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When looking over movement options for a clock design, you can choose between a quartz or a mechanical clock movement. If you’re new to clock making, you may have questions like:
How do you determine which is the best choice? Is there any advantage of one type over the other? Are there any disadvantages that would sway a decision one way or the other?
In this post, we will explore aspects of each in order to answer the question of Quartz versus Mechanical Movements.
What It Comes Down To
The selection of a clock movement really comes down to factors of personal preference, although aspects of an existing clock case can predetermine movement selection for you (more on this at the end). Assuming that a clock case poses no restrictions for either movement type, let’s examine some of the key differences between the two in regard to personal preferences.
Price point can certainly be a main factor regarding movement selection. Generally you will find quartz clock movements to be less expensive than mechanicals. Mechanical clock movements are constructed in a manner that is meant to last (to include the materials selected for movement fabrication).
In short, you do get what you pay for. Quartz movements are primarily constructed from plastic, which allows them to cost considerably less (roughly 1/3 to 1/4 of the price of a mechanical movement depending on the quartz movement features desired). If price-point dictates selection, quartz may prove to be more enticing.
Mechanical clock movements can be compared to a car. They require maintenance in order to work properly for years to come. Would your car last if you elected never to change the oil? No, and the same can be said of a mechanical movement. Mechanical movements must be oiled every one to three years. They must be cleaned and oiled every three to five years.
There are books that can help to guide you through doing this, or you can seek out a qualified professional (it is always good to have the movement professionally serviced every once in a while anyway). If you are not prepared to maintain a movement for years to come, a quartz movement may prove to be the better option.
Generally a quartz clock movement will last around 10 to 15 years, although I will admit that it is not at all uncommon to see one last longer. The fact remains, however, that they will not last forever. Inversely, mechanical movements can last well beyond the time-span of the clock-maker himself (and even a generation or a few beyond him/her). There are mechanical clock movements from the late 1700’s that still work and keep accurate time today.
Mechanical clock movement longevity requires maintenance (see above), but you can count that it will outlast a few quartz clock movements in its lifetime providing it is properly serviced at the appropriate intervals. In regard to aspects of longevity, the mechanical movement is the better option.
While sound only encompasses chiming movements, sound quality is still a personal preference that many look for. Generally, mechanical clock movements feature mechanical chime hammers which physically strike tuned chime rods of various lengths. The resulting vibrations produce certain notes depending on the length of chime rod. Furthermore, the wood case assembly (due to the structural nature of wood itself) will serve as an amplifier of sorts for those vibrations. This creates a rich, deep chime that is audible in even the largest of rooms.
On the other hand, quartz clock movements have an electronic chime recording, which is typically amplified by a built in (or remote mount) speaker. Inexpensive quartz chiming movements can sound “tinny” and electronic, but (for the most part) chime quality has improved for most quartz movements in recent years. Inversely, certain clock case designs can actually muffle the quartz movement speaker, inhibiting volume. Sound quality aside, the best volume will typically come from a mechanical style movement in a wood clock case assembly.
Many assume that works of a mechanical nature would be more precise than a quartz clock movement could ever hope to be. Others might argue that quartz is more precise. Actually, neither is necessarily true. Both movement options can prove to be equally as accurate. The main difference is that mechanical movement accuracy is adjusted by us, and therefore only as accurate as we adjust it to be.
That being said, you can always continue to “fine-tune” a mechanical. A quartz movement will always be as accurate as the oscillation rate of the quartz crystal. Understand that this is pretty accurate (less than 1/2 second loss per day if kept at a consistent temperature), however there is no real way to adjust accuracy beyond this. Slight advantage goes to the mechanical from a precision-adjustment aspect.
Many customers tell me that mechanical clock movements are quite intimidating. I can certainly relate, as they do look fairly complicated. But the truth is that they are not nearly as complicated as one would think. Similar to a quartz movement, there is no real sub-assembly required. You receive a factory-assembled movement ready for mounting with the provided hardware. Mechanical clock movements include accessories for ease of perfect mounting (in terms of centering the hand shaft and key-winds).
