Four weeks with Vianney Halter

a virtual workshop for watchmakers and clockmakers

Postby Steyr » Sun Mar 29, 2009 4:05 pm

[I must appologize to those who might have read this post somewhere else, but there might be some of you who could be interested in. This has been agreed with Curtis.]

I like the way English name them : watchmakers. This sounds, I must admit, much better than the French wording (horloger). But on the other hand, the word watchmaker might be too restrictive. Indeed how many watchmaker will you see in Baselword this year ? How many people these days are making a watch as by their naming?


Well I met one last October. Later, I got lucky among the luckiest and spent four weeks in Manufacture Janvier.


As an horology enthusiast I jumped on the Antiqua’s catalog in 2001. In 2003, as a watchmaker student (night courses) I have always consider Vianney Halter as my ideal as a watchmaker. As I was reaching the end of my studies with a 4 weeks internship I only made one application.





Four weeks is far not enough to learn about making a watch, but fair enough to know what it means. In Manufacture Janvier, it means :

* design the movement / test it / develop it
* make each of its part (well let’s cut this short: on the Trio, not the stones, nor the balance stuffs)
* make the dial/hands
* make the case
* make the box
* make the buckle
* make the watchwinder included in the box
* make the finishing…

And all this, at a level of quality that is rarely seen.



When I first visited the manufacture, I was pretty sure, the cases were made outside as it usually is a tough part of the work. I didn’t find any polishing lathe so I thought the finishing of the case was made outside as well. I saw the wooden box but who would be crazy enough to build the included watch winder (Antiqua). The hardening of those little springs ? Well I thought they would come in a box by thousands. The dial, I had seen the magnificent work of the engravers but who would imagine that an Antiqua dial would need two weeks of hand engraving ? And why ?



So, I am going to flood you about Vianney Halter for a few days but I really think this worth to know what a watchmaker is doing.



No need to say, but I am doing it anyway : I love IWCs, Panerai, Breguet, Omega, Breitling, I own several of these and will surely continue to enjoy and buy. I would love to add a Vianney Halter, Voutilainen, or so, but my wife said “no” (not to give you the extended version). I mean, I am not here to sale Vianney Halter, nor to say that except for him, rest is crap. I think you got my point, it’s just that I had this unique opportunity to explore Janvier from the inside and am enthusiastic to share with you what makes me dream in doing this job.
Steyr
 
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Postby Steyr » Sun Mar 29, 2009 4:17 pm

Let's start by the end and check at Christian, casing an Antiqua. Christian, not me, but another Christian. You might get lost when I am talking about Christian as we were 3 at that time, out of a dozain. Christian H ; Christian L and Christian R ...

Here is Christian L:
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I love Christian's "office", especially in winter

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The whole operation of casing is taking about 3 hours. Quite stressfull as you must avoid the faintest scratch. You might easily waste several days of your colleague's work. Well, with the comments provided by Christian, we probably reached 4 hours, but 4 hours I hardly noticed passing.



The movement just assembled, here is already one month of work just in pre-assembly and assembly. The movement basis is a Lemania. Ho, I hear some saying in the back that this is not in-house. Well, you're right, but you need to understand that the watch was first built in 1998 and at that time, Vianney wasn't feeling confortable in making a whole movement. He did learn it later with the Goldpfeil experience. The Trio is in-house movement and he's planning to make his own Antiqua's mainplate soon, when the second CN machine will be operational. For the time being, the Lemania is still used but I can tell you that the changes made are making it something really different from its basis (new stones, new openings for the fucntion, moving some wheels, ... In the end, the in-house will be easier to produce, and that's why they'll be doing). Note also the architecture of the overall result that is far from the usual modular QP. The reason is that they worked a lot in trying to integrate as much as possible of the complication, in the basis. The idea was to keep the movement as flat as possible. You can notice as well the finishing of the parts, such as the bridges, wheels, springs...

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Then comes the case. The case is made out of 6 different parts assembled by invisible soldering.

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First checks for the settings appendices in the case (QP correctors)

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First dial, the hours/minutes
The dial is not fixed, it's the top part of the case that will block all the 3 dials thanks to the little slots at 6 and 12.

