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Old 04-22-2013, 05:12 PM   #1
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I'd like to fix this old fluorescent sign-clock. And not die. Help?


So my wife fell in love with this at an auction, and we bought it for not-much-money. Which is good, because not-much-money is about as much money as I have.

We have wall space for it, and I could just put it up as is, but I'd love to try to get it working beforehand. Here are a few thoughts:

1. Ideally, I'd like to wire the clock and the lights to separate plugs/switches, so that the clock can always stay on while the lights can be switched on and off. This is so (a) it doesn't lose time whenever we turn the lights off, and (b) if there's a blackout and the clock loses time, I can just unplug it, wait for the time to be right, and plug it back in.

2. I have some, but not extensive, experience with electricity. I've wired up light switches, electrical outlets and radiators in the past. I've swapped out breakers on my panel. But I've never seen anything quite like this before.

I'm attaching some pictures showing the clock, the wiring as it is now, and the inside of the thing.

NOTE: Originally I had this images inline, but this forum doesn't seem to support BB code image resizing, so I'm putting in links instead.

The face of it. Retro majesty!

The clock mechanism (close-up)

Clock mechanism (far away, cut wires)

Base. Fluorescent fixture is exactly the same at the top.

Base and big metal box. Ballast? I don't know much about this stuff.


Side of the unit, where the wires come out

My best guess (and this is just a guess!) is that while the clock might be reparable, the flourescent fixture is probably shot. I'm thinking about pulling that aspect of things right out and just buying a couple of cheap fixtures and bolting them to the back of the unit.

First question:

Can I just wire a plug to the clock wires and plug it in to see if it works? I have no idea what kind of... juice... this thing uses. With just wires coming out of the side and the Mystery Box on the inside, I don't know if this is meant to be wired to a standard plug or some sort of monster 220V thing.

Second question:

Seriously... is this a good beginner project? Since I have not-much-money, hiring an electrician isn't my first port of call, but if I'm dead I'll never make more money again, ever, so the electrician seems like a fiscally sensible move if trying to take this on looks like probable death for a newbie like myself.

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Old 04-22-2013, 05:45 PM   #2
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I'd like to fix this old fluorescent sign-clock. And not die. Help?


That motor maybe 24VAC or 120VAC. So, plugging the wrong voltage into it can be a problem.

Try calling these folks
http://www.synchronizedclocksystems....r-replacement/
to see if they can help identify which voltage you have.

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Old 04-23-2013, 06:52 AM   #3
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I'd like to fix this old fluorescent sign-clock. And not die. Help?


Done! Thanks.
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Old 04-23-2013, 09:42 AM   #4
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I'd like to fix this old fluorescent sign-clock. And not die. Help?


That synchron motor is almost 99% for sure 120 volt AC. I have at least twenty of them of different RPMs taken from all kinds of rotating things. The voltage should be stamped in the case along with the RPM and frequency. If it is 120 volts, wire it up to a cord and plug it in. It is not polarity sensitive so it makes no difference which wire is hot or neutral.

As for the lighting, it looks like you have HO (high output) sockets. How many lamps does it take? Once we know that, it'll be easy to explain how to get it to work again.

ON EDIT: After looking again, it looks like two lamps, though I can't tell how long they are. You can easily purchase a new two lamp/ 120 volt/ HO ballast if that one is toast, though it may be OK. You need a couple lamps to find out. You may also have to dig in a little deeper to figure out which wires you need to hook the ballast up if the colors aren't easily seen (black/ white). New HO sockets of the exact same design are still readily available too.

By the way... Nice project! There is no reason it can't be put back to perfect.

Last edited by al_smelter; 04-23-2013 at 09:50 AM.
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Old 04-23-2013, 10:19 AM   #5
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I'd like to fix this old fluorescent sign-clock. And not die. Help?


First let me say I'm a newbie when it comes to electricity so if the other guys(or gals) here tell you not to listen to the dumb blond, listen to them.

