Archive for November, 2009
My grandfather was something of a renaissance man. He couldn’t sit still for longer than a few minutes at a time – unless he was reading an engrossing novel or some philosophical treatise, of course. For the most part, he spent his post-retirement days tinkering away in a workshop off the garage. He arrived at my wedding reception with a homemade coffee table strapped securely in the back of his station wagon. I could see a proud gleam in his eye when he unveiled the table, which was made of the finest mulberry wood, retaining some of the bark and knots for decoration.
More than anyone else, he admired the European clockmakers of old who put so much time and precision into their work. He owned several handcrafted grandfather clocks – two in the den and a few lining the walls of the workshop. Every hour on the hour, the entire house would be alive with chiming tones and protruding cuckoos. He always talked about crafting his own clock someday, and I think he could have succeeded.
Grandfather and Cuckoo Clocks are wind up clocks. But this “how to” is more for wind up clocks that use a series of oscillating wheels and springs that make the clock run. Adjusting a wind up clock is a simple process that requires understanding how the clock works and determining which wheel to turn to change the clock to the time you want it to read.
First – Check the correct time with a clock that is believed to be the right time in your time zone. Second - Pick up the wind up clock and turn it over. You’ll see two winding knobs. Move one of them and check on the front of the clock to determine if you’re changing the time with the minute hand or with the hour hand. Third - Set the correct time using the correct knobs on the back of the clock. Compare the correct time with the time you’ve set your clock to. Make sure it’s correct. Forth – Remove the back of the wind up clock on some clocks in order to find the wheels that change the time. If you remove the wind up clock’s stand and alarm bells, you can see the inside of the clock, which includes only about 12 moving parts, mainly gears. Fifth – Adjust a wind up clock that doesn’t have visible knobs on the exterior by moving the wheels on the inside of the clock that is the correct wheels to adjust the time. Sixth – Return the back panel on the wind up clock without knobs to its original position. Use the clock as needed.
Adjusting a cuckoo clock or grandfather clock is actually much simpler. With cuckoo clocks unhook the pendulum and slide the pendulum carving up to make your clock run faster and down to make your clock run slower. Then reattach the pendulum to the pendulum leader at the base of the clock. Grandfather clocks typically have a regulating nut under the pendulum bob. Tur the nut to the right to raise the bob and make your clock run faster or turn the nut to the left to lower the bob and make your grandfather clock run slower.
Only minor adjustments should be made each time, waiting about 24 hours between each adjustment.
New cuckoo clocks are still among of the most sought after souvenirs of vacations in the heart of Europe and especially in Germany’s Black Forest region. My suitcases are full as I conclude this trip abroad. I know that in America, many families can trace their roots to Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and other European localities where cuckoo clocks are traditional ornaments for the home. Consequently, there is a market in America for clocks that represent the best traditions of cuckoo clock making.
The sound making devices are attached to the top of the clock. These include the pipes and bellows for the cuckoo sound and the music box. Attachments that are usually extensions of drive chains are linked to the sets of wire hooks and metal cams and pins that activate the cuckoo and any other moving figures and the doors. The cuckoo is connected to its bellows operation, and the other figures are mobilized by the strike movement. A third movement initiates the playing of the music box. Finally, the pendulum and weight chains are connected to the movement and the lead weights are clipped to the chain ends.
The assembled musical cuckoo clocks are carefully packaged to protect the moving parts and the delicate carved framework. Individually boxed clocks are packed in cartons for shipping and distribution. It makes it very easy to get them home safely.
Even though some models of cuckoo clocks are now outfitted with quartz movements and electronics, part of the cuckoo clock’s charm may be its old fashioned mechanical movement. When paired with beautifully carved wood and rustic style, the spell of the cuckoo’s song on the hour is guaranteed to bring smiles to those who prize childlike delights and exquisite craftsmanship for years to come.
I hope you have enjoyed sharing my European travels with you. Thanks for traveling with me.
Manufacture of cuckoo clocks begin in the hands of the wood worker. Like the architecture here in Barcelona, they are masterful artists. The craftsman selects the pieces of wood to be used for the particular clock and cuts them to the approximate lengths and shapes he will need. Power tools and hand tools are used for this part of the process; hand tools may include measuring tools, saws, rasps, and files for shaping, drilling tools, abrasives including sandpaper, and adhesives and clamps. The box-like case or cabinet for the clock works is cut, fitted, and glued together.
