Old Passion's Clock Dictionary



False Plate :
After 1750 most common longcase clocks were made by batch production methods. When large quantities of engraved or painted dials were required it became impractical to specify pillar positions individually, so shorter standard pillars, which were also less likely to work loose and ruin a painted dial, were provided by the dial maker, to mate with an intermediate or 'false' plate between the dial and movement. This false palte was originally made from sheet iron, later cast iron. It often carried its maker's name, and it could easily be provided with holes and pillars to unite the dial and movement.

Ferrule :
A form of pulley attached to a tool or part to enable it to be rotated by the cord of a bow or wheel. Ferrules are produced in many forms and sizes, simple ones being small brass pulleys of different diameters and centerhole sizes held on the work either by friction grip or shellac. Split ferrules are made in two halves and screw-tightened on to arbors of different sizes. A loose ferrule or pulley may be used with a 'driver', i.e. a small split bridle, to rotate very small arbors between dead centers of pairs of turns.

Fiddle-Cased Clock :
The term 'fiddle-cased clock' was applied to any clock narrow in the center and swelling out at the base, to give roughly the shape of a violin.

Figure Clock :
Any clock with moving figures and more specifically with a human figure or figures, either forming part of the decoration of the case or partially involved in the movement. Examples are a clock with a revolving dial and a figure holding a pointer to indicate the hour, or French 'mystery' clocks of the late 19th century with the pendulum held by a female figure apparently stationary but actually moving slightly from side to side to impulse the pendulum. There are also French clocks in which the pendulum consists of a child on a swing which moves to and fro (requiring a special escapement) and many splendid French designs with decorative figure sculpture as part of the case.

Figure-8 Clock :
The American Howard Watch and Clock Co. (E. Howard & Co.) introduced, c. 1870, their weight-operated timepieces, Nos. 6-10. The cases were made of polished black walnut, and the configuration of the case design has led collectors to refer to these as 'figure-8' models. These were all timepieces with recoil escapements. They were superior to the general run of contemporary Connecticut clocks, and much more accurate timekeepers.

File :
A most important tool for clockmaking, having a serrated surface for removing metal by cutting and abrasion. Files are made in innumerable shapes and sizes and cuts, for many purposes. At one time almost all parts of a clock, including wheel teeth and pinions were shaped with files, and some files are named from the parts for which they were used, such as verge, pallet-wheel, endless-screw, pivot, etc. Common files are classified as flat, round, half-round, three-cornered, rat-tail, crossing and slitting, etc., while types of cut are known as rough, bastard, smooth and dead-smooth. Clock sizes of files are made with a tang and should always be fitted in handles. A new file should preferably be used with brass until its keenness has worn off, when it becomes more suitable for iron and steel. The most common method of cleaning files is to brush them with a wire brush.

Finial :
A wooden or metal spire or turning.

Flirt :
A weighted or spring-loaded lever which is wound by the going train and released to let off strike work, etc. with a hammer-like blow.

Flux :
A substance applied to metals which are being brazed or soldered. The flux is designed to help the liquid brazing and soldering metal properly to 'wet' the parent metal or metals being joined by reducing the risk of an oxide film forming on the work.

Fly :
The last element in chiming and striking trains, the fly is a fan brake used to control by air resistance the interval between hammer blows.

Fly Press :
The fly press is one of the simplest forms of press, providing an economical method of rapidly producing parts. In principle, it utilizes the energy of hand-moved weights to operate a ram for stamping, pressing, blanking, piercing and forming, some of these being possibly combined in one operation.

Flying Pendulum Clock :
Also referred to as an Ignatz clock, a novelty clock invented in 1883 and reproduced in the late 1950s. Hanging from an arm, a small ball on a thread acts as a pendulum by swinging in a horizontal circle and twisting and untwisting around vertical rods on each side of the clock.

Foliot :
The first form of controller used in verge-escapement clocks. The foliot is made from a metal bar, usually with saw cuts in its upper edge which are used to locate two equal weights, one on each arm, enabling the clock's rate to be adjusted.

Four-Hundred-Day Clock :
A clock that runs a full year on a single winding. It is also called an anniversary clock.

Frame :
The case of a clock.

Franklin Clock :
During visits to London in the late 18th century, Benjamin Franklin became friendly with James Ferguson, the famous astronomer and designer of orreries and astronomical clocks. Few of Ferguson's designs were built, but his ideas led Franklin to devise a clock with as few parts as possible. His clock has a dial divided into four segments marked 0-60 minutes for each segment, the whole series of twelve hour figures lying between four concentric rings. A single hand indicates the minutes and hours simultaneously, but not unambiguously as three hour figures are indicated. A later version employed a spiral groove with a steel ball to overcome the difficulty. The ball rested in the spiral to show the hours, being gradually moved to a hole in the center from which it fell by gravity through a tube behind the dial to the outer end of the spiral every twelve hours. Some of Franklin's clocks also indicated seconds on a dial in the arch of the clock. Ferguson made a number of variations based on Franklin's design, some going for one day and one going for a week, but without seconds indication.

