Amazing articles on just about every subject...


Watch Repair Workshop, Tools, Etc.

( Originally Published 1918 )



Heating the Workshop.—A watchmaker's workshop should be dry and warm. A damp workshop rapidly ruins tools, materials, and watches themselves. A cold workshop nearly always causes poor work and waste of time—poor work because cold fingers cannot do fine work properly, and waste of time because frequent and long pauses have to be made to re-establish the circulation sufficiently to restore the delicate touch necessary to the fingers of a watchmaker. Hot-water pipes against the wall under the work-board appear to be the most efficient means of heating a workshop. They keep it dry, and also keep the workman's feet warm and his head cool. An open fire, generally placed at the opposite end of the workshop to the board, is the worst method of heating.

Light.—A good light is a necessity. Nothing, of course, equals daylight; but, unfortunately, many workshops are so placed that very little good daylight can enter them. Such daylight as can be got is best utilized by placing the work-board right across the window itself. If the sun shines upon the window, ground glass in the lower panes, to keep it off the work and the workman's eyes, is very effective. The most convenient artificial light in most cases is gas. The incandescent gas mantle is hardly suitable, as it has to be moved about continually as the work requires ; but this would be a very good light, being quite free from flickering. An ordinary gas jet is best provided with a green cardboard shade, to keep the heat from the workman's head and the glare from his eyes, as well as to throw down the light on to the work. Working with a bare flame is not wise from any point of view. Some workmen prefer working with an oil lamp and shade.

This is cool, steady, and portable, but is a little troublesome, and there is a small element of danger. There are several methods of using ordinary gas-jets; a double-jointed bracket may be used, springing from the back of the board about 8 in. high, or a small pedestal light, as in Fig. 6, is very convenient. This is furnished with a shade, and supplied with gas by means of a length of rubber pipe, which may come from a wall bracket or an overhead fitting. During daylight this pedestal light can be removed, and be altogether out of the way. But, of all lights, the electric is the best, and those in favoured localities where the electric light is available will use no other.

The Work-board.—This should be large and roomy. A good width is 2 ft. from back to front, and from end to end for one workman, 3 ft. 6 in. If a watch lathe is kept permanently mounted upon the board, an extra foot of length should be allowed. Inch mahogany is the best for the board, but cheaper woods are often used, even ordinary deal. The latter is soft, and becomes ribbed where the grain runs, causing great inconvenience. On the whole it is far best, in fitting a workshop, to put in a mahogany board.

It is very convenient to be able to either sit or stand to work, and to allow of this the board should be about 4 ft. high. Drawers fitted underneath it are useful for tools, materials, etc.

Tools.—A vice with about 2-in, jaws is a necessity. The old-fashioned hinged vices have quite gone out for watchmakers' use, and some form of parallel vice is used instead. Boley, the maker of so many watchmakers' tools and appliances, makes several patterns of parallel vices, in which the jaws are of hardened steel, and new pairs can be purchased and screwed into position when the old ones become damaged by wear.

Watchmakers use many small tools common to other trades, and also many that are found only in their workshops. Among them the following may be just briefly mentioned, pliers, several pairs from about 4 in. long down to 2 1/2 in. (Fig. 7). These, like nearly all watch tools, are far best nickel plated. They are smooth and clean to handle, do not rust, and look well. The smallest pair generally have to be made by filing up the jaws of a larger pair. If the smallest pair is purchased that can be got, the jaws can be heated to a blue in a spirit lamp, and can then be filed up, as shown in Fig. 8, to about half thickness and width. These very small pliers are extremely useful, being something between tweezers and ordinary pliers in size and strength. Of course they are only for occasional use. Another pair of 3 in. should be converted into brass-nosed pliers, by softening the jaws as above described and filing out recesses on their inner faces. In the recesses pieces of sheet brass or, better still, German silver are soft soldered. Some workmen rivet then as well for safety. Fig. 9 shows such a pair, AA being the brass faces. These inner faces should be filed up square and true to close nicely, and their edges should be flush with each other. Brass-lined tools are to handle parts of watches which would be scratched or bruised by the use of steel.

