John Wilding

 Horologist and Meccanoman

John Wilding is known to Meccanomen for his clock publications.  In recent years, he has produced articles on the Galileo pendulum and power drive for clocks.   Meccano was a passion in his youth, and he is pleased to acknowledge that it has played a key role in his engineering interests.  But John is much better known in the horological world where he has become known for his many publications and plans from original designs and built in his own workshop.  

Fig. 1   John Wilding in his workshop at home with one of his clocks made of wood

John Wilding's interest in clocks began in his schooldays after reading the section on horology in the Encyclopedia Britannica. Visits to the school clock (strictly out of bounds) which had a fine striking movement r and the reading of books, all stimulated his interest.

World War II claimed him for some five years, and after that he married and went into agricultural engineering. He used a lathe in that business and realized that with this tool he could make a clock. In those days, the early fifties, the only drawings and instructions for making clocks were to be found in the pages of Model Engineer. So he started making clocks and later on he made his own contributions to the subject in both Model Engineer and the Horological Journal.

As a result of these articles the editor of the Horological Journal invited John to write a constructional serial for describing how to make a simple 8-day weight driven movement without buying any ready made parts. This was to be the start of some thirty constructional serials all of which have been put in to book form.

John had no formal clock training but he went to work in a London repair shop. This was a wonderful experience.  John learned an enormous amount there. When he left, he worked for a wheel-cutter for a short period which was also a valuable and interesting experience.  He was elected a Fellow of the British Horological Institute in 1986

Fig. 2   Fellowship certificate of the British Horological Institute.

Finally back in Sussex again he continued as a full-time clockmaker and writer, producing an average of one new clock each year. He also did repair work and it was from these clocks that he compiled the four volumes on the repair of antique clocks.

John has always been fascinated  by the inventions of other clockmakers, many of which have fallen by the wayside. When he reads about these in some of the early literature he makes them up and fits them into his clocks to give them a second chance!

Recently John was told about the Aaron Dodd Crane "daisy wheel" motion work, and he found this fascinating and promptly fitted it to his egg timer clock, together with the MacDowall single pin escapement.  He is at present constructing the Woodward gearless clock.

Newcomers to clockmaking often imagine that a high precision  and expensive lathe is essential for this work but this is quite wrong. John has made many clocks on the small hobby lathes including all the wheel-cutting. Manufacturers often loan their lathe to him knowing that  the publicity and the numerous photographs of their tool in the serial will benefit their sales.  

A visit to John in his beautiful home near Petworth in Sussex is a most pleasant experience.  He is a genial host who takes pride in his house and garden.  He is also a musicologist and plays the French horn in his small conservatory with a group of friends.   His workshop is meticulously tidy and all the clocks that he has ever designed are on display and what is more are all working.  In between are some Meccano clocks as well, a rare and beautiful combination.   It is a very great tribute to Meccano that it is admired and used by such an expert.

Michael Adler - September 2004