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).

Jim repairs clocks, specializes in wheel-cutting, has bought and sold many clocks at shows, and I believe he makes at least 2 big clock related trips across the US every year (visiting friends, 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 Jim said that this particular trip covered over 4500 miles, and included, I'm sure, well over a dozen stops.

Anyhow, I was pretty excited to see what Jim would bring down, but I was also told not to have my hopes up too high. I also wanted it to be a surprise, so I didn't really ask him any questions. There were only 3 clocks that I knew for certain that he was bringing me (the pillar and scroll, the 8 Day Jerome 2-door ogee, and the Marshall Adams). Some of these clocks had been dropped off 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 my house and 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 the clocks over:






Since there's so much to see (and too many photos and details to share), I've limited this to ONE photo per clock, and when I work on them as individual 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 a Forestville Manfg. Co. label. I could not find any matching Forestville clocks (with swivel hinges, and 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 does not fit (hand shaft and winding squares aren't aligned). The mahogany on this clock is absolutely stunning. It has sort of a rich, buttery, smooth finish. All it needs is a few veneer patches, and a wax polish.


This 8 Day ogee might be one of the worst in the lot, but I was actually quite looking forward to working on it. I have a deep 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 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 round that the case rocked back and forth dangerously (see paper wedges in the photo).


This is a fairly rare Wadsworth, Lounsbury & Turners pillar and scroll clock. It looks to be in pretty rough shape, but it should clean-up fairly well. It will obviously need an entirely new top and base, several case repairs, and likely some sensitive refinishing. I don't plan to do anything with the tablet. 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.


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 in pencil lines and drilled full of holes (15 holes!) The original dial was also completely butchered and thrown away. The entire dial centre 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). All it needs now is a movement, dial, and parts (hands, weights, key, etc), and those can just be popped into it. The trouble will be to find the correct short-drop movement. It also needs a few veneer repairs. I believe Jim mentioned that this was out of George's collection.


This next one is a really beautiful Sperry & Shaw 8 day column clock. It has the original dial, fancy lyre movement, and tablet. Just needs veneer patches, holes filled, and touch-ups. The label on this is in beautiful shape. Case has the original finish. I think once this one is done it will be one of the highlights in 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 (as opposed to a mirror).


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 will need a lot of parts (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 is one of my spares. This one should have an antique mirror in the base. It's hard to gauge the size, 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. 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 decal type tablets, so I'm not exactly sure what I'll do for them yet.


This one is a bit sad. It's an early (but really nice) Waterbury beehive case in mahogany veneer, but the back board has had a huge rectangular hole cut into it. Jim bought this clock just for the cut/frosted 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.


A lovely E & A Ingraham gallery clock. This one had been painted with gold paint, and Jim stripped it. A lot of the gold (80-90%?) is missing. I may try to re-gild it (sympathetically), and try to keep a bit of the wear and tear.


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 (minimally or non-sympathetic) restoration. Dial repaint, case rebuilt (puttied/patched/repainted), etc. It has all the parts except the hands and a key.


Jim also included some boxes of parts and spare 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.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Waterbury Miniature Ogee Clock - Part 1

I have had this clock for long enough that I seem to have lost the paper work for it. I bought it as an empty case. Actually I just checked a purchase list, and I bought it in summer 2006! At the time I wanted a miniature ogee clock, and I believe I may have had a spare Waterbury shelf clock movement for it. I had only paid 34$ USD for the case, plus shipping. Not such a great bargain based on today's prices, but mini ogees back then would normally sell for 200-300$ USD.

Anyhow, the case had lots of loose or flaked-off veneer, and it needed work.

A few years ago (early 2015), while I was working on a whole bunch of different veneering repairs ( I had glued down the loose sections of the veneer for this case.



Then a few weeks ago I finished the rest of the repairs. This involved gluing another big section that popped off on the door, and patching the missing sections on the veneer. Before I start showing the patches, this is how the clock looked after the 2015 repairs.


