Thursday, May 31, 2012

Resurrecting a Doxa movement Part 1

I came across a Doxa pocket watch movement recently and originally I thought it was some what working but have come to find that there were more serious issues with it. The movement would run than stop and there are a number of reasons why this may happen and onto complete disassembly to service the movement.

Late one night over Memorial day weekend I finally had a chance to take the movement apart and it was as dirty as I suspected that it would be; after all, this movement was commonly used by soldiers during the second war (is that the great war? 'are't they all?'). The first problem that can be seen is something binding in the winding and setting assembly and it turned out to be Rodicao, likely from the last person working on it to prevent the clutch spring and other pieces from being lost.

I remove the balance to find some writing and initially thought it maybe a serial number but a closer look revealed that it was the caliber designation, as seen in the photo it is a 17 20/12 Caliber 10 movement.

I move on to taking everything else apart to be cleaned as it is a rather dirty movement and in dire need of a cleaning. As I was taking it all apart I discovered that the staff was straight and that the hairspring was ever so slightly bent out of true which I believe has been causing the balance to oscillate at an unpredictable rate. I unfortunately I do not have truing calipers. In the spirit of learning and impatience, eyeballing it it is with tools on hand! Onward with what is likely a bad idea.

I came across an article that talks about how it is possible to bend the hairspring dog legged around the out of true portion and it should still oscillate at the correct frequency as the overall dimension/weight does not change. With the article I read as hope of a fix, I plow forward and remove the hairspring from the balance and after hours of trial and error and constant worry of making it worse, I manage to bend the hairspring while keeping it on my steel block which has a trued surface to aid in keeping the shape of it as true to it's self as possible.

The watch runs a bit better but it will now need either a new mainspring or a hairspring, or both as it will run for a few hours than stop after many times of experiencing pucker factor 5 while trying to true the spring without the proper tools. It was an interesting experience to use every tool I have at my disposal and even modifying some to work better for this specific use in the name of Horology. Hurray for a mostly working Doxa for now and onto hunting for a mainspring that will fit it.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tattoo Machines

I mentioned at the end of a post that I used to make my living as a tattooist, lets talk machines. First, let's be clear that they are tattoo machines and not tattoo guns as gangsters use guns, tattooists use machines. I was started out in the business with respect for the business and felt that the sentiment should be carried over to my post here.

First, for the uninitiated; a typical tattoo will involve an outline and than color/shading and those steps are accomplished using typically two different tattoo machines, tuned to the specific task. The two tattoo machines for the tasks are colloquially named liner and shader. I run my liners to oscillate around sixty times a second and my shaders at fifty times per second, but each machine runs differently and now let's go through some of my main machines that I used day in and day out.

The one machine that I have used through out my ten plus year tenure in tattooing is the frame I built out of 1080 carbon steel that has been heat treated; frame geometry is based on one of Percy Water's frame designs which I felt worked well as a liner. The material was chosen to be favorable to magnetism, a very ferrous metal that encouraged magnetic attraction as that is the driving force of a tattoo machine. The frame was cut on a Bridgeport three axis and everything else hand fitted and finished as my tooling was limited at that time. The frame has seen many color changes but I have left it red as I have come to affectionately call it 'Fisher Price my first tattoo machine'.

The coils are twelve wrap which are slightly bigger than the typically large wound coils at ten wraps and my coils are hand wound and in phase to one another. The phase correction was done by reverse winding the rear coil to create a balanced polarity in the magnetic field, which translates to a smoother and more consistently running tattoo machine in the end. The same coil design concept will be repeated for each of my machines and have been running them that way for most of my tattooing tenure. The contact screw is pure copper which I prefer for my liners.

The front and rear springs are hand cut to this day, I collected steel bands that were used to ship lumber with at lumber yards and as far as lumber yards were concerned it was trash so I was able to collect a lot of it for free. This is key as this is how tattoo machines for were built once upon a time, by found materials available to the tattooer's environment. The steel bands are made of tempered spring steel (you can tell it was tempered by the brilliant blue finish) and is an ideal material for tattoo springs. I would go around collecting this stuff in my car and gauge it later with a piece of metal I cut gauge slots in to and sort them by thickness. I have come to find that I prefer a thickness of .019" for my liner springs.

