Mechanical Timekeeping Hack Chat with Clickspring

"Tick, tock, everything's a clock."

Wednesday, February 3, 2021 12:00 pm PST Local time zone:
Hack Chat
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Clickspring will host the Hack Chat on Wednesday, February 3 at noon Pacific.

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The reckoning of the passage of time has been of vital importance to humans pretty much for all our history, but for most of that time we were stuck looking at the movements of heavenly bodies or noting the changing of the seasons to answer questions of time. The search for mechanical aids to mark the passage of time began surprisingly early, though, pretty much from the time our ancestors first learned to work with metals.

Timekeeping devices were often created to please a potentate or to satisfy a religious imperative, but whatever the reason for their invention, these early clocks and calendars were key to a ton of discoveries. Timekeeping devices were among the first precision mechanisms, and as such formed the basis of much of our mechanical world. A mechanical representation of the passage of time also gave us some of the first precise observations of the physical world, which led to an enormous number of discoveries about the nature of the universe, not to mention practical skills such as navigation, which allowed us to explore the world with greater confidence.

In our era, precision timekeeping has moved beyond the mechanical realm into the subatomic world, and mechanisms built to please a prince are relegated to museums and collectors. That's not to say there isn't plenty to learn from the building of mechanical timepieces, as anyone who has watched any of the videos on Clickspring's YouTube channel can attest. Clickspring not only makes some magnificent modern timepieces, like his famous open-frame clock, but recently he's also branched out into the timekeeping mechanisms of the ancients. He built a reproduction Byzantine sundial-calendar, and tackled a reproduction of the famous Antikythera mechanism. The latter was undertaken using only the tools and materials that would have been available to the original maker. That led to an unexpected discovery and a detour into the world of scholarly publishing.

Clickspring has been busy lately, but he made some time to stop by the Hack Chat and talk about mechanical timepieces. We'll talk about his modern builds, his forays into the mechanisms of antiquity, and his serendipitous discovery. On the way we're likely to talk about what it takes to build precision mechanisms in a small shop, and whatever else that crops up.

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 2

    Dan Maloney02/03/2021 at 21:09 0 comments

    Juan Sandubete12:50 PM
    But, the efficiency calculus must take into account that heat, and still is very high. So I guess that heat cannot be that much

    Chris12:52 PM
    @Danail Ivanov Re inspiration/feeling down etc: Great question. One of the key reasons I got into this whole activity was to address something that felt missing in my day-to-day life. I had a good job etc but I didn't actually have anything to physically show for a days hard work. Making stuff, addresses that for me. There is something very fulfilling about making something with your own two hands.

    andypugh12:53 PM
    @Juan Sandubete Someone I know has 3D printed a "pancake" style Harmonic drive. Those use a wider spline and two internal gears. It removes the highly-stressed cup at the expense of slightly more backlash. So far it is looking like it might work. It ran several hours at 850 rpm input:

    Chris12:54 PM
    @juul van den bosch Not really, its a fairly straight forward project. John Wildings instructions talk the reader around all of the pitfalls :)

    Juan Sandubete12:54 PM
    @andypugh good mental design btw! I tried to model them time ago with FreeCAD but I found it difficult. I think there was something like a toolbox for gears which was good

    selective.luddite12:54 PM
    @Chris , and we're all extremely grateful that you took thisup :)

    @Chris -- I can relate. Went through a midlife crisis of sorts when I realized my software development job amounted to nothing I could show mythen-young kids and say "Daddy made that". So, I built them a house.

    Chris12:55 PM
    @Dan Maloney Brilliant :)

    Pete Willard12:55 PM

    Nathan Brown12:55 PM
    @Dan Malone How did you get a copy of my biography?

    andypugh12:55 PM
    I went the other way... My clock project led to me spending all my spare time writing CNC software :-)

    Steve Pomeroy12:55 PM
    Like, an adult-size house or a kid-size house? Either way, awesome!

    Juan Sandubete12:56 PM
    @andypugh wow, it works well but that sound.. I bet they could not repeat the test

    kags12:56 PM
    Certainly a number of online hobby engineering firms are glad I saw chris's youtube channel.....well money is fo spending after all,.

    juul van den bosch12:56 PM
    a good CAD program will save you a lot of trouble.

    Inventor, Solidworks and Fusion are all fantastic packages to work with, expect that they are pricy @Juan Sandubete

    i do have a hard time myself with freeCAD, yet the other 3 are a walk in the park

    Chris12:56 PM
    @kags ha ha! Can't take it with us!

    @andypugh - But both improved the worls, and I think that's the point

    kags12:57 PM
    That bit about spending 100% of the lathe costs on extra tools is an understatement. Mind you 1947 lathe not help

    Pete Willard12:57 PM
    FreeCad seems kind of stuck in Y2K era

    Mark Jeronimus12:57 PM
    freeCAD just has the worst raw user experience ever. Nothing works like I expect.

    Fjodor12:58 PM
    my problem is that my work is clocks, but my hobby is also clocks. I pick up completely different hobby's next to clocks to get away from it all

    Mark Jeronimus12:58 PM
    FYI F360 has a free license option for hobbyists

    juul van den bosch12:58 PM
    with the hard hit on Fusion i am still shopping around for a new package for screwing around with at home

    andypugh12:58 PM
    I think I have a lathe chuck fetish. I have 8 (for one lathe) but today was looking at 6-jaw ones...

