Clocks Glossary

ACCESS DOORS

Hinged doors or panel inserts on the sides of clocks which allow access to the movement. Access doors may contain glass panels which allow the movement to be viewed, or cloth panels (baffles) sometimes covered with decorative fretwork which permit strike and chime sounds to emanate from the case (see fret).

ALARM

A noise or sound made by a clock at a specific time such as a bell, buzzer, chime or melody.

ANCHOR ESCAPEMENT

An escapement developed in 1647 by William Clement which made possible the use of longer, more accurate pendulums.

ARABIC NUMERALS

The number symbols (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,etc.) commonly used for computation and on many clock faces.

ASTRONOMICAL DIAL

A representation or simulation of the actual movements of celestial bodies (moon, earth, planets) on the face of a clock.

BAFFLE

A name sometimes given to a cloth piece which is stapled and or glued to the back of the access doors or frets allowing chime and strike sounds to flow out. Also known as a grill cloth.

BANJO CLOCK

The eight day banjo clock was patented by Simon Willard in 1802. The basic proportions of this wall clock which resembles a banjo are still used today.

BASE

The bottom or supporting portion of the clock case.

BAULISTER

A split turning often applied to case surfaces.

BEAT

The tick or other sound made as the e tooth of the escape wheel engage against the pallet face of the escapement with one complete swing of a pendulum. A clock is said to be In-beat if the pendulum swing on each side of its low point is equal and the temporal spacing between the ''tick'' and ''tock'' are also equal, with an even sounding tick tock as the pendulum swings.

BELL STRIKE

A clock chime that does not sound on the quarter and three quarter hour - only at the half hour with a bell and at the hour when it strikes the amount of hours.

BEVELLED GLASS

Glass used on the sides and front of a clock case which has its outside edges ground and polished at an angle greater than a right angle-providing a beautiful decorative effect. Double and triple bevels are also used which have two and three angles respectively.

BezelBezelBEZEL

The grooved rim into which the crystal (glass face) in a watch or clock is set. Click the Bezel photo opposite to view.

BIG BEN MELODY

The melody produced every quarter hour by most grandfather clocks. It is patterned after the hour strike of the famous Victoria Tower in the Palace of Westminster London, re named in honour of Queen Elizabeth in 2012 the ‘Elizabeth Tower’

BIG BEN The Great Bell

(note E natural) Is thought to be the named after Sir Benjamin Hall, Chief Commissioner of the Works at the time the bell was installed. The current 2nd Bell was cast in 1858 at Whitechapel Bell Foundry and restored after cracks in 1863.

BIM BAM

A clock chime that does not sound on the quarter and three quarter hour - only at the hour and half hour with a bim bam sound.

BOB

The disc shaped weight at the bottom of the pendulum. The bob is usually made of brass. An adjusting speed nut at the terminal end of the shaft raises or lowers the bob slightly which adjusts the speed of the clock, a rough guide would be 1 turn adjusts the clock by 30 seconds or so in a 24 hour period.

BONNET

See Pediment.

BOW TOPBow TopBow Top

A rounded or curved pediment shape. Click the Bow Top photo opposite to view.

BRACKET CLOCK

A shelf or mantel clock that has a handle on top. Click the photo alongside Chapter Ring to see a Bracket Clock.

BREAK ARCH

The semi-circular extension of the face of many tall case clocks which sits on top of an otherwise square dial plate. Click here to see a Break Arch Clock photo.

BULL'S EYE

A circular glass window inserted in the front of the trunk of some 19th century tall case clocks so that the moving pendulum could be seen. Click here to see a Bull's Eye photo.

BURL

Veneers made from trees that have knots in them. These veneers have a decorative irregular mottled pattern. Click here to see a Burl photo.

COA

Initials for the words clean, oil and adjust. Many manufacturers recommend that clock mechanisms be serviced periodically and get a full cleaning every 2-5 years.