Many also feature auto-beat adjustment, which allows you to simply over-swing the pendulum so that the clock can regulate the beat on its own. Fine-tuning adjustments can take time, but are relatively easy to perform. Bottom line: While the quartz would appear to be easier to work with, do not be intimidated into purchasing a quartz movement just because the mechanical seems too “complicated”.
Movement Replacement For Existing Clock Cases
This was the topic we initially skipped at the onset of this article with the assumption that the clock assembly would present no issues. Generally this is not the case when selecting a mechanical or quartz movement replacement in an existing case. In this realm, quartz movements have the distinct advantage being that they are less restrictive in regard to case assemblies being able to accommodate them.
If you are replacing a mechanical clock movement in an existing clock case, the best replacement is usually the same make/model as the movement being removed. Purchasing a different make/model mechanical can (more than likely) require some case modifications and possible replacement of the clock face (not all key-wind hole patterns are the same).
Modern day cases should allow you to locate an exact replacement, but antique cases may house a movement, which is no longer produced. Since quartz movements only require a center hand shaft hole (which is typically a part of any existing clock case anyway, whether mechanical or quartz), they will generally require little to no case modifications and the same face can almost always be used.
So Which Is Best For Your Project?
In summary, a mechanical clock movement will typically be more expensive and require periodic maintenance, but has the longevity to last years into the future. Quartz clock movements are less expensive, however they will not last forever. Quartz movements have made some great strides to improve chime sound quality and volume, but chiming mechanicals remain the better of the two. Expect precision with either movement selection, and do not be intimidated by the appearance of a mechanical. Finally, remember that quartz will probably be the simplest option for replacing a movement in an existing case, but might also be the only option unless possible case modifications to accommodate a mechanical are considered.
Written By: Chris Akright
Chris is responsible for the kit, plan, and finishing technical support, which he has provided to Klockit customers for over 15 years. Chris also contributes new product designs, composes written and illustrated assembly manuals, and works to develop new kit and plan products for the Klockit catalog. Chris’s experience is the culmination of years of training under his mentor, and Klockit Designer, John Cooper.
Like any hobby I have discovered in the past, each has its initial investments. In fact, I don’t believe there is a single hobby in existence that doesn’t require some sort of materials or basic skill set to get you started.
Want to run? Even though it’s a free world to jog in, you probably will want some good running shoes and apparel if you don’t have them. Want to fly RC planes? Look to spend over $700 by the time you have completed your first plane, and be careful not to crash as you learn the ropes of flying RC.
Woodworking is no exception in the slightest. But what if there was a way to experiment with aspects of woodworking, yet not have to make any large initial investments or require any of the skill sets woodworkers pick up along the way? A way to test the water before you dive into the pool?
Enter the newest additions to the Klockit line: The Manhattan, The Scalloped Ridge, The Beresford, and the La Salle. Keep in mind all of these clocks can be considered excellent craft projects in their own right, an example being our Halloween Frankenstein Clock (which is a super cool and crafty “re-make” of the Manhattan clock), but we shouldn’t overlook the most important fact that all of these kits make excellent beginning woodworking projects as well.
No Assembly Required
No assembly is required with the Manhattan, Scalloped Ridge, and Beresford, which means no tools and clamping purchases are required. With some pre-finish sanding, each of these clocks can be ready for staining/finishing, or painting.
Best of all, you can select between purchasing the kit versions (which include sandpaper and clock insert), or you can select the case versions and purchase a clock insert of your choice separately (sandpaper purchased separately with the “case” versions).
See all here: Klockit.com/depts/ClockKits/dept-422.html
Ready For Level 2?
Want to progress a level and try an assembly which must be glued together? Ready to purchase your first couple of clamping devices to start off your collection of woodworking materials? Consider the La Salle, a retro style weather station reminiscently inspired by the styles of radios and car dashboards from the 40’s and 50’s.
