Fortunate Find: Tall Case Clock with Wooden Movement

taroy1

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Dec 4, 2012
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I have been very fortunate and am excited about inheriting a beautiful tall case clock with a wooden movement. I am a semi-accomplished woodworker and am comfortable with the proper restoration techniques to repair some damage to the clock’s hood. However, I hope to tap into the wealth of knowledge here to answer a few questions about the wooden movement and to aid me in its restoration. I’ve acquired John Tope’s DVD series on repairing wooden movements and found the techniques therein to be well within my abilities.

My father recently found the clock in an elderly cousin’s attic as they were emptying the contents of the house. He acquired a family photograph from 1967 with the clock in the background of their living room. A repair tag dated 1949 was still attached to the bell with the family’s name and address on it. My father was told by the cousin that the clock was returned from the repair shop without repairs being done. So, there it sat in their attic for several decades.

On the dial is “S. Thomas, Plymouth”. Otherwise, there are no other markings on any other part of the cabinet, dial, or movement. With that information and the fact that it has a wooden movement, am I right that this is likely a 180-200 year old piece?

I’ve included several numbered photos to highlight some of my specific questions.

01.jpg 02.jpg 03.jpg 04.jpg 05.jpg 06.jpg 07.jpg 08.jpg 09.jpg 10.jpg 11.jpg 12.jpg 13.jpg 14.jpg

#5 - This photo shows that there is a false-bottom at the base of the cabinet’s waste that I was able to lift up via a leather tab. Was this a typical feature of tall case clocks and what was its purpose?

#6 - The dial is badly deteriorated with much of the paint completely missing while the gold highlights around the corners are raised like an embossed wedding invitation. This is the part of the restoration project that I am least comfortable with and could use any advice you may have. Shall I leave it as-is to avoid devaluing it? Shall I try to acquire a replacement? Shall I send it to a skilled dial restoration craftsman to repaint and reink it?

#7 - The hands are wavy and bent and are made of a soft metal. Perhaps they are pewter? The black finish has flaked off at the worst of the bends. I would rather not replace them. So, is there a recommended way to restore their shape while reducing the risk of damaging them? How should they be refinished once their shape is restored? The thought of standard satin black spray paint doesn’t sound in keeping with what would be proper.

#8 - The second hand in the upper left of this photo is in pretty good shape though it looks to have been repainted black. I can’t identify the small piece of spring steel at the top of the photo, though, it looks to be broken and may not have come from the clock in the first place. Likewise, I cannot identify the purpose of the larger piece made of bent wire at the right of the photo. The crank at the lower left does not appear to go with this clock. The pendulum bob is missing the long rod from which it hangs. Would that have been a rigid metal or wooden rod and, if so, how do I go about replacing that or making one and how do I determine its proper length?

#9 - The weights are cast metal rather than tin cans. The smaller one is about 3 lbs while the larger is upwards of 8 lbs. Might these weights not be original or too heavy for the wooden movement? If so, what would be proper? Also, on which side does the larger weight go?

#10 - Can you identify the style or manufacturer of this particular wooden movement? To me, it most resembles a Silas Hoadley 30 hour movement according to this page on Donald Bruno’s website. http://www.torringtonclockco.com/movement.html

#12 - Though this movement most resembles the one pictured on Don’s website, it has an additional component at the lower left of the photo that I cannot identify or determine its purpose. The wooden body of the component rotates on a metal shaft and has two protruding rods, one of which engages the small pin on the hour hand’s gear wheel. Do you know what this component does or if it is installed incorrectly? Perhaps it is involved somehow with driving the missing day-of-the-month hand?

#13 - The left side of this photo shows a better view of the mystery component from #12. On the right is the gear that drives the hour hand and is the only gear in the whole movement with damaged teeth. You can see that someone in the past already repaired one section of damaged teeth while the other side was never completed. What are your feelings about using epoxy to cast new teeth as described in John Tope’s DVD series as opposed to replacing them with an all wooden repair?

Lastly, can you direct me to some good online sources for parts such as weight cords and a day-of-the-month hand?


Thanks so much for your invaluable input. I hope to chronicle my progress here along the way.

