Sperry and Shaw 4 column clock back on the bench

The turned 4 columns of the New York style Sperry and Shaw clock drew my attention because it is so unlike many of the 30-hour shelf clocks of the time.

This clock was made between 1844 and 1851 when Henry Sperry and George Shaw were in the clock business together.

Sperry and Shaw label

The label, which is in superb condition, and affixed to the backboard says 10 Courtlandt Street, the company headquarters at the time. Sperry and Shaw were not clock-makers but business partners and were regarded as distributors and assemblers or as Carl Drepperd in “American Clocks and Clockmakers” put it, “apparently clock racketeers” as they sold clocks with fake labels. Who actually made the 4 column clocks? I ‘ll leave that to the horological history sleuths.

Sperry & Shaw 4 column clock
Sperry & Shaw 4 column clock

The company sourced cases and movements, affixed their own stamp on the movement and placed their labels sometimes overpasteing other makers, inside the case, clearly an unethical practice.

Weight channels on either side of movement

The movement is Jerome-like and stamped Sperry and Shaw, New Jersey. The plates are thinner than a Jerome, evidently a cost cutting measure. The hands are not original, nor is the dial though both appear to be period correct. The lower tablet contains an engraved copy of the Bay of Quinte (Ontario), there to replace the original reverse painted glass.

An interesting feature is the narrow brick-shaped wafer weights (4 3/4 inches X 1 inch) that fit neatly into channels on the left and right with little room to spare. The strike side weight is only slightly lighter than the time side.

Sperry and Shaw 30-hour movement
Sperry and Shaw 30-hour movement

Service history

In January, 2019 the movement was disassembled and cleaned. All the parts were in good order.

The movement had been serviced perhaps more than once since there were punch marks around almost every pivot hole. Curiously there is only one replacement bushing on the escape wheel bridge, a later repair. Three or four pivots holes were slightly enlarged but not so much that they had to be done immediately. So, no bushing work at that time. I did not make any notes at the time regarding bushing wear but I suspect most of it is on the strike side.

The movement was re-assembled. The dial and hands were re-attached along with new braided nylon weight cords. After several days of testing the clock was running well.

May 2021

I have not been running this clock much in the past several months but I decided to wind both sides to see if everything was in order. As much as I love 30-hour clocks they are a hassle to keep running as they must be wound every day. Many years ago owners took this in stride as 8 day clocks were costlier.

The time side is now stopping after 5 minutes. At first I thought it might be a wear issue until I discovered the weight cord had, for whatever reason, slipped off the pully on the top of the case. It must have slipped off when I moved the clock recently. I repositioned the cable and ran the time side for a few hours just to be sure.

The other problem is the strike side. Lately the strike side has been running erratically. It either strikes the hour or runs continuously until the weight hits the bottom of the case.

The strike side needs an adjustment but there may be other issues. I won’t know until I take the movement apart. Once I have it apart I will address the wear issues I noted in 2019.

Disassembly

The movement was taken out of its case. The four retaining pins were removed and top plate taken off. After 3 years the movement is clean but the clock oil in the pivot holes is black.

I inspected the movement for wear. The lantern pinions have some wear but no more than I saw in 2019 and I have seen far worse in other 30-hour movements. As mentioned there had been a lot of punches around the pivot holes and from my inspection some bushings are now required. The ratchets and clicks look good and the gear teeth are in fine shape.

Sperry and Shaw 30-hour movement tested in the case
Sperry and Shaw 30-hour movement tested in the case

Bushing work

Three bushings are required; the time side second wheel front plate and the strike-side mainwheel and second wheel back plate. There is certainly wear on other pivot holes but not enough to justify more bushing work at this time. However, if this was a customer clock I likely would have bushed every pivot hole.

I did not like how bent and twisted the movement plates are. I am not sure whether this is the result of poor quality brass or the rough manipulation of the plates by a past repairer as they went about punching most of the pivot holes. I straightened the worst section so that I could have sufficient end shake for one gear but left the remainder of the plates as-is.

Reassembly and testing

These movements are relatively easy to reassemble. While everything went smoothly the strike side is still giving me grief and is no better than when I began.

However this time it is a simple adjustment issue. There is no need to take the movement out of the case to make the changes. I could see that the count and drop levers were not synchronized. The drop lever should be deep in the cam slot at the same time the count lever is in one of the deep slots of the count wheel. I slid the count wheel over to one side and repositioned it. The paddle should also be radial to the count wheel. I had to bent the paddle slightly to ensure that it pointed directly at the wheel hub.

These were subtle changes but made the difference between a working and non-working strike side. After 4 days of testing the dial and hands were reinstalled and the clock placed back on its shelf.

Sperry and Shaw 30 hour clock

It bears repeating that if you are just beginning your journey into clock repair, the 30-hour ogee, because of the large gears, the overall simplicity and the absence of mainsprings make this a great place to start. I love working on them.


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