Sliding tongs (Fig. to) are very useful to hold small parts or pieces of metal while operating upon them with drill or file. An ordinary steel pair should be provided, and also a brass-lined pair, either bought ready made or made from old steel ones worn smooth, in the same manner as the brass-lined pliers. For cutting pins, etc., a pair of 4-in. cutting nippers, like Fig. II, will be wanted.

Of screwdrivers there should be several. For occasional use on a large screw, an ebony-handled screwdriver with a blade - in. wide is useful. The blade should be hardened steel, and kept filed or ground up straight, thin, and true. Properly speaking, this is not a watch screwdriver, but is useful to a watchmaker to use upon his lathe or other tools, or for marine chronometer work, etc. A good pattern of watch screwdriver proper is shown in Fig. 12. This is ribbed to give holding power, has-a loose top to rest in the hand or on the finger tip, and takes interchangeable blades. These blades slip in a cross slot, and can be removed in a moment. One such screwdriver is useful to take the place of several that are only occasionally wanted. Such, for instance, are an extra wide and thin blade for moving chronometer timing screws, and several split blades for turning nuts, etc. A smaller screwdriver (Fig. 13) of the " Boley " pattern is useful for ordinary small watches, and finally a "jewel" screwdriver for jewel screws (Fig. 14).

Several pairs of tweezers are requisite. For general use the " Boley" pattern, nickel-plated, hollow tweezers answer very well (Fig. 15)—one strong pair and one fine pair. As the fine pair gets worn and filed up a few times, the points get coarse and thick, and they are relegated to "common" work, their place being taken by a new fine pair, and so on. Other useful tweezers are an old-fashioned solid pair, the points of which should be filed off flat, leaving squared flat ends about 1/16 in. wide (Fig. 16). These form a link between tweezers and the smallest pliers. A moderately coarse pair of brass tweezers should also be provided for handling polished steel parts of new watches. Other pairs of specially shaped tweezers will be described in connection with the jobs for which they are used.

Two hammers, one ordinary 1 oz. and one a little lighter, are wanted, both flat-faced.

The large files used should include a rough " potance" file, a rough and a smooth "pillar" file, and a fine file one side and burnisher the other of the "potance" size. Of smaller files there are dozens of sizes and varieties, such as crossing files, square, rat-tail, slitting, etc., etc., descriptions of which will be deferred until their use is pointed out.

Drills are generally purchased nowadays from the tool shop, in boxes numbered in series, at a cost of about 1/2d, each. They run from the smallest possible to make up to as large as are ever required in watchwork, and all fit a standard drill stock.

It is therefore hardly worth while to make them. Perhaps the greatest convenience of these drills is that their shanks are all made to gauge. There are three sizes of drill shanks in use. The smallest is for very fine drills, the medium for slightly larger drills, and the large for "clock" drills. To fit them ready-made drill stocks can be purchased, to work with a bow. The various makes of watch lathes also are provided with three drill holders which take them. It is a matter for thankfulness that in drills, at least, we have uniformity. How much better it would be if the same could be said of mainsprings, hairsprings, screws, and glasses ! Perhaps this will come some day.

A good set of punches is indispensable. They may be made by the workman, and always used to be until quite lately ; but, like drills, they can now be purchased in such very convenient sets that it is hardly worth while making them. Still, there are a few that makers do not yet seem to have included in these sets, and these still have to be made as of old. The latest "staking tool," and set of punches to fit, is one of the most useful tools a watchmaker can possess.

Stakes, are nearly always used with punches. They are metal blocks on which to place the work to be operated upon. Some are simply flat steel, hardened and polished ; others have graduated series of holes, etc. Fig. 17 shows a graduated stake shaped to be held in the bench vice. Fig. 18 shows a hollow stake. Others will be described later on.

