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1904 Seth Thomas Clock Reconstruction

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Project by Bstrom posted 04-24-2021 02:06 AM 707 views 0 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This may not qualify as a legitimate project but I’ll post it for the sake of clock lovers like me. I bought this 1904 Seth Thomas School/Store clock locally for a mere $65, with the understanding that it was a 50/50 shot at rebuilding a working clock. (You can check them out on-site to a satisfactory degree if you know what to look for) As my second attempt at bringing a clock back to both cosmetic and mechanical life, the thrill is in the chase.

On this one, though, a complete deconstruction was undertaken to both repair and reconstruct the case and clean/lube the movement. To keep it period accurate, I even bought some hide glue at Woodcraft to honor this respected name brand. Thankfully, there was only a small amount of damage that could not be reconditioned, and it was located on the bottom which is not normally visible. I saved all the original nails to reuse in the buildup.

As a veneered clock, no sanding is advised, so I relied on Mineral Spirits to clean off the surfaces, which turned out to be in very good shape. All the ‘joints’ required sanding off the old hide glue to get them to fit together well. I won’t give myself high marks for craftsmanship on this since you have little chance of achieving perfection at this point. The little ‘drop’ door was literally in pieces and other gaps moved me to pull it all apart and do a reconstruct, fixing anything else that needed attention.

The movement was cleaned in ultrasonic solution, minus the machine, and brought it back into working condition. The metal face plate had been warped from rough handling and responded to manual rebending to a flat enough shape to mount well into its bezel. The glass door was in excellent shape and needed nothing.

‘Finish’ was nothing more than Dark Walnut Restor-A-Finish, which adds little color but fills in wherever scratches and bare wood areas are exposed. It adds enough of a varnish finish to provide a completed appearance, and when rubbed down a bit looks rather original if you don’t put on too many coats. A generous application of Howards citrus/beeswax polish finished it off.

I managed to finish it in two weeks with intermittent attention waiting on glue to dry, etc. Listening to it tick-tock each day is a grand reward when you succeed.

-- Bstrom





12 comments so far

View pottz's profile

pottz

20657 posts in 2226 days


#1 posted 04-24-2021 03:44 AM

kudos bstrom you did an incredible job giving that old time piece a new life.she’s a grand old lady and with your help should give another 100+ years.nice work.

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View LittleBlackDuck's profile

LittleBlackDuck

8097 posts in 2062 days


#2 posted 04-24-2021 06:14 AM

Cool facelift Bstrom.

Bet that 12:16:45pm looked the same at 12:16:45pm all those 217 years ago… maybe even in the am if the lights were on.

-- If your first cut is too short... Take the second cut from the longer end... LBD

View pottz's profile

pottz

20657 posts in 2226 days


#3 posted 04-24-2021 06:16 AM



Cool facelift Bstrom.

Bet that 12:16:45pm looked the same at 12:16:45pm all those 217 years ago… maybe even in the am if the lights were on.

- LittleBlackDuck


your time is off duckie,try 117 years ago?

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View LittleBlackDuck's profile

LittleBlackDuck

8097 posts in 2062 days


#4 posted 04-24-2021 06:54 AM

Cool facelift Bstrom.

Bet that 12:16:45pm looked the same at 12:16:45pm all those 217 years ago… maybe even in the am if the lights were on.

- LittleBlackDuck

your time is off duckie,try 117 years ago?

- pottz


Nah… It was finally sold in 1904… however, built in 1804… check out the fine print on that oil bottle… probably printed by an insurance broker.
And if you don’t believe that… then I’m calculating your 100+ years in the equation.

-- If your first cut is too short... Take the second cut from the longer end... LBD

View recycle1943's profile

recycle1943

5850 posts in 2864 days


#5 posted 04-24-2021 09:45 AM

That’s a great save -

-- Dick, Malvern Ohio - my biggest fear is that when I die, my wife sells my toys for what I told her I paid for them

View Bstrom's profile

Bstrom

360 posts in 415 days


#6 posted 04-24-2021 11:24 AM

Thanks everybody – glad to see an interest in this category of woodwork I’m receiving another clock next week that is unidentifiable for now but will get the same treatment if needed – at least a movement cleaning and relive. I keep these little investments under $100 to avoid any losses, but you always have the option to mount a modern quartz movement if all else fails.

