By Matthew Reed, Clocks tutor

It was with some sadness (weep!) that postgraduate and MA students Françoise Collanges and Brittany Cox recently fled, or rather graduated from the West Dean nest. Over the summer period they completed their practical MA projects and accompanying 12,000 word theses. Both Françoise's work in the study of early electro-magnetic clocks, and Brittany's in the materials used inside automata that smoke (!), will both undoubtedly add value to the body of knowledge in these specialist fields. During the process, a lot of fun, blood, sweat and tears ensued. Result! We wish them both well.

Early October saw the intake of new students and the welcome back of those returning. All students new to the clocks programme at West Dean begin their long journey through horological bench craft skill by designing and making their very own clock. As a beginning, clockmaking embraces so many of the materials, tools, techniques required for later life as conservator restorers. The world of turning, soldering, filing and scraping, geometry, mechanics and a little mathematics thrown in, is a demanding one, and interestingly, the outcomes from what is outwardly a uniform process are as diverse as the students themselves. Christmas should see trains and frames completed. Entire clocks by Awards Day 2013.

Returning students on Diploma and Postgraduate programmes are working on historic clock projects. These include sensitive cleaning and conservation of a mystery clock by Houdin, the repair of an imposing ormolu mounted mantel clock signed Cellier, and the reinstatement of verge and crownwheel escapement to an early eighteenth century spring clock. Many of the projects are multi-media and therefore require interdepartmental liaison in the conservation and repair processes. Never a dull day in clockmaking.

As always, lots to do, lots to see.

West Dean holds its Open Day on Saturday 10th November 2012. All welcome. See www.westdean.org.uk

Last year's MA Student Francoise Collanges turning boxwood. Rubber hammer at the ready!

Clock model taking shape

Postgraduate Student Kenneth Cobb disassembles a ‘Mystery’ clock by Houdin.

Three wheel train clock, hand-made by every new student.

Quest scholar Tim Hughes inspects a minute wheel pinion for wear.

Cutting a contrate wheel

Dial signed Cellier with damage to dial foot. An interdepartmental project.