The next machine is designed and produced by Pulse International out of CT, which is owned by Tim Brewer who is a wonderful tattooist and a long time colleague and friend. I have one of the first runs of this machine and it runs beautifully to this day. It is made of 1065 carbon steel which is cold rolled and than is CNC and EDM cut, perhaps one of the first american tattoo machines produced with very high tech cutting methods when it was first introduced.

The frame design was inspired by the Sharp's dial and the dial looking detail was a direct inspiration from a deli cutting wheel. The contact screw is pure silver on this as I run this as my shader and beefed up the springs ever so slightly to .020" thick, coils are the same size.

The biggest innovation at the time for the machine aside from the material and cutting method which delivered a consistent magnetic field due to a consistent material as a result of the cutting process and cold rolling is the cam lever gate design to retain the tube. Before the cam lever you basically had the choice of a screw that collapses a sleeve or pulled the frame together, the cam lever takes the latter approach and can deliver even tension across the tube which prevents warping as well as a sure and repeatable contact with it.

The last machine that I will go over out of my collection would be one made by Seth Ciferri. The machine is made from iron and was produced using a lost wax process. Iron is a very classic material for a tattoo machine as well as the process and I liked the way it ran at a convention and bought it then.

The frame geometry is a little weird which is what attracted me to it initially, the geometry produces a 'long throw' machine meaning that it moves the armature bar in longer wavelengths but at very even intervals which makes for a unique liner. I run 000 and 0000 bug pins on my needles and a long throw is awesome for small grouped fine needles which can be fragile in the wrong hands (specially on a long throw machine) as the groupings can blow out (to mean to have the grouping of needles loosen out) or worse, hook them which will lead to not only a bad line but injury to the recipient.

Might be wondering what the weird cut quarter is doing on the back of the machine? It is there to control where the rear spring bends at, so that as it ages and wears it will bend at the exact same spot over time versus unevenly and wildly as the metal weakens. If you look back up, the Pulse Intl. machine has yet another advancement in design at the time by incorporating this concept to the frame design by nesting the spring in and a plate on top and the first machine we talked about in this post has a simple washer to accomplish the same thing.

Well, those are my oft used tattoo machines that are now tuned up to prime running condition, I may be tempted to come out of retirement for a few select appointments....oh, and for those that may be wondering, I run my machines on a first generation Pulse Intl. power supply, which was at the time one of the first power supplies that was not only produced for the specific purpose of running a tattoo machine but was also completely engineered from the ground up for the sole purpose. It is a tank of a power supply that I have used across the world and can't say enough good things about.

Pulse Int'l power supply!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sweet Tangy Zesty Spicy (STZS) BBQ Sauce

I mentioned earlier that I was getting around to developing a BBQ sauce and I have one that I liked and I thought I would share with you all here. Taking the sage advice of EMT, I have decided to step up my sauce game.

Lets start with the ingredients list:

2 Red Delicious apples
1 Mango
Dash of Nutmeg & Paprika
2 Jalapeno peppers
3 Habanero Peppers
1/2 Tblsp Olive Oil
1 Heaping Tblsp minced garlic
1 Cup Water
2 1/2 Cups Worcestershire Sauce
1/4 Cup Ketchup
1/8 cup Gulden's Mustard
1/8 cup Sriracha
1/3 cup Original Frank's Redhot
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
1/2 Tblsp sea salt
2 Tblsp Coarse ground black pepper
1/2 Tblsp Cayenne pepper
1/2 Tblsp White pepper
1/8 cup molasses
1/8 cup green Tabasco
1/2 Tblsp onion powder
1/2 Tblsp garlic powder
1/2 Tblsp Chili Powder

My initial issues I had to work out was excess char from various sugars and decided to cook the apples which helps break down the natural sugars. I leave the apple skin on, quarter them and put them on a plate, dashes of the Nutmeg and Paprika to cover the apples evenly than microwave for 6 minutes on high.

