Since 1972

Established in 1972, Smith and Smith is one of Australia's oldest and largest suppliers to the watch and clock industry.

Supplying both the professional and the hobbyist for over 40 years, with advice and repair, Smith and Smith has expertise covering all facets of the industry. Our knowledgeable, highly skilled staff are here to assist and advise to ensure you have what you need to get the job done.

The ‘proper’ oil to use for the particular job at hand is, without experience, not easy to work out, unless you seek advice from someone who does know. Ask any one person, if you ask two you will have two opinions. The largest clocks most frequently worked on are bracket clocks, BIG and mostly British. Then there is the 4/4 chime, the American Shelf Clock, Enfield Strikes, right down to travel alarms. Thankfully the three grades I use cover each of these without any problems.

The exceptions are clocks fitted with lever platform escapements or a lever escapement integral with the mechanism. Oil is used to eliminate friction but it does have drag which is brought about by its viscosity. If you put a drop on a sheet of glass, place a small object in it and hold the glass at an angle the object will slide down at varying rates depending on the ‘thickness’ of the oil (and the temperature).

This demonstrates ‘the drag’ nature of a lubricant and how using the right oil will improve the way the clock works. Synthetic oils are used for the platforms with or without lever escapements as these are the most stable lubricants and are manufactured specifically for the small parts involved.

Out of morbid curiosity I looked back over my July 2011 and 2012 Jottings and am surprised to still be trading. I had forgotten how long it has been since business generally was good which of course takes us back well before 2011.

It seems a lot of adjusting has had to be done in order to survive and, for the time being at least, become a skeleton of our former selves. Putting flesh on the bones may take some time however. Many of our customers are having difficulty in maintaining their commitments which of course has a flow-on effect, thus contributing to a situation from which there are no winners. The coming election will surely bring about a change of government and this may be a catalyst for economic growth and a restoration of confidence, at least in the short term, only time will tell.

On a more uplifting note the WCA spent an evening at the Seiko Service Centre at North Ryde. Even though the weather was extremely poor the numbers in attendance were very good indeed and a tribute to Trent and Gary for making the night possible. I managed to catch up with a friend I had not seen for 45years (Boy, has he changed!), when I look in the mirror I think of Peter Pan.

Who was that again? It was a great night with lots to look at and great company.

Seiko continue to be at the forefront of technology having already produced models which revolutionised the mechanical era, started the quartz era and so much more including supplying spare parts. I wonder what comes next!

The abrupt downward change in the exchange rate has taken everyone by surprise. It has been some time since it was at this level and it will result in everything we import costing us significantly more than it did just a few weeks ago which means of course a rise in price for just about everything. This is the last thing we need in the current climate and are nervous of the impact it will have on decisions you make with respect to your spending.

We await the coming months with interest.

Over time we’ll start adding old tech help articles to the website. This is your chance to take a look back through time and see all the things we’ve done over the years.

If there’s a particular one you are keen to see up here sooner, rather than later, why not send us an email and let us know.

On the 8th of April Australia Post raised the prices of its Parcel Post delivery services. Not unusual and not unreasonable but on this particular occasion it happened with no warning and caused a great deal of confusion both with us and with Australia Post staff. Newspapers usually pick up on this sort of news well before the event but if they did I did not notice any reporting on the subject. Because new delivery systems have been introduced and old ones are in the process of being phased out it might have been a good idea to bring it to the notice of the public at large. Reasonable expectation? The big issue however, revolves around the matter of compensation and insurance. Registered post offered a compensation of up to $100 if the parcel was damaged or lost. The amount of compensation was, and still is, determined by Australia Post. Registered post has been phased out and the maximum compensation on those systems where compensation is applicable is now up to $50 (there is one exception where compensation is still up to $100).

