Dorrin K Mace, Horologost

Dorrin K Mace, Horologost
The Clock Man in a pensive moment

Sunday, July 2, 2017

AMPICO and the AMPICHRON "Piano Clock"

American Piano Company (abbr. Ampico) was an American piano manufacturer eventually located in East Rochester, New York. The company was formed in a merger of Chickering & Sons of Boston, Wm Knabe & Co, of Baltimore and Foster Armstrong of Rochester, New York. It was formed in response to the increasing demand for player pianos, and, as well, the then current impetus towards larger economic entities and aimed at the achievement of economies of scale. The company was established in the period from 1907-1908 and in 1908 floated a prospectus and offering for shares under the name "American Piano Company."

From 1913 Ampico was one of the leading producers of reproducing pianos, the others being Duo-Art (1913) and Welte-Mignon (1905). The player piano and reproducing mechanism was designed by Charles Fuller Stoddard (1876–1958).  A great number of distinguished classical and popular pianists, such as Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943), Leo Ornstein (1892-2002), Winifred MacBride, and Marguerite Volavy (1886–1951), recorded for Ampico, and their rolls are a legacy of 19th and early 20th century aesthetic and musical practice. By 1929 Ampico was in essential economic difficulties and was finally taken over by the Aeolian Company, a manufacturer of player pianos and organs. The combined company, known as Aeolian-American Corp., went through several ownership changes before declaring bankruptcy in 1985.
Despite the Ampico's decline, the company did not officially close until 1941. The last model introduced was the Ampico Spinet Reproducing Piano, which had all the functionality of a reproducing piano, and although having a low cost of $495, still failed in sales.
 Originally named Despatch after the transportation company that spawned several dozen car shops in the area, the town was also home to a musical manufacturing giant for the better part of the 20th century.Nestled in between the New York Central Railroad tracks and Commercial Street, the 250,000 square-foot edifice designed by Henry Ives was the first industrial building in the United States to be constructed from reinforced concrete.
Renowned for its fine craftsmanship, the American Piano Company was the largest distributor and manufacturer of pianos in the world by the mid-1920s. The instrument’s popularity reached its peak that decade thanks to a growth in prosperity and an increased interest in music stimulated by phonographs and radio.Piano producers across the country would not fare as well the following decade. While over 347,000 pianos were purchased in the United States in 1923, only 51,000 units were sold eight years later.


 
 This video presents
one of what I feel is the most unique aspects of AMPICO players pianos.  Several models had "A" and "B" rolls.  On certain models a clock was wired to the "B" roll player, and this activated the piano on the hour to "strike" the hour and then entertain the listeners with a musical interlude.  The clock portion was referred to as the AMPICHRON.  What a wonderful feature this would have been.  I can see this being so popular in the higher end department stores or bank lobbies of the days.  Back in a time that was so much more than about just the bottom line of a business.

Listen as the piano is "activated" by the clock (manual in this case as no clock is present), you will hear a short musical interlude, the calling of the hour, and then a full musical selection.  One caveat on this system was that it required the piano to be plugged in and turned on 24 hours a day to keep the chime accurately calling the hour.


















Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Sounds of the Chime(s)

A common malady of customers clocks that have not been properly maintained is the chime(s) begin to sound "Bad".  That is they can be too soft, too loud, clangy, or just sound "off" to what the customer is used to hearing.  Many times the sound problem can be rectified with an adjustment to the distance between the hammer head and the chime rod or gong.

On a horizontal mounted chime rod or gong the distance should be approximately 1/8" between the rod and the hammer head as shown below
On a vertically mounted chime rod or gong the distance should also be approximately 1/8" between the rod and the hammer head as shown below


To achieve the correct distance simply bend the wire the hammer head is mounted on slightly in either direction to achieve the correct clearance.  Should you not be comfortable making the adjustment, take your clock to your local horologist.


Another problem that can cause a chime to sound "bad" is a worn out hammer head.  MOST but not all chime hammers have a tip that can be replaced.  The tip can be leather, plastic, lead, cork, or even fabric.  Over time these tips can wear off or flatten, resulting in the heads needing replaced.  To have the heads replaced correctly take your clock to your local horologist.