Friesland Clocks (Staartklokken) :
During the third quarter of the 18th century a type of domestic clock was produced in Friesland which was entirely new to the province. The case was a simple hanging version of an Amsterdam longcase clock with the movement of the Friesland bracketed stoelklok modified to an anchor escapement. The case of the common Friesland staartklok consists of an upper part which contains the movement and dial, and a lower part housing the pendulum. The total height of the case is about 2 ft. 3 in.; as this is about half the height of a longcase clock, the Friesland clock is sometimes referred to as a half-case clock. Mostly, the case is made of oak, French-polished to a reddish hue. Other examples occur in elm and, from the third quarter of the 19th century, mahogany. In the east Netherlands some Friesland clocks are found with whitewood cases, most, though perhaps not all, originating in the neighboring part of Germany. At the level of the pendulum bob there are so-called 'cheeks' on either side of the case, in the front part of which is a sliding wooden panel with an oval 'window' instead of the usual pendulum aperture. Around this oval window an ornamented plate is mounted, lead in older models, moulded brass in later ones and thin brass plate in cheaper examples. The pendulum bob in the normal Friesland clock has a diameter of almost 2 3/4 in., although in office clocks and certain others it may be larger. On the clock hood are three little wooden plinths bearing wooden figures, or vases with gilded glass balls, or ornaments in thin brass plate. The painting of the dial is exceptionally beautiful in some cases, but in general it is very simple. Around the chapter ring, spandrel mounts of thin brass representing the four seasons are usually added. There are a number of variations on the standard Friesland clock, listed below. Variations of the movement. (1) Moon phases with or without indication of date. (2) Automata movement attached to the anchor arbor and therefore in continuous motion, or linked to the striking work and therefore intermittent. The display is usually above the chapter ring, but may sometimes be found beneath it. Since all mechanical additions clearly hinder the functioning of the escapement and therefore the proper running of the clock, they were often totally or partly removed during later repairs. (3) Fitted with repeating rack striking instead of locking plate striking. (4) An organ or musical cylinder fitted (rare). Variations in the size of the clock. (1) Abnormally large size, the so-called 'burgomaster's' clock (rare). (2) The hood has its normally flat top decorated with carved leaf cresting or with a carved or painted broken pediment. The dial arch is usually filled with fine engraving or painting. (3) A luxuriouly executed clock case, in which case the clock is often larger than usual. The case may be completely covered with carving, or finely painted, or inlaid with other kinds of wood, or made with a more valuable kind of wood. (4) The so-called 'short' Friesland clock or 'big head' of which there are two types. (5) Smaller examples, such as the office clock or notary's clock which only differ from the standard Friesland clock in having a smaller movement and case; they are relatively rare. (6) Very small examples, the so-called 'skipper' clocks. As with the bracketed stoelklok, the Friesland clock has a small version for use in inland navigation, although there is some doubt whether they were specifically manufactured for that purpose. The back panel of these clocks does not contain a pendulum, and it is pierced with a Turkish knot motif or star design.

Friesland and Groningen Clocks (Stoelklokken) :
The most common Dutch bracketed clock is the Friesland stoelklok; it is still produced according to a design which has hardly changed for over 200 years. Its development took place as much outside Friesland as in it, and was almost certainly introduced from the richer province of Groningen to the east. A small number from the early period clearly show both Groningen and Friesland characteristics, and it is difficult, sometimes impossible, to determine their origin. Some authorities hold that the Groningen stoelklok differs from the Friesland both in external design and in the movement. The case of the Groningen clock is generally stronger and more elaborately finished, greater attention being paid to the cast lead ornaments. The extra-thick back panel is often decorated with eels, mermaids or other fine carving. Examples from Friesland have mermaids simply in flat outline. Eels and mermaids, incidentally, were supposed to symbolize time because of their elusiveness. The construction of the verge movements of Groningen clocks was also more robust than Friesland examples; the pillars are usually plain or with a single decorative ring and a round or square plinth. The hands of Groningen clocks also differ slightly from those of Friesland models.

Front Wind :
A clock that is wound through an opening in the dial.

Frosting :
The granular or matted finish given to the surface of brass clock parts prior to gilding. It is produced by dipping the parts briefly into a concentrated mixture of nitric and hydrochloric acid, after which they are rinsed and brushed in a circular direction with a scratch brush. A 'grey' surface on steel or brass is produced by rubbing the parts on the surface of a glass plate smeared with a paste of oilstone dust and oil.

Fusee or Fuzee :
A grooved cone on which the cord from the spring container unwinds to equalize the force of the spring in a clock.

Fusee, Reverse :
The reaction of engagement of the great wheel with its pinion is transmitted to its pivot and, in the usual layout, the pull of the fusee line adds to this load. In the alternative layout, the chain unwinds from the opposite side of the fusee, and the mainspring's pull is in opposition to the load imposed by the great wheel's pivot reaction, thus reducing the pivot load.

Fusee, Stopwork :
A mechanism used to prevent the line or chain being torn from the mainspring barrel in fusee clocks. The stopwork acts when a hinged arm is moved by the line or chain into the path of the hook formed as part of the fusee cap.

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