CABLE WINDcable-drivenCable Wind

A clock powered by weights which are suspended from a thin cable through a pulley assembly. A clock cranking key is inserted in the dial of the clock and turned to raise the weights to the fully wound position. Click the Cable Wind photo opposite to view.

CAPITAL

The head or uppermost member of a column, pillar' or pilaster. Many clocks have cast brass or carved wood capitals on the top (or bottom) of decorative pilasters.

CASE

The wooden cabinet which encloses and supports the clock movement, pendulum, dial, weights, etc.

CASTING

The art of forming metal objects by pouring the molten metal into a mould and allowing it to harden. After hardening, the heavy, solid brass or steel castings are finished off by hand. Hinges, spandrels, clock hands, column capitals and other clock hardware are often cast which can be a relatively expensive process.

CHAIN WOUND

A clock powered by weights which are suspended from a linked chain. The free end of the chain is pulled down to raise the weights to the fully wound position. Click here to see a Chain Wound / Driven photo.

CHAMFER

The grooved or bevelled off portion (corner especially) of a moulding.

CHAPTER RINGChapter-RingChapter Ring

A ring which sits on top of the dial plate of many classic traditional clocks on which the numerals are located.

CHIME

The melody played by a clock movement at the quarter hour, half hour, three quarter hour and hour. Popular tunes include the Westminster, Whittington, Winchester, and St. Michael which are produced by chime hammers striking chime rods or tubes.

CHIME BLOCK

A solid block into which chime rods are screwed.

CHIME RODS

Solid tuned rods which produce a melody when struck by chime hammers. Chime rods are relatively inconspicuous. They are used instead of chime tubes and produce a more melodious sound.

CHIME SELECTOR

A step-up feature on many case clocks which allows the chime tune or melody to be changed. See single chime movement and triple chime movement.

CLAGGETT, THOMAS

Thomas and his father William were among the earliest makers of fine clocks in America (mid 18th century).

CLOCK

A device other than a watch used to measure the passage of time. Decorative clocks usually have mechanisms consisting of a train of wheels actuated by devices such as falling weights, springs, and changes in temperature or electrical power. An escapement (pendulum, electric motor, atomic vibrations, etc.) regulates the power source at a specified rate to produce the movement of hands, ringing bells, etc.

COLUMN

An upright member or pillar often used as decoration on case clocks. Columns can be plain, reeded or fluted. They may conform to the classical column designs (Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, Composite), or incorporate acanthus or other carvings. A corner column (quarter column) which is a quarter circle section, a half column which is 1/2 circle in section, a three quarter column which is three quarters of a circle in section and full round columns often run the entire trunk of tall case clocks or appear at the sides of the hood.

CORNICE

The top or finishing moulding on a piece of furniture. A pediment rests on top of a cornice.

CRESTING

The carved decoration above the cornice.

CROWN

See Pediment.

CROWN WHEEL

The crown shaped horizontal escape wheel of a verge escapement used in floor and wall clocks before the development of the anchor escapement.

CRYSTAL

The glass or crystal which covers and protects the face of a watch or clock.

DATE CIRCLE

Also known as a date ring, this feature of many tall case clocks and mechanical wall clocks indicates the day of the calendar month. Click the photo alongside Bezel above to view.

DENTIL MOLDING

Ornamental cornice moulding consisting of rectangular blocks spaced at regular intervals resembling teeth.

DIAL

The clock's face. The hour, minute, (and sometimes second) hands are located on the dial which may also be pierced and decorated with painting, silk screening, spandrels and etching. Numerals on the dial are often silk screened or applied. The later, being made of plastic, metalized plastic, brass plate, solid brass or solid brass with a gold gilt finish.

DIGITAL

Digital output displays the time without the use of hands. Numerals are displayed directly on the face.

DROP CASE

A clock such as a schoolhouse clock or a railroad regulator having a lower case that usually contains a pendulum.

ESCAPEMENTEscapementEscapement

A device which controls the motion of the movement gears. Through the escapement, the energy of the weights or springs is delivered to the pendulum or balance, permitting a tooth to escape from a pallet at exactly rate. Click the Escapement photo opposite to view.

