Antique Mechanical Restorations
Restorations Since 1973

Flute Clock with Figures

    Unrestored pipe work and pallet chest from a Black Forest flute clock  by Johann Kaltenbach circa 1850. 
    While visiting a regular customer I came across some broken painted figures in a box. The owner informed me they belonged to a flute clock he owned. He also said the clock was at a cabinetmaker's shop having the case built. He then went on to tell me the clock had been at the cabinetmaker's shop for ten years. I came up with the suggestion that I restore the mechanism and then return it to the cabinetmaker's shop for completion. Needless to say, a cabinet was never built. I had no idea how it all went together. The figures were in pieces, the organ pipes were in boxes along with all the other components for the clock. It was a difficult but satisfying project. A few years later, I was fortunate enough to buy the clock for my collection.

    The organ consists of 51 pipes with three stops.

    The smallest pipe shown here, is only two inches tall. Can you find it?

    One of five animated birds. Each bird has a beak which opens and closes while the music is playing. All of the organ pipes play music, none of them imitate bird sounds. The clock had extensive work in the year 1914. At that time all the figures were painted over the original paint. Here you see where I'm chipping away at the top coat of paint to reveal the true color. 
     The top of each bird's back is covered in heavy paper which acts as a ceiling for a chamber inside the bird's body. During restoration,the paper was removed in order to clean and restore the moving parts in the chamber. A number of beaks had to be remade from pine. In this case, there is a small diameter brass tube running up the inside of the tree trunk which emerges from the top of the tree as this bird's right leg. Inside the tube is fine piano wire that operates the beak through a tiny lever inside the body. Did you notice the bird's toes painted on the tree top?

    Bird removed from left tree top. 
    In handling the tree trunks I noticed small wires protruding from the limbs. It was the clue for restoring the trees. Each wire had foliage attached to it as shown in photos at the bottom of the page.

    One of two horn players. 
    As the organ music begins, the horn players raise their instruments up to play. During the organ music the two horn players slowly pivot side to side.

    Each of the figures has a wooden access panel on their back. The panel had to be removed to work on the mechanism inside. When the figure was new, the panel was installed and plaster or gesso was used to cover the joints before it was painted. Notice the shoulder on the left has had a poor repair.

    Center figure's head with bird.
    This complicated character holds a chirping bird in each hand. As his head moves side to side, the bird standing on his turbine also chirps.

    Center character's body. Detailed notes were taken of the paint patterns for each figure. Most of  the 1914 paint has been chipped away in this photo.

    Arms for main character. The arms are hollow to admit wire for activating bird's beaks. The top of each arm is heavy paper to access the channel for the wire.

    Front view with dial removed and clock mechanism removed.
    On the very top is the pinned organ barrel. On the left is the wooden spool where the steel weight cable is wound onto to power the organ . The string on the left hangs in back of the dial for a manual trip for the organ. Just to the right of the string is the fan to govern the speed of the organ. In the back in front of the marble paper is the brass pendulum rod. The pressure bellows are in the very back covered in marble paper. This is new marble paper was matched to the original. The paper used to decorate inside book covers, serves as a sealer for the wood to make it air tight. No doubt the maker of this clock was near a book binder and used left over scraps for this purpose.

    Steel bar near bottom reciprocates to operate pump. Center crank to wind organ. Top right, tune changing and top left, brass ends of stop bars.

    Painted clock face. Notice the painted scene in the oval above the dial. There is a close up of this scene in the next photo.

    Four fellows hunting in the Black Forest.

    The list of tunes written on paper glued to the end of an organ pipe. Eight songs are listed. At the bottom is the maker's name.

    Center figures restored.

    Stage with all the figures. Just under the stage are the linkages to activate the figures.
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