Next comes the food processor portion where I process together the cooked apples, mango (I leave the skin on and dice it), and the peppers together until it produces a chutney like consistency. Withe the chutney prepared, I add the olive oil and miced garlic to a pot large enough to hold around 2 liters of volume to infuse the oil with the garlic than pour in the chutney and the cup of water while stirring and drop the heat to medium. It is really key from this point forward to constantly stir the sauce!

I stir in the rest of the ingredients one by one until thoroughly mixed and once every ingredient is stirred in, drop the heat to a simmer and cook for the next 20 minutes and yes you guessed it, stirring the whole time. As for an order of ingredients, I do not really have one, typically I put in liquid, than Newtonian fluid, than dry ingredients. This recipe will create around 7.5 cups of sauce and this is the mild recipe. For the hot recipe, double up the hot sauces and add 1 more Habanero and for extra hot, I substitute Ghost peppers for Jalapeno peppers. If you try this, let me know your thoughts on it.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Oh Hamilton 917s

I am back on the watch making and decided to revisit some movements that I have had in my inventory with various ailments that I finally got around to fixing. The Hamilton 917 movement is turning into my favorite movement (until I get my hands on a 921, 923, or 945 that is) and I got a few movements backup and running. One was missing the roller jewel (or impulse pin, depending on who you ask), another with a broken mainspring, and the last was a purchase off of ebay as a broken movement but otherwise looked like it had all of it's parts.

The first issue with the roller jewel was solved when I finally located and purchase a tool specifically designed to holder the roller table and to apply heat radially from the tool. The tool is called the combination tool because well, it is a combination of various jewel application to a watch as can be seen in a vintage manual for the tool;

The combination tool is setup so that the slots at the jaw will hold the roller table securely while I heat the tail end with an oil lamp (or in my case, a butane mini torch is what I had on hand) and heat the roller table through the tool until it is hot enough to melt a small flake of shellac that will hold the roller jewel.

I would have loved to of taken pictures during the process but it was a rather annoyingly two handed process where I nearly lost a roller jewel (for a 10 size Hamilton, they are .39mm wide and needless to say tiny.) The reason I nearly lost the first jewel was that I was not aware that I should not of have tried picking it up with tweezers...well not directly. The jewel is not only tiny but is slippery and a shaped like the letter 'D', and if I were to pick it up with the tweezers with too much tension, it goes flying...(lay down a ton of white paper on your desk, it is how I was able to locate it the first time I launched it). The trick is to lick the tip of the tweezers and the jewel will appear to just stick to it like ferrous alloy to a magnet. Once you have that going, heat the combination tool's long arm and drop a flake of shellac on the 'D' shaped receiving hole on the roller table, wait for the shellac to melt a bit and lay the jewel in and take the heat away. You have maybe twenty seconds before the shellac sets to where you can still re-position the jewel for a good fit and after that, this process all over again. For those that are wondering, no, I did not get it right on the first try.

With the first of the three Hamilton 917s fixed, moving on to the next one which has a broken mainspring, which is evident when winding and no tension ever holds. I have another junker 917 I bought at a yard sale for it's parts and time to swap out the mainspring. This process is really straight forward and once done, the movement runs beautifully. Since I was going to take it apart to service anyway, I went the extra step and cut down the base plate diameter for a future PAM homage build with this movement. There is already an excellent tutorial by Nightwatch at his blog here that covers in detail not only the plate size reduction but an entire 917 disassembly. I strongly recommend this tutorial to anyone who wants to get in to working on the 917.

A few shots of the cut down plate 917;

Onto the third one, the ebay chance purchase. These purchases can go a lot of different ways and the one thing I hope it is not is that it is missing the roller jewel like the first one in this article was. Usually I can ask enough questions to the seller to sort out issues like a broken staff but no way to tell if the roller jewel isn't there without looking. The only possible tell is if the watch winds but does not tick and this symptom can be caused by many things. Well, it turns out it was a really simple problem in the end, the stem was snapped off inside the movement. I took apart the movement, cleaned and oiled and re-assembled, stuck a stem from a another 917 to see if it would work about that, it runs well.

