A Swiss clock made of timber.
FOR AS LONG as he can remember, reader Eric Kaltenbacher’s father, Helmut, had talked about building a Swiss clock featured in the August 1964 issue of Popular Mechanics.
A trained wood patternmaker and builder, Helmut had bought tools for the project over the years, but never got around to completing it. Around December, Eric took matters into his own hands and decided to build the clock himself. He hoped to finish in time to present the gift to Helmut on Father’s Day. ‘I went into it determined to finish,’ he said of the intricate project. ‘I wasn’t sure if it was going to be enough time or not, but I set that as a goal.’
Eric, an electrical- and optical engineer, had a photocopy of the old article when he began to build, but he found the hand-drawn diagrams of individual pieces difficult to visualise as a finished product. ‘I decided that I was going to draw it up in CAD first, so I could actually play with the dimensions and figure everything out,’ Eric said. ‘That way I could make sure that I built the clock once, instead of building it a few times to get the numbers right.’
Despite his best efforts, Eric found that some of the dimensions were still slightly off when he tried to build – it took him four to six tries to make the drive shaft pieces. Then he had to put the clock together, a 40-hour process that took ‘patient assembly, testing, disassembly, and refinement’.
Eric was able to finish the project in about six months – just in time to give it to Helmut, now 81, for Father’s Day. ‘He definitely teared up a bit,’ Kaltenbacher said. ‘He knew how much work went into it.’