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Checking the instantaneous jump of the date, as well the 28th february.

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Second dial

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Last one :

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Checking the Bezel. Vianney is calling this part the table, maybe because that's how is called the very top and flat surface of a diamond.

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Cleaning the inside part of the table.

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This part is amazing. This is a very nice piece of machining and assembly. Note that every traces of tools have been removed with "traits brouillés" (scrambled stripes ?)

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Silicone gasket

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Delicate part : assembling the table with the case. Remember that you have to match the 6 slots of the dials that will be "squeezed".

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Assembling the table is made with screws

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Oups, a screw is slightly too long and might interfere with the oscilating mass :
Christian is turning with the hand. It's rare as most of the watchmaker would prefer the motor. He prefers to adapt the speed this way, although it requires a good experience. Well, he surely is !

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Cleaning the oscilating mass :
Christian is just mentionning that " You know these days, people have crazy cameras and I don't want to see any dust on some watches posted on some forums".

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Here is the secret :

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We have few more minutes to enjoy the result :
Pay attention at the perfect polishing of the case. Sharp angles, alternance of soft and shiny... It might take about a week to polish a platinium case to reach this level of perfection. Vianney is very proud of the finising of its cases. Of course, the buyer will damage it at the first contact but his feeling when he'll open the box worth the time and efforts spent in a high level polishing. I Didn't see Laurence polishing a case, that's one of the rare operations I missed but there is no lathe polishing here that would damage the angles. Only sticks, various abrasives, and patience, a lot of patience...

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Here is something else waiting, the first Trio yellow gold produced ! That something really breathtaking but we'll come back to this another time.

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Steyr
 
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Postby Steyr » Sun Mar 29, 2009 4:32 pm

I propose a little tour in the Vianney Halter's manufacture. This will give you an overview of the production tools. Most of the tools are from the golden age of the precision tooling industry so don't make any mistake although some might look old, they are still at the edge of the precision machines and very desirable. Well maybe too much from my point of view as the prices keep on growing as the availability decreases.


Ground floor, R&D, as well as galvanoplasty, decoration (Perlage / Cotes de Genève) :

Bruno is in charge of the CAD area as well as prototyping. They are using Inventor as well as Tellwatch for some simulations. Bruno did really boost the CAD approach in Janvier.
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In his back, the Galvano unit but we'll come back in details on this process
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Sensitive drilling machine for the Perlage
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The Cote de Genèves machine :
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Ho, well, it's not a chiming watch, but :
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The new CN milling unit being tested on plexyglass
This machine is an homemade transformation of a metrology tool. Its accuracy thanks to it's structure/geometry/quality of assembly is greatly appreciated. Three step by step motors, water cooled, are controling X-Y-Z and another one for the milling that will be soon controlled as well. Christian H, did this transformation as well as the first machine we'll find at the upper floor.
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Christian H, Vianney's brother, discussing with Bruno about some fine tuning ont the new CN machine
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First floor, machinery floor :


The first CN machine. This one doesn't have a controlled Z so it's just a binary up/down controled axis. This is already enough for basic 2D parts cutting.
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Some parts made out of this machine :
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Aciera F3 milling machine :
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A Jig borer machine from Deckel. This is a machine I totally fell in love with.
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Another Jig Borer machine. Very well equiped but not frequently used in the watchmaking business. But in this following set of three big machines, it could be pretty useful for making some tools as watchmakers always need some specific ones. Well, we also have to admit that they are also used for the other passions Vianney has such as old cars and planes ...
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Big Saw
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Big Lathe
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A very desirable couple of Schaublin Lathe :
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This one is used to make the screwing parts of the cases for instance.
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Lip surface grinding machine
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Schaublin milling machine
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Hauser profile projector :
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EDM machine for drilling
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One of the sharpening machines to make your own cutting tools.
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Overview of one part of this floor but are missing, the ovens and hardening area.
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Second floor, watchmaker and office floor :