First, you can purchase clock mechanisms at craft stores etc. If you are not concerned with maintaining its "antique value", that might be the easiest route.

Then, if the fluorescent fixture, ballast etc., is more than you want to deal with, I'd consider gutting it and securing a rope light inside just to add illumination.
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Old 04-23-2013, 10:55 AM   #6
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I'd like to fix this old fluorescent sign-clock. And not die. Help?


Quote:
Originally Posted by al_smelter View Post
That synchron motor is almost 99% for sure 120 volt AC. I have at least twenty of them of different RPMs taken from all kinds of rotating things. The voltage should be stamped in the case along with the RPM and frequency.
Thanks, Al! As best I can tell, there's nothing stamped in the case that gives me a clear indication of the motor's specs. On the outside, under SYNCHRON, I have
(left) reads
2898373
PATENT
AND

and (right) reads
2237958
2237961
OTHERS

No stamping around the exterior, but I'll look again tonight.

If I decide to roll the dice and try a plug on it, what's the worst-case scenario if it wants 240 and I give it 120? Just... nothing, right? If it wants 240 I'd have to swap out the mechanism anyway.

Quote:
After looking again, it looks like two lamps, though I can't tell how long they are. You can easily purchase a new two lamp/ 120 volt/ HO ballast if that one is toast, though it may be OK. You need a couple lamps to find out. You may also have to dig in a little deeper to figure out which wires you need to hook the ballast up if the colors aren't easily seen (black/ white). New HO sockets of the exact same design are still readily available too.
Two 48" lamps. This is where I'm a complete numpty -- I don't know jack about any of this. I assume the ballast would be in that metal housing bolted to the side? Would any 48" lamps of the right diameter be adequate for testing?

Quote:
if the fluorescent fixture, ballast etc., is more than you want to deal with, I'd consider gutting it and securing a rope light inside just to add illumination.
Believe it or not, that hadn't even occurred to me. I'm not too worried about maintaining its historical integrity, so if things look like they might be more than I can handle on the repair side, I might take that way out. Thanks for the suggestion.
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Old 04-23-2013, 12:22 PM   #7
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I'd like to fix this old fluorescent sign-clock. And not die. Help?


Yes, the big metal box is the ballast. Though they are a bit foggy looking in the photo, I think you have HO (high output) lamp sockets. A "regular" florescent lamp has two pins on either end. An HO lamp has what looks more like a 'plug' on each end that fits the profile of the socket.

If they are HO, just some reading:

http://www.ecat.lighting.philips.com...890203305_na//

http://www.atlantalightbulbs.com/eca...ge=description

http://1000bulbs.com/category/f72t12...Fcud4Aodm3AAgg

HO lamps, sockets, and ballasts are not hard to find if you want it put back to original. However, they are quite bright, as an outdoor sign needs to be. If this is going inside for display, you can almost light the entire room with an HO fixture. It could be too much for just standing in the corner. Your call.

I wouldn't hesitate to fire up the clock motor on 120 volts. Worst case it goes poof, and you already have a link provided above for a new movement. Put your safety glasses on and plug it in.
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Old 04-23-2013, 11:26 PM   #8
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I'd like to fix this old fluorescent sign-clock. And not die. Help?


I just want to warn ya with the High output bulbs there are two verison the standard high output and the other verison is super high output.

The only way you can verify it is read the ballast info on the ballast itself if still readable.

Typically F48T12HO still avaibale but they are not cheap AFAIK I think about 10 Euros per bulbs and by the way when the light come up you may not like the ballast noise it will throw some humming sound if you don't like it you can swap for electronic ballast which it will be much quieter.

Most common HO ballast are useally wired for 120 or 277 volts ( you don't have to worry about this part too much due majorty of the clocks are useally wired for 120 volts. )

Many big box store will stock the F48T12HO's but make sure you do not get the wattmiser verison ( they will start harder and may not get full brightness as convetal HO bulbs is. if you can get a cold weather verison grab it they are never wattmiser at all )

Merci,
Marc

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