ESCUTCHEON

An ornamental plate around a keyhole or in back of a handle or knob.

ETCHING

Designs created in metal (or glass) through the use of an acid.

FINIAL

The carved, cast, turned or stamped decorative piece set in the pediment at the very top of the clock. Finials are often made in the shape of a bird, human bust or animal, an urn with or without a flame carving, acorns or pineapples.

FLUTED

Channels or grooves cut along the length of decorative pilasters or columns.

FOOT

In some tall case clocks the plinth rests directly on the floor. In others, feet such as bun feet (onion), bracket feet, ball feet etc. come between the floor and plinth.

FRET

Hinged or inset doors on the sides of a clock case which allow access to the movement (see access doors).

FRETWORK

Decorative cutting consisting of small straight bars arranged in angled patterns. Fretwork is often present on access doors.

GRAHAM, GEORGE

Inventor of the "dead beat" escapement, an improvement of the "anchor escapement." He was the business partner of Thomas Tompion, the famous English clockmaker and inventor of the "break arch" dial.

GRANDDAUGHTER CLOCK

20th century word for a smaller version of a grandmother clock, sometime a mantle clock movement placed in a short floor standing case.

GRANDFATHER CLOCK

The word Grandfather clock is thought to have become more popular after the hit song ‘Grandfather Clock’ written by Henry C Works in 1875.

A tall weight case clock normally weight driven / floor clock / coffin clock / hall clock and long cased clocks are usually taller than 6 feet and have a pendulum.

GRANDMOTHER CLOCK

A 20th century word for a smaller version of a grandfather clock.

HALF HOUR STRIKE

See Bim-Bam and Bell Strike.

HANDS

Stylized pointers used on clock dials to indicate the hour, minute and second.

HARDWOOD

Wood derived from angiosperms (broad leafed trees such as the

Oak, Beech, Maple, Mahogany and Walnut). Hardwoods are widely used for crafting clock cases.

HEMISPHERES

On most lunar dials; both the eastern (right) and western (left) half of the earth are represented. As the moon dial rotates the hemispheres cover portions of the moon disc, representing the phases of the moon.

HOOD

The entire top section of a tall case clock which encloses the face. The hood sits on top of the trunk.

INLAY

Wood or other materials which are set into corresponding carved out recesses, often producing a pattern.

JEWEL

A bearing or pivot in a clock or watch movement which eliminates wear and increases the useful life of the timepiece.

KILN DRIED

Kiln drying reduces the moisture content of the lumber, a process which inhibits checking, splitting, and strengthens the finished case.

LUNAR ARCH

A half dial with numbers representing the days of the month. Also known as a lunar time track or lunar date circle. See moon dial.

LUNAR MONTH

The length of time taken by the moon to revolve once around the earth, 29.53 days equals a lunar month.

LYRE PENDULUMLyre-Pendulum-BobLyre Pendulum

A pendulum style which includes multiple, vertically oriented bars (grid) joined by a bridge (also called a dog bone) in the middle and has a harp shaped structure which sits on the bob at the terminal end. Click the Lyre Pendulum photo to view.

MANTEL CLOCK

A clock designed to rest on a mantel shelf or table.

MARQUETRY

The process of inlaying pieces of wood, shell or ivory into a wood veneer which is then applied to a clock or other furniture case.

MERCURY PENDULUM

A pendulum which has, instead of a bob, an assembly containing vials of mercury. Originally, the mercury in the vials expanded as the temperature rose, a feature which made the clock more accurate. However dangerous mercury is normally replaced with a coloured liquid.

MINUTE TRACK

A square or circular ring or track, located at the outside or centre of a clock face. The minute track is divided into 60 segments corresponding to the 60 minutes in an hour.

