About John Wilding Print E-mail

John Wilding, FBHI

John Wilding

Updating some old designs and making them available to others

John Wilding's interest in clocks began in his schooldays after reading the section on horology in the Encyclopedia Britannica. Visits to the school clock (strictly out of bounds) which was a fine Thwaits and Reed striking movement responsible for the governing of the school's activities, and the reading of books, all stimulated his interest.

World War II claimed him for some five years, and after that he married and went into agricultural engineering. He used a lathe in that business and realized that with this tool he could make a clock. In those days, the early fifties, the only drawings and instructions for making clocks were to be found in the pages of Model Engineer where famous amateur clockmakers such as George Gentry, Claude Reeve and John Stevens wrote. So he started making clocks from their descriptions and later on he made his own contributions to the subject in bothModel Engineer and the Horological Journal.

As a result of these articles the editor of the Horological Journal invited John to write a constructional serial for the Horological Journal describing how to make a simple 8-day weight driven movement without buying any ready made parts. This was to be the start of some thirty constructional serials all of which have been put in to book form.

This  first 8-day clock was quite a breakthrough for the Horological Journal, as very few professional clockmakers at that time had a lathe the size of the Myford ML7. They may have had an 8mm collet lathe, but most " High Street" repairers did little more than clean clocks. Major repairs were carried out by one of the parts manufacturers in Clerkenwell. If a clock needed a pair of pallets, the High Street shop would send the clock plates, the pallets, escape and third wheel up to the parts manufacturer, who would do the complete repair ready for the remainder of the movement to be assembled and then passed to the customer.

Also, at that time there was a great deal of secrecy in the trade. It was difficult for an amateur to find out how certain processes were carried out, and on one occasion when he went to purchase tools etc. from a retailer in Clerkenwell, John was asked if he were in the trade, and when he said "no", they refused to serve him. He wanted a mainspring winder but they wouldn't sell him one. He went home and borrowed Claude Reeve's winder and made his own!

John's circumstances altered at about this time and he sold his home in Sussex. The new property was not ready to move into, so he went to work in a London repair shop. This was a wonderful experience. The foreman was Ron Rose, and there was nothing he couldn't do regarding the repair of clocks. John learned an enormous amount there. When he left, he worked for a wheelcutter for a short period which was also a valuable and interesting experience.

Finally back in Sussex again he continued as a full-time clockmaker and writer, producing an average of one new clock each year. He also did repair work and it was from these clocks that he compiled the four volumes on the repair of antique clocks.

John has always been fascinated  by the inventions of other clockmakers, many of which have fallen by the wayside. When he reads about these in some of the early literature he makes them up and fits them into his clocks to give them a second chance! The Henry Ward full striking, which does not require a second wheel train, and the perpetual datework for a longcase clock movement with the usual date ring, both these he has made, and they are described in his book on the 8-day wall clock (updated) where they function perfectly.                                

Recently John was told about the Aaron Dodd Crane "daisy wheel" motion work, and he found this fascinating and promptly fitted it to his egg timer clock, together with the MacDowall single pin escapement.  He is at present constructing the Woodward gearless clock.

Newcomers to clockmaking often imagine that a high precision and expensive lathe is essential for this work but this is quite wrong. John has made many clocks on the small hobby lathes including all the wheelcutting. Manufacturers often loan their lathe to him knowing that  the publicity and the numerous photographs of their tool in the serial will benifit their sales.  


John Wilding's shop in Sussex, England

John was elected a fellow of the British Horological Institute in 1986 and was awarded the Institute's Barrett Silver Medal in 1998.

John’s books are published by RiteTime Publishing Ltd, 18 Woolmer Way, Bordon, Hants, UK GU35 9QF.