A close up where you can see the snapped stem;

Well, as for the three Hamilton 917s, two are spoken for, if you are interested in the third to be turned into a watch, please get a hold of me to reserve it.

Thursday, May 24, 2012 talks about mechanical watches

I came across this post and thought I would share it here, (Jamie and Adam of Mythbuster's fame) has a site that well, test stuff. They have a lot of years of breaking things in very interesting fashion and are now on a website doing exactly that (don't worry, not the watches!).

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Following up on my first watch build

The prototype that started it all for me, SWC0000, my very first watch build and the watch I have been wearing everyday since finishing it ( save the occasional rotation of my Certina DS or the PAM homage I build out of the Hamilton 870 (; it has been my daily beater, a tool for me to tell time with and ticking away strong to this day.

I haven't been exactly careful with the watch either, I have had a few good dings against the glass and some wear and tear shows but to me, that's part of the process of a time piece that I age with. Yes sure I can take it apart and clean it, buff out the various dings and scratches on the glass but what fun is that? I want to see how long something I make lasts in normal conditions, not ideal operating conditions. The completion was February Fifteenth and a bit over three months of daily wear later, no worse for wear I have to say.

As for what I put my watch through, I work in IT and I have nailed the glass against server racks countless times and it has survived a fair beating and the staff and balance is still good on the movement. Another area of concern that I had was shooting; can the movement deal with recoil of a firearm well? So far my watch has not slowed down nor gained speed and I shoot a range of calibers as well as firearms, pistol between 9mm out to my very typical .45 ACP and for rifle caliber I typically shoot 5.56 NATO and as for shotgun I only own 12ga. Bicycling in the city caused no issues from the road vibration and bumps and the watch does great on the nights out drinking (and by drinking I mean getting irresponsible of a fine time piece after enough beers, bad me!).

I suddenly have a hankering to work on some of my tattoo machines. Oh, did I neglect to mention I formerly tattooed for a living?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Developing some BBQ sauce, and other miscellaneous things

Warmer weather has just about arrived here in Massachusetts and it's time to resume some regular BBQ. I get to a point on any projects where I simply need to take a break before something I enjoy doing feels like a job or a chore and ardent transforms to arduous. Well, I hit that point recently with watches and don't worry; I am getting back to it but I simply need time away from it (I am super excited about an upcoming new dial design which I plan to use on a Molnija 3601). Well, about the BBQ sauce idea for something different to my everyday.

Spicy BBQ sauce that is purchased at a store typically ends up being spicy for the sake of spicy and without flavor, which I find pointless as spicy should be a complex flavor of its own and not just about the bite and kick that it can produce. I have been dialing in various methods of savory, sweet, and spicy to come up with a general purpose BBQ sauce that works on a broad range of things. Typically I have been mixing said sauce concoction cold but I am getting to a point where I know I will have to start heating up some of the ingredients to get them to behave as I want them within the sauce.

As for the ingredients for the sauce, keep in mind these are not final and will be altered;

Worcestershire sauce
Frank's Red Hot
Jalapeno pepper

As soon as I discover the ratio and method, I will be back to post the results and final ingredients.

I started working on the IWC and the Phenix movement (Circa 1902 and 1930 respectively) to switch up my watch work to keep it interesting for myself and also that they are not the typical SWC watches that I will be making out of them so it still feels like a break from the usual. The IWC was in an earlier post ( where I dropped it off to A. Cohen of Boston who helped me locate a replacement mainspring for the watch. The mainspring as it turns out was interchangeable between a a New York & Co. 18 size pocket watch mainspring.

Original Mainspring

With the mainspring replaced, the IWC ticks away strongly but still have some minor issues to work out with the the rest of the gear train and I suspect a good cleaning and oiling should take care of the issues.

