Long ago, after I grew big enough to push a lawnmower, some of the first money earned from chores came from cutting my grandmother’s yard. My dad would drive us over to her house, and the two of them would sit on her front porch shooting the breeze after he started the mower for me. After I finished, we would go in the house, and Granny would open the door on the clock on her fireplace mantle, and pull two one-dollar bills out for me.
Over the years, I pieced together the clock’s story: Granny and my grandfather, who died before I was born, built their house around 1934, and he decided a clock he remembered sitting in his uncle’s barn would look good on the mantle. After retrieving the clock, he took it to a clockmaker who replaced the wooden clockwork with a brass movement. Since the inside of the clock, with its winding directions and assorted instructions, looked too austere for him, he cut the scenic view from a calendar and glued it over the clock paper. Lastly, the old movement was stuck in a kitchen ceiling cabinet.
Many years later when we moved Granny out of the house, I remembered the movement in the kitchen cabinet. Although I was happy to find it was indeed there, for whatever reason it had been stored in a shoebox completely disassembled. Everyone decided the only reason the movement was still there after ~48 years was that the 10 foot ceiling had effectively put the cabinet out of my five-foot tall grandmother’s reach.
Since I was just starting to tinker with clocks, the box of parts was left with a clockmaker for a consult. A few weeks later, he tells me at least one wheel is missing, and all the bushings (arbor bearings) are worn. Sensing his heart was not into getting the movement working again, I thanked him, and headed to the library (this was the ‘80s) to learn more about wooden clockworks.
At some point, I had peaked under the scenic view my grandfather glued in the clock, and noted the clock had been made by Silas Hoadley. After reading everything I could about him, and studying both pictures of his clock movements & clock theory in general, I was able to reassemble the apple-wood movement.
I believe what threw the clockmaker off track was that the count wheel was stuck on another wheel, and the combo appeared to be one part. Fortunately, no wheels were missing.
With the movement assembled, it was now obvious that the ivory bushings were indeed worn in an off-center oblong pattern. Between being unsure of what I was ultimately going to do with a working movement, and having no money, I opted to rotate the bushings 180 degrees to expose the unworn side. Afterwards, the entire works were then coated with boiled linseed oil as a protective coating.
Although this is a weight-driven movement, no weights were found in the shoebox. So pictures of the lead weights associated with other working movements were scaled & measured to determine how much weight was required for operation. The clockmaker was able to order both the weights, and catgut (to string the weights).
At this point, due to the pulleys necessary for stringing the catgut, it was easier to re-install the movement in its original home for the checkout instead of building a stand. Sorry for the poor quality pictures – they were taken over 30 years ago before I learned how to use a film camera correctly.
The wooden clockworks ended up working quite well. But between it only being a one-day movement, and the fact that the clock face had been modified for the 8-day brass movement’s winding holes, I opted re-install the brass movement, and acquire a new shoebox for the wooden movement.
Since then, the clock has been in my parents’ possession, and worked well until five or ten years ago when it stopped. Dad took it to an out-of-town clockmaker who probably did nothing more than clean and oil it because the clock only ran for a few months afterward. Exasperated, Dad decided to drop the subject.
Now, jump ahead to around a year ago. When we helped Dad down-size to an assisted living facility, the clock, which is now somewhere between 167 and 202 years old, made its way to my house.
Having maintained an interest in clocks, I tinkered with the clock a bit and got it running. But it did not sound quite right to me and would not consistently run for a solid week. Taking a hard look at the wear on the movement, I decided 80 years of service was reasonable, and it was best to just replace it at this point.
Back in the day, this particular brass movement, which was made by the Sessions Clock Company in Connecticut, was a popular movement for shelf clocks. But sadly, the company liquidated in 1969. Fortunately, clock repair parts houses still sell a new, eerily similar movement for a reasonable amount of money.
Although the shaft spacing dimensions were a perfect match, the suspension rod had to be sized to work with my existing pendulum.
After screwing the movement to the clock, it was noticed the striker wanted to hit the chime from the left instead of the right like the old one did. After modifying the chime to accommodate being struck from the opposite direction, the escapement arm was adjusted to attain an even beat.
A somewhat surprising difference between this no-name movement and the Sessions movement was that the hands were not interchangeable. It was not a show-stopper, though, because new hands came with the accessory kit purchased at the same time. The problem was that I did not care much for the look of the look of the new hands. Modifying the Sessions movement’s hands was not an option.
But after my wife fell in love with the wooden movement’s original metal hands, I figured out a non-destructive way of modifying them to work with the new brass movement.
So after letting the clock run for a couple of weeks while adjusting the pendulum for accurate timekeeping, the clock face was re-attached for I what figured would probably be twenty years.
Sadly, it wasn’t even 20 days before the chime spring assembly blew up during the start-of-week winding. Apparently, the click spring had been cut too short during fabrication to maintain a solid hold on the click. The best repair would be to install a new spring… which would require disassembling the movement.
To compound my annoyance, I found that the movement had decided to drip oil on the scenic view.
On the bright side it is only noticeable half the time (when the pendulum has not swung over it).
I emailed the supplier to see what relief they could offer. To my surprise, they apologized and said they would send a replacement unit out. And, there was no need to return the broken movement.
The replacement movement arrived a few days later. After noting that both click springs appeared to be up to the challenge, the movement was mounted on a wooden stand to run and drip excess oil.
It ran beautifully until the first time it chimed – Once it started chiming it would not stop. The movement had been assembled out of synch with itself. Once again, at least partial disassembly would be required to fix the problem.
This time I decided to fix it myself instead of contacting the supplier again. So, while I was at it, the first movement’s problem was addressed.
My blue toolbox of clock tools is now back in the closet. Hopefully, the next time I pull it out will be for a new project.