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Rael
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Home refill of Atmos bellows?
04/14/09 at 11:36:12
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Hi there, I am just getting into Atmos clocks, and reading about and learning as much as I can about them. I am a proficient amateur clock/watch repairer (40 years experience), and have always avoided them because of their reputation. I now feel like a fresh challenge, and will take delivery of my first Atmos "in need of attention" (purchased on ebay) in the next week or so.

I understand that over time the bellows lose their chemical contents, and need recharging with ethylene chloride. I have seen that a couple of people in the USA will provide this service....but I live in the UK, and also have a rather independent disposition!...I fancy having a go at refilling bellows myself! Has anyone out there tried (and had success, or failed!).

I have researched ethylene chloride, and see that it is readily available as an anaesthetic spray for application to the skin. At low temperatures (in a fridge) it is a liquid, and as temperatures rise it becomes a gas. I am imagining therefore that the bellows could be filled (amount metered by a syringe) and the ends of the filling tubes resoldered in a chilled environment, where the chemical would remain a liquid. Clearly precautions would have to be taken to prevent breathing in too much vapour that might occur, and soldering would be with an electric iron, not with a torch with a flame that could ignite stray gas.

Regarding gas-tightness testing afterwards, I further imagine that the bellows (suitably clamped to limit excess expansion) could be immersed in a glass beaker of water at around 70 degrees fahrenheit, and leaks would be apparent from bubbles.

If leaks are detected, is it possible to effect a repair?

Now as I say this is me just reasoning how it could be done.....in practice all my thoughts might be bunkum and doomed to failure.... I would just like to know if anyone else has tried it!

If in fact it can be done, I would be interested to know how much ethylene chloride (in fluid form) is needed for a refill. (From some sources I have read that there are "a few drops" in the bellows, which does not seem very scientific!)

Thank you , in anticipation of your responses to my thoughts on this subject...good or bad! Rael.
  
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Steven Conover
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Re: Home refill of Atmos bellows?
Reply #1 - 04/16/09 at 00:13:47
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I admire your enthusiasm for the Atmos, and for wanting to know whether the bellows can be filled by a repairer. I have no idea if it is practical, or what the risks may be. I suggest you do a few repairs first, before looking into that. These clocks are so different from any other that you may want to find out first whether you are really interested to continue. It is still possible to have bellows refilled by someone who specializes in it. Some repairers are put off by the difficulty of obtaining Atmos parts and their high cost. The bellows are an added problem to solve. I know that this does not answer your question, and that you did not ask for this advice, but there it is.
  

Steven Conover
Editor, Clockmakers Newsletter
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Len Lataille
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Re: Home refill of Atmos bellows?
Reply #2 - 04/16/09 at 19:40:27
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I would echo what Steve had to say and like to add a few comments.

Your location should make no difference. The Atmos is a Swiss made clock that is sold worldwide, therefore there must be someone in the UK that services the bellows.

The Atmos requires some specialized tools other than the usual tools needed for clock repair.

As for repairing the bellows, you appear to have a plan in mind. Whether it would work, only you will know if you try. I would stress that you take whatever safety precautions are necessary.

I have the tools, yet I have never had the time to take apart, one of the Atmos clocks ,that I have ,that does not run. Personally, I would leave the bellows to a specialist as the rest of the clock is enough of a challenge, at least for me.

It's sort of like, why make my own mainsprings for any other clock, even if I could?
  

Len Lataille, Moderator
Central Massachusetts, USA
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ginger53
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Re: Home refill of Atmos bellows?
Reply #3 - 02/08/10 at 14:23:02
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Hi Rael,
I aggree with your findings 100%.
I would be interested to know if you have made any progress.
I also have been toying with the idea of having a go at refilling the Atmos bellow but I got stuck because I could not find any information of the amount of ethyl chloride to use, etc, etc
The concertina bellow I believe are made of Zinc and so far I have not been able to find any solder that would repair a leak.
I know that, if it leaks when refilled, they do not even attempt at repairing it, you just have to buy another one.
If there was some info available, we would be able to judge how difficult it is, but it looks like it is well guarded secret.
  
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Rael
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Re: Home refill of Atmos bellows?
Reply #4 - 02/09/10 at 08:07:09
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Hi Ginger,

Since writing my open question last year I have bought 5 Atmos clocks of various ages (1945-1972) and not one of them has had faulty bellows! So I await an opportunity to try out my theories.
Regarding the amount of ethyl chloride: I have a theory based on the fact that there are two tubes of the same height on the bellows. Clearly one is for filling and one for venting as the liquid enters the bellows. Given the height of these tubes I wouldn't be surprised if one tube is used for filling, and the correct level is achieved when fluid reaches the tops of the tubes. When I finally get to try refilling this will be the hypothesis that I will start with.

Best wishes ..... Rael
  
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ginger53
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Re: Home refill of Atmos bellows?
Reply #5 - 02/09/10 at 10:46:57
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Hi Rael,
I am not sure about your theory of the 2 tubes.
I have had a bellow refilled and only one of the tubes was disturbed, ....resoldered.
I find more puzzling the idea of the inert gas,.... which one? and at what temperature is it a liquid?
On another subject, did you notice that on the older calibers, like 526 528, the (good) bellows do not expand and contract according to the 22/44mm parameters?
At first I thought it was because some of the gas had leaked out but then I started noticing that these contraction/expansions were exactly the same on all these bellows from different clocks.
I can't remember exactly now, it was something like 30/42mm.
Do you aggree with my findings, or it was because some gas had leaked?   
  
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Rael
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Re: Home refill of Atmos bellows?
Reply #6 - 02/09/10 at 13:49:48
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Hi Ginger,

Regarding the two tubes; I can quite imagine that in a workshop with a fine needle in a syringe the bellows could be filled using just one tube because the small needle would leave room for the escape of displaced air as the bellows is filled.
In a "factory" set-up they would wish to fill them quicker and so would need the separate fill and vent tubes. The makers would not have put two tubes on for no reason, and this is the only reason that I can think of.
Of course this is all guess work, and I (like you I guess) would welcome actual answers from someone who really knows!
I have worked on two 528's and the bellows of these did not expand to the absolute maximum but moved within acceptable parameters. (Sorry:I did not take precise notes of these measurements.) I kept one of these clocks, and it is still working perfectly after around 10 months of operation. Like you, I thought that a small amount of gas had probably leaked out, on a molecular level, over time.
I believe that the fluid is ethyl chloride. I eventually got mine from a tatooist supplier. I understand that it is used as an anaesthetic in that trade.

Kind regards .... Rael
  
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