MOON DIAL

A dial usually found at the top of the clock face which tracks the moon's phases through the 29 and a half day lunar month. As the rotating moon dial passes behind representations of the eastern and western hemispheres, the phases of the moon are represented as they appear at each stage of the cycle... new moon; waxing crescent; half moon; gibbous; full moon; gibbous; half moon; waning crescent.

MOVEMENT

The mechanical parts of a clock which are inserted into a case. The movement includes all of the parts responsible for keeping time. Including the time train (gears which operate the hands and activate the chime train) and the chime train (which operates the chimes).

NAPOLEON HAT CLOCK

See Tambour Clock.

NIGHT SILENCER

A feature of clocks with chimes and strike movements which turn off the chimes and strike in the evening (normally between the hours of 10PM and 7AM).

PEDIMENTBonnet TopBonnet Top

The usually ' triangular, rounded or split (broken) structure at the very top of a clock case. Popular styles include the bonnet top, broken arch or divided, swan's neck, open, scalloped, triangular and various carved pediments, many having finials. Click the Bonnet Top / Pediment photo opposite to view.

PENDULUM

A rod suspended 'from a fixed point which swings freely to and fro under the action of gravity. A clock pendulum determines the rate at which the movement measures time. See stick, lyre and mercury pendulum.

PILASTER

An upright member which resembles a column but usually projects one third of its width or less from the case. Pilasters used in clocks are purely decorative. They are often plain, reeded or fluted; having decorative capitals (tuscan, doric, ionic; corinthian, composite).

PINCH WAIST

A tall case clock in which the base and crown are wider than the centre section which houses the pendulum and weights.

PLINTH

A wooden stand, square or octagonal base of a column or case.

QUARTER HOUR STRIKE

Chimes a melody or single strike on the quarter and three-quarter hour as well as the full and half hour.

QUARTZ MOVEMENT

Highly accurate clock movements which are battery powered, transistorized and keep time via the high frequency vibrations of a tiny quartz crystal.

REEDING

Decoration with two or more raised linear beads resembling tall grasses with joined stems. Also the opposite of fluting.

REGULATOR

A standard clock used for timing watches and clocks. Specific types include a square wall clock (railroad regulator) having the basic conformation of clocks used in early railroad stations and a more accurate wall clock of the type used by jewellers normally weight driven (Jewellers regulator or Vienna regulator).

RESOUNDING BOX

A hollow wooden box mounted behind the mechanism on the inside back of the case which enhances chime and strike sound.

RETAINERS

Wood, rope or rubber strips which hold glass panels in the cabinet doors of clocks. See spline.

RITTENHOUSE, DAVID

A famous astronomer, philosopher, clockmaker and civil servant. Produced many fine and elaborate clocks in Norristown and Philadelphia, PA.

ROMAN DIAL

A clock face, Chapter Ring on which the hours are represented by roman numerals (I,II, III ,IV,etc.).

SCHOOLHOUSE CLOCK

An octagonal or round wall clock of the type commonly found in school houses.

SECONDS DIAL

A small, usually round dial located on the dial plate and having a hand which tracks the 60 seconds in a minute.

SILENT POSITION

A feature of chime and a strike movement which silences only the chime, leaving the hour strike (4/4 silent position), or silences both the chime and strike

SINGLE CHIME

A single chime movement only plays a single melody -usually Westminster chimes.

SPANDREL

A decorative structure occupying the corners of a clock face. Spandrels usually have a triangular shape and may be pierced, have raised decoration or etching in brass or gold. Also known as corner overlays.

SPLINE

A thin wood, metal or plastic strip used to hold glass into a door frame. See retainers.

ST. MICHAEL CHIMES

Chimes originally heard in the church of St. Michael in Charleston, the Bells were cast in London, were installed in the St. Michael Church steeple in Charleston, S.C. in 1764. During the Revolutionary War, the British took the bells back to England. After the war, a Charleston merchant bought them and sent them back to America.

STICK PENDULUM

Also known as a wooden shaft pendulum, it consists of a simple wooden shaft and a terminal bob.

