Assembling Big Clock Hands on a Small Motor

December 2, 2016

20101105clockWhen I sell one of my titanium handed clocks, I’ve learned the hard way to ship it disassembled. The hands weigh several ounces, and when a shipping box is dropped from 48″ (seems to be the standard handling practice I see when watching them load luggage onto a plane) the heavy hand tears the stem right out of the motor. I’ve tried many very careful methods of shipping it assembled, fool proof. The service sector has been creative in supplying me with improved fools.

So some assembly is required.

First step, unpack everything onto a reasonably clear surface. Preferably a smooth, flat area large enough to rotate the shipping box around.


Take the base, and make sure all the needed parts are removed from its protective cavity. If you opted to get the nut wrench (highly recommended) it will be stored in here with a retaining magnet. Probably the tiny minute hand nut in a bag, as well.

Set the base face up on the table, with the top (12:00 position) away from you. Note the flat sides of the minute hand axle, and make sure they are pointing up to 12:00 for ease of alignment.


On the first hand, the Hour hand, align it with the 12:00 position, slide it over the axle, and simply press it down.

Put pressure on the elevated mounting bracket rather than the hand itself.



Pick up the minute hand nut by placing it on the surface, pressing the top of the wrench to open the bottom, place vertically over the nut, and letting go of the button.


Note the direction of the hole and of the axle. slide the hole over the axle until it drops into place. There should be no pushing; it just drops down when aligned.


Take the nut wrench, vertically, place the nut over the axle, and gently turn until you feel it catch, thread, and then stop. If it doesn’t start, back it off and try to make the wrench more vertical. Gently does it. If you use force, you are probably stripping the threads.

How tight? Enough to turn the minute hand, and then a bit more (block the hand from turning with a finger; don’t grip the hand.


Once the nut is in place, squeeze the release button on the back of the wrench (pressure between palm or thumb and fingers, don’t press down on the clock) and lift it away.

img_1642aAnd on to the third hand, the second hand. Gently place its stem over the axle, feeling for when it is in place. Once it seems to be centered, then gently press it down. There is less clearance for the second hand because it is not likely to collide wa-ay out there like the heavier hands on these not-so-rigid axles.


And the final steps are to put in the battery and hang it on your hook or nail. Handle the clock by the base, and note where the hanger is to help you place it.


Once it is on the wall, set the time by pushing the minute hand around from outside the radius of the hour hand with a finger or pen or some such. Take care not to lift or depress the hand, nor to bump the hour hand.

Instructions on how to tell time precisely to 5 minutes are on the Clock Page. With practice, you can accurately interpolate to the minute.

Can Titanium Be Worn with Other Metals?

June 3, 2008

I received this email:

Dear Sir,
I would like to know when titanium and gold accessories are worn together, will there be any chemical reaction affecting both metals. I am wearing a Gold Chain now and I wish to purchase a Titanium Chain but I do not know whether there will be any adverse reaction. As I know Gold and Silver accessories can’t be worn together, so how about titanium and gold?

I hadn’t previously considered that gold and silver might react on the skin. But, yes they do. It isn’t much of a reaction, but it is to the detriment of the silver.

I replied:

Titanium is safe to wear with other metals.
Titanium always has a protective oxide coating that prevents any electrolytic reaction with other metals. Basically, moisture cannot reach the metal itself in order to complete a reaction. If it is scratched, the protective coating immediately re-forms (unless in a perfectly inert atmosphere (argon, krypton, etc) or a vacuum). That’s part of why titanium is such a good candidate for medical implants.

Go ahead and try it:

In detail, any two metals in a conductive solution (impure water) will exchange ions. If the metals touch, then an electric current forms, eating away at one of the metals. That’s how a battery works. Body moisture acts as an electrolyte between silver and gold, and hydrogen is produced at the gold side, and oxygen on the silver. Silver oxide is black and soluble; it tarnishes and eventually eats into the silver.

But for the reaction to continue, neither metal can be allowed to grow a continuous, non-soluble insulating layer. Titanium and niobium grow very good insulating layers when just exposed to most electrolytes. In fact, I force this insulating layer with enough voltage to produce the colors. That’s called “anodizing.”

Titanium Grinding vs. Tumbling

May 1, 2008

Harbor Freight bench shear

I’ve tried a few different methods over the the years to reduce my hands-on time in getting rid of those razor-sharp fresh-cut titanium edges. I started doing this with essentially no tools or money to buy any. I first bought tin snips, and then a small bench shear something like the one pictured.

Polishing MotorThe merciless edges on fresh cut titanium encouraged me to buy leather gloves. To remove those edges, I first used emery paper (wet/dry sand paper) to smooth them. But the tedium soon urged me to learn that a motor, a couple of taper spindles, and Cratex wheels (rubberized carbide) were much faster and spit few sparks. I put my grinder/polisher together from a salvaged ¼ horse motor and parts from a mail-order catalog (this was around 1980). Now there is website: and you can get everything there. But grinding small parts ended up using up finger tips; both gloves and my own.

Harbor Freight Cheap Rock TumblerOn a whim, I tried out my childhood rock tumbler. I just cut up a bunch of pieces, and threw them in with some rocks, and let them go for a week, then three weeks. There was some rounding of the sharp edges, but not much nor fast. I then ordered abrasive ceramic media from RioGrande, and tried that in place of the rocks. After a couple of weeks, nice, smooth edges. The ceramic media lasts for many uses (I have yet to reorder). You can also get it cheaply from HarborFreight, here or at your local Harbor Freight shop. You can also try rock shops, craft stores, or online.

