Gilbert Admiral calendar clock – servicing the movement and refreshing the case

Gilbert Admiral calendar clock ready for servicing

When I bought this clock I was not sure what I had. There is no label, no makers name on the dial and an unsigned movement. I thought, Gilbert or perhaps a Sessions? It did not take me long to find out that the clock is a No. 3027 Gilbert, otherwise known as the Admiral.

The original Maltese hands are stripped of bluing, the calendar hand stripped of red paint, a very tarnished brass bezel, a factory paper dial but the maker’s name is painted out on the bottom, not sure why! It has the original pendulum bob and what might be the winding key that came with the clock. Everything is there, no additional parts to source.

I was shocked that it (Permatex adhesive) worked so fast. I had a difficult time pulling it (the pinion) back out knowing that I only had a minute or so before it locked in place semi-permanently

Aside from the case which needed some TLC the principle issue is with the movement, specifically, the motion works. The centre pinion should be friction fit to the centre arbour and the larger gear just above should turn freely. The small pinion is cracked, loosened and has dropped down the shaft and, as a result, gears do not engage the cannon arbour, so they do not turn but as the shop owner said, the clock will run. Yes, it will run but it cannot tell the time!

Here is what it looked like when I pulled it out of the movement.

The two centre pinions, the smaller one is cracked and has lost its friction fit with the arbour
The parts of the centre arbour

Here is the cracked smaller centre pinion.

The crack is at the 11 o’clock position

Once disassembled I cleaned the parts in my ultrasonic cleaner and polished the pivots. Bushings required included the third and fourth wheel, front and back plates – 4 bushings in all. Two other pivot holes were iffy but not quite large enough to require a new bushing. All in all the movement was dirty and had not seen servicing in a while. The mainspring looked like a replacement, it was in very good condition and had plenty of life left. Once the bushings were installed I considered my options for the centre pinion.

First look at the time-only Gilbert movement with calendar function

There are several methods of remediation which include drilling through the arbour and installing a lower pin, soldering the pinion in place, cutting the gear with a jeweler’s saw and repairing the crack by inserting a thin piece of brass, then tightening the pinion with clamps to ensure a friction fit, securing a replacement pinion from a clock parts supplier and finally, using Locktite or similar thread-locking adhesive to fix the pinion in place without repairing the crack. Given that I spent very little on this clock, I chose the last option. I have Permatex permanent thread-locker Red, equivalent to Locktite Red which should work.

I began by coating the arbour with Permatex at the location of the gear, then coated the inside of the pinion thinking I could easily slide it on. It went few millimetres up the arbour and froze in place. I was shocked that it worked so fast. I had a difficult time pulling it back out knowing that I only had a minute or so before it locked in place semi-permanently. Once released I cleaned the inside of the smaller pinion. I was now able to push the pinion where I wanted it placed then add a couple drops of Permatex. The instructions say that it takes 20 minutes to set and 24 hours to cure. I waited the 24 hours before reassembling and testing the movement. (Thanks JC – it is the most cost-effective solution!)

The movement is on the test stand with hands attached. It is connected to a TimeTrax beat amplifier

Time-only movements are generally quite easy to work on but the calendar function adds complexity to an otherwise simple arrangement of gears.

Everything was going according to plan and during testing of the movement, I set about addressing the case.

I chose not to strip the finish as I wished to preserve some of the patina. As expected the case was very dirty but I was anxious to see what lay beneath the grime. I typically use a light coloured cloth to gauge my progress and when I was done with the cleaning it was quite darkened. Using Murphy’s Soap, an old toothbrush and a considerable amount of scrubbing here is the end result. The oak grain really pops. Once I was satisfied I had most of the dirt off the finish I applied several coats of shellac (shellac flakes and alcohol – 1 lb cut).

The oak grain should be visible

I painted the hands black, the calendar hand barn red and cleaned the brass bezel and inner dial ring.

I chose barn red as the paint for the calendar hand

Paper dials are difficult to clean so I left it as-is. Many Admiral dials are in far worse condition than this one.

I usually return a time-only movement to its case for testing but put the movement on the test stand for several days to confirm that the calendar mechanism functioned as it should, and it did. It was also an opportunity to regulate the movement. During the final assembly of the bezel and case, I replaced all the Robertson screws with slotted ones.

The Gilbert Admiral is fully serviced with a case refresh

Above is the final result; a running Gilbert Admiral 8-day time-only octagonal short drop circa 1901 model 3027, otherwise known as a schoolhouse clock with calendar.


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