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Begin key set fabrication, fabricate shipping crates, custom display table arrives - March, April 2022

The months of March and April saw the beginning of the fabrication of the operator's winding and setting key set. I had specified years ago that these be special, reflecting the superiority of the design and manufacture of the clock. They should also feel rich and comfortable in the hand and during operation.

Buchanan will first make the main winding crank. This crank will be equipped with a one-way directional winding feature, also known as a "tipsy key". This prevents inadvertent winding force being applied in the wrong direction. It is particularly useful when, as is the case here, the correct direction in counterclockwise.

In a typical tipsy key design there is a grooved track inside the key that has a pin connected from an inner shaft to the key handle. If the key is turned in the 'wrong' direction then the pin will ride on a slowly rising track around to almost 360 until it drops off back to the level at which it started. When used in the correct direction, the pin will lodge against the drop in the track and allow for winding in the right direction. Our key will need a fair amount of torque to turn the time and celestial trains, so the pin used in a typical tipsy key design may not have the strength needed. Originally when the time and celestial trains were to be weight driven, before the changeover from weight to spring drive in October 2019, each train needed 88 lbs. (40 kg.).

We have chosen a ratchet design which provides a greater amount of winding torque than the tipsy design, similar to that provided on a standard ratchet wrench, see drawing above.


The first part to be made is the ratchet wheel. In the first photo the wheel is drawn on the 3/8" thick brass stock. Next the part is cut with the same piercing saw used for the past 15 years on all the flat stock in this project. 


Two photos showing the build up of the crank. 


The ball bearings will make the reverse direction feel silky smooth, next the cover for the assembly. 


The main winding crank before installation of decorative handle. The hub contains the ratchet and ball bearing assembly.


This video shows the interior of the main winding key revealing the ratchet assembly.


The first photo shows the cylindrical blanks cut from the remaining Mammoth tusk we had purchased for the fabrication of the Earth globe in the tellurion assembly back in September 2016. The yellow object above in the center is a tubular cutter and the hole in the center of the ivory material what was cut for the Earth globe. Next photo shows three cuts for handles.


Each ivory handle has two sections divided by a decorative brass ring. In the second photo the largest one on the main winding crank is engraved with the firm's name.


The first photo shows a close up of the handle. Notice the lack of cracks and defects in the handle. This the result of the very large chunk of tusk we had to have in order to get a defect-free Earth globe from the tusk's heart. This was important because we were applying an engraving of the continental outlines along with latitude and longitude lines that would then be stained as in done in scrimshaw art. Any cracks would also absorb the stain. The remaining part we are using for the handles also had very few such defects. Buchanan had consulted with other sources and found the best way to deal with any small defects for the handles was to allow super glue to wick into and fill the cracks. Then the final finishing was done. The repair is permanent and invisible. The second photo shows an overall view of the completed winding crank before final finishing.

The completed demonstration selector crank, prior to final finishing.

Three completed cranks, there will still be two more operator's tools to be made and finished.

The demonstration crank on the machine.

Buchanan provided a time estimate of what is needed to complete the packing of the clock for shipping.

Jobs before dispatch:

1 winding key.                                                         2 days
2 setting key 1                                                1 day
3 setting key 2                                                1 day
Tool for repeater pull down                              1 day
Set of long screwdrivers                                 1 day
Debug jobs                                                     3 days
Straighten springs.                                         1 day
Board to hold tools.                                        1 day
Order glass with holes for keys.                    1 day
1 Box for balance x 2  

2 Box for orrery

3 Box for tellurian  

4 Box for sun moon dial


5 Box for calendar

6 Box for planisphere  

7 Box for bells

8 Box for bronze balls  
9 Box for escapements  
10 Double box for clock  
11 Plastic sheet for lids  
12 Box for dials  

13 Box for tools


14 Box for bits

1-14, 10 days total 

1 months work.

Buchanan now begins to size up the internal crates needed to pack all the separate components of the machine. There were thirteen crates in all. This diagram allows Buchanan to specify to the crating company the overall external dimensions needed for one of the crates. Buchanan made the internal boxes.

Look at he spec sheet from the crating company. It is as detailed as one for the build of a device. I had no idea that making a crate could be so complex! On the other hand, my guess is that the machinery used to cut up the lumber is CNC and so these detailed specifications would be needed to program the cutting tools. This would also allow the company to layout the parts in the most efficient manner for the least consumption of the wood stock.

When both crates were fully loaded the final weight came in at just under a ton, 1870 lbs, (850 kg.)

I had asked Buchanan to be sure there was a plastic box surrounding the main body of the clock in the first crate. There are two reasons for this. The first is to keep the dust and bits that always come from the crate and packing materials and second to allow US Customs, if necessary, to inspect the contents without touching it. Fingerprints are not removable from polished surfaces! 


The custom table arrives this month and is behind the temporary blonde colored table that has the case on top.


The table is set in place. The white pipe in the center is a mockup of the orrery and was first constructed in September of 2021. The mockup consists of a PVC tube and at its top is an actual enamel orrery dial, one that was discarded in favor of the one that was later  used. A mockup for the Sun was placed above the middle of the dial. The purpose of this was to help determine the ideal height of the dial edge as well as the Sun as they were at the exact spacing as they would be in the machine. In this way I was able to see what the orrery would look like at various eye levels. The way this was determined would determine the appropriate height of the table.

The second photo shows a set of paper mockups also created in September of 2021 used to depict exactly the diameters and where the dials would be within the case from an exact front view. Also the outlines of the pendulums were drawn on the glass. As with the orrery mockup all of this was used to give me as accurate a depiction of how the machine would look within the case and at what height it should be displayed.

It was a relief to see that all of the estimates as to the height of the table were correct.  

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