Administrative as well as Vianney's office, with a strange but very intersting collection of various indicators.
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The room where is made the engraving, beveling, and with some watchmaker's tools
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Very nice Dixi cutting machine and very rare :
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A set of Schaublin lathes
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Aciera F1 machine in green and a Hauser jig borer machine with the big brown wheels
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Another Schaublin lathe but with a specific configuration in order to use it with the Hauser beside, and as a Burin Fixe. We'll come back to this tool in another post. And again, I totally fell in love for this amazing tool.
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A set of watchmaker's 6mm lathes
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In a separate room, the polishing :
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That should be quite easy to understand even if you ca'nt read french.
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The watchmaker's room for the assembly :
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There is another floor left, with an amazing collection of big clocks. You know, the ones you find in churchs as well as city hall buildings.
Steyr
 
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Postby Curtis » Sun Mar 29, 2009 10:36 pm

Hi Christian,

Fantastic post! Thank you! I am so envious of you and your time at Vianney's workshop. Where are you going to school? Once you are finished, what are your plans?

Please post more Vianney pics if you've got them and of your school work, too. Again, great post and I look forward to more posts from you.

Cheers,

Curtis
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Postby Steyr » Mon Mar 30, 2009 1:22 pm

Thanks Curtis,

I am attending the night class in Paris's watchmaker's school. It is about 10 ahours per week, not much, but I do some at home as well. I joined the school 5 years ago and got graduated with the official french watchmaker's degree in 2006. With some of my friends, we pushed a bit the administration to organize the next level which is a Baccalauréat degree. This took 3 more years and this yerar might be the last one as the exam are taking place from now (first exam last week on the clocks: Quite OK I think). The only thing that bothers me is all that science/math for which we don't have proper courses (no time for this). So, I'll have to go by the book, remembering what I got from my former engineering degree.

Well, this night courses are really a dream opportunity. A really good teacher, courses and materials, and... all this for 80 Euro per year :P Paris municipality is paying most of it.
During the first 2 years, for the first level, basically, the training is about repairing by replacing, on a chiming clock, on a watch, ... Making a bit of tools to get used to the basic tools such as files, lathe, ...

The 3 years of the second level are much more interesting as you learn about making the parts as well. The most signficant target is the balance staff making. I started last week and... well... you understand pretty fast why there are so many pocket watches unrepaired. That's hell of an exercice ! Of course, not only balance staffs. During my internship, I made some 6497 bridges as exercise :
This made from stratch to finishing (beveling, cote de genève, plating) and a very exciting exercice.

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Although I am pretty sure I will end in Switzerland sooner or later, I don't have firm plans for the time being. I have too many little personal projects and unfortunately not much time to progress on each of these. I whish I oculd do those cufflinks, continue making some of my Panerai buckle, make a case. Well, the 6497 bridge above really motivate me in doing the rest of the bridges, maybe the mainplate too. Last santaclaus brought me this big stuff, same as the one I just used in Vianney Halter. That should help.

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It will soon join some friend's tools : EDM cutting, EDM drilling, milling, lathe, surface grinding, measuring microscope, ...

Of course as many, I dream about making a watch, but realistically speaking as a beginner, I firts dream about making basic parts, step by step.
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Postby Curtis » Mon Mar 30, 2009 11:17 pm

Hi Christian,

Thanks for the additional pictures and info... keep them coming if you have them! ;-)

Your bridges are quite nice. What other projects did you do while at Vianney's workshop? What kind of schedule and work did you do while your were there?

Your education looks quite good and the price is fantastic! Your Deckel is, too! ;-)

Cheers,

Curtis
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Postby Steyr » Tue Mar 31, 2009 5:29 am

Regarding my experience in Janvier,

I started with a beveling exercice on a monumental clock's wheel.
How big ?
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Before
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The other wheel was had already been beveled by Mark Schmidt who is now working with Dufour if I'm not mistaking.

WIP :
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After
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After this Vianney suggested I scale down to a trio bridge :

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Before/after on the same pic. This exercice covered beveling as well as decoration : perlage ; geneva stripes ; rhodium plating.

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And I made another one during the week-end
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On this one, the perlage is really crappy (my very first time) but beside this, I was happy hearing Enrico saying that this one could be used in production.


Then came the exercice with the 6497 bridge.

