Dorrin K Mace, Horologost

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

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Clock Lore

Clock Lore and Points of Interest:
           American clock movements have undergone many innovations over these passed few generations. These innovations took the form of unusual repairs by local tinkers. It's not uncommon to examine an antique American clock movement and find a piece of bailing wire plugged into a worn pivot hole. Glue took the place of solder when piecing together broken levers and solder was used to fuse anything that didn't look right to the beholder. An elderly customer brought in his American clock boasting that it was running for 25 years without missing a tick. He never had it cleaned or oiled and couldn't understand why it stopped. Needless to say, there was a lot of work to be done on this overhaul. First, I discovered a cotton wad soaked in kerosene which was stuffed into the corner of the case. This was an "old wife's tale" practice expecting that the kerosene vapors would not only keep the movement oiled, but would dissolve any gunk build-up occurring over the years. In a fairy tale world, this might be true, but actually, any working machine needs periodic lubrication and eventually an overhaul.  People change the oil in their cars, tune up their lawn equipment and go to the doctor regularly, but do not understand why their mechanical clock might need some attention once in a while.
    Many visitors to my Shop often ask why the Roman numeral four on most round clock dials is illustrated as IIII and not IV. I've heard such stories as the king of England declared it accepted because his clockmaker made a mistake, having already painted it on a particular dial. There's even a story that the Clockmakers' Company utilized IIII as a trade symbol. Yet another story claims that IIII was the outcome of the French Revolution attempting to change the method of dividing the hours of the day into tenths. But, the truth is quite simple. If you observe a round dial containing Roman numeral IIII, you'll notice that one third of the numerals contains I's, one third contains V's, and one third contains X's. It's purely an example of symmetry! How do you like that? A square or rectangular dial will contain IV. The symmetry, in this case, exists naturally.

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