The image above shows hammer heads from new, to worn, to worn out and needing replaced.


A final problem that can cause a chime to sound off is having the chime or gong loose in the case.  A back mounted chime must be securely fastened to the back of the clock.  Many times the screw will have worked loose or the wood has deteriorated to a point that the holes need bushed and new screws installed to keep the chime solid against the back of the clock.  The back of the clock acts like a musical sounding board and amplifies the chime sound back into the room


A floor mounted chime can work itself loose from the floor of the clock over time and slip around.  The nut on the bottom of the chime will need to be tightened to ensure proper sound  for the clock chime.


Again, after the chimes are tightened, ensure the clearance between the hammer and the chime rod or gong in approximately 1/8" and that the hammer head is hitting squarely on the chime to ensure the best tone.


At a disclaimer, some clocks have terrible sounding chimes.  No amount of adjusting will correct a chime that is out of tune or of poor quality, these situations can only be addressed and corrected by replacement of the chime rod/gong by your local horologist.







Saturday, June 24, 2017

Darche Mfg. Alarm Clock Bank Pat. 1889 ~ 1908

Even after 36 years we still receive in unusual clocks for repair and restoration; this is one of them
Darche "Flashlight Electric Alarm Clock", ca 1907. Advertised as "An Up-to-Date Clock for Up-to-Time People".


The First Electric alarm clock built by the "Darche Mfg. Co" of Chicago Ill. was in the late 1800's. The alarm was NOT a wind up; but an electric. Run from a battery - cell placed in the right side tower. It also came with a push button switch to light the light bulb above the clock at night.  This one has a working clock. The bank part is unique too with the vault door to remove the money.


George C. Darche, whose name we are most familiar with on the clocks in question, had several relatives in the business. In 1882 Theordore Darche, a carpenter, and Eugene Darche, a boxmaker, were the only persons listed in the company records. George, a plater, first came upon the scene in 1883. That same year Theodore changed hats from carpenter to contractor. By 1884 Joseph Darche, a millwright, joined the group and Theodore once again changed to CEO of the T. Darche & Co. on South State Street in Chicago. George, in 1885 through 1888, opened up at 31 Clark Street and later at 35 Clark Street, a business of electrical supplies. Good old Theodore in 1887 was now listed as a locksmith and carpenter. Edward, another Darche, appeared in 1888 as an electrician at 416 State Street. The only other Darche to appear was Ephraim, a teamster.
Here we have the nucleus of a good electric clock. A millwright to create the fancy wood designs, a carpenter to construct the case, an electrician to do the wiring, a locksmith to tidy up the case and keep the door shut, a contractor to make sure everyone did what they were supposed to do and a teamster to settle disputes in case they didn’t.
The Darche Electric Co. shows up in 1889 at 37 Clark St., and in 1891 George C. is listed as President and Edward T. is Secretary. By 1895 George is listed as a jeweler at 648 W. 12th Street, and, at last, in 1896 the Darche Clock Co. at the 648 W. 12th address is born. From 1897 through 1902 the Darche Clock Co. shows George C. as President of the company at locations at 618 W. 12th and then at 830 S. Halsted.

The first mention of the Darche Electric Clock Company was in 1903 at the 803 S. Halsted address and in 1904 we see someone other than George as president of the company. Don Evans was president, taking over when George died in 1904. His presidency didn’t last long, for in 1905 Frank Jansen became president and remained so through 1909.
Then, a wonderful thing happened. In 1909 the company underwent yet another name change, this time to Darche Manufacturing Co. with Augusta Y. Darche as President. Yes, a woman! This must have been revolutionary for that time. As a matter of fact, Augusta held the position until 1928 when E. J. Heilman became president.
Going back to the early part of 1904 - perhaps while George was sick and dying - we find that Augusta applied for a patent for a STAND FOR AN ELECTRIC ALARM CLOCK which she received in August of that year no helpless widow she!
In June of 1904 Augusta applied for another patent for an Electric Alarm Clock which was granted in March of 1906. She had invented: "an alarm i.e. the combination of a clock alarm mechanism and an arm adapted to be moved thereby, of an electric signal, a circuit for said signal in the path of movement of said arm and an insulating sleeve movebly mounted on said stationary electrode and adapted to be positioned between said arm and stationary electrode for preventing contact there between and thus maintaining the circuit open."
In 1909 Frank Jansen, while he was still president of the Darche Manufacturing Co., registered the trademark "SEARCHLIGHT" and the F. W. Jansen name appeared on the "Darche" clock. During this time we also find the "Medical Surgical" clock. Darche alarm clock whose switches at the far left front are marked "medical set," and those at the center are marked "surgical set." Confusing? Yes! Could it have been used for electrical treatments or shock therapy?

