved
wooden figure of a schoolmaster tolls on a bell to
summon his pupils to class as the hour is struck.9

www.nawcc.org NAWCC Watch & Clock Bulletin • July/August 2016 • 307


2005. This eighteenth-century Black Forest-type
cuckoo clock has a lackschild dial. The wheels and frame
are made of solid scented maple (Flindersia laevicarpa) and
the lantern pinions have steel wire trundles. Each hour the
door at the top of the dial opens and the cuckoo appears.
The hour is struck on a metal bell and simultaneously
the cuckoo opens its beak, raises its wings, and calls.
Bellows, which are connected by linkages to the pinwheel
of the strike train, pump air into two small organ pipes to
produce the cuckoo call. The clock runs for 24 hours using
doubled lines with a weight of 2 lbs. 6 oz. to drive the
time train and 3 lbs. 11 oz. to drive the strike and cuckoo
functions.10

308 • July/August 2016 • NAWCC Watch & Clock Bulletin www.nawcc.org


2007. This vertical declining
sundial is made from 3/8'' tempered
hardboard, painted with artists’ acrylic
paints, and sealed with marine varnish.
Hour lines were incised with a wood
carving gouge and then painted black.
Tempered hardboard was used because
it is weather resistant and it does not
warp. The geometry of vertical sundials
can be more complex than horizontal
sundials, particularly if they do not
face due north (or due south in the
Northern Hemisphere). Consequently,
many vertical sundials are incorrect.
This dial is attached to the front of
my house, which declines 25˚ and 10
minutes to the east. It was designed
from books on sundial making, and the
calculations were cross-checked with
an Internet vertical declining sundial
calculator program. A cardboard dial
was made and tested before the final
dial was created. A table on the dial
gives equation of time corrections. The
dial is accurate to about 5 minutes.
The Scottish Ross family crest of my
maternal great-grandmother was
added for decoration.11

www.nawcc.org NAWCC Watch & Clock Bulletin • July/August 2016 • 309


2008. This 7-1/2-day astronomical clock has wheels of
laminated Australian blackwood and hand-cut steel pinions.
The clock comprises three dials: the top dial is a perpetual
calendar that corrects for leap years; the center dial shows
the time and phases of the moon; and the lower dial is
an orrery showing the Sun, Mercury, Venus, Moon, Earth,
Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. There is also a year counter. The
clock has maintaining power and strikes out the hour using
a rack and snail. The case is 79'' tall and the great wheel
of the time train turns once every 12 hours and it also
drives the orrery. A 16-lb. weight on a doubled line drives
the time train, while a 20-lb. weight operates the strike
train. The moon gearing features Ferguson’s mechanical
paradox, which controls the retro-precession of the lunar
nodes and allows solar and lunar eclipses to be accurately
predicted. The orrery dial also shows the month, day of the
month, equation of time, signs of the zodiac, and solstices.
Although the Earth does not revolve on its axis, it is always
correctly aligned with the Sun. The gear ratios chosen give
the following theoretical mean orbital errors:
Mercury 1 day in 5.9 years
Venus 1 day in 8.9 years
Earth 1 day in 7,692 years
Moon 1 day in 224 years
Mars 1 day in 7.2 years
Jupiter 1 day in 2.8 years
Saturn 1 day in 1.9 years
The largest wheel in the orrery has a diameter of 11.4'' they should; however, a few weeks after the movement had
and has 235 hand-cut teeth. Altogether, the clock has 54 been cased, the orrery slowed and stopped because a drive
wheels, 13 pinions, 2,841 teeth, and 240 handmade parts. wheel or pinion slipped on its arbor. In addition, a fault later
The clock took 35 months to build and it involved 3,000 developed with the perpetual calendar. Because the glass
hours of work to design and construct. After the movement canopy weighs 60 lbs. and requires three people to lift, these
had been completed, it was run on a test stand for two faults have not been corrected. In the meantime the orrery
months while the clock base and the glass canopy were has been advanced by hand, and lunar and solar eclipses
made. During the test run all of the functions worked as have been accurately predicted.

310 • July/August 2016 • NAWCC Watch & Clock Bulletin www.nawcc.org


2015. This Simon Willard-style Patent timepiece has
a wooden movement. The wheels are made of laminated
Australian blackwood. The top two pinions in the gear
train are made from solid blackwood, while the first pinion
was hand-cut from steel. The clock runs for 60 hours
between windings, is driven by a weight of 4 lbs. on a
doubled line, and is accurate to about 10 seconds each day.
It has a 28-tooth brass escape wheel and a recoil anchor
escapement. The pendulum is approximately 27'' long and
vibrates 72.8 times per minute. The reverse glass-painted
tablets were done in acrylic paints and were inspired by
those created by Daniel J. Steele on Waltham Clock Co. and
Walter H. Durfee reproduction banjo clocks in the early part
of the twentieth century.13

