Humidity and Pallets: A Solution

Clock builder Rick writes:  "I have built a Genesis clock and have had it running for about three months now. The weather here in WI finally changed and with it comes the humidity. The clock stopped on me. This told me to turn on the dehumidifier. A few days later when the humidity lowered it would run and stop. I would slide the pallets out of the way and the gears would run fine there was nothing in the gear train causing it to stop. I looked at the tips of the pallets and saw that there was a groove wore into the face of the pallet were the escapement wheel made contact. The face of the pallets were cut a little short so to make them longer I added a piece of veneer to make them longer. I used a flat file and then buffed the pallets and my clock is running again. I don't know what type of wood veneer it was but I am going to have to change it to something harder. This is my fourth clock of yours that I have build and I have added veneers to my Number 6 with no problems. I thought are that I have a better idea with the veneer rather then using wood filler but I am not so sure now. Just wanted to get your thought on this. I was going to put this on your blog but I don't know how to get it there.

Thank you for your time and help, Rick"

My answer:  "Aloha Rick, so you've found yet another use for these beautiful mechanisms - an hygrometer.

Yes, here in Hawaii I occasionally use mine for the same reason. It's interesting too that various mechanisms succumb to humidity at different rates. Some (like my Number Six) are real troopers and can run through nearly any weather change, while others stop if I walk by them after I've exercised heavily (eg; Lolli).
I think you are correct about finding a harder wood for your pallets - and also for your escape wheel. Your escape wheel teeth are taking a beating, too. This is actually one of the reasons I recommend baltic birch, or other high quality ply. To put into perspective what it has to go through, a seconds clock ticks 86,400 times a day, which is 604,800 times a week or over 31.5 million times a year!

My Number Six has been running daily, for almost nine years (over 284 million ticks!), and shows absolutely no sign of wear. So to see wear in the first few months points to a problem with the softness of the wood used.

Concerning the soft pallets you are dealing with, I would go ahead and try either the wood putty method that I describe in my FAQ's and/or add a drop of CA glue (Superglue) to each pallet face.

CA really does a nice job of hardening wood surfaces, but also swells the wood a little bit - which Bob used to his advantage...he found that a drop of CA is a great way to decrease the size of slightly oversized arbor holes, or if the caps don't fit tightly to the arbor ends.

You might even think of adding a drop of CA to each of the tooth tips on your soft-ply escape wheel, but you'll probably need to re-round your escape wheel again.

Here is an extreme close-up of my Number Six entrance pallet face:
My pallets are made of high-quality baltic birch ply.  You can see there is a glazing or smoothing where the escape wheel teeth have contacted and run along the pallet face for all these nine years, but absolutely no wear on either the pallet face or on the tips of the escape wheel teeth. Look closely at the tips of the escape teeth and you'll see that they are still sharp and square - not at all rounded by wear.

As you mention, I don't have the comment section of my blog turned on. I also don't answer any comments or questions on any of my YouTube videos. It's just too many places to check for questions each day.

My web page "Contact Me" button is the best place for clocksters to contact me with their technical questions, and some of the more helpful ones may end up being posted to the blog. Be sure to check the FAQ section of my blog first before you email me, though--your question may already be there.

Aloha. Clayton