Arrival to the USA of the Astronomical skeleton clock, begin
One might expect that this part of the project, the delivery via airfreight
would be short and straightforward. But this was not the case. I have used
fine arts logistics company for many years to bring clock for my
collection, mainly from
Europe without incident. Unfortunately they did not have an office in
Australia and partnered this delivery with an Australian fine arts logistics
To make a long story short the Australian partner poorly organized this and
what should have taken at most a few days stretched out to a month. The
travel was unduly circuitous and the crates were stuck at several airport
storage facilities for days or weeks without anyone knowing exactly where
they were are what the ETA was. It was a frustrating and at times a
Relief only came once the crates arrived at O'Hare airport and were safely
back in the hands of my regular carrier on the 18th. The process through US
Customs went off without a hitch. No opening of the crate or questioning of
the categorization under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United
States. Not sure they even received or read the legal opinion I paid so
dearly to have written from the law firm of Mayor Brown in Washington D.C. A
copy which was given to the import broker.
The main double-walled crate is opened at my carrier's warehouse to inspect
for damage. Buchanan's careful packing has paid off. Packing is 95% of the
insurance against damage during transport of any delicate object. The long
travel nightmare is over! Delivery to me is scheduled for the next day.
The truck will have to deliver from the access behind by home to the garage.
I removed the cars and cleaned up the floor and began staging what would be
In the first photo the garage is cleared and LED klieg lights are placed for
better lighting. The truck is due for 11:30 AM. The weight of the two
crates are listed on the airway bill at 967 kg or 2132 lbs. The net weight
of the clock plus parts is about 91 kg or 200 lbs. Next a table is
set up just outside the back door to give the movers a rest before the
tedious and somewhat risky procedure of getting the heavy and delicate
machine up a half-flight of stairs to the ground level of my home.
The truck arrives right on time. Four people were contracted to be sure
there were enough people to handle the machine. My job was to show how the
machine was secured, cheer them on and take photos!
Beginning disassembly of the crates. Next the main crate is opened.
The crate is removed from the main body of the machine. Next I had to
have a go at some of the work!
The cage is freed from the aluminum base plate and carefully lifted off. If
one looks closely at the next photo the carry frame has been assembled and
secured to the base frame. This allows all four movers to grasp the machine
which is about 220 lbs. at this point the machine is still attached to the
aluminum plate and 2.5" thick aluminum block and carry frame. It is bulky,
fragile and must not touch anything. Next it is set upon the two
concrete blocks on the bottom of the photo to allow for space beneath to use
a wrench to free up the clock from the aluminum plate and block from below.
Ooops! The first mishap. A dual wheel set is found tangled up inside the
machine. Next the part rescued and set aside to be put back into place at a
later date. The chaton that secured it had come away from the frame allowing
it to fall out. That chaton was later found on the aluminum base under the
In the first photo one can see the utility of the carry frame for moving the
machine. Next it is set upon the staging table until the next step.
To be sure that there was a maximum amount of space to bring the machine
through, a wood coat rack was removed from the staircase wall. Next it is
brought into the house through the very narrow rear doorway. Note the square
banister post just waiting to grab something.
Here is the most difficult part of the move, what I call "threading the
needle". The movers have to maneuver the machine around a narrow 90
Further up the narrow staircase. Next into the dining room.
Finally the machine is put to rest on top of a temporary table in the living
room. Next it is transferred to the custom table. Unfortunately I did not
photograph the 2.5" aluminum block and wood surround. That block is needed
to be sure the base of the clock is resting upon a perfectly flat and sturdy
surface. This is critical because the base is made from four pieces and if
resting on an uneven surface, the weight of the clock could cause deflection
between the joints causing a racking of the wheel pillars attached to the
base resulting in a misalignment of the wheel works causing a seizing up of
the mechanism resulting in catastrophic failure of the machine. The carry
frame is still attached to the base frame.
In the first photo the carry frame is carefully removed and in the second
photo the clock is at rest on the table in its new home.
These two photos show the thirteen small crates that were in the second
crate. These contain the complication modules, miscellaneous parts and
The next day I had moved the LED klieg lights into the area around the
clock. The temporary table was set up next to the clock table for staging of
tools and parts.
Will I be up to the task???
Buchanan had provided a complete set of tools. Most were not needed for the
immediate task of reassembly, but were provided for any of the fasteners in
the machine. Although many of these look like ordinary screwdrivers the tips
were ground thinner. One of Buchanan's signature techniques is to have very
thin slots in all of the screws. Others are very thin wheel rims and spokes,
the latter besides being elegant also lessens mass, which in a machine of
such complexity is important to conserve input energy.