My discussions with AP seem to point to this; the level of compensation we can expect on a missing parcel or damaged goods is based on the wholesale value of the invoiced goods. But what is the value of a parcel? Clearly, in many cases the $100 compensation would never be enough. For instance, if an RG bezel, 1960’s ST69, sent for a plexi fitting is lost is its value that of a replacement watch or $20 being the wholesale value of the fitting? The owner may not be content and forgiving when receiving the news grandma’s watch, given to her after grandma passed away, has also gone. Luckily the owner told you to insure the parcel for $550 with AP because of its special personal value. They were also happy to spend the extra money to have it returned the same way (this is a fairy story of course, no-one would pay that much). However the parcel is lost, what do they get by way of compensation $18! More on this subject to follow.


At least twice a week a customer comes to the counter wanting to buy clock oil. Mostly they are DIY owners wanting to “get the clock going again”, they have no idea why the clock is not running as it should and are convinced all it needs is oil. Amused? Don’t be. Very few people actively involved in the trade know much about lubricants and their specific use. We stock Moebius oils and greases and have done so for many years, but as a company they have never, to my knowledge, promoted their clock oils or explained the why’s and where-fors as to how they should be used.

Clock oil is as important to a clock as engine oil is to a car and it is surprising Moebius never advertised the virtues of using their product over the numerous others available to the trade.

Next month: What I use.

Clock pivots are most likely to require restoration, mainly because the damage is more obvious, emphasis must be made however that every pivot is worthy of inspection. A lathe with a reasonable range of collets is essential before even starting to think about clock repairs so therefore it must be assumed that this is already part of your workshop.

Pivot restoration can be done with the lathe driven by a motor or in the case of a 6mm lathe, a bow. Some tradespeople are right handed and others left handed so you need to hold the burnisher in that hand. The headstock of your lathe would be on the right hand side if you are left handed. For this exercise we are not using the Jacot tool but simply holding the wheel arbor in a collet leaving the pivot to be polished unsupported. Support is not a requirement for some wheels but in most cases it is essential. We will ignore this fact for the moment to concentrate on the method employed to restore the pivot.

Two trains of thought regarding where the tool should be placed are in vogue. Some say over the top of the pivot as with a Jacot tool or underneath the pivot. My personal preference is under the pivot, my reasoning for this approach will become clear as we progress. As I am left handed the headstock is to the right. I am working underneath the pivot so I would use the burnisher in Fig 1 (last issue). Because the burnisher is a parallelogram in shape you can see the side closest to the arbor slopes away from the shoulder allowing the burnisher to work right up in to the corner of the pivot, (Fig 4). If you were left handed and working from above the pivot you would use the burnisher shown in Fig 2 (last issue).


Right hand burnisher being
used underneath the pivot to
ensure sharp corners. Lathe
headstock is on the right hand

Fig 4

To obtain a good action and therefore a good and consistent rate, it is necessary to restore train wheel and where applicable the balance pivots, to an original finish. In the case of American clocks, much better than original – time taken to learn and apply these skills brings about its own reward.

The basic tool is a pivot file and burnisher. They are available in two sizes, known as watch and clock.

This implies one is larger than the other but it does not mean exclusive use on one or the other timepiece. There are also two types of each available, one is right hand and the other left hand, again this does not imply a singular method of application.

Looking at the end profile you will note the shape FIG 1 or FIG 2. Half the tool is a fine file and half a burnisher. The burnisher is flat steel with a fine grain cut at right angles into the surface – burnishers can be resharpened to restore the finish. You will also notice one edge of both file and burnisher is rounded from the top to about half way down. This is important and its use will be described later.

The file and burnisher is most frequently used with a Jacot Drum (FIG3) – either as a lathe accessory or as a complete stand alone tool. The Jacot tool is used with a bow whereas the lathe can be used with a motor or in the case of a 6mm model a bow can also be employed.

A bow will turn the work backward and forwards ( which can be an advantage ) and a lathe only in one direction. The burnisher must be used to take advantage of the direction of rotation.

