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Amateur Clockmaking Manual Machining Style

May 4, 2015   //   by Bob Warfield   //   Blog, CNC Projects, Cool, Manual, Techniques  //  12 Comments


Clickspring has a series of beautifully done videos on making clocks over on YouTube.  Here are a few:

This one cries out for some CNC…

The work is gorgeous, but this first video made me wish so much for CNC.  A tremendous amount of work could be saved, and the hand finishing could still be done to give it the hand crafted touch.  The merits of CNC on art-quality work like this is one of the things Chris, the site owner, discusses on his blog.  I’ve been back and forth over this question many times with folks making “art-quality” things like knives.  Many of them are horrified at the thought of using CNC on their work.  Some argue they can’t charge as much for something that’s been CNC’d. Then I look at the gorgeous Norseman knife I got from John Grimsmo and I know this anti-CNC hangup is not something I can ever justify to myself.

I have been tempted many times to build a die filer like the one shown in the video.  Nice to see some good shots of one in use.  Even for CNC’ers there would be times where one would be handy.  Making corners more square in really deep pockets would be one such.

Nicely heat blued custom fasteners…

Nicely made custom fasteners can really set a project like a knife apart.  I also love the heat bluing treatment, which I’ve done on a couple of occasions for special needs.  Mine haven’t come out this nicely so far.

Great shots of traditional gear making…

Some great shots of traditional gear making here and a bit of relief from CNC longing as our intrepid Horologist uses a computerized indexing table to make the gears.

There are more great videos on the Clickspring YouTube channel.


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Amateur Clockmaking Manual Machining Style
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  • Everything depends upon his business model and what his customers expect. Interesting that he uses a stand alone CNC rotary table for a dividing head. Where does one draw the line?

    If he went full CNC perhaps he could advertise that he uses all hand coded G-Code, none of that modern CAM stuff for his clocks.

    I did not reply to your recent survey but I think the most difficult thing is finding a market niche if one wants to do CNC beyond hobby level.

  • It’s funny, but we seem to be watching the same videos of late! Great work, and yes each time I watch these I think CNC. But then again I am kind of having a blast, and suffering from frustration as I am working through the factors of my own cnc build.

  • I’ve never understood the argument that hand-made is better than CNC for crafted products. Machining is a subtractive process – who cares how the material was removed?

    What matters is the final form and finish. If the metal piece is for a crafted product (knife, jewelry, cell phone case, whatever), then some degree of hand finishing is required. That process, in my opinion, is what defines the quality.

    • Ed I agree with you 100%

  • As a lifelong clockmaker/restorer I find the Craft vs CNC argument very interesting. CNC plays a huge part in my own clockmaking exploits. Clockmakers have always used machines as part of the process so it’s not new territory for us.

    It is indeed about process and an attitude to the work, not whether or how technology plays a part.

  • I have pondered on the “hand made” dilemma for decades. It boils down to a personal choice and inferred mystic cultural romance. But that is what sometimes motivates builders and buyers. There is no right or wrong.

    I posted my most current rambling, slightly humorous (I hope) thoughts on the subject, just before I wandered over here.

    It seems to be “perfect timing”. Like many readers here, it is not my first consideration of the subject.

  • Have a look at my clock at I agree with Ed 100% it is the art and the finish that makes the piece. I have built clocks for years and only in the last 1 1/2 years have started using CNC and it makes some things possible that I was unable to do before or just makes some things a whole heap easier, It cannot replace everything but does take the tedium out of some jobs. I really enjoy this website.Thanks Bob

  • I have been criticized online for calling my CNC projects handmade, even though each is a one-of-a-kind (I don’t mass produce). What is handmade? Can I use a table saw or does it have to be a handsaw? Can I only use hand tools? Who made the hand tools? Do I have to make the tools by hand? Can I use other tools to make the tools? Where does it end? I’m reasonably convinced that the people leveling these criticisms have never made anything and probably still live in their mother’s basement. But that’s just me…

    • Right on Ken. 🙂

      I haven’t read the latest policy on Etsy for quite some time but I know they had trouble keeping the worms in the can on writing the definition of “hand made”.

  • Ken I agree.

  • Did not the masters have apprentices to do all the tedious grunt work and the master concentrated on the design and managing the work. Think of CNC as your apprentice.

  • I watched all of this guys stuff this weekend, very well done videos and I can’t wait for more. I also hope he makes the cad files available for the clock like he does for the tools. Would be a good rainy day project. (yea, thats what we all need, another project, lol)

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