The outer frame, the decorative part of the clock featuring the traditional forest and chalet scene, begins with a stenciled design on paper. The craftsmen make and collect sets of stencils based on their own drawings and those that have been handed down. The sets of stencils are made for specific sizes of clocks. After choosing the stencil for the size and style of clock, the wood worker draws the design on the wood and begins carving and shaping the frame. When the frame and the case are complete, both are stained and left to dry. Handcrafted cuckoo clocks are definitely pieces of art.
When the frame and case are dried, the clock is assembled by first mounting the movement in the case. In the old days of village manufacture, the craftsmen who carved the wood and assembled the clockworks probably lived in the same village. The clockmaker poured and handcrafted the internal workings of the clock himself and assembled them. Today, manufacturers buy preassembled clock movements, and the process is reduced to fitting it in the case and properly fixing it in place with wood screws or other fasteners.
More tomorrow on the sound making devices.
Edinburgh, 1874. On the coldest night the world has ever seen, Little Jack is born with a frozen heart and immediately undergoes a life-saving operation. But Dr Madeleine is no conventional medic and surgically implants a cuckoo-clock into his chest. Little Jack grows up different to other children: every day begins with a daily wind-up. At school he is bullied for his ‘ticking’, but Dr Madeleine reminds him he must resist strong emotion: anger is far too dangerous for his cuckoo-clock heart. So when the beautiful young street-singer, Miss Acacia, appears – pursued by Joe, the school bully – Jack is in danger of more than just falling in love…he is putting his life on the line …. from the book La mécanique du cœur (English version The Boy with the Cuckoo Clock Heart).
Luc Besson has optioned the story to be made into an animated feature film that Malzieu would co-direct. EuropaCorp has just acquired the rights for the cinema adaptation of ‘La Mécanique du Cœur , a novel published by Flammarion. This agreement concerns a 3D animated film. The English version of the book The Boy with the Cuckoo Clock Heart is now available in the United Kingdom and is expected to be released in the United States March 2010.
The ending of the story …. sad, but true.
My jouney too is ending soon.
It’s the weekend. Time for a little story … The Boy with the Cuckoo Clock Heart a book written by Mathias Malzieu, is a fantastical novel, a wildly inventive tale, turns poignant and funny, lusty and wrenching—about love and heartbreak. I am in France and Malzieu is the lead singer of the French Rock band Dionysos (who have recorded a concept album based upon the story). The book has sold well in its native France. I am still looking for my own copy.
The book opens in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1874. Little Jack is born on the coldest day ever, which causes his heart to be frozen solid, requiring a replacement: the midwife, Docteur Madeleine, puts a cuckoo clock in place of his heart of flesh and blood. As Jack gets older, Dr. Madeleine warns him that his heart is too fragile for strong emotions: he must never, ever fall in love. And, of course, he does: on his tenth birthday and with head-over-heels abandon. More tomorrow.
The Boy with the Cuckoo Clock Heart is the basis for an album that Malzieu wrote; and he will co direct an animated feature film adaptation. This is his third novel and the first to be translated into English. Born in 1974 in Montpellier, Malzieu now lives in Paris.
The Cuckoo (or coo coo), is one of a large, diverse family of birds found all over the world. In addition to cuckoos, the family includes several species of anis (black cuckoos) and the roadrunner. The song of the cuckoo has been the sign of spring in England and other parts of Europe for centuries. Many stories and songs have been written about the cuckoo, and its call is imitated by cuckoo clocks.
There are more than 125 species of cuckoos. Most of the species are found in the Eastern Hemisphere. All members of the cuckoo family have feet with two toes pointing forward and two backward. This foot structure allows the birds to climb on slender stems and to run swiftly over the ground.
The European cuckoo has become legendary for its habit of laying its eggs in the nests of other birds. The young cuckoo is much larger than the other nestlings and soon crowds the rightful occupants out of the nest. The foster parents, apparently mistaking it for one of their own, work frantically to feed the hungry young cuckoo with worms and insects. As soon as it is able to fly. the cuckoo leaves. Sounds pretty coo coo to me. Some birds will roof over their nest if they find a cuckoo egg in it. A new nest is built on top of the old and more eggs are laid.
American cuckoos make their own nests—messy structures built in dense thickets of shrubbery. The most common American species is the yellow-billed cuckoo, which is about 12 inches long. Its upper parts are gray-brown and its under parts white. The tail feathers are dark with white tips, and the bill is yellow. The bird is native to the eastern United States.
