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LAURIE PENMAN, THE CARRIAGE CLOCK - A Repair and Restoration Manual, London: N.A.G. Press, 2005
Flicking through Penman’s latest book brings back memories of his previous publications: an abundance of very clear drawings and a pleasant presentation. Reading it shows a conversational style and a systematic structure. However, writing about the repair and restoration of carriage clocks is difficult, as they involve both clockmaker and watchmaker techniques, the latter being confined to platform escapements. How does Penman find his way between these two extremes?
The book starts off with the basics: tools, dismantling – with some very useful practical tips – case maintenance and repair (in my experience rarely necessary), followed by enamel repair, something that, to my taste, should be left to the specialist. The following chapters are devoted to the going work. Not only does Penman deal with all the repairs, he invariably sets out by describing the various mechanisms and systems that carriage clocks can have. It is slightly surprising that when he deals with replacing broken teeth, the depthing tool is not mentioned for checking the engagement.
There are two aspects of the book that emerge. Firstly, there are lots of references to the later chapter in the book on major repair techniques. This is sometimes slightly disturbing as one has to either read on in ignorance or thumb through the book to find the exact spot for further explanations. Secondly, one begins to wonder who he had in mind when he wrote the book. The start is very basic, apparently directed to a non-professional audience, but quite soon we are introduced to the turning and making of a spring barrel, something I would associate with the field of professional clockmakers. Yet, when discussing polishing pivots (I would prefer to use my middle finger nail, which is more sensitive, than my thumb nail for checking smoothness), modern polishing machines are not mentioned. Furthermore, I would also expect the special platform holder (e.g. supplied by Bergeon) to be mentioned as this is an extremely handy device for handling a platform escapement. This having been said, it must also be mentioned how admirably and systematically a former engineer (who was at one stage a gun maker) deals with the problems of platform escapements. Where the limits of even the most advanced amateur are reached, the author refers us to professional watchmakers.
This systematic approach is continued in the second part of the book, mainly dealing with the various types of striking work. Another feature that we had already come across in the going work sections, is the extremely useful fault finding list, which gives repair strategies on the basis of certain symptoms. The more complex types of striking work, such as petite and grande sonnerie are also dealt with.
The book finishes with the most important repair techniques, such as rebushing, replacing pivots and simply making screws, followed by a useful list of specialist tool and material suppliers, bibliography and index. The latter is of course indispensable in a book that one may turn to for reference quite frequently.
Looking back on the entire book one wonders how in this age of spell checkers and computerised typesetting, the book shows typing errors (modifed/modified, p7; apprencticeship/ apprenticeship, p9) and faulty references (Fig 1.02 is mentioned twice, where probably Fig 1.03 is meant, which is missing). Despite all this, in conclusion, it must be said that this book, because of its enormous amount of useful information and systematic approach, could form a most useful supplement to any professional or amateur clockmaker’s library.
Willem A. van Klaveren