Sunday, November 12, 2017

Brewster & Ingrahams Miniature Ogee - Before Photos and Case Repairs

This is a lovely little Brewster & Ingrahams miniature ogee clock that I had purchased as an empty case way back in May 2006. I was attracted to the lovely tablet and overall good condition. I eventually found a movement for it, but it still needs a dial.



I'm not sure how this happened, but there was a long and thin break along the edge of the top. This break is ACROSS the grain, so you can't easily patch this w/o it looking very strange.


The backboard was removed to make a few interior repairs.


The 3 arrows show new pieces. The clock was missing one dial block, and it had only 2 small cleats holding the ogee frame in place, so I added two more. Everything was glued in place with hide glue and painted/stained to match.


Sadly the label is largely missing, but there's just enough there to make out that it's Brewster & Ingrahams, and the printere's address is also still visible.



Here is the 30hr spring driven movement I was able to find for the clock. It needed restoration, but it's now in working condition again.



Here's the case "after". I did very little with the case, other than a few touch-ups, two teeny tiny corner veneer repairs, and a wax polish.






More on this project later.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

New Purchase - Williams, Orton, Preston's And Co. Wooden Works

Here's a beautiful clock that I purchased recently online. Do I need more clocks? No. But this one cost me less than the price to ship it here, so I couldn't resist.


As sold, the clock was missing the splat, the right-hand return and chimney, some glue blocks, the weights, and the hands (these hands were stolen off another one of my clocks). Additionally, the original dial glass is cracked horizontally, but still held in place with the original putty.

When I bought the clock, I had assumed that the large door knob was a later addition that was covering a keyhole, but that wasn't the case. The knob is in fact, original, and I was able to find a few other Williams, Orton, Preston's & Co. clocks with the same knob.


The label is in nice, but worn and torn condition:


By far the nicest feature of this clock is the dial. Beautiful flowers, raised gilded gesso decoration, and an overall bright and clean condition:




You can see that the door was never fitted with a Terry style lock, however, it uses the same kind of Terry lock disc to lock the door:


The left side chimney and return had previously been reglued and nailed in place (with 3-4 old square nails at various angles). There was also some veneer damage:


I believe the clock originally had a reverse painted glass, but it has been fitted with a mirror since at least September 26th 1885, because there are a number of penciled notes on the pine board behind the mirror. The reason I believe that the mirror isn't original is because there are faint traces of old putty around the edges of the door. The current mirror is old and thin, and I plan to leave it as-is.


The tops pf these clocks generally give you a good idea of what's missing. The missing top elements at the front are clear, but there is also a faint rectangular outline around the pulleys, which suggests that it had rectangular wooden blocks with a trapezoidal side profile. I'll try to make copies of those.



Here, some of the added nails can be seen. There are three clearly visible, with one missing on the large triangular block, and 2 deeply seated in the thin edge of the side return.


The clock largely needs just a few veneer repairs, a new top crest, chimney, and return, and some general servicing/cleaning.

Making Your Own Custom-Tinted Glazing Putty

I recently did an antique window restoration job at work (we're primarily an upholstery shop, but we also do refinishing and occasionally antiques restorations and repairs). Having worked on these antique windows made me want to experiment with mixing my own putty for antique clocks. I've wanted to try making glazing putty for a few years, but I never got around to it until now.

Antique window restoration work:




I generally prefer to leave putty out of a clock once the putty has failed, in favour of installing wooden strips. I believe strips are easier to remove and replace should the glass break again in the future. There are cases, however, where putty is the best option, and gives the best look. Mainly these will be on wooden works clocks from the early 1800s and on clocks up to around 1840.

One of the pitfalls of using modern putty is that the only commonly available glazing putty is either Dap33, or Sarco, which are both plain white. These can be used as-is, and then surfac-painted to look old, but the original putty in early American clocks was originally a sort of brick colour throughout (ranging from light brown to a peach or red tone). The goal of trying homemade putty was to see if I could replicate the look of historic putty.

The basic recipe for traditional glazing putty is dead simple. There are only two ingredients: whiting (chalk/limestone dust), and linseed oil.

The exact mixing proportions in the recipes I found are not generally given, because it depends on the amount of putty you want to mix, and the thickness/viscosity of your linseed oil. There is also no specific linseed oil type specified. Double boiled will dry faster, and regular boiled linseed oil will dry more slowly. You could also use refined artist's linseed oil, but that would be needlessly expensive, with little payoff. Some recipes call for a mixture of regular and double boiled linseed oil. It's entirely up to you. Generally, the putty tends to take a long time to dry, so double boiled linseed is is recommended.

