Help Seth Thomas 89 C

Bruce Winchester

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I have a Seth Thomas mantel clock that’s been in the family for a long time. My great grandfather owned a hardware store in a small town in California and sold these clocks at his store. This is one that he purchased for his home in 1915. It was handed down to my mother and she used it until it quit working 20 years ago.

She gave it to me, but I would like to get it working and give it back to her to enjoy for her remaining years. From handwritten notes on the case, it has been cleaned and oiled several times. The last time was 1963.

I discovered the flat steel pendulum rod hanger was cracked on one side. I replaced it with one I made from a .004” feeler gauge.

I put the clock in beat, but I can’t get it to keep running consistently. The escape wheel shaft has a lot of slop and the mating gear does too. I’ve attached two close ups of the escape wheel shaft and one picture of the pin gears. Those pins show a little wear, but I can’t feel any grooves. Seems like if the gear could be disassembled the pins could be turned around to provide a fresh surface. ?

From several hours of research, I’m guessing that it needs cleaned, rebushed, shafts polished, and a new main spring? The half-hour chime and the hour gong works fine, but I’d replace that spring too?

So here is where I need advice. Should I send it off to be rebuilt, or tackle it myself? I’m fairly skilled mechanically and have a mini-mill, lathe, and an assortment of hand tools. But I don’t want to screw up a family heirloom.

If I do send it off - Where would be the best place and how much would something like this cost?

The final picture is a wooden clock I built last year. It runs fine, but I just followed the plans. That is about the extent of my clock work knowledge, but it does show some of my capability.

So, should I dive in and fix it myself, or bail out and send it to a pro?

Thanks for your help.

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bruce linde

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it needs to be cleaned and serviced. it's filthy, and you can see that the pivot hole for the escape wheel is very worn and needs a new bushing (with perfectly round hole, not oval). you might want to send it out... those are not that hard for pros, but can be tricky for us non-pros....
 

Bruce Winchester

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Thanks, Bruce. Getting the bushing exactly centered is my big concern. And of course I'll have to buy the proper bushings and reamers.

I'm located in southern Ohio if anyone wants to recommend a good repair shop...
 

Dick Feldman

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Please accept this as my opinion. Many here will not agree.
The clock movement is probably suffering from low power due to friction as the result of wear. Obviously something needs to be done to the movement to make it run. The next question that arises is: How extensive should that repair/rebuild be? Someone may be able to install a couple of bushings and make the clock run again. That, however, may be short sighted and the repair may only be temporary. Springs, even with a 100 year old clock may not be an issue as they just do not go bad that often. Many clock repair people dwell on set springs, lack of lubrication and dirt as a reason a clock will not run. That is not necessarily valid.
The most common problem with old clocks is they are worn. They are worn due to a long period of running. Dirt, lack of oil and adjustment are not likely the root causes of failure. It is not wrong to clean, oil and adjust but those are primarily preventative measures and not curative. A dirty movement will normally run without lubrication if it is in good shape.
I contend that the wear in a clock movement is not limited to the worst, most visible places. Clock movements will wear throughout. As was stated, adding a few bushings to solve the worst wear may make the clock run but probably that will not be a long term cure. Many clock repair people will spend the time to disassemble a movement, clean the parts and only address part of the wear problem. Unfortunately they will charge the equivalent of doing a complete job.
There are many things involved with repairing/rebuilding a movement. Certain movements have weaknesses that should be cured after a hundred years of operation. The clock repair person with a lot of experience will recognize those weaknesses and solve those in the normal course of rebuilding/servicing the clock movement. Think, for instance, how many times the click assembly has operated in the last hundred years or so. The click is the little pawl that clicks when the clock is wound. Clicks are a very important part of the system. Should one fail, the clock can become dangerous.
You have asked some very valid questions. Because of the conditions, I do not believe the movement you have should be dealt with by an amateur. If you take the movement to someone, I would recommend you find the best qualified repair person rather than the cheapest. If the movement were mine, I would ask for a detailed written estimate before any work begins. With that, you can judge the quality of the work proposed and make a judgment on the price. If you have a choice of two repair people, the estimates will clearly tell a story.
I have said my piece.
I hope this has been of some benefit to you.
Best Regards,

Dick Feldman
 
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Bruce Winchester

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Thanks, Dick. I appreciate your perspective. I'm going to let a pro do this and pick up a cheap clock to satisfy my urge to tinker.
 

