Simplicity Tips: Mystery Dowel, Internal Friction, Wind Cord, etc.

A helpful exchange of emailed information for beginning clockmakers.  My responses are in red.

Hi Clayton,

I've been working on Simplicity for a while and I have a quick question - on page 13, the crutch. I don't understand the "drill 1/4" and glue in 1/4" wood dowel." Can you explain a little further please?

This is my first scroll saw or woodworking project, so it's great to have gotten this far. I have all the pieces cut and sanded to where the line just disappears. I just have to cut the rods and start assembly.


Paul Jozefek

Aloha Paul, you are not the only one. I get a question about that Crutch about two or three times a year.

The 1/4" dowel is simply glued into place cross grain to help prevent splitting of the Crutch when the Allen Screw is screwed in, and to give the Allen Screw some cross grain to 'bite' into.

That dowel helps prevent splitting of the Crutch and stripping of the hole by the Allen Screw.

Be sure to send pix when you get yours completed. I always enjoy seeing the creativity of other woodworkers.

Hi Clayton,

I finally finished Simplicity and I attached pictures. This was my first woodworking project of any kind, so it's pretty basic. I stumbled across your website one day and knew I had to build some of your clocks. I bought a scroll saw, drill press, disc sander, etc, and began to build. I cut one practice wheel, and everything else went directly on the clock.

When I first got it running it stopped every ten or fifteen minutes. There was one tooth that was sticking. I sanded it down and the next try it ran for about 13 hours and stopped. I assume the clock has too much friction somewhere. I did sand a few more teeth, and hopefully that will help some. It's been running all day, for about 11 hours now, so I'll know soon. Are there any common problems that I should be aware of? The good news is that I plan to bring it to my office, so I only need it to run during the day. Unfortunately I work in Manhattan and take the train to work. I'll bring it slowly. The weight shells one day, the pendulum another, and finally the clock. I'll have it packed well, so hopefully they'll be no problems. My company just moved to new offices and we had all the outer office walls made of glass, so everyone will see it.

I bought your Modern Times and Solaris plans, so I'll attempt Modern Times next. Solaris is my favorite of all your clocks, so I can't wait to get that far.

Thanks for creating such amazing designs and plans.

Best Regards,
Paul Jozefek

Great story, Paul, and your Simplicity came out great(!) - especially for a first time woodworking project.

When a clock runs for 13 hours straight, you're there! There's just a little internal friction somewhere. A good way to "break in" a clock is to pull off the pallets and just let it freewheel for a few winds. That should help remove any tiny bits of internal friction that there may be.

You can also lube up your clock wheels a couple of ways; one is to use a Crayon or candle, and just touch it to the pinion while the clock is freewheeling. A little paraffin goes a long way, so don't over do it.

Since there is no finish on your clock, you can also try simply spraying the wheels and pinions with spray silicone. That can temporarily take away a little of the internal friction, too. Had you used a finish, you would want to check to see if the propellant in the spray silicone would damage your finish before using this method.

You could also add just a little more drive weight (or subtract counterweight) and see if that helps.

Modern Times really is a wonderful mechanism. So easy to build, and she is just such a great runner.

Solaris is also my favorite of the two gravity escape clock designs, but the other one, the Model T, is my wife's favorite. Both are really interesting clocks to watch.

Thanks for the wonderful story and the great pix of you Simplicity.

Aloha. Clayton

Hi Clayton,

Thanks for the great tips. Yesterday the clock stopped in the same spot, so I investigated further. It turns out that when I threaded the pulley I got the cord tangled. It would reach that spot and stop. I untangled it and set the clock running before I left this morning. Hopefully it will make it the whole way now.

Thanks again,

You can do a couple things to correct binding of the wind cord on the wind barrel; one is to gently lift the weight while pulling down on the counterweight. That helps take the tension off of the cord being wrapped around the barrel of the wind pulley as the clock is being rewound.

The second thing you can do is to wax the wind cord. Allow your clock to run down completely and run a paraffin candle or Crayon (of appropriate color) up and down each side of the wind cord a few times to coat the cord. When you have finished, rewind your clock by lifting slightly on the weight and pulling down on the counterweight. The counterweight cord side does not need this treatment.