For my putty recipe (and keeping in mind that this was mostly an experiment), I used paster of Paris instead of whiting. Whiting is one of those old fashioned materials that seems to be increasingly difficult to find these days. I've looked for several years and haven't come across any. I could buy some online, but with the price of shipping, it's just too expensive. Plaster of Paris is mainly gypsum dust (calcium sulphate). It is not the same as whiting (which is calcium carbonate), but both are stone dust, and I thought that for my purposes it would work about the same (which it did).


To colour the putty, I decided to use some powdered tempera paints. I came across a large box of these paints at a yard sale many years ago and I had never found a use for them until now. The main colours that I used were red, black, and brown. I also had yellow, and I did use a bit of green at one point to tone down the red. If you can't find tempera paints, you could also try coloured chalk or dry pastels (ground to a fine powder). I believe the putty could also be tinted with artist's oil paints (which are normally made from pigments in a linseed oil base), or with certain types of universal tints, but I have not tried these.


To mix the putty, I recommend using a small dish. Preferably a dish made of glass, ceramic, or metal. I used a small ceramic bowl. The easiest way to mix the putty is to start with a wet mix, and then gradually add more whiting or plaster until you form a stiff dough. I used about 5% tempera paint powders, and roughly 10-20% oil to powder ratio (this is just a very rough estimation). You want to begin mixing your putty with a small spoon or a popsicle stick, and then knead it in your hands towards the end. Knead it very thoroughly.



I was able to mix 3 different colours to do three different clock doors (matching the existing putty colours). I reglazed the dial-glass doors on a C. & L. C. Ives triple decker, and on an E. W. Adams wooden works clock case. I also made patch repairs to missing sections of putty on the lower door of the C. & L. C. Ives clock.

Lower tablet glass from C. & L. C. Ives triple decker clock ca. 1835. The top and left sides were a bit orangy-red while the bottom and right sides were dark brown. Photographed before drying:


Half these areas are original putty, with missing sections filled-in. It's nearly impossible to re-form a perfectly smooth line.


Incorrect modern glass was replaced with wavy glasses in these two dial glass frames from a C. & L. C. Ives, and an E. W. Adams wooden works. The colours were matched to the original putty. One dark brown, and one brownish-red:





The finished results far surpassed my expectations, but there are several additional notes I wanted to mention about the whole process. The first I will mention is the application. If you have worked with commercially prepared glazing putty, you'll see pretty quickly that the home made putty has a completely different texture. Even if you can mix it pretty thick (which I recommend - about the consistency of modeling clay), it will smooth itself into the frame much more smoothly than commercial putty (a bit like icing) and it will appear more glossy at first.

One VERY important thing to consider with this putty is the drying time. You MUST wait for the putty to surface-dry before you attempt to clean any excess putty or smudges on the glass. The fresh putty is extremely soft and easily damaged (like icing), and if you happen to touch the putty when it's only partially dry, it will form a soft oily spot, and it will start to puddle in that weak spot. If this happens, do not attempt to touch the putty any further, and simply set the panel in such a way that the wet spot can lay horizontally to continue drying. The putty in my sample glasses took 2 weeks to dry enough that I could clean the glasses. It's worth the time to just wait and leave the putty to dry. Yes it's slow, and yes it's tempting to want to rush the process, but trying to force the putty to dry more quickly could potentially cause cracking or other problems. A heat gun will also not help dry the putty, because it's the tool that's used to soften and remove old putty. Heat has the effect of further softening dried putty.

You will want to keep in mind that the colour of the wet (freshly mixed) putty will not be exactly the same as when it's dry. It will lighten by one or two shades as it dries. The change is not extremely drastic, but you do want to mix your putty just a bit darker than the final colour you want to match. You also want to start with a bit less pigment than you might think (you can always add more).

The last note I'll share is that once the putty is dry, it can be carefully and lightly sanded (if you have small bumps or screw-ups), and it can also be painted or stained if you need parts of it (or all of it) darkened additionally. I used a glass scraper and a paper towel with denatured alcohol to clean the glass and the extra putty bits (after the two weeks).