It offers a novice introduction to glued assemblies, teaches/reinforces pre-finishing techniques learned with the previously mentioned clocks, and still lends itself to crafty expression and personalization.
View Details: Klockit.com/products/sku-34225.html
How the Water Feels
Each of the aforementioned projects make an excellent starting point for the journey into the realm of woodworking and clock-making as a hobby/craft, as well as a means to gain skills and knowledge that can be applied to other assemblies of interest. Best of all, each requires minimal investment and allows beginners an opportunity to dip their feet to see how the water feels…
Written By: Chris Akright
Chris is responsible for the kit, plan, and finishing technical support, which he has provided to Klockit customers for over 14 years. Chris also contributes new product designs, composes written/illustrated assembly manuals, and works to develop new kit and plan products for the Klockit catalog. Chris’s experience is the culmination of years of training under his mentor, and Klockit Designer, John Cooper.
Would you pay additional taxes to keep a clock in your home?
Back in July 1797, the English Parliament passed an Act that declared five shilling tax on clocks to help fund the war efforts. Many clock owners were forced to get rid of their clocks or hide them so they didn’t have to pay the additional five shilling tax.
However, tavern owners didn’t get rid of their clocks because they saw it as a way to gain some foot traffic. People knew the tavern owners kept their clocks and would stop in to see the current time – and maybe even stay to have a drink and meal.
The tavern clock or “Act of Parliament Clock” had a large dial so it was easy to spot and tell the time without a bezel or glass panel. Many were painted black, hung on a wall, and were weight driven.
After 9 months in April 1798, the Act that declared tax on clocks was repealed because it failed to collect considerable revenue and also resulted in a decline in trade.
Tavern clocks continue to hang on the walls of pubs, taverns and inns to this day.
Our new Tavern Wall Clock Case is sure to add a piece of history to your home. Similar to a kit, the Tavern Clock Case arrives unfinished, fully assembled, and ready for your choice of paint or stain.
It includes a custom antiqued dial with faux keywind holes and a quartz trigger clock movement that chimes Westminster on the hour and strikes the hours. The bottom door opens for storage.
Paint yours black like the tavern owners, or stain to match the décor in your home. Whatever you choose, it’s sure to become a quick conversational piece.
View our new Tavern Clock Case at Klockit.com.
Written By: Rachel Hicks
Rachel is part of the Klockit committee responsible for finding and researching new products. She has helped review many items in order to understand what makes a great product for all of our Klockit customers.
Start the New Year off right by adding one of these new products to your winter project list! We’ve picked the 4 best-selling new kits and woodworking plans for you to choose from. Best of luck!
William Arch Clock Case
We’ll kick off the list with an easy project. Transform this unfinished, fully assembled clock case into a beautiful mantel or desk piece. Simply finish with paint or stain, and then add your choice of fit-up with a 2-3/8″ mounting diameter. Your finished piece is sure to add the perfect touch of elegance to your home or office!
Item number 34033 – view online now.
Prairie Series Occasional Table Woodworking Plan
This new Prairie Series woodworking plan will guide you to build an occasional table that features a top storage drawer and adjustable shelves. The finished version is the perfect companion to the other pieces in the Prairie Series.
Item number 49898 – view online now.
Wood Numeral Set
Create a unique and personalized wall with our new Wood Numeral Set. The kit arrives unfinished and ready for your choice of paint or stain. Add a decorative touch to the wood numerals by cutting beveled or rounded edges. The numerals include a keyhole hanger on the back for easy mounting.
Item number 34538 – view online now.
Sterling Wall Clock Kit
This new kit was named after the silver-tone metal dial it uses. The clock face is adorned with flat, fluted columns and beveled, rectangular end caps. The kit includes all pre-cut, machined and factory sanded cherry wood parts required for assembly. Complete this one in one weekend!
Item number 34763 – view online now.
What’s your favorite new product of 2013? Comment with your answer below for a chance to win a $25 Klockit gift certificate!