Sunday, January 24, 2010

Welcome to the Blogosphere Bill!

Our friend Bill Maier has recently started his own blog to document his impressive collection of rare, antique "Vienna" Regulator Timepieces. Here's a particularly stellar example from his collection:

Gilded bronze skeletonized laterndluhr by Fertbauer, C. 1810. Overall height 67". Seconds beating, knife edge suspension riding on a gimbal. The gimbal is held by two L shaped brackets through the front plate of the movement, typical Fertbauer design, sweep seconds with sub dials of minutes, hours, and date.

Stay tuned for more input from this great collection!


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Why worry? Each one of us is carrying an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on his - Wrist?

From ScienceDaily:

The world's most precise clock - on which all time-keeping and navigation systems are based - might be made as small as a wristwatch with a new design proposed by an international team of physicists.

A new class of atomic clocks of at least equivalent accuracy could be made much smaller and simpler by trapping aluminium, gallium, cesium or rubidium atoms in a lattice of laser light operated at a specific "magic" wavelength, according to a new theory put forward by physicists at the University of Nevada, in the US, and the University of New South Wales.

Ytterbium for Next-Generation Atomic Clocks

Cesium has been the element of choice, thus far, for the most accurate clocks. It is in use in our civilian time standard.

But make way, Cesium:

An experimental atomic clock based on ytterbium atoms is about four times more accurate than it was several years ago, giving it a precision comparable to that of the NIST-F1 cesium fountain clock, the nation's civilian time standard, scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) report in Physical Review Letters.

This photo shows about 1 million ytterbium atoms illuminated by a blue laser in an experimental atomic clock that holds the atoms in a lattice made of intersecting laser beams. The photo was taken with a digital camera through the window of a vacuum chamber. NIST is studying the possible use of ytterbium atoms in next-generation atomic clocks based on optical frequencies, which could be more stable and accurate than today's best time standards, which are based on microwave frequencies. (Credit: Barber, NIST)

1 million ytterbium atoms illuminated by a blue laser

[via: ScienceDaily]

Binary Clock Fun

A Binary Clock is a way of displaying the digital time in binary code. For example...

Reading a BCD clock: Add the values of each column of LEDs to get six decimal digits. There are two columns each for hours, minutes and seconds.

Here's a fun interpretation of the idea from Instructibles:

The Flock Clock uses male and female drinking birds to display time. Binary addition of the female birds (left to right) yields the hour. Binary addition of the male birds (multiplied by five) yields the minute--within five minutes. An Arduino processor provides the signals needed to drive Peltier cells which heat the fluid in the birds and causes the bobbing motion.

Here are some other Binary Clock projects by intrepid electronic experimenters, including an analog one.

[via Makezine]

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Weather Clock

We, at North Coast Imports, love the idea of new and artistic displays of important information. After all, this is the essence of a mechanical clock!

Here's a great example from Sean Carney:

I took an old clock, removed the mechanism and replaced it with an Arduino (micro-controller) that checks the weather on the Environment Canada website every fifteen minutes and update the hands accordingly. It also has a web server so I can check the weather and update the settings from a web browser.

Via: Makezine

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

New Designs, Winners

Here's a great design, won the NAWCC 2009 Craft Contest, First Place and People's Choice Awards.

From Bower Clock Company:

"The Vinion was completed in May 2009 and was awarded People's Choice in the Craft Competition of the National Association of Watch And Clock Collectors 2009 National Convention. Nathan Bowers also was awarded first place in the single train clock category. The intricate spoke design was created by Nathan and each gear was hand pierced using a jeweler's saw. There are over 420 piercings in the clock's gears, weight shell and pulley mechanism.

An Invar 36 pendulum rod and maintaining power wheel add to the accuracy of this 10 day, weight driven clock. The case style, similar to that of the Solyn, was designed by Nathan Bowers and built in conjunction with Pete Norris. It is made from Bubinga wood."

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Rack Must Fall!

How does a cuckoo know how many times to call? Why is my clock only calling once when the hands say 3:00?

These are great questions, and the ingenious works of a mechanical clock can do it, but a few things have to be in proper adjustment. Here are some things to watch out for to keep your clock working, and keep your cuckoo calling the right number.

First, check the hands.

We already have an article about the proper alignment of a cuckoo clocks hands.

Second, check the rack.

Here you can see a picture of one of our cuckoo clocks with the dial removed. Circled you see a black, sickle-shaped part that we call the "rack." This part has a certain number of teeth on it that are counted by the brass pin to the right of the part.

Sometimes, through excessive handing upside down, this rack can get stuck in a position that is too high for the pin to count its teeth. In the picture below, you are looking at the clock mechanism from the back. You can see the top part of the rack as a black hump, sticking out of the top of the mechanism.

In the picture above, the rack is in a position too high for its teeth to be counted. With the rack in this position, the clock will only cuckoo once every hour, no matter the time.

This can happen due to excessive handing upside down, or sometimes during shipping.

You can see in this picture where the rack is lower and in the correct position, as viewed from the back:

The good news is that the clock can be fixed with a simple adjustment so that the clock will cuckoo the correct amount of times every hour. Simply take a long object, like a pencil, and push down on the hump of the top of the rack so that it falls below the top of the brass mechanism. This will allow the rack to fall so that its teeth can be counted.

Push down in the direction of the arrow.

After you have completed this procedure, your clock should begin counting more than once call every hour. You may have to readjust your hands to match up with the mechanism after performing this adjustment. Refer to this article again to make sure that the hands are set correctly.

