Making Time: The Great Escapement

The great escapement ensures clock functions are carried out correctly, follow this mechanism though history and learn about its uses today. Continue reading

Time in the Middle Ages: The Advent of Seconds

Time is, well, timeless. It has been regulating mankind’s existence since the advent of civilization. But measuring it down to the last second is a relatively recent accomplishment. Continue reading

The Ancient Babylonian Origins Of Modern Time

“Do you have a minute to talk about time?” isn’t a sentence you would hear in Ancient Egypt, mostly because they had no concept of a stable measure of time, such as an hour, minute, or second. In fact, it took until the Ancient Babylonians and Greeks for even the concept to show up, and until the invention of mechanical clocks for it to become standard.

The Babylonians contribution to modern time was the “sexagesimal” system—the numbering system we use to tell time today. This system operates off of what mathematicians call “base 60″—a mathematical structure that counts from 1-60 (the Babylonians weren’t crazy about the number 0). In contrast, the decimal system that we use for almost everything else uses base 10—just the numbers 0-10—but we keep the sexagesimal system around for three things: measuring time, measuring angles, and finding geographical coordinates.

The Ancient Sumerians invented the sexagesimal system in the third millennium B.C, but it was the Babylonians who, much later, brought it into use in their mathematical and astronomical systems. No one is exactly sure why they chose it, but a likely reason is that 60 is what mathematician’s term a “superior highly composite number,” meaning that it can be divided by a lot of other numbers—12 of them, in this case. This makes it very easy to quickly measure things—you can divide 60 into halves, thirds, fourths, fifths, and sixths—so it actually makes objective sense for us to be using this system to measure time and geometric angles, which are two things that by their very nature are divisions.

The first example we have of a time measurement device comes from Ancient Egypt—some time in the second millennium B.C—but they did not use sexagesimal units; they used something called the “duodecimal system,” or base 12, to divide the day and night into 12 units each, which is where we get our current 24-hour system. these units, however, did not have fixed lengths, but changed with the lengths of the days and nights. To civilizations without easily available artificial light, what really mattered was the amount of daylight, so in the winter an Egyptian hour could be as short as 53 minutes, while in the summer it could go as long as 67 minutes. In Northern England, with its high latitude, this ratio could go from 30 minutes per hour in the winter to 90 in the summer. This relative method of measuring time would continue being used until medieval times.

Hipparchus, a second-century B.C Greek astronomer was the first Greek to combine day and night into a unified 24-hour cycle with fixed-length hours. He also used the sexagesimal system to create lines of latitude and longitude with 360 total degrees, which Claudius Ptolemy, in 150 A.D, divided into groups of sixty (minutus primae), and then again into another sixty parts (minutus secundae); these terms are the direct roots of the modern words “minute” and “second”. These were still primarily geometric measures, though, not timekeeping ones.

The two primary obstacles to the adoption of fixed units of time were that common people still found relative measurements more useful, and that measurement techniques were still fairly imprecise. While water clocks—devices that measured time by keeping water flowing at a constant rate from one vessel to another—had been in use since Ancient Egypt, and continued to be refined all the way up to medieval times, they did not provide a high enough level of consistency to make empirical units possible.

Indeed, even when mechanical clocks appeared in 14th-century Europe, the early ones almost never used minutes, sticking instead with keeping track of hours, sometimes dividing them into quarters or thirds, but still not making use of the sexagesimal system. It was only, in fact, with the invention of the pendulum clock in the 16th century that minutes and even seconds became the universal norm, as clocks were now precise enough to make consideration of that small a unit of time practical, and Babylonian math finally found its way onto clock faces.

Thus, though the Babylonians did not invent modern time, they provided the means to measure it. When you look at a clock, you are seeing the product of thousands of years of different civilizations building on the same system. 4,000 years ago, the system you now use for telling time was invented, and it took almost 3,500 of those years for the system itself to be refined to the one we use today. Having this precise of a timekeeping system is one of the things that has enabled the existence of the modern age, giving us ways to measure efficiency, schedule events more precisely, et cetera—and we owe it to a wide range of people spread across the millennia.

