A Treatise on Staff Making and Pivoting Containing Complete Directions for Making and Fitting New Staffs from the Raw Material
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To produce a good balance staff requires more skill than to produce any other turned portion of a watch, and your success will depend not alone on your knowledge of its proper shape and measurements, nor the tools at your command, but rather upon your skill with the graver and your success in hardening and tempering. There are many points worthy of consideration in the making of a balance staff that are too often neglected. I have seen staffs that were models as regards execution and finish, that were nearly worthless from a practical standpoint, simply because the maker had devoted all his time and energy to the execution of a beautiful piece of lathe work, and had given no thought or study to the form and size of the pivots. On the other hand, one often sees staffs whose pivots are faultless in shape, but the execution and finish so bungling as to offset all the good qualities as regards shape. To have good tools and the right ideas is one thing, and to use these tools properly and make a practical demonstration of your theory is another.
I shall endeavor to take up every point in connection with the balance staff, from the steel to the jewels, and their relation to the pivots, and I believe this will then convey to the reader all the necessary points, not only as regards staffs, but pivots also, whether applied to a balance or a pinion staff.
It may be argued, and we often do hear material dealers advance the theory, that to-day, with our interchangeable parts and the cheapness of all material, it is a waste of time to make a balance staff. To the reader who takes this view of the situation I simply want to say, kindly follow me to the end of this paragraph, and if you are still of the same opinion, then you are wasting your time in following me farther. For a material dealer to advance this theory I can find some excuse; he is an interested party, and the selling of material is his bread and butter; but the other fellow, well I never could understand him and possibly never shall. When we seriously consider the various styles and series in "old model" and "new model," of only one of the leading manufacturers of watches in this country, to say nothing of the legion of small and large concerns who are manufacturing or have manufactured in the past, and then think of carrying these staffs in stock, all ready for use, we then begin to realize how utterly absurd the idea is, to say nothing of how expensive! On the other hand, if you reside in a large city and propose to rely on the stock of your material dealer, you will find yourself in an embarrasing situation very often, for as likely as not the movement requiring a new staff was made by a company that went out of business back in the '80s, or it is a new movement, the material for which has not yet been placed on the market. This state of affairs leads to makeshifts, and they in turn lead to botch work. The watchmaker who does not possess the experience or necessary qualifications to make a new balance staff and make it in a neat and workmanlike manner, is never certain of having exactly what is needed, and cannot hope to long retain the confidence of his customers. In fact, he is not a watchmaker at all, but simply an apprentice or student, even though he be working for a salary or be his own master. There are undoubtedly many worthy members of the trade, who are not familiar with the making of a balance staff, who will take exceptions to this statement; but it is nevertheless true. They may be good workmen as far as they go; they may be painstaking; but they cannot be classed as watchmakers.
This article is intended for the benefit of that large class whose opportunities for obtaining instruction are limited, and who are ready and willing to learn, and for that still larger class of practical workmen who can make a new staff in a creditable manner, but who are always glad to read others people's ideas on any subject connected with the trade and who are not yet too old to learn new tricks should they find any such.
Good tools, in good condition, are the most essential requisites in making a new staff. I would not advise any particular make of lathe, as the most expensive lathe in the world will not produce a true staff if the workman cannot center his work accurately and does not know how to handle his graver, while on the other hand fine work can be done on the simplest and cheapest lathe by a workman possessing the requisite skill....