Lightweight vibratory cleaner/polisherBut, c’mon! Weeks? So (many years later) I went to eBay to find a vibratory polisher. I wasn’t ready to spend $500 on a name-brand one at RioGrande. So I found one specified to clean shotgun shell casings for about $60 delivered. It has a clear top, so I could watch the pieces and media do their thing. It reduced the time to about 4 days. I ran it with a dry load, with no water or agents. Amusingly, the dust that grinds off from the media is hydophobic! Water runs right off of it, like mercury on glass. I found that adding tap water at the end and vibrating for another hour suspended the dust in the water and didn’t darken the titanium too much. Anyway, I etch after I tumble.

But I never did manage to get a shine with this machine. I tried ceramic media and porcelain media, I used polishing compounds, ran it wet, ran it dry, and still my best was a matte finish. My worst was that the titanium turns almost black in water with porcelain.

Harbor Freight Vibratory PolisherSo I thought I’d try another type of vibrator. I got it from eBay, and then found that I could have driven across town to HarborFreight and gotten the exact same unit for about $25 less. I first tried running it wet with porcelain. Blackish titanium, eww. I etched the titanium clean, and then tried dry with ceramic media: Shine! Trumpets and doves and a beam of light from above. The gray ceramic media turned dark and shiny in 24 hours, as the titanium deburred and gleamed.

Had this not worked, I would have finally bought a professional (expensive) circulating fluid vibrator assembly (Raytech). But I’ll hold off on those.

Hypoallergenic: Titanium versus Niobium

April 2, 2008

There is a bit of confusion about which of these metals is safer for sensitive ears, or wherever. Niobium is generally available only in a chemically pure form, whereas titanium is available both pure and in a bewildering list of alloys (such as many surgical implant grades).

I list a few of the more popular grades and designations of titanium here. Most of them are hypoallergenic. Most of the jewelry that I sell is pure grade #1 or #2 titanium. Some of my ball posts are an alloy, medical implant certified, and with no detectable trace of dreaded nickel.

The etching and anodizing process strip the few percent of non-titanium elements from the surface, and then create a protective shield of titanium dioxide.

Chemically speaking, titanium is less likely to be absorbed by biological systems than niobium. Neither should cause an immune response or allergic reaction.

But when it comes to piercings, part of the issue is abrasion. Titanium is a hard metal that could have a slightly rough surface on the microscopic scale. The act of putting it in might abrade a tight hole.

Niobium is a softer metal, so the surface will yield more to pressure. This might make it better for extremely sensitive skin. The same softness is why the initially brighter colors of niobium don’t last as long as titanium colors.

Whereas I am distinctly a titanium partisan, my colleague at prefers niobium, from her personal experience.

When in doubt, try both. If both work, then choose only by price, color and design.

Fusion Welding

March 28, 2008
I’ve been interested in learning how to fusion weld, for a long time, but the Sparkie is so expensive. Does anyone know of a fusion welder that would be less expensive, or even an experienced fusion welder who would provide welding services for a fee?Also, would it be possible to create a “nib” of our own for welding purposes, or do the dimensions (etc.) of the nib have to be exact to get a good solid weld?

Thanks for any help.


How can I get consistent colors?

March 26, 2008

This frustrated email arrived today:

I live in Belgium (Europe) and have been making titanium jewellery for 4 or 5 years now. Sometimes I colour the pieces. I have a machine from Wieland, a German company. All this time I did not have any problems because the pieces I made had always the same size. Now lately we are doing titanium leaves in various sizes; Grade 2 thickness 0.5 mm. The problem with coloring these pieces is that I do not seem to have any control over the colours due to the variable sizes of the pieces. Is there a way to make a formula that gives me control (more or less) by taking the weight of the piece? Because of the irregular shape it is impossible to know the amount of surface I am working with.

At the moment I am really taking what comes out of the machine. I did make several colour charts using various shapes but with pieces 6 to7 times as big as my trials I have no control .

I would be very grateful if you have some advise on this, or maybe even a solution.

Thanks in advance.


My reply: I can’t know exactly what the problem is, for I encounter the same difficulties.
The color you end up with is a function of the electrical current density, the total time, the surface finish, and the grade/alloy (which also affects finish and current flow).

The weight is not as good an indicator as the surface area. If all the pieces are always the same thickness, then the two are functionally interchangeable. But the risk is that if you calibrate on weight, and then start working with other thicknesses, the calibration will not stand.

I passed the question on to Bill Seeley.

How can I make some of those Fancy Titanium Colors?

March 21, 2008

Another question from a visitor to my regular site:

I’m starting to anodize on my own. How do they create that color “oil slick” in the picture or the “rainbow”?

The many simple colors are all based on voltage, as described in my anodizing page.

The stripes are made by masking off areas with something waterproof, like automotive striping tape. Then anodize to a high voltage color. Then remove the tape, and anodize to a lower color. The high voltage color blocks the lower voltage colors. Voila, stripes!

The rainbow can be made in several ways. The fastest is to turn the voltage up and the contacts off, immerse the piece,  then turn the contacts on and draw the piece out of the electrolyte. The color is now dependent on the immersion time rather than the voltage setting.

The oil slick is trickier. This is probably done by sponge or brush anodizing (clip the positive lead to the piece, and the negative to something absorbent soaked in electrolyte. Then very carefully apply the high voltage wet thing to the charged piece. Rubber gloves and goggles are required. If metal touches metal, then you are practicing welding. Bright sparks, damaged pieces, and possibly damaged electronics.