Project Delaware: The Grandmother Clock That Almost Wasn’t…

I was posed with a question this last weekend that took me by surprise. I was enjoying some time catching up with old friends who were curious about what I have been up to in regard to work and home life.

As I began to talk about recent projects at work, I showed them some elevation drawings of a new Grandmother clock design, which I have spent the last three months developing. After showing them my intended design, I was asked what the difference between a grandmother clock and grandfather clock was.

Growing up, my own Grandmother’s pride and joy was her Montgomery Ward Grandmother clock, which she purchased in the late 1960’s. It sat at the edge of her living room, graciously welcoming visitors from the entryway hall just after they entered the front door. The clock featured a tapered waist cabinet section, which made the clock resemble that of an hourglass shape.

To my grandmother’s humble credit, this was the distinguishing characteristic of the “grandmother clock” namesake. Consequentially, this was the impression I have had for several years. I had no idea how wrong I was…

Historically Speaking…

Grandmother clock cases are described as tall case clocks or floor clocks, which are smaller than 6-1/2 feet in height. Let’s not confuse these with Granddaughter clocks, which are even smaller versions of floor clocks (usually no larger than 5 feet in height).

Oddly enough, this is the farthest historical descriptions go. This means that Grandfather clocks can certainly have a tapered waist, but will still be classified as a Grandfather style clock providing the clock is over 6-1/2 feet in height. Grandmother style clocks, in turn, can certainly have a straight waist section (and straight case design) providing the clock case is less than 6-1/2 feet tall (and over 5 feet tall). In summary, the shape of a clock has no bearing on a clock’s type. Instead, designation is simply a matter of height, and nothing more.

Grandmother or Grandfather?

delaware-clock-grandmotherYou might ask, where does this leave my latest project? Can it, in fact, still be called a Grandmother clock with this new revelation?

I must admit that I returned after the long holiday weekend on Tuesday with reservations. I am, however, happy to report that it can. Despite the shape of the clock being that which many might associate with a “Grandmother clock” shape, I am happy to report that it will fit the current technical classification agreed upon by many clock experts and historians. With a total designed height of 75-3/8”, this assembly will just make the “cut-off” for being classified as a true Grandmother clock.

Curious about “Project Delaware”? Find out more in the coming months right here on the Klockit Blog!

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.

History of the Tavern Clock

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.

34254Our 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

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.

The Mysteries of Antique Clock Assemblies

A number of customers contact Klockit in regard to old or antique clock assemblies that they happened to come across at rummage sales, pawn shops, etc. In most cases, people are seeking information on the clock itself, such as the manufacturer, year of manufacture, and value.

I like to use those pieces of information – identification, dating, and value – to learn more about an antique clock assembly. In general, I start by identifying the clock case.


Identifying antique clock assemblies can be quite the mystery. There is a long line of history associated with all the various clock manufacturers throughout time, and clock manufacturing dates back well over 300 years or more.

This being said, the best option for identification is to carefully examine the case inside and out. Manufacturers had various ways of branding their clock assemblies, and many manufacturers from the early 1800s and up did so.

This form of identification could be represented via a paper certificate (usually attached to the case back), wood burned logo, stamp, etc. If the case assembly should happen to verify the manufacturer, information can be searched on the Internet to learn more about that manufacturer.

Note: In some cases, people will come across a name on the clock face. It is important to understand that this will not usually be indicative of the wood case manufacturer. Many store retailers would have clock faces branded with their name/logo as a means of selling the clock as an item exclusive to their store (as shown below). Also, some signatures on older clock faces that were hand-painted may reflect the artist of the clock face rather than the clock case manufacturer.



Dating clock assemblies can be much easier than identifying the manufacturer, as the style of clock is one of the main aspects used to help estimate the date of manufacture. For example: Steeple style clocks were first introduced in the 1840s. Black mantel (or Temple) clocks were developed in the 1880s. Since certain style introductions can be dated, this helps to establish a date range for clock case production.

With an idea of the style of clock, it is not too complicated to estimate a date range within 20+ years. There are also other aspects that can establish a general time span for any given antique clock’s production. The more common examples include the following:

  • American made shelf / mantel clocks housed wooden movements up until the 1820s
  • Brass movements became standard around the 1830s and up
  • Marking the country of origin was required for all clocks imported into the USA after 1896
  • Plywood was first used in clock case assemblies in 1905
  • Chime rods were introduced to clocks around 1890


Whether you are interested in selling the clock for profit, estimating value for insurance purposes, or simply interested in what your antique assembly might be worth, value is one of the more commonly asked questions.

