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James Walker

Buying Online

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Hi all

    I have bought a few pocket watches online to mend basically and they are often advertised as "Not Working"  Half the time there is a balance wheel issue namely broken or bent pivots

    My question is this.  If I get watches like this, is it endgame or can they be redeemed in some way either by fixing the balance wheel myself or is there a place online

    where I can acquire the appropriate balance wheel? Or balance wheel staff for that matter   I find this unlikely since I only buy antique pocket watches going as far back as early Victorian.

   Thank you

 

    James

 

 

 

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Dear James, As a (new?) member of the Forum, you are privileged to be able to access the advice of the Forum's own watch repair'restoration expert, Simon. Just go to his Forum section and post a query; I'm sure he will have good ideas and advice about balance wheel issues in old pocket watches. I am also sure that there are other Forum members out there who will post advice on this thread, although I am aware that your question is somewhat general rather than about a specific watch - answers may therefore begin with the words, "it depends ...".:) 

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When items are sold on EBay "for parts or repair" they have often been handled by other watchmakers, who have established that parts are unobtainable. And beyond economic repair. That's not to say they are beyond redemption, but. Many hours may have been spent searching. A damaged Balance Staff is often the end of the game for many older watches, Pocket and Wrist.

With accuracy a Balance Staff can be measured and therefore a possible replacement found,but. The balance has to be disassembled into it's individual components to do this. Which is time consuming. If a perfect match is not available, then one that is of close match maybe used and adjusted on a lathe. More Hours consumed. Or you could turn a new one from scratch.

all this is great fun for the hobbiest, but not for a professional, generally. It's often only when the Balance is operational that many other unseen problems can appeal. The list is endless. I'm happy to help you with any Balance Staff issues you have,but don't be shocked when you find it, doesn't solve all the running problems the watch may have.

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I will share my point of view.

Believe me, if one works often with the turns and lathes, and does it with heart and brains, sooner or later, a time will come when turning balance staff for a pocket watch or repivoting a wheel will take no more then 30 minutes, and with perfect quality…

I restore antique watches from many years. For me, a broken balance staff or wheel pivot, if ho other problems in the movement, is just an easy fix.

I never order staffs as spare parts from supply companies. In the past, it was not possible – I am in Bulgaria… Now it is possible for certain movements, but still I prefer to do my own staffs, as one can be never sure that hole in balance wheel or roller have  not been enlarged for some reason in the years, or  stones in plate or bridge – changed with  ones of different sizes… And, waiting for a staff to come for a week or two and never knowing  if it will fit is much worse than 30 minutes work on the lathe…

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Hi. Guys  thanks for all the input  - sounds like a minefield to me - i guess only time and experience will work their way through and things will make more sense eventually

 

 Simon I will check out the link you sent thanks. The balance staff/wheels on all the watches I have bought so far are different in some fashion.  I thought, naively might I add, that there were generic balance wheels/staffs - a  kind of standardisation through time if you like. I have found this not to be the case as every maker so far I have come across has  a different size length and/or  width of the balance wheel/staff. There were balance wheels/staffs made the same obviously for the same model but finding these would be a proverbial needle in a haystack.

 

I like the idea of making my own. I am an engineer albeit on a macro scale but have had many years turning experience -  I guess it would be the same making my  own balance staffs only on a micro level.  i have no idea where I could purchase a  lathe for this purpose - its an exciting proposition to say the least anyway

 

Thanks again for all your help 

 

James

 

 

 

 

 

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On 29/05/2020 at 22:56, James Walker said:

I like the idea of making my own. I am an engineer albeit on a macro scale but have had many years turning experience -  I guess it would be the same making my  own balance staffs only on a micro level.  i have no idea where I could purchase a  lathe for this purpose - its an exciting proposition to say the least anyway

 

Thanks again for all your help 

 

James

Hi James,

I am glad to hear that You have turning experience.

Actually, turning in watchmaking is a quite different, but the principles are the same. I will point to one main difference: In watchmaking, the material (steel) is first hardened and annealed to correct hardness for the part that we produce (usually to blue color), and only then turned in the lathe. Turning and burnishing is final procedure, no thermal treatment is applied any more. This I quite upside down, compared to making big machine parts…

It will be no problem for You to go to that level, and I will be glad to guide You if You want to.

I must say, that buying watchmaker’s lathe may be very expensive thing… But there are different types of lathes and some of them are so simple that one can make by himself or improvise a lathe. I can show You how to improvise a lathe that is perfect for making balance staffs. Then You can try and gain some experience and, then decide if You like going this way and what type of lathe You need and so.

As I am not English and it is not so easy for me to write and explain in English I will try to make pictures and videos…

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