-Troy
 

laumeg

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Jan 22, 2011
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Hi, Nice clock. Not the expert here, but will share my observations. Since the face is Seth Thomas there is no reason to think that the movement is other than Seth Thomas, unless the face and mounting plate show evidence of a replacement. The holes in the face would indicate it had a second hand and probably a date hand. The face needs to be restored, not replaced. The key and I suspect the bob are not original to the movement. Both are more consistent with a shelf clock. The weights are also seen on shelf clocks, the large 8lb is used on 8 day clocks and the small one on 30hr shelf clocks. I do not know if they were also used on the tall case clocks. Given the name Seth Thomas and wood works I would place a date of about 1840. Charles
 

LMBOYD

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Dec 25, 2010
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I would say this tall case wooden works movement probably dates from 1810-1820 or earlier. These clocks pre-date the pillar and scroll and column and splat shelf clocks shelf clocks.

It has two pull down weights rather than key wound. The weights were often tin cylinders capped with wood and filled with sand. You can find reproductions.

The hands were most likely pewter. Reproductions are available.

The upper hole in the dial is for the seconds hand. It would have a seconds pendulum usually of wire rather than wood.

The mystery part with the two lifting pins is for the 31 day calendar. The pin on the hour wheel lifts one of the levers every 12 hours. The other lever drivers a bar (or spring). The bar (that is basically horizontal) drives the calendar wheel. The arbor for the calendar dial is directly below the middle hole. The bar drives the wheel in a ratcheting motion. A return spring returns the bar to it original position after each click. The calendar wheel was probably brass.

I would use old wood to repair the teeth rather than some other method.

In Brooks Palmer's Treasurey of American Cocks there is a complete photo layout of this type of movement.
 

taroy1

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Dec 4, 2012
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Herndon, Virginia
Thanks, LMBOYD. That information is greatly appreciated, especially the insight into the mystery of the calendar mechanism. I speculated that the calendar wheel was supposed to be actuated by the hour wheel since it has 62 teeth. I will need to find or reproduce the bar and I found a little more information about it on this thread: https://mb.nawcc.org/showthread.php?76716-Wooden-clock-winding-procedure

I will look for a set of original weights or reproductions of the correct size in addition to tassel weights.

Now that I know that the pendulum should be of wire, any hints on how log it should be? After I acquire a replacement, I expect that I will have to experiment with its final length to achieve accurate time.
 

LMBOYD

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Dec 25, 2010
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The length of the pendulum would be approximately 39 1/8 inches (39.14 from a look-up table). As you said you will have to do some experimenting.
 

taroy1

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Dec 4, 2012
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Herndon, Virginia

Mr. Bill

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Jun 22, 2013
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I came across a similar wooden clock movement at a garage sale. Just got the movement. Trying to identify. I'm new to this site and would like to post a picture.
 

Peter A. Nunes

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Looks like a nice clock, despite the damage and changes that have accrued over the years. Don Bruno (you have already found his web site) can repair or replace teeth and gears that are damaged. He also has suspension rods and calendar components, all for a very reasonable price. You are correct in assuming the weights aren't correct. Don can supply reproductions, and Merritt's sells empty weight shells of the correct type. Original sets show up on eBay frequently, and that's the way to go, really. The movement, once restored, will run on very little weight- 2-3 pounds on the strike side, and 3-4 pounds (sometimes less) in the time side. The dial can be properly restored for a modest cost- please send me a p.m. and I can give you a referral.

Seth Thomas, along with Silas Hoadley, worked on the Porter Contract with Eli Terry, later buying his factory and jigs and fixtures. They operated as partners (Thomas & Hoadley) until 1813, when they went their separate ways. Hoadley went on to become arguably the largest producer of these movements. Seth Thomas continued with them for a few years, then went on to shelf clocks and eventual great fame and fortune- Plymouth, Connecticut was re-named Thomaston in his honor.

We are currently doing a small research project on wood tall case movements, and we would appreciate your input- please see the my previous post in this forum for details.
 

Peter A. Nunes

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I came across a similar wooden clock movement at a garage sale. Just got the movement. Trying to identify. I'm new to this site and would like to post a picture.
By all means, post some good, well lit pictures, and we may be able to help you with identification of the maker of your movement.
 

Peter A. Nunes

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As seen here, 149595.jpg I noticed the number 5 scrawled on the back of my dial in the upper left corner. As compared to these other examples of the same painted dial,

https://mb.nawcc.org/showthread.php?76716-Wooden-clock-winding-procedure&p=576442#post576442

and
https://mb.nawcc.org/showthread.php?25389-Post-your-Seth-Thomas-clocks-here&p=475645#post475645

each numbered 98 and 187, respectively, does this mean that mine is an earlier example in the same series?
Aside from Eli Terry's Porter Contract movements, no wooden tall case movements are known to have sequential production or serial numbers. Generally such numbers are batch numbers, probably used to keep track of runs of parts (dials, etc.)
 

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