I also covered a bit of the Grande Date prototype update.
This the old one :
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but I didn't take any picture of the new one :? Same, I wanted to take a look at the plexy prototype of the Opus 3 mechanism but I forgot.

Well, although it doesn't sound much for a 4 weeks duration, I also took a lot of time learning from the people working around me. That was a real internship where I must admit, Janvier took any profit from. I used people's time, machines, tools, ... I had the keys and enjoyed this opportunity to work late at night and week-end as well, basically, doing again the things I had made during the week, just to gain experience.

Well, fantastic time. I hope some day, I'll have the opportunity to help Vianney as well.

I'll cover some more topics later on because, I still have some pictures there and there :wink:



Thanks for your comments about the Deckel. I really enjoyed playing with it while I was in Janvier. I moved mine only one week before my intership so I didn't have the opportunity to use mine so far. I am completing the required tools. There is a centering microscope in it's way since last saturday, I need another accurate mandrel... I am considering buying as well a mint compound slide for my Schaublin to put some X-Y Heidenhain control. The Schaublin configuration I used in Janvier as "burin fixe" is really amazing. But then I would also need a sharpening machine... well, you know, every new tool appeal for others
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Postby Curtis » Tue Mar 31, 2009 10:16 pm

Hi Christian,

This is good stuff. Yeah, Mark is now with Dufour doing lots of beveling. It appears you made the most of your time at Janvier - your dedications seems to have paid off quite well.

I'm really enjoying your pictures and descriptions about them. What a fantastic experience for you. Thanks again.

Cheers,

Curtis
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Postby Steyr » Fri Apr 10, 2009 7:30 am

One of the thing that impressed me the most is the dial making in Vianney Halter. Of course, when I handled the watch I could see that the dial is really special in the way it shines, the finishing, ... but I was far from imagining the whole process. Considering the various way of making these days, who could imagine spending 2 week on a dial (Antiqua). The process is very similar to the one that was used for the old Marine chronometers. Engraving of the dial's metal filled up with painting.

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It's needed to differenciate platinium dials on the Antiqua from the Trio's dials that are made of Maillechort and plated after. The difference stands in the fact that the platinium is much, much harder to engrave. Therefore the dials arrive in the engraver's hands almost unprepared. Just the main lines for the divisions, but no numbers/letters. On the Maillechort, there is a little preparation by marking the profile of the numbers/letters. The preparation on the platinium dials would damage too much the cutting tools from the CN.


But why hand engraving ? well, because the sharp edges from the numbers would be impossible to make.
The following example shows the difference before the hand engraving and after (just before the filling of the letters) :

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And the whole whole philosophy of Vianney Halter stands in the unicity of each watch. Depending on the mood, depending on the person who will engrave, depending on the way she will start... results might slightly diffre from one watch to another. Same with the geneva stripes, as well as the perlage and so on, but we'll come back to this.
I took this picture but it doesn't look that obvious with such a resolution but I can ensure that the difference was obvious between the mid top one and the low left other with thicker numbers.

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Well, le'ts see more pictures that are quite self-explanatory.

The main dial is a 4 parts assembly. The elements are prepared separately and are assembled in the end by setting (well as I lost 4 days of photos, you will miss the one taken of the back of the dial, showing the delicate work of the setting)
• Banana
• Macaron
• Back
• Hour ring


Banana being engraved
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Macaron engraved, filled and about to be circled on the lathe
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Some backs just before the sanding
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Gaetan circling an hour ring
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Different level of completion where you ca see the painting before to be removed.
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Before / after rhodium plating
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Antiqua day disc before/after hand engraving.
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After sanding
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Trio Grande Date dials made of aluminium and in this case, they are machined as the thickness would not allow any hand engraving.
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Various photos of engraving.
Before. Specific case ot the Trio's dials that are prepared by CN. Simply the shape but no depth. Antiqua's platinium comes without letters/numbers on it :
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WIP
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Final result
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The tools:
Corine's bench :
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Marcia's bench:
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The people :
Marcia inviting me to check her work through the binocular
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Corine engraving :
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Steyr
 
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Postby Steyr » Mon Apr 13, 2009 7:36 am

Did somebody call for a trio ?