R. Croswell

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Bruce, perhaps the question that needs to be asked is are you planning to collect and repair other clocks, or is this the only clock you likely need to repair?

Your movement clearly needs some bushing work, and as you have noted, properly centering the bushings is critical. To do the job right will require certain tools as well as some practice and skill to do a good job. If this is the only clock you plan to service perhaps it would be better to send it for service. Depending on the rates where you live, expect the cost to be on the high side of $200. There can be quite a range from shop to shop. Dick's advice is good to get an estimate of what will be done an what it will cost.

It is correct that wear occurs through out the movement, but not necessarily at the same rate. The pivot hole at the escape wheel shown, and any other pivot hole that is visibly "pear shaped" or where you see the pivot dancing around when you turn the winding key backward and forward should be considered 100% worn out. Other pivot holes may be 50% worn out or 25% worn out. Then you must consider that there will be some wear on the pivots (the part that goes into the pivot hole). If a pivot is scored or rough it will need to be turned down and polished to an undersize that will then require the pivot hole to be bushed. It isn't unusual for a ST 89C to require at least a dozen bushings, often more to restore it to "good health". The "pin gears" are lantern pinions and the pins are trundles. If the trundles are deeply rutted they can and should be replaced. If you replace every worn part of a 100 year old clock you will have to replace every part of that clock, but that isn't really necessary if you only expect another 50 years before doing additional repairs. This being your own clock you need to ask how long do I expect the repaired clock to run before it will require attention again? Would you replace all four tires on your can if they still had 50% of their useful tread life left? Perhaps if you were planning to run a rally race, otherwise probably not.

RC
 

Bruce Winchester

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RC - Good questions. I like to tinker and would like to be able to bring a few old clocks back to life but I'm not going to get really serious about it. I don't want to be the guy who ruins the family clock so I'm going to send this out to a pro and see what it will take to get another 25-30 years out of it.
Thanks for your advice.
 

Dave T

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Considering things you've already done, it sounds to me like you could take this on. It would be a good learning experience and to have the satisfaction of doing it yourself.
The 89C might not be the easiest to start on, but it is a common movement and there are many folks here to guide you in the process.

If you don't want to do this as it's a family heirloom, get another old movement and tackle it.
 
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Bruce Winchester

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I think you're right, Dave. It would be more meaningful to me and my family if I did it myself. I watched a few videos on bushing replacement and I know that with one of those centering tools and my mini-mill I could get them installed accurately. I just need to get started and learn as I go.
 
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kinsler33

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Hand bushing will work. A mill is not necessary: buy a mainspring winder instead, though you can live without one on an open-spring clock. You'll also want to re-bush the verge pivots even if they look fairly tight. You can, with bushing wire, make your own bushings if you like. KWM and Bergeon press-ins didn't exist prior to about 1960, and they were slow to catch on. Take lots of photographs before and during disassembly. Polish the pivots. Bush loose holes and don't worry about the others. Test each wheel that you've rebushed. Expect to have a bit of an adventure getting the strike levers just right, but you'll do it.

But first, buy a few eBay 'for parts' movements that look sort of like yours and restore those to health. When you're done this one won't look all that formidable and you'll do a better job.

Mark Kinsler
 

shutterbug

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I think he meant he already has the mill, Mark ;) That will do the job well.
You'll also need some kind of spring winder and capture rings. You might be able to rig up your mill to act as a winder, but you'll still need the capture rings to get the mainsprings out. Keep us posted on your progress, and take lots of pictures before you start and as you take the movement apart. They will come in handy when reassembling it.
 

Bruce Winchester

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Yes, I have the mill and a lathe. I'll keep this thread updated as I go. I just bought a couple of cheap simple cuckoo clocks on ebay and will use those to gain some experience.

Looks like I'll have to build a spring winder and a system to polish pivots to start.
 

kinsler33

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The "Ollie Baker" style winder is the best deal. I polish pivots with Timesavers 'emery' buffs: 1/0 (coarsest) through 6/0, which gives a mirror finish.


And that's about all you need.

Mark Kinsler
 

shutterbug

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Your mill will also be useful for polishing pivots. A bit more clumsy than a lathe, but doable :)
 

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