Seth Thomas #2 has stopped – cleaning and bushing work should put it right

Perhaps recognizable as one of the most common regulator clocks in America, the Seth Thomas Regulator #2 was found in many railway stations, offices. libraries and other public places across America during the last century, a testament to its accuracy and dependability. It is a robust, accurate, well-engineered, and dependable timepiece that was made by Seth Thomas from 1860 to 1950, a run of 90 remarkable years. Few clocks can claim that kind of longevity.

It is an iconic American clock and every serious clock collector wants one.

Seth Thomas Regulator #2
Seth Thomas Regulator #2

This particular clock was made between 1922 and 1929 and has a base reminiscent of the earlier 1860 version of the #2. It has Arabic numbers with spade hands. The bow-tie between the wood dial bezel and the drop is one piece while earlier versions had a 3-piece “bow-tie”. It has a seconds hand 2 inches above the center cannon. However, it is not a true seconds hand and runs off the escapement taking 80 beats to complete the “minute”. All but the earliest #2s had the pendulum mounted in the rear.

It is 36 ½ inches tall and veneered in mahogany. It has 77A stamped on the bottom right of the movement with the letter “K” underneath and has a small ST stamp near the middle of the front plate. Some versions of the 77 have lantern pinions while this has cut or leaf pinions.

Seth Thomas Regulator #2
Seth Thomas Regulator #2

It has stopped – it needs a cleaning and perhaps a bushing or two

Lately, the clock has been stopping intermittently. I would nudge the clock along and it would run 5-10 minutes at a time and stop. I replaced the suspension spring and all seemed good as the clock ran for a couple of weeks. I thought I had addressed the issue but it began to stop again!

I bought the clock three years ago. It was oiled shortly after I received it but it has not been serviced and now it is telling me that servicing is long overdue.

Seth Thomas #2 suspension spring
Seth Thomas #2 suspension spring, old on left

The movement is relatively simple in that it has 4 wheels. I disassembled the movement, pegged the pivot holes, and re-assembled it. There is wear but I have seen far worse in clocks that continue to run well. However, It appears that this movement does not tolerate wear.

Very disturbing are the aggressive, deep punch marks around most of the pivot holes. Punching around pivot holes to close them might have been an acceptable practice many years ago, but not today. The repair is crude and unprofessional.

Seth Thomas #2
Seth Thomas #2, aggressive punch marks around all four wheels on the backplate

The leaf pinions are in very good condition, wheel teeth look good and the verge has minimal wear.

Servicing the movement

In total up to 6 bushings are required.

I also discovered a slightly bent third-wheel arbour that did not take much effort to straighten.

Seth Thomas #2
Seth Thomas #2, very simple with just 4 wheels

Despite its apparent simplicity the parts are made to close tolerances and any wear has the potential to stop the clock. I don’t think this is a good movement for the novice clock repairer.

I installed three bushings on the backplate; the second, third wheels, and the escape wheel, and two on the front; third wheel, the escape wheel, and the verge pivot hole front plate.

Seth Thomas #2
Seth Thomas #2, minus the motion works

The movement is clean, shiny, and mounted in the case for testing and minus the motion works gears.

Seth Thomas #2
Seth Thomas #2, test phase; the second hand is on to give me a quick visual as I pass by the clock

Despite the fact that I have 4 movement test stands, none are appropriate for this movement because of the iron bracket onto which the movement and pendulum are mounted. I suppose I could probably adapt something. For now, into the case it goes for testing.

After three weeks the clock is running very well.

Seth Thomas #2
Seth Thomas #2

While the movement was out of the case I replaced both the maintaining power spring and the old cable with 3/64 inch brass weight cable. The brass cable has one feature I really like, a nylon core that prevents it from coiling. I also gave the pendulum bob and weight a polishing.

Cleaning and bushing work put the clock right. After the wear issues were addressed the clock not only runs better but  polishing the brass improves its appearance.