Lastly, here are a few pros and cons to making your own custom glazing putty:

- Historically accurate
- Inexpensive
- Easy to customize (colour match)
- Beautiful
- Coloured throughout
- All natural and traditional materials
- Looks more professional

- Messy
- Slow drying and curing time (2 weeks minimum)
- Tricky to apply smoothly (I used the back edge of a 1" chisel, and there's a bit of a learning curve)
- Excess putty can't easily be stored once it's mixed (discard or find a very tightly sealed plastic container)
- Oily linseed oil rags pose a fire hazard*

* Oily linseed oil rags are a serious fire hazard because linseed oil can heat-up and spontaneously combust as it dries (you can see videos of this happening if you don't believe it), especially if the rags are clumped up. To dispose of the rags, it is suggested to keep them in a container filled with water, OR to lay them flat on a fireproof surface (cement floor/driveway) to fully dry (2 weeks). Alternatively, you can burn them in a fireplace or fire pit.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

11 Clocks Update

Some of you may be wondering what has been going on with the new acquisitions. Well, so far I have done many of the case repairs on the bulk of them, but none are completed yet. Here's a quick summary of what's done and not done on the clocks I've started to restore.

8 Day Sperry Ogee:
- Veneer repairs done
- Case corners reglued
- Dust covers stained and ready to use
- Loose label fragments reglued
- Gong screws antiqued and reinstalled
- Piece of brown paper tape on backboard darkened to match (I didn't want to remove it but I wanted to hide it)
- Additional dial holes and movement mounting block holes patched

Still to do:
- Shellac touch-ups/wax polish
- Find and fit a wood dial (or make and paint one)
- Clean and repair the movement
- Make a minute hand to match the hour hand
- Fit missing parts (weight lines, hooks, weights, bob, etc)
- Painted stenciled glass

8 Day New Haven 2 Door Ogee:
- Veneer repairs to case
- Centre bar rebuilt, veneered, and installed
- Case corners reglued/repaired
- Bottom of case flattened and stained
- Extra dial holes filled
- Pulley repair

Still to do:
- Repair the doors (reglue, square-up, veneer patches, reinstall hinges properly, etc)
- Fit dust covers
- Shellac touch-ups/wax polish
- Find/fit a correct movement, dial, weights, hands, etc
- Painted tablet

Sperry & Shaw 8 Day Column Clock:
- Case repairs
- Veneer repairs

Still to do:
- Shellac touch-ups/wax polish
- Clean and repair movement
- Fit dust covers

E. W. Adams Wooden Works:
- Case repairs (reglue/clamp several pieces)
- Veneer repairs

Still to do:
- Shellac touch-ups/wax polish
- Fit dust covers
- Find/install movement, dial, and parts (this is still largely an empty case)

Jerome & Co. Column & Cornice Clock:
- Veneer repairs

Still to do:
- Shellac finish entire case/wax polish
- Clean and repair movement
- Fit dust covers
- Painted glasses
- Fit hands

C. & L. C. Ives Triple Decker:
- Veneer repairs & case touch-ups
- Cut and fit ivory escutcheon to lower door
- Tint lower door darker
- Cut, veneer, and fit top returns and glue blocks
- Chipped column repair
- Fit hands

Still to do:
- Fit mirror or tablet in centre
- Fit dust covers
- Shellac touch-ups/wax polish
- Clean and repair movement
- Cut, fit, and install rear crest stiffener strips
- Cut and install new (old) dial glass

Wadsworth Pillar & Scroll:
- Patterns cut and prepared (top scroll, base, side returns, etc scaled on the PC from an original)
- Front damaged veneer band pieces removed (wire nails removed) and reglued

Still to do:
A lot. I only just started this one.

Cast Iron Weight Repair - Ogee Weights

Here is a quick and easy repair job I did on two ogee clock weights. I bought this mismatched pair of weights this past weekend from an antiques place (for the bargain price of 5$ for the pair). Unfortunately, both weights had their top loops broken, basically making them useless. Fortunately I was able to add loops back onto them.

There are several ways that broken loops or weight hooks can be repaired. Some methods are better than others. Some methods are ugly, but functional, while some are downright risky. I have used a few different methods to attach loops to cast iron weights in the past. I believe I've done one with a tapped and threaded hole, which was fine, but left a rather large eye bolt for the loop (which wasn't the nicest looking). I have seen weights with large loops of bailing wire wrapped around them, and also some hooks held with poor solder joints (risky) and adhesives like epoxy (which can work well if the holes are cleanly drilled (free of oils) and if the proper epoxy is used.

This new repair (which I decided to try) used a tight friction fit only. These are pretty light weights (under 4lbs).

The new loops were made from old rusty wire to match the old rusty cast iron, and these are dropped into a hole drilled into the top of the weights. The holes are about 1/8" diameter or less, and about 3/8" deep.

