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Orrery completion - July 2019

This month the orrery which will crown the clock is completed with the exception of the final dial, still being finished up in China, and dial bezel ring. We also made a major design change perhaps second only in significance to the frame redesign in March 2009. The way the machine will be powered is being changed from weight to spring drive. The many advantages are described in this installment.

In these two photos Buchanan begins to grind and polish the new, larger opal stone for Saturn.


Buchanan writes: I was working, mounting the planets today and found that I could enlarge Saturn substantially. I have also started making its ring. A stone ring would be far too fragile. I also don’t like supporting the ring by only two pins as I have done before, as the ring can swivel around the two pins. Not a problem with a simple orrery, but, this one has the tilt defined, so, I will make a three legged spider to support the ring. I decided to make the ring and spider out of sterling silver. I found a piece of opal with a better colour for Saturn. Like blued steel, the lighting make a big difference. It looks better than these photos show.  So Saturn will be about the same size as Jupiter. A more realistic size in comparison to the other planets. I agree the new opal is far better, I really like the bluish color patch.


Buchanan writes: I have been working on Saturn. I have made the silver spider and ring.

The first photo is the piece of silver before I started to rough machine the spider.  You may notice that it is the off cut from the bottom of Mr Perroult’s silver dial. The next two photos show filing the arm to a rivet to fit into the ring. The fourth is the ring being riveted. Notice by this time the spider has been curved to fit the three attachment points on the ring. The Perroult clock was the clock Buchannan had made before this project.


Saturn’s ring looks a lot like the steering wheel from an antique car.


This entire assembly is less than ” (1.3 cm), yet Buchanan still adds incredible detail exemplified by the bevel to the Saturn’s ring as well as the decorative turning on the base of the ring’s mount to the arbor.


Saturn and its ring assembly now mounted within the Saturn planetary assembly.


The Sun as represented by a rutilated quartz sphere is now mounted in the center of the orrery. Notice the optical effect it has in lensing the balances behind it. Once again Buchanan makes a finely turned mount for it to rest upon.



These four photos show the gold leaf applied to the lapis sphere representing the earth. After the stone sphere was completely covered Buchanan then cutout the oceans surrounding the continents represented by the gold leaf.  

Buchanan writes: I fitted an end stone under the Earth arbour pivot on the orrery and we have a substantial improvement in the even turning of the earth, I am now fixing a dumb arbour on the Saturn gearbox and then I am satisfied with the orrery for now. I had noticed the jerky motion of the earth in a prior video, and had not even mentioned it to Buchanan. Again he is on it right away.

The natural stones and pearls are shown here depicting their place within the orrery and tellurian. Only the Mammoth ivory Earth sphere is missing from the tellurian as this was difficult to remove for this photo.

The orrery is now complete. 




The crown upon the machine. Can it get any better? This module has 739 parts and  111 wheels. Not surprisingly this has the largest wheels to parts ratio.


This video demonstrates how the clock looks to the viewer at different eye-levels. Once the orrery had been placed within the mechanism, we realized that to get a better view of this complication we would need to lower the height of the clock by about four inches.

Buchanan now begins the final finishing work for the Fasoldt fly fan assemblies


Buchanan uses a spark-eroding band saw equipped with a 20 thousands of an inch blade to cut the curvilinear fan blades. This fine cut and detail would have been very difficult to have achieved using conventional mechanical blade cutting due to the very thin brass stock. This method achieves a very smooth cut with an intricate outline.


CAM spark-eroding band saw using a 20 thou wire to cleanly cut thin brass sheet for the fly fan blades on the strike trains. Notice how fast the wire un-spools from the supply drum.


Here we see the difference between an intermediate finished part and the final finish. This involves more than just a smoother, brighter surface finish but also a change in the dimensions of the part to finer, more delicate and elegant proportions.


The two pair of fly frames are complete. The second photo shows the final conversion of the plain pillars to their final decorative form.


The fly fans, pillars and frames are hung out to dry after lacquering.


The completed strike fly assemblies. Notice the display of multicolors with just this one part, silver, blue red and gold. 


This photo clearly shows the decorative pillars. 


In this photo one sees the cherry-red color of the jewel pivots. 




This video shows the finished quarter strike fly fan based upon Charles Fasoldt's design using epicyclical gearing. We have made a modification to that design by using an internally toothed wheel to make the detent whip move in the opposite direction as the fan assembly. This lessens the impact of the whip upon the pallet jewel used to lock the fly at the end of the quarter strike sequence.

Pendulum balance poising weights 



Buchanan needed to make some poising weights after certain changes were made in the way the cross bands were retained, That design change made it easier for the user to remove and attach the wires.


This video montage shows various sections of the Astro-skeleton clock as of July 2019. There are still a few things that need to be fabricated; a host of bugs and adjustments to be made. Then the machine must be completely disassembled, polished, frames lacquered, various screws blued, all of the roller bearings in the main trains replaced with ceramic bearings to make the machine largely a dry-runner. Then case work. As one can see, for pure showmanship, this creation is tough to beat. We believe for its size, it is the most complex skeleton clock ever created.

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