1902 Encyclopedia > Clocks > Clocks - Introduction

(Part 1)



The origin of clock work is involved in great obscurity. Notwithstanding the statements by many writers that clocks, horologia, were in use so early as the 9th century, and that they were then invented by an archdeacon of Verona, named Pacificus, there appears to be no clear evidence that they were machines at all resembling those which have been in use for the last five or six centuries. But it may be inferred from various allusions to horologia, and to their striking spontaneously, in the 12th century, that genuine clocks existed then, though there is no surviving description of any one until the 13th century, when it appears that a horologium was sent by the sultan of Egypt in 1232 to the Emperor Frederick II. "It resembled a celestial globe, in which the sun, moon, and planets moved, being impelled by weights and wheels, so that they pointed out the hour, day, and night with certainty." A clock was put up in a former clock tower at Westminster with some great bells in 1288, out of a fine imposed on a corrupt chief-justice, and the motto Discite justitiam, moniti, inscribed upon it. The bells were sold, or rather, it is said, gambled away, by Henry VIII. In 1292 one is mentioned in Canterbury Cathedral as costing £30. And another at St Albans, by R. Wallingford the abbot in 1326, is said to have been such as there was not in all Europe, showing various astronomical phenomena. A description of one in Dover Castle with the date 1348 on it was published by the late Admiral Symth, P.R.A.S., in 1851, and the clock itself was exhibited going, in the Scientific Exhibition of 1876. In the early editions of this Encyclopaedia there was a picture of a very similar one, made by De Vick for the French king Charles V. about the same time, much like our common clocks of the last century, except that it had a vibrating balance, but no spring, instead of a pendulum, for pendulums were not invented till three centuries after that.

The general construction of the going part of all clocks, except large or turret clocks, which we shall treat separately, is substantially the same, and fig. 1 is a section of any ordinary house clock. B is the barrel with the rope coiled round it, generally 16 times for the 8 days; the barrel is fixed to its arbor K. which is prolonged into the winding square coming up to the face or dial of the clock; the dial is here shown as fixed either by small screws x, or by a socket and pin z, to the prolonged pillars p, p, which (4 or 5 in number) connect the plates or frame of the clock together, though the dial is commonly, but for no good reason, set on to the front plate by another set of pillars of its own. The great wheel G rides on the arbor, and is connected with the barrel by the ratchet R, the action of which is shown more fully in fig. 14. The intermediate wheel r in this drawing is for a purpose which will be described hereafter, and for the present it may be considered as omitted, and the click of the ratchet R as fixed to the great whole. The great wheel drives the pinion c which is called the centre pinion, on the arbor of the centre wheel C, which goes through to the dial, and carried the long, or minute-hand; this wheel always turns in an hour, and the great wheel generally in 12 hours, by having 12 times as many teeth as the centre pinion. The centre wheel drives the "second wheel" D by its pinion d, and that again drives the scape-wheel E by its pinion e. If the pinions d and e have each 8 teeth or leaves (as the teeth of pinions are usually called), C will have 64 teeth and D 60, in a cock of which the scape-wheel turns in a minute, so that the seconds hand may be set on its arbor prolonged to the dial. A represents the pallets of the escapement, which will be described presently, and their arbor a goes through a large hole in the back plate near F, and its back pivot turns in a cock OFQ screwed on to the back plate. From the pallet arbor at F descends the crutch Ff, ending in the fork f, which embraces the pendulum P, so that as the pendulum vibrates, the crutch and the pallets necessarily vibrate with it. The pendulum is hung by a thin spring S from the cock Q. so that the bending point of the spring may be just opposite the end of the pallet arbor, and the edge of the spring as close to the end of that arbor as possible—a point too frequently neglected.

We have now go to front (or left hand) of the clock, and describe the dial or "motion-work." The minute hand fits on to a squared end of a brass socket, which is fixed to the wheel M, and fits close, but not tight, on the prolonged arbor of the centre wheel. Behind this wheel is a bent spring which is (or ought to be) set on the same arbor with a square hole (not a round one as it sometimes is) in the middle, so that it must turn with the arbor; the wheel is pressed up against this spring, and kept there, by a cap and a small pin through the end of the arbor. The consequence is, that there is friction enough between the spring and the wheel to carry the hand round, but not enough to resist a moderate push with the finger for the purpose of altering the time indicated. This wheel M, which is sometimes called the minute-wheel, but is better called the hour-wheel as it turns in an hour, drives another wheel N, of the same number of teeth, which has a p9inion attached to it; and that pinion drives the twelve-hour wheel H, which is also attached to a large socket or pipe carrying the hour hand, and riding on the former socket, or rather (in order to relieve the centre arbor of that extra weight) on an intermediate socket fixed to the bridge L, which is screwed to the front plate over the hour-wheel M. The weight W, which drives the train and gives the impulse to the pendulum through the escapement, is generally hung by a catgut line passing through a pulley attached to the weight, the other end of the cord being tied to some convenient place in the clock frame or seat-board, to which it is fixed by screws through the lower pillars. It has usually been the practice to make the case of house clocks and astronomical clocks not less than 6 feet high; but that is a very unnecessary waste of space and materials; for either diminishing the size of the barrel, or the number of its turns, by increasing the size of the great wheel by one-half, or hanging the weights by a treble instead of a double line, a case just long enough for the pendulum will also be long enough for the fall of the weights in 7 _ or 8 days. Of course the weights have to be increased in the same ratio, and indeed rather more, to overcome the increased friction; but that is of no consequence.

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