Below is a photo of a "surgical set" clock taken by a friend of mine in the NAWCC Museum.



This electric alarm is indeed an interesting piece, one I am thrilled to experience and restore!




The Darche electric alarm came with a cord and switch set that allowed the owner to activate the light at night to see what time it was,  I do not have the switch and cord set for the clock I am restoring but am looking for one to complete this wonderful piece.  Below is a photo of the electric alarm with the cord set in the front (the red item with the small cord hanging out of the back)







Thursday, June 22, 2017

Putting Your Clock in Beat

A customer will come in with a common ailment.  "My clock only runs for a few minutes and then stops"  Many times this is due to a clock being knocked out of beat.  No matter how careful you are, this can happen.  Below is advice from the back of an older clock I had in the shop for repair.  This is a quick and simple way to put your clock back into beat.


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Made in Silesia




I have been repairing, restoring, and researching clocks for greater than 35 years, a clock marked "Made in Silesia" is a first for me.  This is a unique and unusual coffin style floor clock mad by the Gustav Becker clock making works. 

Gustav Eduard Becker was a German clock maker and founder of the brand Gustav Becker. Becker learned clock making in Silesia and enriched his skills by learning from many masters around Germany which, during that era, was the most important country in the clock industry. His great skills gave him the ability to fix clocks at the most intricate level. During his time in Vienna, he decided to start his own clock factory.
 Becker came back to Silesia in 1845, and got married. In 1847, he settled in Freiburg, Lower Silesia (now ┼Üwiebodzice, Poland), and that April he opened a small clock shop with a few employees to whom he taught clock making. First, he created clocks in the Viennese model, and thanks to his success, in 1850 he moved his business to a better business center.
 His breakthrough came in 1852 at the Silesian Clock Fair. Crowds were drawn to his works because of the quality, and he was awarded the gold medal for the best clock in the fair. In 1854 he received large orders from the British Royal Mail, and the Silesian Telegraphy Centre. After the orders, he received a fortune from the Duke of Martibore, and with this money he could pay enough to make clock cases for train stations. In the 1860s, he began to create the Classical Gustav Becker clocks. Starting from fairly simple clocks, the clocks became complex and very ornamental, and sales rose to a peak in 1875, with over 300,000 clock orders. He won at clock fairs in London, Paris, Sydney, Melbourne, Berlin and Amsterdam.

The wording "Made in Silesia" dates this clock to before 1930, and the style dates it to the early to mid 1920's.  The case detailing is fantastic to look at from the carved accents to the top door





To the egg and dart trim and beveled glass of the body door, this is a very enjoyable piece to look at



 The Becker movement is a well made unit and this being a multiple chime selection piece, makes it unique for the owner to enjoy.





This entire piece has me excited as I restore the case and weights to their age appropriate antique appearance.  Its was a great learning experience to find out about Silesia and the early history of Becker and his clock making firm.
 Gustav Becker died in 1885, but the strength of his enterprise carried his name forward. The trademark and production survived an 1889 consolidation of Freiburg clockmaking companies into the "United Freiburg Clock Manufacturing Company Inc., formerly Gustav Becker". In 1926, this firm combined with the Junghans clockmaking company, and the Gustav Becker trademark continued until about 1935.