The edge uses curved veneer, so I used some of my pre-curved mahogany veneer stock for the patches. Any of the small chips, I did not use wood, I used putty. This is especially good for small chips along the bottom where the veneer is already really dark.


Putty-filled repairs:


Veneer patch on the corner, putty on the chips.


Again, a mix of veneer and putty. Keep in mind that any putty repairs must be touched-up with paint.


Top left corner:


Top right corner:


All the repairs and patches before stain, paint, and touch-ups.


Stain is applied first. Depending what stains you use, how much sanding you did, and what wood was used, the colour may be too light or too dark. It's kind of difficult to predict how certain spots will turn out. For the painted putty areas, those mainly work best on very dark finishes. This case is quite dark brown, so it's pretty forgiving to mix any "close enough" shade of blackish-brownish-reddish paint, and blend that in. I use one or two small paint brushes, but a lot of it is creative finger painting. Water is used to add transparency.


Bottom chips after painting. There are 4 decent sized chips, and a veneer patch in the left corner.


All the repairs and patches were then coated in several layers of orange shellac. The entire case was then buffed down with #0000 steel wool lubricated in dark paste wax. The wax is left to dry and go dull before polishing.

This shows the wax-buffed case just before polishing (so looking quite dull overall).


Here's just a small bit once you start buffing the wax.


Hopefully I can photograph the finished case soon.

Rosewood Seth Thomas (Thomaston) Ogee Clock - Part 3

I have yet to finish this series (as well as a few others). This is part 3, which covers some of the final details of the restoration.

Part 1:
Part 2:

In this part, I tacked an extremely unusual problem. For whatever reason, this ogee clock was NOT BUILT CORRECTLY. When I was finished working on the movement, I had trouble fitting it into the case properly, especially with respects to the dial. The hands would not clear the dial. This is a paper thin zinc sheet dial with a raised ring (which is standard on ALL older Seth Thomas clocks). The hands would not clear even in the centre (flat) portion of the dial.

I decided to take out the runners and set up the movement clearances correctly outside of the case.


In normal cases, the winding squares should be just a hair below the dial surface.

Playing around with tongue depressors (or popsickle sticks) I found that the movement would need to be raised at least 1/4 inch. HOWEVER, with the movement moved forward this far, the hand shaft would hit the glass, and you wouldn't be able to close the door.


Curiously, the seatboard had already been partially shimmed on the back side.


The real problem, however, was that the depth of the rails was wrong. I could see that the dial mounting tabs had actually gouged into the back of the door (the door was closing tightly onto the pins), because they were too far forward. Normally these rails are about 2 1/4" to 2 3/8" deep. These were almost 2 5/8". Nearly 3/8" too deep.



So the solution was simple. Trim the side rails (on the back) and reinstall them. I did not cut them down the full 3/8". I trimmed them only by how much I needed to shim-up the movement (the amount of pospickle sticks), so about 1/4 inch.

Once that was done, everything went back together just fine (I used old and new square nails), and the dial and movement fit perfectly, with proper clearance for the hands, and perfect clearance for the door (the door is no longer rubbing up onto the dial or pins).


I still need to post multiple photos of a half dozen restored or repainted dials. This was the fully repainted dial (before antiquing).


After antiquing:


Another case repair that I needed to do was to repair the worn out hole for the movement hold-down. The chip-out was puttied, and the area was colour-matched to hide the repair.


Hole patch from the interior. I used poplar for the plug since it will last a bit longer than pine (which is softer).



The final part will just be final photos and before and afters of the clock. Not too sure when I'll post those, but you can see most of the completed clock in Part 2.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Antique Mirror Repair

This was a really beautiful antique mirror with beveled glass that I picked up at a Flea Market. I think I paid 10$ for it. The mirror was in perfect shape, but the frame had a few big chips in the curved veneer. I assume that this mirror is from around 1880, but it could be slightly older or newer. Definitely older than 1900.