As for the Phenix movement, I need to take it apart for a good cleaning. Looking at it it appears that it may have survived a fire or worse. The movement and dial is covered in soot which is suggestive of the fire I suspect and yes, the balance moves freely and I can add tension to the mainspring, it will not tick reliably. See the pictures below to see why;

I came across a French site ( that had some info regarding the Phenix watch company which I thought I would re-post here;

The genesis of the Phenix factory begins in 1873, the day Julius Dubail, Jean-Baptiste Joseph Monnin and Frossard Porrentruy founded the company "Dubail, Monnin, Frossard & Co.". On 6 May 1899, she was named "Company of Watchmaking Porrentruy" and also acquired buildings Bassecourt. Jules Dubail leaves the company this year and founded an industrial society to Delle. Six partners are then head of the company: Roussel Galle, Jean-Baptiste Monnin, Louis Dubail, Adolphe Dubail, Joseph and Joseph Frossard Dubail. In February 1902, the "Company Watch" is liquidated. However, it is reborn under a new name "Phenix Watch Co SA, headed by new partners: Edward Boivin, Director, Gaston Daucourt notary Charles Boivin, industrial, Victor Donzelot merchant; Constantine Senn, Director, residing in Delémont. Jean-Baptiste Monnin will in turn create its own society "Monnin Rebetez & Co." and "Monnin & Cie in 1917, removed in 1941.

The Phenix company received several awards at World Fairs and national; La Chaux-de-Fonds (1881), Amsterdam and Zurich (1883), London (1884), Antwerp (1885), Rome (1888), Paris (1889 and 1900), Geneva (1896), Thessaloniki (1931). The company exports to Romania (from 1899), France, Belgium, Austria and Hungary (since 1900), England, Mexico and Denmark (since 1901).

Since the early twentieth century, the operation focuses on making the shows anchor, wristwatch and pocket watch and watch for cars and meters for rockets. It also manufactures all of its supplies. In the 1930s, the company occupies a hundred worker (s) and produces one hundred thousand watches per year. In 1934, the company's management uses Henry Knecht, then aged 24, charged with overall responsibility. A few years later he was appointed director. Since 1939, the Phenix is ​​taken up by the Cantonal Bank of Berne, then transferred to ASUAG (General Federation of watches, created in 1931) and surrendered in 1949 to a group of closely related Barns at Factory clock Nivada . The new Board of Directors consists of Robert Lerch, chairman; Alois Casutt, vice president, Paul Aeschbacher, Secretary; Jakob Schneider, Emil Schneider and Charles Schneider.

By 1961, Phenix is ​​part of the MSR (Manufactures of Swiss watchmaking met SA), along with three other manufacturers: Revue Thommen in Waldenburg, Vulcan in La Chaux-de-Fonds and Buser Freres & Cie SA Niederdorf. In MSR, Vulcan handles the business side, Phenix reassembly Revue Thommen production of blanks and Buser embarks on the construction of measuring instruments for pressure. The group will diversify its production and in 1972 on a turnover of 24.2 million francs, the share rises to 13.4 million watch, diversification products (mainly mechanical and electronic) 10.8 million. In June 1973, the MSR Group, headquartered in Biel, enlisted Marvin House, La Chaux-de-Fonds.

Of the 600 people employed by the MSR Group, the Phenix employs 162. The diversification of the group's activities had resulted in the introduction to Phenix, in 1967, an electronics department who worked full time on behalf of Blanks SA. The factory knows, however, serious difficulties and in 1981 it closed its doors. It then employs fifty people under the leadership of Roland Voisin. Part of the plant is leased to a workshop of watch, another vocational school. The building will be demolished in 1984 to be replaced by a shopping center and apartments.

In 1983, two former workers, and Jacqueline Nicole Mamie Pryxsbor, with the help of the group ETA, founded the company "Prisma".

Well, I think it maybe time to swap out a trigger on my 1911 that I broke recently...