The Best Way to Set a Mechanical Calendar Clock

On the back side of the dial there are levers. Two levers behind the 3:00 and one behind the 9:00.

The one behind the 9:00 is the chime shutoff. The one further behind the 3:00 is the auto night shutoff. The lever at the front (behind the 3:00) is the date advance lever.

Please have your customer follow this procedure in shutting the clock.

1. Move the minute hand COUNTER-clockwise until both hands show 6:30 - that is, both hands should point downward.

2. Click the date advance lever until the date shows one day BEFORE the current date. That is, if today is the 12th, advance the date to the 11th.

3. Carefully move the minute hand CLOCKWISE until the next quarter-hour mark. Wait for the clock to finish chiming and then turn the chime OFF temporarily by engaging the lever behind the 9:00.

4. Now that the chime is shut off, you can freely advance the minute hand without having to wait for the clock to chime. Keep advancing the minute hand CLOCKWISE until the date turns over to the current date. It should occur sometime between the 12:00 and 3:00 AM setting.

5. Once the date has changed, you know you are in the AM setting of the timepiece. Now you can advance the minute hand to the correct time. For example, if it is 9AM simply advance the hands directly to the 9:00. If it is currently 9PM you will need to go past 12:00 noon, and to the 9:00.

6. Once you have the time set, you may re-engage the chime.

Be sure to keep all three winding arbors fully wound. Don't worry about "overwinding" there are sure catches on the springs to prevent this from being a problem.

Saturday, January 09, 2010


The Bahnhäusle (sometimes "Bahnwächterhäusle") design has been an incredibly popular design since 1850. Friedrich Eisenlohr of Furtwangen, Germany first submitted the design as part of a contest for the Grand Duchy of Baden. His inspiration was a railroad guard's house overrun by vines and leaves.

Black Forest Apostolic Clock

Friday, January 08, 2010

“Masterpieces of french horology” at François-Paul Journe

From the “Chefs d’œuvre de l’Horlogerie Française ”, an historic collection of 12 unique clocks made between 1770 and 1851, from the private collection of Italian connoisseur Auzano Musa. This exhibition ran last year, 19 January to 6 February, 2009.

Fascinating stuff, curator François-Paul Journe "believes that contemporary watchmaking must take into account the history of horological science while he creates his watches of exception. His insistence on uncompromising integrity in the realisation of innovative pieces and his daily commitment to defending the fundamental values of haute horology make him a link between the golden age of horological science and contemporary watchmaking."

Astronomic Regulator
Signed Lepine, Clockmaker to the King, Paris circa 1813.
Astronomic Regulator of the “reversed Y” type with multiple indications. From top to bottom: hours of sunrise and sunset; hours, minutes and seconds, equation of time; full perpetual calendar, moon phases; zodiac signs, striking of hours and quarters. One month power reserve with constant force device.
Height 64 cm – width 32 cm.

Skeleton Regulator
Built by Bouchet, Clockmaker to the King, Paris, circa 1781
Gilt bronze and enamel skeleton Regulator with constant force device, striking the hours and quarters.
One month power reserve, indication of years, zodiac signs, hours, minutes and seconds, equation of time, days of the month and the week, annual calendar, moon phases, position of the sun above the horizon.
This Clock is mentioned in the “Mémoires Secrètes” (Secret Memoirs) of 1781.
Height 47 cm – width 32 cm – depth 20 cm

[via: HH Magazine]

Galileo's Telescope

From Officine Panerai:

The exhibition "Galileo's Telescope - The Instrument that Changed the World", created by the Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza in Florence and sponsored by Officine Panerai, is open from October 10th, 2009 to January 17th, 2010.

Galileo's telescopes are housed in the Museo di Storia della Scienza in Florence. The instrument on show in Stockholm is displayed for the first time outside Italy. The exhibition consists of six sections featuring beautifully crafted replicas of some of the instruments housed in the Museo di Storia della Scienza as well as important documentation and a significant selection of visual material, included extraordinary unpublished photographs taken through Galileo's telescope.

The show also includes the extraordinary "Jupiterium ", expressly conceived and realized by Officine Panerai for the exhibition, displays the movements of the Sun, of Jupiter and his moons through a unique, mechanical scale model.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Amazing Automata from the 18th Century

Here's something to knock the socks off of any of you fans of automata.

The newscast is in German, but anyone can get the drift. These are three mechanically animated figures. One plays the organ, one writes, and the other draws. To be clear: the organ isn't a player organ (that plays itself) while the figure sits in front and pretends to play... the figure ACTUALLY PLAYS the organ. The information for the tune is in her mechanics, so that her fingers and arms move to play the fairly complex little tune!

These are housed in the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire in Neuchâtel, and were built by theologian, mathematician and watchmaker Pierre Jaquet-Droz, his son Henri-Louis and their colleague Jean-Frédéric Leschot in the early 1770s. They were first exhibited to the public in nearby La Chaux-de-Fonds in 1774!

This is truly amazing stuff.. Unlike the two mechanical boys, the woman-organist's body and head move independently of her task, and she can sit and breathe and fidget (her head and neck making almost imperceptible movements) independently for an hour. Also unlike the boys she is operated by four separate pieces of machinery—one to pump the organ, one to operate her hands and fingers, one to operate her head and body, and one to power the bow she performs at the end of each song. She plays five tunes.

via Steampunk Magazine