STRAIGHT SIDE

Or flat sided a type of case clock in which the case width from crown to base is constant.

STRIKE

The gong or bell which sounds on the hour.

TAMBOUR

A tambour clock is a mantel or shelf clock which has works that are enclosed in an upright drum-shaped case with an elongated base. It is said that this distinctive "camelback" shape was designed after Napoleon's hat.

TEMPUS FUGIT

"Time Flies" in Latin. These words are often inscribed on a decorative clock dial. Many grandfather clocks bear this inscription in the break-arch.

TERRY, ELI

Connecticut clockmaker who revolutionized clock making by manufacturing

clocks with standardized, interchangeable wooden works in 1807.

THOMAS, SETH

One of America's first manufacturers of mass produced clocks. Along with Silas Hoadley he purchased the production facility started by Eli Terry. Later he started another company which still bears his name.

THOMPION, THOMAS

Famous English clockmaker who invented the "break arch" dial in 1695.

TIME PIECE

A clock or watch what simply tells the time and has no melody or chime.

TOP SPANDRELS

Spandrels placed on the sides of the break arch.

TRIPLE CHIME

A clock movement which permits the chime melody to be changed by switching a chime selector lever. Most triple chime movements allow the user to select Westminster, Whittington or St. Michael Chimes (sometimes Winchester Chimes).

TRUNKtrunk-base-etcTrunk

Another name for the mid-section of a tall case clock. The trunk may have glass or wood panelled sides. A hinged front door (trunk door) which can be opened to wind the clock can also be of glass or wood. Click Trunk photo opposite to view.

TUBULAR BELL CHIME

Hollow chrome or brass tubes of differing lengths which produce the chime melody and strike when hit by chime hammers. Tubular bell chimes generally produce melodies that are louder and crisper than mechanisms which utilize chime rods; the chrome tubes producing louder, crisper and less melodious tones than those made of brass.

VENEER

A thin decorative layer of wood which is applied to the underlying wood solids or particleboard. Veneers are used to match and balance grain, create inlay and banding effects.

WEIGHTS

Solid weights or weight shells provide the motive force which drives the clock mechanism in tall case clocks. They are heavy metal cylinders suspended from chains or cables. Solid weights do not have end caps and cannot be taken apart. Shells have a cast iron

or lead core encased in a brass shell which can be removed.

WESTMINSTER CHIMES

Clock chimes on four bells or gongs, sounding like the tune played in the "Big Ben" Victoria clock tower in London. See the Chime section in this guide for more information.

WILLARD, SIMON

The most famous of a family of Massachusetts clock makers, Simon is known for the invention of the eight day banjo clock patented in 1802. He also made many fine tall case clocks, gallery clocks and tower clocks, many on show in the Henry Ford museum.

WINCHESTER CHIMES

From Winchester Cathedral's central tower in Hampshire, England the chime melody originated in 1093. For more information of Winchester chimes see the chime section in this guide.

WINDING ARBORS

Holes in the faces of cable driven (or spring driven) clocks through which the key or crank can be inserted. In tall case clocks with cables, the left arbour raises the weight which powers the hour strike (strike wind); the centre arbour raises the weight which powers the movement of the hands (clock wind); the right arbour raises the weight which powers the chimes (chime wind).

WINDING CRANK

The key or-handle which, when inserted in the winding arbours and turned, raises the weights.

WHITTINGTON CHIMES

Chimes originally heard in the church of St. Mary Le Bow in the 16th century Cheapside London. Legend has it that a penniless boy, Dick Whittington (1354-1423) heard them as he ran away to escape his drudgery as an ill-treated house waif. The chimes seemed to say to him , "Turn again, Whittington, Lord Mayor of London Town!" So, back he went and persisted in his labours until he finally did become Lord Mayor of London Town.

Brian Marconi
- 09 May 2014 at 12:13

Very interesting story about the ST. MICHAEL CHIMES.

Kind regards
Brian

http://gutlin.com/
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