Gilbert mantel clock movement servicing

Let me say that I am not a huge fan of clocks with steel plates. Although most have brass bushing inserts punched into the steel, I am always fearful that there is not enough brass in the insert to prevent cutting into the steel plate and ruining a cutter. But in this case, my worries were unfounded and this clock presented no such headaches.

The mahogany tinted case shows well

The movement is stamped 17 which was Gilbert’s way of identifying the year the movement was made, which in this case is 1917. The case design is somewhat reminiscent of clocks made in the early 1920s but Gilbert no doubt made a run of these movements and put them into various clocks some years after the Great War.

Not a lot of dirt and grime

It is a time and strike with a passing strike on a bell on the half-hour.

I was not really looking for a mantel clock but I saw it online during the summer of 2021 and I thought it would be a good summer cottage project to keep me busy. I didn’t have the right tools for bushing work so I cleaned the case, replaced a broken hour hand, inspected it for wear, oiled it, and ran it through the summer.

It certainly needed cleaning but a month of running would do no appreciable harm. It was reliable and it kept reasonably good time, or as reasonable as one could expect of American clocks of this period.

Plenty of levers and helper springs

It looks like one of those clocks that had a few years of running, was disassembled and cleaned at least once but spent most of its life sitting prettily on a shelf.

There are a number of scratch marks on the movement which tells me that it has been worked on before. No bushing work was done but I see punch marks around the escape wheel bushing rear plate and that’s about it.

Pivots and lantern pinions are all in great shape

There is minimal wear; the lantern pinions are in very good shape as are all the pivots. As for bushing work, based on my initial assessment at least 4 bushings are required; second wheel strike-side backplate; third wheel time-side backplate; second, third, and fourth wheel strike-side rear plate. But, the wear is consistent with a clock that has reasonably good care during its life. There was plenty of brass material for the inserts and bushing went easily.

The movement has more than its fair share of helper springs, two in the upper part of the movement for the striking levers and two in the bottom, one for the half-hour strike on a bell and one for the hour strike. Getting all these helper springs to wrap around their respective posts is frustrating but doable although it is probably helpful attaching the lower springs while assembling the movement rather than wrestle with the springs after the movement is put together.

I have worked on a few Gilbert time and strike movements over the years and this one was no different. It is midway through the second 8-day test cycle and running well.

Other than some new bushings and a replacement hour hand, that is all there is to it.

I like this clock. It has simple lines, looks good and I think I will keep it.


2 thoughts on “Gilbert mantel clock movement servicing

  1. For me that is definitely a ‘keeper’ purely on the basis of its design simplicity and cleanliness!

    Couple of points – one a question, the other an observation.

    The question – how do you judge whether it is time to replace the mainsprings on clocks like this?

    The observation – the siting of the winding holes in relation to the dial, as so often is the case, is unfortunate, eating as it does so heavily into the 4 and 8. I appreciate that the movement is a standard movement to fit any number of dials and cases. But it does seem odd that, at the time, nobody worked a way around it.

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    1. Hugh, If I were in the business of clock repair I would certainly make a regular practice of replacing mainsprings as it is expected by the customer but because I am not, I rarely do. If the movement has been cleaned, bushing work done (if required) depthing and end-shake are good, the mainsprings are properly cleaned, wear items addressed, the movement is oiled correctly, it really does not take a lot of power to run a movement. I have 8-day movements that have run 10 days and more. I also find the quality of the steel then is superior to mainsprings today. In the old days, mainsprings were more powerful than they needed to be because manufacturers knew that many clocks would not be cared for and with powerful mainsprings, it is easier to power through the accumulated dirt and grime. To me, exceptions are broken springs, badly worn end connection points, badly pitted or rusted ones, and ones that are very set.

      Your observation. Many of these movements were made for larger dials that eliminate the problem of the winding holes cutting into the numbers. I suppose it would have meant redesigning movements for mantel clock cases but that would not have been cost-effective for the manufacturer. Every German mantel clock I have has winding holes well clear of the 4 and 8, but the movements are much smaller. I don’t really have an answer except to say that American manufacturers did not seem to consider it a high priority.

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