Sometimes with cuckoo clocks, excessive jostling can cause a cuckoo bird to become disengaged from its door. The remedy to this problem is a simple fix, though it requires a steady hand and maybe some needle nose pliers or tweezers.
Next – the boy with a cuckoo clock heart.
I am still in Italy, and the sun is shining brightly. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a freestanding bell tower, of the cathedral of the Italian city of Pisa. It is situated behind the Cathedral and is the third oldest structure in Pisa’s Cathedral Square after the Cathedral and the Baptistry. Now this to me should be a sundial. Am I coo coo or what? Maybe I’ve been thinking too much about my next cuckoo clock article.
Anyways, around 3500 B.C., the Egyptians built obelisks—tall four-sided tapered monuments—and placed them in strategic locations to cast shadows from the sun. Their moving shadows formed a kind of sundial, enabling citizens to partition the day into two parts by indicating noon. They also showed the year’s longest and shortest days when the shadow at noon was the shortest or longest of the year.
Around 1500 B.C., the Egyptians divided the sundial into 10 parts, with two twilight hours indicated. This sundial only kept accurate time (in relative terms) for a half day. So at midday, the device had to be turned 180 degrees to measure the afternoon hours.
A sundial tracks the apparent movement of the sun around the earth’s celestial pole by casting a shadow (or point of light) onto a surface that is marked by hour and minute lines. That is why the shadow-casting object (the gnomon or style) must point towards the north celestial pole, which is very near Polaris, the North Star. The gnomon serves as an axis about which the sun appears to rotate.
The sharper the shadow line is, the greater the accuracy. So, generally speaking, the larger the sundial the greater the accuracy, because the hour line can be divided into smaller portions of time.
I still think this Leaning Tower could be a sun dial.
I’m not yet in France, but today is Wednesday and time for a “How To” article.
As I mentioned yesterday, the verge escapement, is the mechanism in a mechanical clock like a grandfather clock, that controls its rate by advancing the gear train at regular intervals or ‘ticks’. The verge escapement drives a horizontal bar with weights on the ends called the foliot, a primitive type of balance wheel to oscillate back and forth. Here’s how it works ….
The verge escapement consists of a wheel shaped like a crown, with saw tooth-shaped teeth protruding axially to the front. In front of it is a vertical rod, the verge, with two metal plates, the pallets, that engage the teeth at opposite sides of the crown wheel. The balance wheel (or the pendulum of a grandfather clock) is attached to the verge. The pallets are positioned so only one catches the teeth at a time. As the clock’s gears turn the crown wheel, it pushes the first pallet, rotating the verge in one direction, and rotating the second pallet into the path of the teeth, until the tooth pushes past the first pallet. Then a tooth on the wheel’s opposite side catches the second pallet, rotating the verge back the other direction, and the cycle repeats. The result is to change the rotary motion of the wheel to an oscillating motion of the verge. Each stroke of the foliot or pendulum thus advances the wheel train of the clock, moving the hands forward at a constant rate.
The crown wheel must have an odd number of teeth for the escapement to function. The usual angle between the pallets was 90° to 105°, resulting in a foliot or pendulum swing of around 80° to 100°.
More from Italy tomorrow.
Is there are connection? You bet! Nowadays certain day cuckoo clocks are manufactured inspired by contemporary decorative styles, as much in Germany as in other countries, especially Italy. These modern clocks are characterized by its functionalist, minimalist and schematic design.
The verge (or crown wheel) escapement is the earliest known type of mechanical escapement, the mechanism in a mechanical clock that controls its rate by advancing the gear train at regular intervals or ‘ticks’. Its origin is unknown. Verge escapements were used from the 14th century until about 1800 in clocks and pocketwatches. The name verge comes from the Latin virga, meaning stick or rod.
Its invention is important in the history of technology because it made possible the development of all-mechanical clocks. This caused a shift from measuring time by continuous processes, such as the flow of liquid in water clocks, to repetitive, oscillatory processes, such as the swing of pendulums, which had the potential to be more accurate. Oscillating timekeepers are at the heart of every clock today.
The first hard evidence of the verge escapement dates from 14th century Europe, where its invention led to the development of the first all-mechanical clocks. Starting in the 1200s, large tower clocks began appearing in town squares and cathedrals. They kept time by using the verge escapement to drive a horizontal bar with weights on the ends called the foliot, a primitive type of balance wheel to oscillate back and forth. The rate of the clock could be adjusted by sliding the weights in or out on the foliot bar. More on that piece, in our “How To” article tomorrow