The loops are held firmly into the holes with the addition of a taper pin. The taper pin is chosen for a tight interference fit, and it is trimmed so that it won't be too long, and it can be driven down into the hole. The shiny end of the pin can then be darkened with gun blue.

Here are the results.

Note: The two mismatched weights were paired with two other matching weights in my spare parts. You can see one weight with an original loop, and the one with the repair.



Here is what the new loops look like before they are installed:


Monday, August 14, 2017

An Amazing Visit - 11 New Clocks!

I'm not even sure exactly how to start this post, or what details I should include or omit, but: long story short, my good friend Jim (from Texas), whom I've known for years now, decided that he would be driving down near-enough to me to make a detour and come visit. This trip had been mentioned numerous times over the past several months (maybe since April? I can't remember), and a bunch of planning and scheduling went into it. All I knew was that he was going to bring down a "whole bunch of stuff" for me. Jim has (in the past) mailed me several items (clock books, tools, and the occasional clock), and I've always been very excited and grateful for them. Some of the tools he's sent me, like the Swiss files, are ones I use almost every day.

Jim repairs clocks, specializes in wheel-cutting, has bought and sold many clocks. I believe he makes at least two big clock-related trips across the US every year (visiting friends, seeing other collectors, and stopping by clock shows). The most recent one was in Syracuse New York (3 hours south-east of me) on August 4th. I believe he said that on this particular trip, they covered over 4500 miles, and made numerous stops across the US (as well as myself in Canada).

Anyhow, I was pretty excited to see what Jim would bring down, but I was also told not to get my hopes up too high. I wanted it to be a surprise, so I didn't really ask him any questions. There were only 3 clocks that I knew he was bringing me, because we had discussed them before hand (the pillar and scroll, the 8 Day Jerome 2-door ogee, and the Marshall & Adams). Some of these clocks had been dropped off (donated) at his shop last summer and most of them need a whole bunch of work done on them (the kind of work I do all the time).

Jim's visit was on August 5th. He arrived with his good friend George, and I gave them the tour of the house and my collection. It was nice to spend some time with other clock collectors (I have only met a few), and also meet a friend whom I've (so far) only known over the internet.

Note: Jim was the one who made the custom mirror-clock movement for my reproduction New Hampshire mirror clock:

Without further ado, here are the goodies he dropped off. These next several photos were taken just after the visit, and before I really looked at the clocks and unpacked the boxes:






Since there's so much to see (and too many photos and details to share for each of them), I've limited this post to ONE photo per clock. When I work on them as individual restoration projects, I'll share the other photos and details that go with them (labels, movements, dials, etc).

This first clock was a bit of a mystery for about a week. It has a Sperry lyre movement (fancy plate 8 day weight movement), but the case has a Forestville Manfg. Co. label. I could not find any matching Forestville clocks (with swivel hinges, and with this particular movement). After 5 days of research, I removed the gong base, and discovered that the Forestville label is an OVERPASTE on top of a Sperry & Shaw label. This made so much more sense. The current dial is beautiful, but it does not fit (hand shaft and winding squares aren't aligned). The mahogany on this clock is absolutely stunning. It has a sort of rich, buttery, smooth finish, and wonderful patina. All it needs is a few veneer patches, and a wax polish (and a dial, pendulum bob, key, dust covers, etc).


This 8 Day ogee might be one of the worst in the lot (condition-wise), but I was actually really looking forward to working on it. I have a pretty serious love of ogee clocks, and I don't yet own a 2-door example. This one is a Chauncey Jerome 8 Day. The centre bar between the doors is missing, it needs veneer repairs to the case, and the doors are both in terrible shape, but it's all fixable. Another funny note on this clock is that the bottom board is so rounded that the case rocks back and forth like a rocking chair (see paper wedges in the photo). This is definitely not something you want on an already fairly tipsy weight driven clock.


This is a petty rare Wadsworth, Lounsbury & Turners pillar and scroll clock. I've wanted a pillar and scroll clock for probably over 10 years now, and I came close a few times to buying one in similar condition for a few hundred dollars. This one looks like it's in pretty rough shape, but it should clean-up fairly well, and I might even be able to save some of the original finish on it. It will obviously need an entirely new top and base, several minor case repairs, and some sensitive refinishing. I don't plan to do anything with the tablet. It's obviously damaged, but you can still see what it's supposed to be, and it *is* almost 200 years old by this point (1820s). The dial, sadly, doesn't fit the movement, however, I have a 95% flaked-off dial plate in my spare parts that does fit, and I may try to do a repaint on it. The spare dial that I have can always be swapped out later.