To enlarge holes, broaches are used. Broaches are tapered five-sided rimers, with five cutting edges. They are obtainable in sets from "pivot broaches" up to 1/4 in. diameter. To smooth holes inside, when enlarged to the proper size, round broaches are used. These are merely round, tapered, polished steel arbors, set in handles and graduated like cutting broaches.

For screw-thread cutting, screw plates and taps are required. The great diversity in screws used in different kinds of watches causes endless trouble to the watchmaker. Several screw plates will be necessary, and sets of taps to match them. The " Progress " screws and plates will match most Swiss work and are convenient, inasmuch as screws can be bought finished ready to go into watches, and it is a standard that shows signs of more general adoption.

Pin vices, broach holders, and pin holders are convenient for holding pins while filing them and other similar purposes. Fig. 19 shows a regulation pin vice. The pattern with a hole right through is handy for taking a long length of wire.

Several gauges are necessary for general work, and many special ones for measuring glasses, mainsprings, cylinders, etc., which need not be de-scribed here. The general measuring gauges for ordinary filing and turning are three. A "pinion gauge" (Fig. 20), which explains itself. A " douzieme gauge," the name being a Swiss measure to 1/12th of a line or , 1/44th of an inch. This gauge, shown in Fig. 21, is useful for small measurements, which can be read on the scale and recorded. For larger measurements an ordinary "Boley" sliding gauge, with vernier, is useful. The size reading to 100 mm. and vernier Gauge. reading to tenths of 1 mm. is most useful (Fig. 22).

For watchmaking the millimetre gauge is peculiarly suitable. Its unit of measurement is of a convenient size, and for the finest measurements need not run into smaller fractions than tenths, which are easily added, subtracted, or otherwise dealt with. Also the sizing of nearly all modern tools and materials is based on the millimetre. Widths of mainsprings, diameters of glasses, sizes of turning arbors, watch lathe chucks, watch drills, etc. ; and in the near future it is possible that all watch tools and materials will be sized by it, and so get rid of the utter want of system of the past, under which each maker sized his wares by a series of numbers of his own, having no relation to each other, or to any other series or measure.

Besides the above, a large number of small and special tools are used for particular purposes, many of which have to be made by the workman. These will be described as occasion requires in connection with the jobs for which they are necessary.

Also the appliances for turning have not yet been mentioned, being reserved for a future chapter.

Eye-glasses.—The preceding list of tools will be closed with a reference to the eyeglass, without which it is useless to attempt watchwork.

It is erroneously supposed that watchwork is very trying to the eyes. No doubt it would be so if the eyes were not assisted by suitable glasses. In fact, it would seem that constantly using the eyes to see small objects, provided the light is always good, acts upon them as exercise does upon the bodily muscles, and they become strengthened. A watchmaker's eyes are probably more capable of seeing fine detail upon everyday objects than those of an ordinary person, for the reason that they are daily exercised and trained. He does not strain his vision. When an object is not easily seen by the unaided eye, an eye-glass of moderate power is used, and it is rendered easy at once. Still finer objects are viewed in more powerful glasses with the same result. It is constantly trying to see objects with insufficient light, and straining to see detail too small to be easily seen by the unaided eye, that injures the sight.

Given sufficient light and magnifying power to enable objects to be easily seen, the eyes cannot be injured. The writer's experience has been that writing and reading, as ordinarily carried on in private rooms and in offices, is far more trying to the eyes than working all day at watchwork. It is also a matter of common observation that, in strong contrast to the student of books, the young watchmaker's eyes give him no trouble ; while in after years he manages without spectacles as long as the generality of other folks.

The ordinary glass used is of about 4 in. focus. This magnifies about 2 times, and is quite sufficient for the ordinary run of watchwork. But for viewing pivots or jewel holes to detect minute signs of wear, a 2-in. or 1 1/2 in. focus glass is useful. Such a glass magnifies about 6 times.