-- Bstrom

View LesB's profile

LesB

3092 posts in 4685 days


#7 posted 04-24-2021 04:14 PM

Great save for an old clock.

It would be a shame to put a quarts movement in one of these old case. Replacement mechanical movements are available, both old and new.

I was given a time only movement (like the one in your clock) by a clock collecting friend. After years stored a drawer I made a cabinet of my own design for it because I could not determine what type of case it was in originally. I has a 15” pendulum drop (center to center). It is marked Seth Thomas #12 on the front plate. It ran for 10 years but now needs repair.

Worn movements can be repaired but clockmakers time can be expensive. Usually it involved drilling out the old pivot points and installing a pressed in new pivot.

Mechanical movements should be cleaned and re-oiled every 3 to 5 years. Be sure to use an oil made for clocks. It has a low volatility to reduce evaporation. They use to use whale oil but now synthetics are used.

-- Les B, Oregon

View sras's profile

sras

6345 posts in 4371 days


#8 posted 04-24-2021 04:22 PM

Nice save!

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View Phil32's profile

Phil32

1586 posts in 1145 days


#9 posted 04-24-2021 06:56 PM

I have a number of old mechanical clocks. As noted, the mechanisms are often replaceable or repairable. Often the original cases were cheaply made. Sometimes the back panels have a nice figured veneer while the structural parts are cheap soft wood.
You’ve done a nice job on the school/shop clock – an interesting discussion piece.

-- You know, this site doesn't require woodworking skills, but you should know how to write.

View Bstrom's profile

Bstrom

360 posts in 415 days


#10 posted 04-24-2021 10:25 PM



Great save for an old clock.

It would be a shame to put a quarts movement in one of these old case. Replacement mechanical movements are available, both old and new.

I was given a time only movement (like the one in your clock) by a clock collecting friend. After years stored a drawer I made a cabinet of my own design for it because I could not determine what type of case it was in originally. I has a 15” pendulum drop (center to center). It is marked Seth Thomas #12 on the front plate. It ran for 10 years but now needs repair.

Worn movements can be repaired but clockmakers time can be expensive. Usually it involved drilling out the old pivot points and installing a pressed in new pivot.

Mechanical movements should be cleaned and re-oiled every 3 to 5 years. Be sure to use an oil made for clocks. It has a low volatility to reduce evaporation. They use to use whale oil but now synthetics are used.

- LesB


This is exactly what I face in attempting to restore these clocks. Surprisingly, all mine have returned to service after a cleaning and lubing. Movements are expensive and time repairmen are bth expensive and hard to get work out of. I scored a couple NOS Hermle movement with Westminster chimes and the appropriate chime bars that go with them – one is a pendulum, one is a balance wheel. The balance wheel will go into a grandmother clock case I bought. The pendulum movement will go into an original design I make. This can be an expensive hobby if you go far enough with it. I’m trying to stay in the rescue phase and keep it affordable.

I’m into the resurrection phase of this 1850’s era alarm clock – it will need the pendulum (buyer is sending it separately) to determine if it will really run, etc. I’ve repaired the case (it fell apart in places) and got a new piece of glass. I’ll know what I’ve got soon…

-- Bstrom

View Madmark2's profile

Madmark2

3096 posts in 1830 days


#11 posted 04-24-2021 11:22 PM

Great work. I had a walnut 7-day office clock that ran for years. It had this wonderful old musty smell when you opened the case for winding. I lost it in a move years ago. I see ones like it in old movies.

Love you’re breathing new life into old beauty.

-- The hump with the stump and the pump!

View Bstrom's profile

Bstrom

360 posts in 415 days


#12 posted 04-26-2021 09:17 PM

Thought you’d like to see some of the other clocks I’ve acquired.

Left to right:
Sessions Beehive – c1930’s likely
c1850 Alarm Clock – required some case regluing repair, some cosmetic ‘tweaks’ and light refinishing. Removed, cleaned and lubed the movement.
Ingraham Belfry – also early 20th century – running just as I bought it

-- Bstrom

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