Also fairly rare is this transitional wooden works clock by Elisha Hotchkiss. It has a lovely original tablet, original finish, and a nice label. The unfortunate back story on this one is that the entire backboard was marked-up with pencil lines and drilled full of holes (15 holes!) The original dial was also completely butchered and thrown away. The entire dial centre (with all the numerals) had been cut away. All of this for fitting this clock with a kitchen clock movement. This doesn't really affect the case too much, but it will always be permanently scarred with all the holes (even if I fill them). Fortunately the movement and dial will hide the holes, so normally none of them would be visible. All it needs is a few veneer patches, and a movement, dial, and parts (hands, weights, key, etc), and those can just be popped into it at any time. The trouble will be to find the correct short-drop movement. I believe Jim said that this clock was out of George's collection.


This next one is a really beautiful Sperry & Shaw 8 day column clock. I really like this one. It has the original dial (and special hands), fancy lyre movement, and original tablet. The dial glass is also original. It just needs veneer patches, holes filled, and touch-ups (and weights and a bob). The label on this one is in mint condition. The case has the original finish. I think once this one is done it will be one of the highlights of my collection. Everything about it is great!


Another really amazing clock is this C. & L. C. Ives triple decker. This one dates to around 1835, I believe. This is now the largest and tallest shelf clock in my collection (37.5" tall). It has a beautiful strap brass Ives movement with roller pinions, and the circle-cut-out wheels with square teeth. It will need a bell, weights, and a few small case repairs (bone escutcheon, a few small veneer chips, side returns on the top, etc.) The centre glass will probably be a reverse painting (or less likely a mirror), but I'll need to find a very thin piece of antique glass to fit the old grooves.


This one is a Marshall & Adams (Seneca Falls New York), wooden works shelf clock. This is (so far) the only clock I have with carved columns. This one is also in pretty good shape, but it will need a lot of parts for it (it is just an empty case). There are just 3 or 4 veneer chips, and the whole case is loose, but otherwise I won't need to do very much on this one. The key in the door is one of my spares. This one should have an antique mirror in the base. It's hard to gauge the size from this photo, but this is a very large clock. 32" tall, 21" wide at the crown.


This is yet another beautiful column clock. This one is by Jerome & Co. (New Haven). 8 Day, rosewood veneered, with gilt column tops and bases (I believe they were regilded since I found loose flakes of gold leaf in the case). The finish seems to have been stripped off this one (pretty well, too), so I will just need to do veneer patches, and add a few coats of shellac to it. It should have a pair of "decal type" tablets, so I'm not exactly sure what I'll do for them yet. The label in this one is also mint. There is just one small tear near the top, but aside from that it's pretty crisp and white considering the age (around 1870).


This one is a bit sad. It's an early (and really nice) Waterbury beehive case in crotch mahogany veneer, but the back board has had a huge rectangular hole cut into it. Jim bought this clock just for the glass tablet, which I've since transferred to the Brewster & Ingrahams clock (which was missing its original cut glass tablet). I will likely see if I can re-convert this one, but it will probably be a bit of a Frankenstein, and it won't be very high on my to-do list.


A lovely E & A Ingraham gallery clock. This one had been painted with gold paint, and Jim stripped it. A lot of the original gold leaf (80-90%?) is missing. I may try to re-gild it (sympathetically), and try to keep a bit of the wear and tear. It just needs a key (which I have in my spare parts) and I may try to match the hands. Either replace the hour hand to match the minute hand, or vice versa.


This is the saddest one in the lot. It's a large size Brewster & Ingraham gallery clock. The gesso finish over the wood frame is badly damaged in places, and the dial is pretty toast. And speaking of toast, there is also what looks like a candle burn-mark through part of the edge in one spot. This one will likely get a complete restoration. Dial repaint, case rebuilt (puttied/patched/repainted), full refinish, etc. It has all the parts except the hands and a key.


Jim also included some boxes of parts and movements. Some rare and interesting ones (like the Acorn Lyre Forestville movement, and the Lenderman banjo movement). The wooden works is actually a Boardman & Wells, which is what I needed for my clock in the living room (which just had a placeholder movement in it for the past 5-10 years). There are also blank ogee dials under the painted antique one on the left.


So there we are. I was absolutely blown-away by all this. My expectations were far lower, but these are largely all really nice mid 1800s clocks in pretty decent condition. I've already started repairing 5 of them, so expect more posts soon.