FIG1: right hand

Fig 1

FIG2 : left hand

Fig 2

FIG3 : Jacot Drum

Fig 3

Part Two will describe how a file and burnisher should be used to achieve the best results.

The American Shelf clock is one of the most common clocks to come into the workshop for overhaul and one of the simplest to repair. However some less experienced repairers, like watchmakers, sometimes have difficulty dealing with the mainspring, particularly if they don’t have a mainspring winder. Here are few handy hints to help you.

1. Removing. If the spring is intact bind it loosely with string, wire or whatever you have to hand. (You can buy special clamps available from yours truly for this job) If you use a let down key, move the click spring away from the click, turn the key backwards until the click is out of the ratchet wheel and in a controlled manner let the spring down into the loose wire until all tension is removed from the spring. If you only have a standard key you will have to use the time honored method of letting it down a few ratchet teeth at a time. Disassemble the clock and remove the springs, take them from their securing wire and clean them up, examining them in the process to make sure they are worth replacing. You know where you can buy new ones!

2. Replacing. First fit the mainspring onto the mainwheel, secondly, fit the mainwheel into the plate with the loop end of the spring located over the post, as it was originally. The bulk of the spring just hangs around in a long loop and care must be taken to ensure it does not tangle in the way only American springs can. Next fit the second wheel in its position and put the top plate onto these two wheels, securing them with the pillar nuts. The next step is to secure the second wheel by wiring it to one of the plates or whatever other method you choose to make it immobile. All you have to do now is to wind the mainspring in the normal way until it is slightly smaller than the diameter of the wheel. Bind it and release it in the manner described above. Remove it from the clock and repeat the procedure for the second spring. The spring is always under control eliminating any chance of injury to you or to the clock

Tuning gong rods has always been an impossible task for me, my musical capabilities are below zero and things like octaves and the like a complete mystery. However I realized there must be some relationship other than a musical note which determines what sort of note a rod of given length will give.

The information that follows may not be an exact science and I look forward to any additional information which helps me to make it exact but it does work as is and will most certainly get you out of trouble.

Our example will be a simple 4 rod Westminster Chime mantle clock but the method applies to any number of rods of any length.

In our example is the longest rod is 256mm. You can include the thread in the measurement or just the rod, it makes no difference

  • The next longest is 224 mm which is 87.5% of 256 mm
  • The third rod is 212 mm which is 94.6% of 224 mm
  • The shortest rod is 196 mm which is 92.45% of 212 mm

Let us assume the third rod is missing. You know by this formula the third rod is 94.6% the length of the second longest rod, so multiply 224 by 0.946 and what do you get?

My calculator says 211.904 but 1 think you will find 212 mm will give you the desired note.
Another way is to multiply the shortest rod by 1. 14 and this will give the length of the next rod, multiply that by 1.06 for the next rod and multiply that answer by 1. 14 to give you the length of the longest rod.

If all else falls measure every set of rods you get and keep this in your diary, you will find when you do this the formula will prove itself.

Major tools are expensive and if not in regular use, may not be economically viable. The clock bushing tool is just one example. Whilst we stress the importance of having the right tool for the job, here is a way to ensure accurate bushing for the minimum outlay.

Most clockmakers use Bergeon or KWM bushes and without the correct tools, reaming holes for the various diameters is a matter of trial and error. To overcome this problem select a number of reamers from your range ( or buy new ones ).

Take a reamer and fit a brass collar onto the reamer about 1cm from where the reamer will cut the correct size hole for the bush intended for the repair. Place the reamer upright in a vice ( don’t clamp it ) and tap the tang forcing the bush further onto the reamer. As you get close to the correct spot, stop and ream out a hole.

If the bush falls through you have gone too far and will have to start again. If too small tap the collar a bit further along until the desired result is achieved. You can now open out holes with your eyes closed, you will never make a mistake again!

Fig 1