The photos below are merely a few of those taken during the reassembly and
are not meant to be comprehensive. The entire process took two weeks. There
was also a number of 'bugs' that had to be addressed and this took several
more weeks. I will say that none of the bugs were serious and the clock,
once assembled to the point where it could run, took off immediately. As
Buchanan said often to me "It is a runner." and indeed it is.
The first step was to remove all of the tie downs that were located
throughout the machine. These were needed to keep any movable parts from
flopping around during transport. Most of the time I needed a fine
razor-knife blade to do the job; it felt like I was removing sutures. Next
photo shows the clock freed of the tie downs.
The first subassembly to be addressed was the installation of the
pendulum balances. For the most part each of the thirteen smaller crates
contained one sub-assembly, but others like this one, also contained
additional, non-related parts. Each box was labeled on the outside even down
to which screws to remove. Buchanan was careful to list all the contents in
each box. The complexity of these components made them one of the more, but
not most difficult assemblies to attach.
The video vignettes described
in last month's installment were essential to the assembly procedure.
Before the balances could be installed, the cross drive, consisting
of five large wheels which carries a drive from the time train to the
quarter strike train and crossing the center celestial train must be
removed. This train of wheels run through the area of the lower balance’s
diagonal brace, first photo. This train transfers rotation of once per hour
from the time train. But unlike a regular clock where the information from
the time is usually connected to the dial hands and thus can be set via
those hands and which also trip the strike train, the dial hands are driven
but have no setting or trip function. So when one wants to synchronize the
time and strike trains the operator must move the time setting knob which
rotates the cross drive until the strike train is just tripped. The dial
hands are then manually set to match what is indicated by the strike. Once
set it remains in synch. Unusual, but it also eliminates any need for
synchronization between the train wheels. The second photo shows the
insertion of the right hand balance.
The first photo shows the cross drive diassembled. Next I am installing the
left hand balance.
The first photo are the upper set of balance springs. Next the springs are
Note the detail in the
spring attachment points, small machined parts, tiny blued screws and steel
bands running over jeweled pulleys to the vernier scale adjustment scale.
of escape wheels and their bevel wheel drives come as a unit. The escape
wheels counter-rotate in relation to each other so there are two bevel
drives and inner and outer escapement arbors.
The first photo before and the second after insertion of the escapement
The escapement is held by a set of eight vertical antifriction wheels seen
in the first photo just above the sector dial. Next the escapement assembly
rests upon the anti-friction wheel set. The entire escapement is simply
placed upon the ant-friction wheel set, no other attachment needed. The
bevel wheel set is held steady by an additional set of horizontal
antifriction wheels that keeps them in mesh with the mating bevel pinions
driven from the Wagner remontoire set.
The escapement pallets as packed. Next the left escapement is
installed upon the left balance. It should be noted that there needed a bit
of an adjustment needed to get the pallets centered on the escape teeth.
This is accomplished by a set of knurl knobs on the both ends of each
pendulum’s central pivot arbor. This arbor is hollow and there is a thin
wire strip that runs through it with each end attached to a knurl knob. By
adjusting the knobs the entire pendulum assembly can be moved forward and
back and thus moving the escapement pallets to match the wheel teeth. The
escapement wheels are not adjustable. It is critical that one moves both
of the knobs by the same number of turns and in the same direction or you
risk twisting and possibly breaking the central wire strip resulting in the
pendulum no longer being able to stay steady on the designated place.
Next the lower balance
balls are attached, they are heavy at seven pounds each. One must be careful
not to touch the clock base to avoid scratching. The next photo shows the
bottom balance ball pair installed. The upper locking bracket must first be
removed to install the top pair.
This photo was taken in
moments after I started the clock for the first time. It did start right up!
I had yet to learn about how to set the escapement pallet pairs correctly,
but still it did run.
A view of the right and left sides of the machine.
These two photos show
detail of the zodiac signs on the tellurian dial. Securing the mean time and
tellurian dials presented some challenges. Again some of this was my not
quite understanding how it should be done and that the task was exacting and
my reluctance to use any kind of pressure when sometimes this is necessary.
The calendar is unpacked. Note how carefully
it has been packed in a double box with interconnecting foam cushioning.
Buchanan provided a video vignette of the way each box was packed as well as
how to unpack and install each separate component.
Sun/Moon assembly is unpacked, and installed.
The tellurion is unpacked. The Earth globe was packed separately since ivory
is a heavy material and it is suspended from a rotating armature.
This photo shows the rutilated citrine color and shimmer from the embedded
rutile needles to represent the Sun.
The first photo shows the clock before installation of any of the
complication modules. Next the mean time dial and hands are secured.
Here the calendar is installed above the mean time dial. Next the Sun/Moon
complication is intalle on the upper right of the clock.