How To Restore an Antique Clock

 

walnutsClock restoration is well within the means of every craftsman. Old clock cases suffering from neglectful ownership can be found in attics and antique shops everywhere. Most of them have been discarded because the movement failed, but that is a matter easily remedied by the installation of a modern electric movement. The cases usually are scarred, and the wood grain is obscured, but that too is redeemable.

Old clock cases generally were constructed of the better types of wood and were made by skilled craftsmen who built permanence into their creations. Age and neglect may have left their marks on the case, but these marks usually can be removed by the simple process of refinishing.

Preparation of the case for refinishing will require the removal of any items such as doors, glass panels and the clock face. The hinges attaching the door to the case should be removed from both the door and the case so that they will not interfere with the removal of the old finish.


Before attempt is made to remove the clock face, it will be necessary to lift off the hands of the clock. There are three methods that have been used to secure the minute hand to the shaft. The shaft may have a small nut run on it, or it may have a pin that passes through the shaft to hold a spring washer over the hands. The third method of attaching the hands is by a friction collar on the hands themselves which extends under the hands. An examination of the shaft and hands will show which of these three methods was used. If the first method was used, the nut can be removed with pliers or a small socket wrench or open-end wrench. It should be turned in a counterclockwise direction. If it is necessary to hold the minute hand to keep it from revolving, the hand must be grasped as close to the shaft as possible so as to prevent the bending of the hand. After the nut has been removed, the hands can be pried off the shaft with a knife. If the hand is pinned on the shaft, the pin is removed by tapping one end lightly with a small hammer and then withdrawing the pin with pliers. Hands that are attached by means of friction collars can be removed by prying them off with a knife.

The face of the clock may be secured to the case with small screws or escutcheon pins. Screws are removed with a screwdriver while the escutcheon pins, if used, can be lifted with the edge of a sharp knife. Glass panels are usually secured to doors or frames -by means of small molding or strips of wood. Screws or nails may have been used to fasten the molding in the rabbets. On many clock cases, this molding was mitered at”the corners. In such an instance, extra care will have to be taken in removal of the strips, particularly if they are secured with nails or brads. To prevent breakage, a chisel or similar sharp tool should be worked down between the molding and the frame, at the center of the longest pieces. The molding, after being separated from the frame, is pushed back in place by hand. This action will force the nail out of the molding and permit its removal with pliers or a claw hammer. After the long strips have been removed, the shorter ones can be taken out without difficulty. Removal of the clock works, if found to be in running condition, should be done before attempt is made to refinish the case. In this ‘way the works is not subjected unnecessarily to dust caused by sanding. The removal of a few screws will permit the works to be lifted out as in Fig. 3.

The refinishing operation is started by removing all the old finish down to the original wood. A good varnish or paint remover that can be obtained at the local paint or hardware store will be found most satisfactory for this work. The remover is brushed on as shown in Fig. 2 and is allowed to remain until the finish shows signs of lifting or wrinkling, when it is scraped off with a putty knife. It may be necessary to repeat this operation two or three times to clean the case completely. This treatment is followed by rubbing down the wood with coarse steel wool. After the case has been given sufficient time to dry, the final operation of cleaning consists of sandpapering. No. 3/0 sandpaper should be used.

The next operation is that of restoring any veneers that may be lifted, damaged or missing. On clod~ cases having patches of veneer missing or damaged to a great extent, it will be necessary to repair the areas with veneer of the same type and texture that was originally used. This may require the removal and replacement of an entire panel. In this instance, the old veneer may be planed off and a new piece glued on. Old veneers that have lifted can be re-glued and clamped in place.

While the case is set aside to permit the glue to set, the work of restoring the clock face can be undertaken. The face can be cleaned, as in Fig. 4, with mild soap and a damp cloth. If the numerals or lettering on the face require it, they can be touched up with india ink and a pen as in Fig. 5.

The case should he given an application of paste wood filler shaded to match the color of the finish that is desired. This treatment is followed with an application of penetrating stain. After the stain has dried, several coats of white shellac or clear rubbing varnish should be applied as in Fig. 6; each coat when thoroughly dry should be rubbed down with fine steel wool such as No. 00. After the final coat has been rubbed, a coat of wax applied and brought to a polish will complete the work.

The clock works that is to be installed may be that of an electric clock, such as the one shown in Fig. 7 which was obtained from a kitchen clock whose case had broken. It may also be possible to pick up the works from some local source. The hands of this clock are removed in the manner previously outlined. The works can be removed by taking out the screws that hold this unit in place. See Fig. 8. In the clock shown in the photograph, the face of the replacement clock movement was used in order to cover the center opening which appeared in the original clock face.

Mounting of the new movement in the case, or to the clock face, will depend on several factors. If the shaft are long enough or if blocking can be installed in the clock case to carry it, the movement may be mounted to the clock case. As shown in Figs. 9 and 11, this movement was attached to the small clock face by soldering nuts on the back and by using machine screws to attach the movement to the small face. The small face with the movement in place was in turn attached to the large clock face with short wood screws. Setting the hands on the shafts as in Fig. 10 will complete this portion of the work. The sweep second hand on the electric movement may be installed, although some craftsmen might prefer to omit this hand to retain the antique effect of the old clock.

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