Unfortunately, clocks are like any collectible where resale value is a subjective matter. While condition of the assembly, rarity of the assembly, and originality of the movement/components can certainly affect value – value is primarily determined by demand more so than anything else. Just because an antique clock assembly could be identified to be worth $1,000, it does not necessarily mean that someone will pay the full $1,000 value. In most cases, people will generally offer a starting price that is considerably less than the value.

The best idea for obtaining current market value comes from various online auction sites. It is here that you can get a general idea of what any antique clock assembly would actually sell for despite it estimated value.

For insurance purposes, value is far less subjective. In these instances, consider contacting someone experienced to appraise the clock for value. They may also be able to authenticate the assembly, as well as provide a bit more information and history about it. Additionally, you may look into various books, publications and/or websites devoted to antique clock assemblies. Clock forums can also be an additional resource for further information.

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.

The History Behind Prairie Style Design

As you flip through the Klockit catalog or browse online you might have noticed various “Prairie” inspired designs, including: a pop-up sofa table, an end table, a wine rack, and a blanket chest – just to name a few.


You may be wondering, “Why such a vested interest in a particular style of design?” To answer that question, we must first delve into a bit of history to understand what Prairie style design is, and why it is important to a mid-western clock company.

Roots of the Prairie Style Design

The prairie school of architecture was primarily a mid-western U.S. movement, which occurred in the late 19th and early 20th century. Of course, it wasn’t referred to “Prairie” at that time – the term was later coined by H. Allen Brooks, one of the first architectural historians to write about this specific style of design.

The “Prairie Movement” stems from the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th century and can best be described as “dominant horizontality”, architecture which echoes the wide, flat, vast treeless expanses of the mid-western United States.

Influence of Frank Lloyd Wright

One of the most prominent figures of Prairie Design was Frank Lloyd Wright, a native of Klockit’s home state of Wisconsin. Wright is noted for designing a number of prairie style homes and business in the Illinois and Wisconsin area, to include The S.C. Johnson Wax Building, The Robi House, The Seth Peterson Cottage, The Winslow house, The Moore House, Wright’s Studio, and the Monona Terrace.

Wright promoted the idea of “organic architecture”, where a structure was specifically designed to look as if it had grown from its site naturally. This was further enhanced by open floor plans and use of indigenous materials to promote the feel of living with the land, rather than on it.

Klockit’s home of Lake Geneva was one of few locations chosen to display Wright’s distinctive architectural talents with The Lake Geneva Hotel (built in 1911). The hotel closed, partially burned, and was eventually razed in the early 1970’s to make way for the Geneva Towers – so it is unfortunate that it no longer stands today. All that remains are old photographs and the leaded “tulip windows” (one of many details designed by Wright himself) which shaped the overall theme for the Geneva Hotel.


Fortunately there are still a few Wright homes throughout the local area, as well as homes and buildings, which were designed by Wright’s protégés. The Lake Geneva Library is such a building, designed by Wright’s pupil James Dresser, which maintained the vision of Prairie Style architecture in Wright’s unique tradition.

Klockit’s Prairie Series: A Humble Tribute

With such a heavy Prairie-design influence tied to our local community, it seemed only natural (no pun intended) that Klockit should work to introduce a line of furniture that emulates the Prairie design tradition. Our Prairie series of woodworking plans are designed to stray away from mechanical and metal mass produced contraptions that operate in current day pieces.

Functionality, instead, is primarily based on natural materials, in keeping with Prairie Movement ideals. This is most prevalent with designs such as the slide top blanket chest and pop-up sofa table, where metal is substituted with wood for the various lift/slide mechanisms.

In short, Klockit’s Prairie series of woodworking plans is a continuing aspiration that pays humble tribute to a style of architecture and design, as well as to the pioneers of the Prairie style movement.

Look for our next installment of the Prairie Plan series, the Prairie Occasional Table, in late fall of 2013!!

occasional tableWritten 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.