 The brand was created in 1899, and in 1930 it merged with Junghans, a large clockmaker in Schramberg, Baden-W├╝rttemberg, in southwestern Germany. After the Second World War ended, the Gustav Becker factory's location was transferred from Germany to Poland, and clock production there ceased. Junghans continued to exist in West Germany, but clocks bearing the Becker brand were no longer produced.





Friday, May 26, 2017

Oh that DUSTY Cuckoo Clock!

We repair a lot of cuckoo clocks at Pine Knoll Clock Shop.  A lot as in a few hundred a year.
Most times the Cuckoo Clocks arrive with a thick layer of dust on them because the owners are afraid to, or do not know how to, clean the woodwork.  I understand all of the carvings, brikabrak, ornamentation, and animation can be very daunting to approach, and replacing parts you might damage is not easy nor cheap.






To clean the case of your cuckoo clock, you can use canned or compressed air to blow off the majority of the dust.  Do this with caution as some parts might be loose and you could launch them into the next county with the compressed air if you are not careful.

To finish the cleaning of the cuckoo case use a china bristle parts brush like the one shown below.  Carefully brush all of the case to remove any loose dust, dirt, or debris. (such as pet hair)


If using the dry brush gives you acceptable results, great you are done.  If however you want to enhance the appearance of the cuckoo clock or address a dried out looking. lack luster appearance, put a little furniture oil on the brush and go over the case again.  Spray the tip of the brush with the oil, so not flood it until it is dripping.





At Pine Knoll Clock Shop we use orange oil furniture polish or Milsek Furniture Polish.  Many people find the scent of the Orange Oil to be pleasant.  Personally I like the scent of the Milsek Furniture oil that we sell in the shop; we sell the Holiday Oil or Cinnamon/Raspberry scent exclusively as I happen to really like that scent



Cuckoo Clock cases can be cleaned, you just need to use caution, care, and common sense.  Remember if it is not comfortable for you to do, don't do it.  Should you have any questions contact your local horologist.  Should you not have a clock smith available, you are more than welcome to contact me via email at pineknoll@zoominternet.net

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Setting Time

Many times when a clock comes into the shop for repair, the customer has never actual run the piece.  This is most true with antique pieces acquired from family members or estates. 
When a clock is picked up we will ask the customer if they have ever operated the clock and if not, we will explain how to wind the clock and set the time (even if they have said they operated the piece we still may go over the basics just as a refresher course)
It is often the assumption of the new owner that clocks wind "Clockwise", that is FALSE.  All models wind differently thus our reason for reviewing the procedure.
Another assumption is that you can just move the hands backwards or forwards, whipping them around until the time shown is correct, this is also FALSE.  Although some modern clocks have instruction books that state you may move the hands backwards, it is always the prudent and safest to move the hands forward.  The reasoning is that parts may be damaged if the hands are moved backwards and the "setback" mechanism may no longer work properly.  Moving forward simply removes the risk of damage. 
One other note of caution, do not move the hour hand, many hour hands are pinned into position and you WILL fracture the hand or damage the movement if you force the hour hand into position
     While setting the time it is also advised to stop when the clock is calling and let the call complete to avoid getting the chime train out of sequence.  What this means is, if the clock calls (makes a chime) at the full hour and half hour, you stop when the minute hand (the long one) is at the 6 and 12.  On a clock that plays a melody (i.e. Westminster chime) on the quarter hours, you would stop at the 3, 6, 9, and 12 position letting the clock complete its call at each stop.
One final piece of advice is that when setting the time, move the minute hand by grasping it close to the center arbor as shown below.


Often the clock owners will adjust the time by pushing the hand forward at the tip of the minute hand like this





Pushing the tip of the hand can cause damage to the hand.  Remember these hands are often finely cut mild steel, brass, or even aluminum.  Any resistance felt while adjusting the hand forward can bend or even fracture the hand.  In most instances, yes the hand can be repaired or a new one cut, however by simply adjusting the hand from the lower portion next to the arbor and stopping if resistance is felt, the chance of damage to the hand (and perhaps even the clock movement) is minimized.

And remember, should you have any questions or concerns, contact you local Horologist.  Should you not have a local clock smith, email me at Pineknoll@zoominternet.net or message me through this blog.