www.nawcc.org NAWCC Watch & Clock Bulletin • July/August 2016 • 311


References and Notes Skeleton Clock,” NAWCC Bulletin, No. 379 (April 2009):
1. Edgar Randall Beard, Make It with Wood: Tricks of 137-140. The clock was also featured on the front cover
the Trade from over Forty Years Experience in the Cabinet of that issue.
Shop (New York, NY: Van Nostrand Reinhold Co. Inc., 9. The clock is based on drawings given by Ber-
1983). David R. Bailey, “Clock Woods and Some Effects thold Schaaf in his book Holzräderuhren (Wooden wheel
of Humidity on Wooden Wheel Clocks,” NAWCC Bul- clocks) (München, Germany: Verlag Georg D. W. Call-
letin, No. 306 (February 1997): 3-20. Claude B. Reeve, wey, 1986). I added the bell ringer. Readers are warned
Clockmaking for the Amateur: Making a Chiming Grandfa- that these drawings have one or two errors, and care
ther Clock (Oxford, UK: Fountain Press Ltd., 1980). should be exercised by those who use them. Herbert
2. Beard, Make It with Wood. Bailey, “Clock Woods Jüttemann, Figurenuhren aus dem Schwarzwald (Black For-
and Some Effects of Humidity.” est animated clocks) (Waldkirch, Germany: Waldkircher
3. The clock is based on drawings and instructions Verlag, 1998).
taken from Eli Terry Plan No. 325 (five sheets) Craftplans, 10. The clock is based on drawings given by Berthold
Rogers, Minnesota 55374. I found the plans for this clock Schaaf in his book Holzräderuhren. Readers are warned
advertised in an English woodworking magazine and I that these drawings have one or two errors, and care
bought my copy from an English supplier in 1986. should be exercised by those who use them.
According to http://www.houseclocks.com/plans. I modified Schaaf’s drawings and added the cuckoo
htm (accessed October 7, 2015) Craftplans is apparently function to the clock. Information on the mechanics
out of business. of cuckoo clocks was found in Herbert Jüttemann’s Fig-
Readers are warned that these drawings do not de- urenuhren aus dem Schwarzwald (Black Forest animated
scribe the strike action of the clock correctly and care clocks). Bailey, “Early Black Forest Clockmaking and Mar-
should be exercised by those who use them. keting.” A more traditional Black Forest-style lackschild
Bailey, “Clock Woods and Some Effects of Humid- dial featuring a rose design was made in 2006 and this
ity.” David Bailey, “A Remarkable American Wooden dial is shown in this image.
Clock,” The Australian Woodworker, No. 94 (December 11. The dial was designed from books on sundial
2000): 66-68. making, and the calculations were cross-checked with
4. Bailey, “Clock Woods and Some Effects of Humidity.” an Internet vertical declining sundial calculator pro-
L. E. “Gene” Sizemore, “1997 NAWCC Crafts Contest,” gram. This link can help with such a calculation: http://
NAWCC Bulletin, No. 312 (February 1998): 56-58. Chris pandy.me.uk/sundials/wd_calc.htm.
Bailey, Two Hundred Years of American Clocks and Watches 12. Some of the orrery gear counts are the same as
(Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1975). those used by Gerhard Hutter; see Patricia Tomes, “Hut-
5. David R. Bailey, “Effects of Humidity and Tem- ter Orrery Donated,” NAWCC Bulletin, No. 307 (April
perature on the Performance of a Wooden Clock,” 1997): 206-207. A. B. Brockbank, “A Perpetual Calen-
NAWCC Bulletin, No. 333 (August 2001): 475-487. David dar for a Longcase Clock,” Horological Journal (October
R. Bailey, “Effects of Weather on a Wooden Clock,” Hor- 1986): 8-12.
ological Science Newsletter, NAWCC Chapter 161, 2000-2 13. David R. Bailey, “A Willard-Style Timepiece with
(April 2000). a Wooden Movement,” Watch & Clock Bulletin, No. 419
6. This clock is based on drawings and instructions (January/February 2016): 69-80. David R. Bailey, “An
taken from 15th Century Wooden Wheel Clock Plan No. American Banjo Clock with a Wooden Movement,” The
372 (two sheets) Craftplans, Rogers, MN. Australian Woodworker, No. 182 (August 2015): 52-56.
I found the plans advertised in an English wood-
working magazine and I bought my copy from an En- About the Author
glish supplier in 1986. David Bailey has been a home-craft woodworker for
According to http://www.houseclocks.com/plans. more than 60 years.
htm (accessed October 7, 2015), Craftplans is apparent- He began wooden wheel clock making by chance in
ly out of business. David R. Bailey, “Early Black Forest 1984, when he bought Edgar Beard’s book, Make It with
Clockmaking and Marketing,” NAWCC Bulletin, No 367 Wood.
(April 2007): 133-144. Bailey is fascinated by the history and technology of
7. David R. Bailey, “Wooden Musical Clocks Playing wooden wheel clocks, marveling at how gravitational
on Glass Bells,” NAWCC Bulletin, No. 338 (June 2002): forces can be used to power and regulate a machine as
275-287. This clock was also featured on a publicity flier elegant and useful as a clock.
for a Wines & Chimes event held at the National Watch His interest in woodworking has serendipitously tak-
and Clock Museum in October 2009. en him into the world of horology that never ceases to
8. David Bailey, “A Spring-Driven Wooden Wheel challenge and delight.

312 • July/August 2016 • NAWCC Watch & Clock Bulletin www.nawcc.org