Searching for a donor movement pays off

Last summer (2015) I bought a Blackforest time-only shelf clock for $10 at a small antique store in Kazabazua, Quebec which you see pictured below. To be fair it did not look like this when I bought it. It was quite beaten up and a case refresh was sorely needed which included stripping and re-staining.

RS together but not working (2)
Blackforest shelf clock #1

It’s a relatively simple 8-day time-only movement commonly known as a “plate clock” movement. To avoid any confusion let me say this shelf clock is Canadian made by the Blackforest Clock Company of Toronto (known as the Forestville Clock Company after the second war). The movement is likely German; the clock was made in the mid 1930’s when Canadian companies imported German movements for a variety of mantel and long case clocks.

Despite my best efforts I could not get Blackforest shelf clock #1 to run reliably. It would typically run 5-10 minutes and stop. The movement had a couple of bad teeth on the escape wheel; not an easy fix and I assume the source of the stoppage. I decided that I would wait until I found a donor movement to scavenge any parts I needed so I put #1 aside.

I scoured the net looking for an identical movement. I found one from a clock parts company in Ontario but sadly the company, despite having an online presence, was no longer in business. My numerous emails were not answered. I was getting a little discouraged until February 2016 when my wife and I were making our regular pilgrimage to a popular antique store in Great Village, Nova Scotia. I came upon Blackforest shelf clock #2, a clock not much different from the one I found in 2015 but more importantly it had an identical movement. I particularly like this one because it commemorates King George VI and Queen Elizabeth’s Royal Visit in 1939 (the coronation was in May 1937) making this vintage clock almost 78 years old.

RS shelf clock number 2 (12)
Royal Visit to Canada1937
RS Refinished case (7)
Blackforest shelf clock #2 circa 1938-39

No problem I thought. Between the two of them I should get one clock running reliably. I paid $20.00 for the newer one with a total of $30.00 for two clocks; a minimal outlay for the total project.

Blackforest shelf clock #2 ran for a while but I could not get it to run much past two days without it stopping. The sudden stop seemed like a power issue or perhaps it was just plain gummed up and dirty. A thorough cleaning was one solution to the stoppage. This was also a good opportunity to decide which clock was worth salvaging. In the end the newer one won out. However, two parts had to come from the older movement, the pendulum bob (the newer one had a cracked bob) and the spring / click / ratchet assembly which I will now discuss further.

Blackforest shelf clock #2 had a partially stripped ratchet (see photo with white arrow) which I thought was rather unusual; not very surprising since brass is a very soft metal and does not stand up to much abuse, a product of rough treatment in the past I suspect. While winding it I could feel the click slipping on the ratchet and feared that it would let go if I was not careful enough. This critical issue could have led to a unpleasant outcome at some point in the future so I determined that it was only prudent to replace the spring / click / ratchet assembly.

RS Blackforest mantel clock (63)
White arrow is pointing to a stripped ratchet
Pendulum assembly with rotating bob adjustment
Spring barrel
Open spring barrel, ratchet and click assembly
clock gears
Gears assembled on the front plate

The two replacement parts fit perfectly. Now for a thorough cleaning. All the parts were put into an ultrasonic cleaner, dried, inspected and polished. The pivots were inspected and polished. The pivot holes which were in very good condition were pegged out and once re-assembled the movement was oiled and briefly tested. As any clock enthusiast who has had experience with time-only movements, they are certainly the easiest to work on.

The final step is the long-term testing phase to see how it runs on a full wind.

Postscript: five days later there is no stoppage. It will take a little longer to regulate the clock but so far so good.

Blackforest shelf clock #2 now has a replacement spring, click and ratchet as well as a new pendulum bob. Does it make it original? Considering that it has parts from a clock that was likely made at the same time it is original enough as far as I am concerned.