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Sunday, December 25, 2016

Blood on the Chimes - A Christmas Story

Sheila's Christmas Clock Repair Job

We have this beautiful Howard Miller Mantle Clock that stopped working several years ago. Clock repair guys are expensive, but unsticking the mainspring was an intimidating job. Christmas was tight this year so I decided to fix the clock for Sheila's Christmas present. I researched it online and found more information than there was last time I tried to fix it. Before the web pages I found all said, "Don't do it yourself. The mainspring can get loose and break your finger!" I took it apart and spent an hour contemplating the innards of the thing. Apparently it should be oiled every 2 years. It had been about 14 years, so I was overdue. 

Carefully, I inserted the winding key, held it tight and flipped the safety ratchet. Not so bad so far. I let it down a couple of notches and let the ratchet catch. So I let it down a couple more. So far so good. Then about the third round my ADD kicked in, I got impatient and dropped it a couple of extra notches in one go. There was a loud "brrrrrrrpt" noise and suddenly the mainspring was unwound. My index finger was bleeding in four places and I lost a piece of my thumbnail when the winding key went freewheeling.

So far so good. No kidding. I really did say that. As someone who always manages to shed blood to the gods of mechanical repair every time he fixes something, I expect that sort of thing to happen. At least I still had a finger, however swollen it might be and we still do have some band-aids in the medicine cabinet, so, okay. I figured I might just whip this thing after all. Learned about oiling clocks and what oil not to use (which is, of course, the only kind of oil I had).

But I managed to get the thing back together and reinstalled one of the gears and tried it out. The chimes only rang half the sequence each time, so I had to rotate the minute hand in 15 minute increments and let the chimes ring. Then I adjusted the gear that turned the shaft that operated the chime hammers till I finally got it where it would play the whole chime and ring the hours. It took about 6 hours total. The chimes aren't entirely consistent and I don't know why, but it will chime most of the time and as the oil seeps into the pivots it ought to get better. Not sure where the problem is, but hey. I'll take another run at it after I buy a clock oiling and cleaning kit and do it right.
For now it chimes. I have to jiggle the chime selector every third or fourth circuit of the clockface, but for Christmas I figure I can manage it. Sheila really likes the chimes.

So Merry Christmas. The bread has cooled and is ready to be bagged and put away. Got to go. Have a lovely holiday.

© 2016 by Tom King

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