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"TOOLS OF THE TRADE"
As we all know, not having the proper tool for a given job can make a simple task a
challange or even impossible to perform. The foundation of any vocation is its tools.
To be productive enough to compete in a trade one must have at hand the necessary tools
to do the job. I personally can't think of any trade which has as many tools, some of
which are brilliant and fascinating inventions, as that of watch repair. One reason for
this is that watches have been around for well over 300 years.. Over this lengthy period
many different tools were developed to aid the watch repairman in his work. The fact is
that so many devices were created that one can usually find several entirely different
tools to do exactly the same task. Another reason is that we are dealing with miniature
machines. The tools needed for working on these tiny mechanisms are often quite different
in design than what would be used on the same mechanism if it were much larger. When working
on a piece of large machinery the tools used must be designed to withstand a great deal of
force, just loosening a screw may require the use of chest, shoulder, arm and hand muscles.
Since it requires minute amounts of force from hand and wrist muscles when repairing a watch
most tools are designed to fit in our hand and are controlled by either squeezing or turning
with only our fingers. So instead of pliers, table vises etc. we use an array of tweezers,
pin vises and holders developed solely for watch repair. The variety and number of tools is
almost endless, but few are actually necessary for general watch repair.
Though many cleaver changes have occurred in the watch since its inception it is still
basically the same mechanical device and for this reason many of the tools which were being
used over a century ago can still be used to this day. These used tools can still be
purchased at most NAWCC Marts and regional meetings at very reasonable prices or purchased
new at most material houses. Either way, the basic tools you will need to get started will
be quite inexpensive.
The first thing we will discuss is the work space. A watchmakers bench is, of course, a
great addition to your shop if finances allow, but is something you can do without in the
beginning. The watchmakers bench is a very carefully thought out design. It satisfies the
need for storage of tools, suitable working height and depth and provides a canvas catch for
falling parts. Old watchmakers benches are more difficult to find than hand tools since they
are considered furniture and are collected by antique seekers, but with a little effort you
can still find decent deals on them. At first you'll probably set-up your own bench from a
desk or table you may already have. This is perfectly fine and will work well if a few basic
but critical steps are taken during set-up.
The height of the work surface is important since much of the time you will be using an
eye loupe for magnification. The focal point for a loupe is only a few inches at most which
means you will need to be close to your work most of the time. If you try to work at normal
table height in a hunched over position your neck and back will soon be screaming. The angle
of view changes as the bench height increases, allowing an edge on view of the mechanism and
its parts. This, as you will see, is extremely helpful when repairing or assembling a watch.
You can simply raise the height of your bench with blocks but make certain that it is secure
and stable. You can also lower your chair or a combination of both. The disadvantage to
lowering your chair too much is that you are more in a squatting position than a sitting.
The catch is probably the most important item your bench can offer. It saves parts and
nerves throughout the work day. No matter how careful you are, parts will fall from your
bench. Without some type of a catch you'll find yourself crawling around on your hands
and knees much of the day. With a little ingenuity you can rig up some sort of catch in
a very short time. If you are using a desk you can stretch a piece of canvas or cotton over
the top of the center drawer leaving it open while working. This works well, though you have
lost a little storage space for your tools.
Where you place your bench is another important consideration. Try to find a place that
is free from carpet and dust. I know this isn't always easy, and when your starting out not
absolutely necessary. But it can save you from some frustrating times. Although the catch
will retrieve many of the parts that drop from your bench it won't get them all. Some do hit
the floor and will do their best to hide from you. Carpet just makes it tougher. Dust is
another matter. A little dust can stop a watch from running. It's important to keep dust
away from your bench. Keep your bench clean and uncluttered with tools and objects that can
gather dust. Wipe the surface daily with a damp cloth and you should be fine. Of course
covering a movement when not being worked on is a must. Common clear household jars or
glasses work well. They should be clear to see if the movement is catching the edge of the
glass when lifting it off.
Lighting is of utmost importance. When working under magnification, a certain amount of
light is lost. The higher the magnification, the greater the loss. When working with a 10X
loupe under ordinary room lighting there will be a notable amount of light reduction
revealing a dim, undefined image. We must be able to flood our work with light from any
angle when needed. This can be achieved with a flexible arm, dual bulb florescent lamp.
Florescent lamps cast fewer shadows and generate less heat than ordinary incandescent light.
At times you'll be working very close to the lamp and would find the incandescent lamp
much too hot for comfort.
Following are some of the tools you'll need to get started. It's by no means a
complete list as many tools will be introduced in the videos.
As mentioned earlier most of the tools you'll need can be purchased used at local marts.
I do however recommend buying your loupes, screwdrivers and finer point tweezers from a
material house. These three items will be used more than all other tools combined. I
stress buying quality when considering these tools since they can make the difference
between your success or failure in watch repair. Their importance can't be overemphasized.
Your tweezers and screwdrivers are an extension of your hands and fingers. Through practice
you'll develop remarkable dexterity. Most of this dexterity will be wasted if these tools are
cheap or faulty, and of course the best hand tools will be of little value if you can't see
your work clearly due to a blurry or scratched eye loupe.
When perusing the catalogs your likely to find some great bargains on these three tools.
These bargains are sometimes good deals, but not usually. Loupes can be found, new, for
as low as one dollar, screwdrivers and tweezers for a little more. Well, the famous old
saying "you get what you pay for" dwells in many a watchmakers junk drawer (including mine)
as a reminder that few businesses give things away unless their not worth keeping. If you
see a great deal on a tool in a material house catalog don't hesitate to ask about the
quality of the tool. You're more than likely to get an honest opinion since your future
patronage is important to them.