    Chris12:58 PM
    @andypugh It's possible that there's another dimension to this too, that is the pure intellectual side of what we do as makers. We are almost all addicted to learning new stuff.

    juul van den bosch12:58 PM
    @Mark Jeronimus its a shame that you are limited in active projects and a lot of other fun stuff

    selective.luddite12:59 PM
    @Chris , *Yes*.

    kags12:59 PM
    @andypugh I need a new chuck from my ML7 but postage to nz.....

    Juan Sandubete12:59 PM
    @juul van den bosch I know, I know, but I don´t usually design hard stuff, so I try to support the opensource stuff

    Nicolas Tremblay12:59 PM
    Onshape isn't bad

    Michael Möller12:59 PM
    Makers do not have...

    Read more »

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 1

    Dan Maloney02/03/2021 at 21:07 0 comments

    Chris11:59 AM
    Hi Folks!

    Nicolas Tremblay11:59 AM
    Should be fun and a bit different from the usual chats.

    Chris11:59 AM
    How is the day treating you so far?

    mmca joined the room.11:59 AM

    Mark Jeronimus12:00 PM
    rainy. bri'ish weather

    mmca12:00 PM
    G'day Chris

    OK everyone, let's get started. Despite my earlier mistake, today we're very excited to welcome Clickspring to the Hack Chat. I'm Dan, I'll be moderating today, BTW.

    Hi Chris, welcome aboard. Care to give us a little rundown of how you get into the horological arts and sciences?


    Tian van Rooyen joined the room.12:02 PM

    Steve Pomeroy joined the room.12:02 PM

    Chris12:02 PM
    I kind of wandered into it sort of by accident - I had just started to build up a small home shop and wanted a project that wasa bit more meaningful than just something that would sit on a shelf, abd I thought, hmmm a clock would be good!

    Steve Pomeroy12:03 PM
    Any suggestions for some good starter projects for someone just getting into brasswork? Clearly a clock is quite ambitious :-)

    Chris12:03 PM
    A bit of digging into it, and I soon found that it was this amazing intersection of art, science, math - and I was hooked!

    Wooden clocks seem like a popular entry-level project. Did you start there or jump straight to metal?

    selective.luddite joined the room.12:04 PM

    Fjodor12:04 PM
    what made you decide to build the clock you ended up building?

    Chris12:04 PM
    For me the best way to get into it was exactly that - getting started on building a clock

    Dan Twedt12:04 PM
    can I 3d print a binary 24 hourglass?

    andypugh12:04 PM
    The difference is that you built the clock. I was at the same point, then decided that the lathe would be more useful CNC... And ten years later the clock is still just a few gears and a mainspring barrel.

    John Dugan joined the room.12:04 PM

    Ken Berkun12:04 PM
    FWIW I've just started assembling this kit, very easy and straightforward. I can't wait to hear it ticking!

    Ken Berkun12:05 PM
    (replying to question about wooden clock kits)

    Chris12:05 PM
    There are a lot of tools to be made as part of the process too that are excellent practice for getting acquainted with the machines - the brass scriber project I did for Make: is pretty much the perfect first lathe project

    Mark J Hughes12:05 PM
    @andypugh I never got past "gee, that looks like a fun project" so you're still one step ahead of me.

    Nicolas Tremblay12:05 PM
    @Ken Berkun WOW nice kit

    Chris12:06 PM
    It's all a bit daunting at first, but its like anything elso you dothat's complex, just break it down into components and then start making

    Rob Ward12:06 PM
    Do you have any formal qualifications Chris?

    Nathan Brown12:06 PM
    I second the Brass Scriber! I made one on a unimat from the 1970's

    Dan Twedt12:06 PM
    hams have to ID every so often... maybe pitch a mechanical clock to them 73 de KK6VDR

    Chris12:06 PM
    No quals in this fiedl at all

    Chris12:07 PM
    I've learned entirely from books and videos, highly recommend the DLC course material from the British Horological Institute:

    andypugh12:07 PM
    @Mark J Hughes I got this far...

    Chris12:07 PM
    oooh lovely work Andy!

    Juan Sandubete12:07 PM
    wow, nice site Chris. Lovely at least

    @Dan Twedt - A mechanical clock that mechanically sends your callsign in Morse every 10 minutes? Now that would be cool!

    Steve Pomeroy12:07 PM
    Also, I just wanted to say thank you Chris for inspiring me to get into working with brass (by hand). I'm a computer guy by day and so this is a refreshing way to get away from screens.

    andypugh12:07 PM
    @Chris I imagine you have read the Daniels Watch Book. Does that tempt you at all?

    Rob Ward12:08 PM
    But any degrees, certificates in anything? I am interested where your capacity for research and precision working comes from.

    Michael Möller12:08 PM
    @Chris "I had just started to build up a small...

    Read more »

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Dan Twedt wrote 02/03/2021 at 20:02 point

The Clock of the Long Now in Nevada...? How about a desktop/binary readout version?

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