Sunday, October 17, 2010

How Tall Is Your Tall Case Clock?

When I finished this clock I asked the photographer to take a picture with me next to the clock. One of the reasons I did this is that I have a fairly large ego and am constantly struggling with my urge to control my ego with a superficial veneer of humility. I am sure I am not the only person on the planet with this problem. After all, some of us have no confidence at all (unfortunately) and some of us have more confidence than is earned by our actions. Where is the balance?

Anyway, this is not a therapy session. I am just trying to be honest about why I took this picture. The "real" reason is that I wanted to show some sense of scale; how large is this clock, compared to a "normal" person?

On the other hand, when I saw this photo in my computer, it reminded me that my tall case clocks were all sold and that I never had any trouble making them and selling them, even at very high prices. Why? Is it just that they are nice to look at?

There is more to it than that. Tall case clocks have very "human" characteristics which appeal to all of us. In many homes, they are placed in the entry of the house, so that they greet you when you arrive and are the last image you see as you depart. They have a face, which is at eye level. The face has hands, which signal the time of day, down to the minute and second. Some clocks also remind you of the day of the month and the phase of the moon.

The case has feet, a waist, and, inside the bonnet, cheeks which support the seat board of the works. There is also a back to the case, just to carry the analogy a step further.

It was the English clockmakers who first discovered how to use a pendulum to regulate time in the last half of the 17th century. The tall case was necessary for the pendulum to operate, and the weights to drop, which provided a full day of power. Soon, clocks were engineered to run for a full week, then longer. The weight on the pendulum could be adjusted up or down a few millimeters to adjust the speed of the clock. For the first time in history, it was possible to keep time down to the second.

Another human feature of these manually operated clocks is that they need human contact. They require that the owner wind them on a regular basis, and adjust them as necessary, or they just stop short, "never to run again," as the song goes.

It was later, in the 19th century, when a popular story was written that talked about the "Grandfather" clock. Poems were penned, and it was common to speak of "Father" time. In other words, the tall case clock, which had always stood guard in the entry of the home, came to represent the generations of the family who had lived there. Often, their names were recorded inside the case, for children to read and appreciate.

Time marches on, but the Grandfather clock stands sentinel; a sentimental reminder of our past.

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