An eye loupe takes some getting use to but soon becomes easy to use and, for me, not at
all uncomfortable. But these cheap loupes now on the market couldn't possibly have been
designed with the shape or size of the human eye socket in mind. They just don't fit.
Even if the lenses were decent, which they're not, they're still of little value since
they are very uncomfortable and difficult to keep from falling out. I use only
Bausch & Lomb loupes. I've been using the same two loupes for twenty years or more. One is
a 4X, the other a 7X. Many watchmakers also use a 10X which, on occasion, I also do, but
usually only when working on a small ladies wristwatch.
The same holds true for screwdrivers. Buy a good set. The difference between a quality
screwdriver and one of lesser quality will be noticed the very first time it's used.
When just starting out a medium priced set should be just fine, but when you begin doing
some really serious work, get a good quality set of jewelers screwdrivers. They usually
come as a set of five to ten. I recommend getting a set of nine or ten which will cover
just about anything you'll come across when working with pocket and wrist watches. They are
generally sold with replaceable blades, and when these have worn out, more replacements can
be ordered. A true jewelers screwdriver can be operated with the fingers of one hand. It has
a rotatable hexagonal head which the index finger can press on while the other fingers turn
a knurled, easy to grip body. Immediately under the head is a color coded band for easy
identification. The head is hexagonal to prevent rolling. Screwdriver sets can be purchased
in cardboard or wooden boxes or with a stationery or revolving stand, the latter being the
most costly. These choices are a matter of preference, just remember to buy quality.
You'll be a bit safer when buying tweezers. You can actually buy all of your tweezers
from a local mart if you examine them carefully. I still recommend buying your finer tip
tweezers from a material house since you will know exactly what your getting. The course or
unusually shaped ones can be purchased used without much worry. There are many different
manufacturers of tweezers, but, I believe the Swiss company Dumont produces the finest ever
for the watchmaking trade. The Dumont Regular is their highest quality followed by the
Dumont Professional. My personal favorites are the Dumont 0A for extra fine hairspring work,
the 0C for all-purpose and the 3C. There are many other sizes to choose from. It's really a
matter of what works best for you. Non-magnetic tweezers are a good choice for the beginner
and the experienced watchmaker. I have a few pair of these myself and use them often. It's
important to keep the points true to their original shape. Working with a bent pair of
tweezers can cause a lot of frustration. Parts are apt to fly when the tips are mis-matched.
Keep them sharp and even. Again, think quality here since you will have a tweezer in hand
most of the time your at the bench.
You'll want to pick up a few different pinvices. A pinvice is a small chuck with a handle.
There are numerous types and sizes of which you will never have too many. These can be picked
up for pennies on the dollar at marts and horological swap meets. You'll use them to hold
broaches, stems, screws and endless other tools and parts.
Indian stones of various shapes, coarseness and sizes are a must for grinding new tips on
tools or removing material from parts. Make sure to get a knife edged stone as this will
prove to be invaluable at the bench. Indian stones can also be had at most marts for next
We'll discuss and use oilers in the videos but I'll give a brief explanation here of how
one works. There are many kinds of oilers on the market. The illustration shown here is
the type I use most. These are inexpensive whether purchased new or used. When dipped in
oil the spade end shown picks-up a drop of oil as a result of surface tension. When the
oiler makes contact with another surface, such as a jewel, it deposits the drop. There
are different sizes, each a different color for easy identification. There are also
oilers that hold the oil inside the handle. These are great too. I've used these with
great success but find even better control over the amount of oil to be dispensed with
the first type. Again, it's a matter of preference.
A demagnetizer is another important tool for the shop. There are different types of
demagnetizers on the market. All of them work well, it's just a matter of preference
which type you choose. They can usually be found at marts for a few dollars or new for
under $50.00. Tools and parts have a tendency to become magnetized. Magnetism and
watches don't mix well. A magnetized watch will tend to run fast or erratic. We'll cover
the problem of magnetism and the use of a demagnetizer in video # 3.
One very helpful addition to the shop is the timing machine. It isn't at all necessary when
starting out. This machine "times out" the watch electronically. It can tell you in a matter
of seconds just how fast, slow or erratic a watch will run for a 24 hour period. It also
reveals to the trained eye certain ailments a watch may be suffering without even opening
the case. Although the timing machine is a valuable diagnostic tool for the watchmaker it
should never be completely trusted. These machines can be purchased at very reasonable
prices at the marts. I recommend learning to time a watch without it, then when you are
quite competent at this very important task you can use the timing machine as a helpful tool
and will never have to depend on it. These techniques are covered in detail in the course.
A cleaning machine will be a must a little later on but at first you can do just fine without
one. There are many types of cleaning machines on the market. Fully automatic ultrasonic
machines capable of cleaning many watches in one cycle can run several thousand dollars.
Smaller machines purchased new from a material house are also very expensive. Fortunately
there are many used mechanical cleaning machines on the market. These machines are still
easy to find and can be purchased for under $100.00. These old mechanical cleaners work
extremely well for both pocket and wrist watches. You'll cover cleaning in video # 2.
Watch Video Clips Now of some Watch Course Excerpts.
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Copyright: Tascione 1995-2008 Questions? Email Bob