Servicing a Sessions American No. 2 mantel clock, Part I

Sessions American No. 2
Sessions American No. 2

I am going to take you, the reader, through the process I follow when servicing a clock. There will be several posts in this series. I am not a trained expert in clock repair, nor do I do this for profit and have learned most of what I know through trial and error, careful study and of course, listening to the advice of many experts and newfound friends on the forum site at NAWCC.

If you into clock collecting you’ve probably seen one of these mantel clocks at one time or another in your travels. Literally thousands were made. This attractive little mission styled oak-cased time and strike mantel clock is a Sessions “American No. 2” dating from 1921 according to Trans Sessions book, page 121.

When I opened the back access panel to service the movement I discovered an inscription which reads, “Jim A. Kennedy, Nov 3/63, a clear, cold nite”. One can only imagine that on that particular clear, cold night, Jim A. Kennedy was doing some work on this lovely clock. It does not say where Jim lived but Jim, wherever you are and if you are still with us, your clock lives on.

Although this clock has been running steadily since I acquired it about two years ago, the time is right to put it on the workbench. American made clocks like this tend to run on and on despite requiring much needed bushing work and this one is no exception, but now it needs some loving.

I took the movement out of it’s case and examined it closely. Fortunately it has not been botched by poor repairs over the years that one sees from time to time. Things looked good, no surprises. Although no bushings have been installed on the top (back) plate there were five bushings that were installed on the bottom (front) plate at some point in this clock’s life, perhaps on that cold, clear evening in November. My initial inspection reveals that there is wear in some pivot holes and that six bushings must be installed on the back plate and of the five previously installed bushings on the front plate, two need to be replaced and at least one new bushing is required on the pallet arbor.

Although the movement appears clean at first glance it really is very dirty. This is an example of the sludge (indicated by the arrow) that has built up in this particular pivot over the years. There are other such examples on this movement.

top plate showing a build-up of dirt around a pivot hole
Top plate showing a build-up of dirt around a pivot hole

Once I tear it down completely I will be able to determine the condition of the pivots and other moving parts. I intend to clean the entire clock and clean/oil the springs as well as replace/install the aforementioned bushings. My first impression is that the mainsprings are in good condition. The clock easily ran eight days on a wind. The clicks are another matter. At least one looks like it needs replacement. Sessions clocks are notorious for their bad clicks but to put things in perspective the clicks have been in this clock likely since it was made (or perhaps 1961).

Time and strike movement with single hammer strike on a coiled gong
Time and strike movement with single hammer strike on a coiled gong

The escape wheel teeth may need to be filed but I will determine if filing is required once I inspect it more thoroughly.

escape wheel tooth tips
Escape wheel tooth tips

Safety first. The first task other than taking the suspension spring/rod/bob off the movement is to secure the mainsprings using mainspring clamps that are available at any clock supply store. Mainsprings can be very dangerous and it is important to contain their power when working on a clock. I always wear eye protection and leather work gloves before I let the mainsprings down with a let down key. Once you’ve released the clock from the ratchet by moving the retaining spring out of the way, the power of the spring is transferred to the let down key which allows one to gently release it until it is contained in the C-clamp. After the springs are restrained you can safely disassemble the clock.

Let down key and C-clamp
Let down key and C-clamp


Movement on stands
Movement on stands

The clock is now ready to be disassembled. Tune into Part II where I will post photos of the complete disassembly stage and report on what further work needs to be done.

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