Forestville mantel clock servicing – not fun when things go wrong! Part I

Forestville mantel clock
Forestville mantel clock

This post is about a mantel clock made by the Forestville Clock Company of Canada and some challenges servicing the movement.

In 2013 we were on a visit to the Thousand Islands and stopped at an antique store in Gananoque, Ontario. As my wife and I were strolling through the store and she noticed this mantel clock made by the Forestville Clock Company of Toronto. Somewhat plain in style it seemed to be in great shape and it was exactly what we were looking for at the time.

History of the Blackforest Clock Co. and Forestville Clock Co. of Toronto

The Blackforest Clock Company of Toronto, Ontario was founded by Leopold and Sara Stossel in 1928.  Both clock movements and complete clocks were imported from Germany and sold through department and jewelry stores across Canada. Their son Ed Stossel started working part-time with his parents’ company in the 1930s and later became a full-time employee in the late 1940s.

Some assembly work was carried out in their Wellington Street East factory. Initially imported mantel clock and grandfather clock movements were installed in cases made in Kitchener (home of the Arthur Pequegnat Clock Company), but later the complete mantel clocks were imported from Germany. This arrangement was interrupted by the Second World War, which also led to a name change to the Forestville Clock Company in 1941.  During the war years, the company imported its clock movements from England, the United States, and France. However, starting in the mid-1950s German factories again became the source of most Forestville clocks, with Mauthe being a major supplier.

The Forestville Clock Company was very successful during the middle decades of the twentieth century. Its grandfather clock cases and some of the wall clock cases were made in Canada. Ed Stossel retired in 1979 and unfortunately, the company survived just a few more years without his leadership.

Most Blackforest and Forestville mantel clocks still have their paper labels tacked inside the back door. This one does not.

My Forestville mantel clock

This clock movement and case are imported from Germany in the 1960s. There is a serial number on the backplate but no database exists online to date this clock. I am thinking that the  movement is made by Mauthe

The pivots and bushings appear to be in good condition at first inspection. The clock keeps good time and there is a simple speed adjustment on the hairspring escapement to regulate the clock. This mantel clock is handsome, has good lines and reflects the style of the period.

Servicing the movement

After 7 years I have put off servicing the movement far too long. The rack and snail movement is relatively simple to work on with all the adjustment wheels, save the warning pin, on the outside. The mainspring barrels can be removed separately for servicing, common for movements of the 60s,

The hairspring escapement is something I will not attempt to clean. They can be finicky to work on and if the movement has been running beforehand, like this one, there is no pressing need to fool with it. It is well protected by a plastic shroud. Three screws unhook it from the movement.

While there is some wear on the time side I see at least 3 new bushings required, two on the front plate and one on the back.

Hairspring escapement

When working with German and French movements one must always be very careful of the delicate pivots. Normally when I work on these clocks I am aware of how easy it is to bend or break a pivot and this clock was no exception. However, I had the movement apart and was reinstalling the gears to determine bushing wear and went about repositioning the center gear when I noticed its centre cannon front plate pivot had sheared off.

Arrow indicates center wheel with broken pivot (strike barrel removed)

I was not even aware that I was putting undue pressure on the pivot as I was carefully guiding each pivot in place with a pivot locator. However, either I applied too much pressure or it was ready to go because I broke a pivot. To give a sense of how small it is, here it is beside a pair of tweezers.

Broken pivot

My experience with pivot repair is very limited. This is not like a broken or worn pivot on an American clock which is less challenging to repair because they are simply much bigger. This pivot is small, perhaps 0.5mm or so. Although I have bushings that size I do not have pivot wire that small and had to make do with a piece from my assortment of 0.85mm to 1.10mm wire.

Repairing a broken pivot, pivot wire is glued in place and left on the lathe overnight

I centred the arbour with a centring bit and then using a high-speed bit, drilled to about 4 or 5mm into the shaft, enough to anchor the pivot wire. Once the wire was inserted, I used high-strength Permatex Thread Locker Red to secure the wire which takes 24 hours to cure. The next day I installed a bushing in the front plate and put the gears back together to check the action of the new pivot. It is working okay. I was not convinced the repair would work but I will reserve judgment until the other 3 bushings on the time side are installed.

Can’t wait to find out if the repairs are successful? It’s a long wait but on November 25th, I will present the results.