Friday, May 11, 2012

Go check out some amazing sculptures by Jesse Farrell

Jesse Farrell, some you know him as Jesse at Hub Comics (And if you haven't been to Hub Comic, my favorite neighborhood comic book shop located 19 Bow Street in Somerville, MA. and if you have been there and have seen the sculptures for sale in the glass cases, Jesse did the very awesome Batman V.S. Velociraptor sculpture (the thing is awesome!). Well, Jesse has a website you should check out at what are you waiting for?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Wittnauer 65 Revue Conversion Completion

I have completed the Wittnauer conversion recently where I began the project April 24th ( and it was a challenging build between the movement being really thin compared to ETA 6497, Hamilton 917, etc. and the dial was something new as well. Speaking of the dial, I went through four iterations for this build and learned a lot about the interaction of the various steps from color enamel to the waterslide dry time and the cyanoacrylate causing unwanted peel against other materials and cyanoacrylate having an exothermic reaction between my thumb and a cotton patch that got stuck to me and burned me a bit.....a whole lot of cursing and scotch later; happy to report that the build is done, getting SWC0005 serial as the 5th production watch to date. For the dial, I wanted something different and whats more different than bright orange! I saw an older Breitling pilot watch with a bright orange dial and thought it was very cool and decided to make one myself.

oh so orange....

I initially started the build with a different hour hand but couldn't get it to fit in a satisfactory fashion and decided to stick to the original hands. The Wittnauer hands a really weird sizes to say the least. You can also see here before I cut the second hand to fit as well (this is also version four of the dial);

Once the alternate hour hand (which came off of a Gruen Veri-Thin) was replaced with the original, the next challenge was a movement ring. The movement is larger in diameter than a Hamilton 917 but far thinner and I wound up using silver square wire stock, .22GA soldered in about a 1.5" diameter loop for the movement ring and that did the trick. Very surprising was that the original stem not only fit the 44mm pilot watch case perfectly but the thread tap was T6 and fit the wrist watch crown on the original stem without any fitting at all which is a nice change compared to my usual fitting of a stem.

The watch looks spectacular under the glass, its a really fun watch to wear. This also marks the first production watch from me that bears the SWC name on the dial.

Here the finished product;

With the watch finished and boxed, I have been meaning to come up with an interesting lid pull for my packaging and I had the eureka moment last night. In the spirit of the handmade artisan build as well recycling existing objects, I hand tap a hole on a bullet casing that has been fired once, tap a hole in the lid and use a piece of high tensile string from Atwood Rope MFG. to connect the two pieces together.

Now thoughts to a classy Molnija 3601 with hour and minute hand only perhaps....

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Hamilton 870 conversion: PAM homage

In my last Bulova completion post ( I eluded to the need to work on the Hamilton 870, lo and behold here I am with the completion already. The movement comes out of a Hamilton Masterpiece pocket watch from the Swiss buy out era and the movement is run by a Hamilton 870 which is really an ETA 6497 as I touched upon in the Bulova post. The pocket watch is a 12 size case with the internal dimensions for a 10 size movement.


The dial is over-sized with a slight bevel to accommodate the larger case size

along with the 12 size hands (if you were to re-use the hands in a 44mm case, the hands would need to be trimmed to fit). The movement must be removed from the front do to the larger-than-movement-dial.

PAM homage watches are relatively commonly built with a 6497 or 6498 variant movement and with that in mind, I shouldn't have to fit the watch in nearly as much with a pilot case. I test fit the sandwich dial I bought for this project and the feet match up perfectly to the Hamilton 870 (the dial was made for a ETA 6497) and next comes soft fitting it to the watch case. I already stripped the case down so I drop the movement in, it fits amazingly well. I fit a retainer tab for the movement where a small metal washer is screwed in where the case screw would normally go and on the case side, there is a small slit to accept the retainer tab. I had to find a taller hour wheel to mount the hour hand higher and give the second enough clearance and first assembly complete.

During testing I noticed that the sandwich dial wasn't tightly bonded together and it was creating interference with the second hand. I take apart the sandwich to clean out the old glue and to re-bond it together again. While cleaning the lower portion of the dial I had the upper portion resting on the movement and I came to like the look of the cut out markers of the top part of the dial against steel as it reminded me of my very first build ( and decided to remove the bottom portion all together, you can even see a bit of the winding mechanism through the cut out number three. Here it is, complete!

I am selling this watch, contact me if you want it.