The ordinary 4-in. glass purchased at the tool shop in a horn or vulcanite mount for 1 is considered sufficient by most workmen. It consists of a single bi-convex lens. Such a lens, every optician knows, has many imperfections. First, it is not achromatic, and fringes all objects slightly with prismatic colours, taking from their sharpness and contrast with their background. Second, such a glass has considerable spherical aberration ; that is to say, all the light collected by it is not focussed at one point. The marginal rays are of shorter focus than the central rays. To a small extent the latter fault can be corrected by cutting off the extreme marginal rays, the worst offenders, by means of a circular stop of brown paper screwed into the lens mount in contact with the glass. Such a stop may have a central hole of 3/4-in. It causes a little loss of light, but greater sharpness.

Both chromatic and spherical aberration can be somewhat reduced by using a double lens—two similar lenses in one mount, like Fig. 23. Such lenses are sold, and are miscalled "achromatic" lenses; but they are not much improvement when used for the ordinary 4-in. glass. On the other hand, the more powerful glass of 14-in. focus is greatly improved by being made in this way, the usual pattern being like that shown in Fig. 24.

A 4-in. focus lens should cover a field of view of 2 in. diameter easily. If a watch dial be laid upon the board in a good light and viewed by the aid of a glass like that shown in Fig. 23, it can all be seen at once, but it will not all be equally sharp. If the centre is focussed, the edges will not be quite, and also the black figures on the white ground will be fringed with blue, red, and yellow. The constant use of such a glass must be more tiring than one in which these defects are absent.

To get over the difficulty, the writer has used for many years a really achromatic lens in which the spherical aberration has also been neutralized. Such a glass is shown in Fig. 25. It consists of a bi-convex lens of crown glass cemented with canada balsam to a plano-concave lens of flint glass. To have this made specially would be expensive, but, fortunately, such lenses can be purchased cheaply in the form of object glasses for small opera-glasses. A pair of these only costs a shilling or two. One of them about 7/8 in. in diameter and 4-in. focus can be placed in a horn mount from which the common single lens has been removed. To accommodate its extra thickness, the seating will have to be turned out in a lathe or mandrel, with a slide-rest cutter. The lens mount can be chucked by cementing it with sealing wax on to a slip of flat wood and clipping the wood in the dogs on the face plate.

The watch dial, viewed by the aid of this lens, is all in focus at once, clear and sharp, with a total absence of coloured fringes.

Eye-glasses have been mounted in aluminium and cork for lightness and to be more easily held in the eye, but the best way of overcoming this difficulty is to use a coil of piano wire, as shown in Fig 26. This is passed around the head, holding the mount lightly against the eye. When not required it is pushed up on to the forehead out of the way. A glass held thus is always at hand—no searching for it all over the board—saving much time. It is also open to question whether the habit of holding the glass by contracting the muscles of the eye improves the vision. It is certainly tiring. Sometimes considerable annoyance is caused by the lens steaming. This results from evaporation from the face condensing on the in-side surface of the lens, and takes place more especially when the glass is just taken up to use on a warm day. It will be minimized, if not altogether prevented, by making several large ventilation holes in the horn mount, allowing free access to outside air to dry off the condensation upon the lens.

The foregoing is written more for the professional than the amateur. For his work, only a small selection of tools will be needed, and an ordinary eye-glass will answer. But only occasional as may be the jobs which he takes in hand, a good light and an eye-glass are both necessities, and such of the tools enumerated as appear to meet his special requirements may be purchased.

The firms who supply watchmakers with their tools issue very full and well-illustrated catalogues describing each appliance minutely. It has, therefore, not been thought necessary to give here more than mere references to them. Such illustrations of tools as are given are more for the purpose of indicating the particular kind of tool referred to than to describe the tool itself.



Home | More Articles | Email: info@oldandsold.com