Some pictures taken during my internship, but by Bruno, from the CAD department as I was busy on something else. He let me use these. Just a set of various pictures from in and out while Enrico was casing it.

Please, note that some pictures were taken during pre-assembly so that(s why you'll see some dust.

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Postby Steyr » Tue Apr 14, 2009 4:28 am

Blueing some hands.

This operation could be handled the easy way by using a hoven to treat thousands of hands at once and wait for the "Ding".
But, this would'nt give the same look. Depending on the geometry (thickness, width,...) depending on the texture (circled, polished, ...) you would have slight differences from one part to another. Therefore, the best way is to use the flame.

Here is the setup :
- Alchool lamp,
- bit of brass filings
- light
... and 10 mins of Christian L.


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To give a bit of advance to the thick part of the hand :
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Then to make it uniform with the rest of the hand :
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Checking with the daylight : awesome
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Of course, if you mess it with a bit tooo long, you go back to square 0 with some extra polishing and circling work.
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Postby Steyr » Tue Apr 14, 2009 5:28 am

Hardening

Another heat treatment, the hardening/tempering of steel.
Used for the screws as well as the springs, this treatment will improve the threading of the screw for long term or give the elasticity to the springs.

The hardening part is comon to both but tempering of the screws will be using a slight (10°C) different temperature.

Hardening. This is an operation we allways fear at school as there are plenty ways to fail it. Considering the rough parts we were treating in school, I would have been expecting a much more determinist process. Instead of high level technics Vianney prefers to rely on old school methods.


The place :
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The bricks behing are not closing exactly as it's better to have some circulation so that the flame is not redirected to the top of the bucket and burn the coal too fast.


You reduce some coal into powder.
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Ideally, you should heat te coal in a closed steel box with a single hole on top so that any gaz in the coal will escape. This will make the rest of the process more stable.


Clean the parts
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Note that the long springs are tied in a particular way to guide them when they will fall from the bucket in the "cold" oil. Therefore you only have to make sure your bucket will be perpendicular to the surface of the oil, the iron wire will guide the parts to fall parallelly to the wall of the bucket.
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Put the parts in the bucket and cover it with coal powder as shown :
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Well, why the coal ? because, it will avoid the oxygen to go to the contact of the parts. Oxygen would combine with the carbon of the steel and reduce its percentage and modify the mechanical properties.
Here, the oxygen will be burned with the coal before to reach the parts. Plus there will be a bit of coal's carbon that will be "passed" to the steel compensating the inevitable but reduced loss.



You stard to heat the bottom of the bucket slowly so that the coal does not burn from the beginning.
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Then, when time has come to really heat it : "full throttle"
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Coal is burning fast :
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Then you better hurry as the oxygen could now burn with the carbon of the parts
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Note the air passing behing the bricks as mentionned earlier.



In the oil !
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Go fishing with a magnet :
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The parts look perfectly "white". Well, I could show you some parts I made myself at home much before my intership and parts are totally black from the carbon burned at the surface. Here, it means that the carbon as been perfectly spared !


That's it for the hardening. The rest of the process, tempering, is "piece of cake". You put the parts in some brass filing so that it makes some hoven inside the hoven.
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30 mins at 310 °C
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And you turn the hoven off and keep the parts inside for the night so that the temperature is lowering very, very slowly.



Then you just have to bevel those nice springs but we'll come to this another time.
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Postby Curtis » Tue Apr 14, 2009 9:26 pm

Hi Christian,

Thank you once again for such fantastic posts! The Trio is amazing - a rare look, indeed. I especially enjoyed the blueing of the hands - they are beautiful and Vianney hardening the parts was great... and a very fitting method for Vianney! ;-)

The jigs (posage?) for beveling look like organic sculpture. I look forward to the next installment.

Cheers,

Curtis
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Postby topcat30093 » Sat Jun 20, 2009 5:28 am

Thanks Christian for a marvellous post.
Throughly enjoyed reading it.
Cheers
Tony
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Postby IanS » Sun Aug 23, 2009 9:34 am

Thank you very much for the report and the photos.

The big question now is , 'How will you follow that up?'
IanS

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