For probably close to a year it's been patiently sitting and waiting to be repaired. I'm not even sure where I want to hang it yet, but since I've been doing a LOT of veneer patching on clocks lately, I decided to do the repair while I had fresh hide glue on hand.

As purchased:


All 4 corners had chips, but the real issues were with this one bottom corner. The other corners had very tiny chips (I didn't photograph them, they were only about 1/8" wide).

Because of how this corner was broken, I would either need to make two striped patches (which would be tricky and possibly ugly as a repair), or remove the entire corner section, and install a larger patch. This is what I did. With the wood veneer that I removed, I was able to patch all the other 3 corners, so those repairs ended up being virtually invisible.



Corner section removed. The mesh is something new to me. I'm not sure exactly what it was for, but it seems original and I left it there. Part of the veneer was loose past where I cut it, so hide glue was brushed/pushed under there.


The wood was a bit odd. It looks a lot like walnut, but I was fairly sure it was actually mahogany, so I used mahogany for the patch. The wood had to be pre-curved around a form (you just wet the veneer in hot water, clamp it around a curve that is tighter/smaller than what you need, and leave it to fully dry). Once it was glued down (using hide glue and painter's tape as clamps) the edges were trimmed, sanded, and the repairs were stained as needed.


The finish on the mirror was kind of dry and flaky, so I scrubbed down the finish lightly with steel wool and alcohol, and then I added a few thin coats of shellac over the repairs and then over the whole frame. This was then buffed down and wax polished with steel wool (#0000) and dark tinted wax.


The colour match on the patch is not a 100% perfect match because the old veneer was somewhat sun bleached. It blends in fairly well, and it's only a simple mirror, so not a museum piece.


All these techniques can be used to repair clock cases.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Antique Hopf (Repro) Violin Restoration

I recently finished the restoration of my Hopf violin. I just have to get it set up and strung. I thought I would share the before and after photos. This is not clock related, but many of the techniques and materials are the same as those that I use in clock repair: hide glue, shellac, veneer tools such as small saws, small clamps, sand papers, etc.

This is an antique violin marked "HOPF" on the back, but it's generally referred to as a fake Hopf violin (in the same way that you can buy a Stradivarius copy today). The real ones made by this 17th century family are marked only on the interior, and they are far more valuable. This one is somewhat poorly built (with no interior corner blocks), and there are several other small issues with it, such as a curve to the neck, and very poorly (crookedly) drilled peg holes. Another dead giveaway that this was originally a cheap German made violin is the fact that the fittings on it were made from cheap woods. I'll repeat this with the accompanying photos below, but the fingerboard was PINE (which is absolute garbage because it needs to be a hardwood at the bare minimum - ebony being the preferred choice), and the pegs (the one original one that was left) and the tailpiece were maple stained/painted black.

All that being said, it's still an OLD violin, probably from around 1900. This is the kind of violin you are likely to come across if your uncle/father/grandmother etc. happens to have an old violin lying around somewhere. Some are better than others, but generally all old violins will have a decent sound because the wood has aged, they've gathered patina, they were played frequently, and most of all: they were hand made. The variations in thickness, as well as the hand varnishing both add significantly to the quality/desirability/sound of a violin. Modern mass produced violins are cut by CNC and because they are too perfect/precise, they tend to have a certain generic sound to them that violin experts can pick up immediately. My ears aren't that well trained. Once this one is playable, it should have a fairly mellow sound.

Anyhow, I picked up this poor little thing all battered and abused from a local thrift shop for 25$ CAD + taxes. I'd say that's a pretty darn good price. It came with a pretty beat-up/ruined bow, which I might also try to repair.


One-piece flame maple back with a two-tone colour.


The top was badly gummed-up and dirty. The area where the bridge sat was also very badly scratched down to bare wood.


The tailpiece had also scratched up the top.



The SEVERELY worn down pine fingerboard. Obviously this instrument was played a LOT.


This was after I repaired/blended and touched-up the top. There were also wear marks along the edges of the top. It's not perfect, and there are a few blotchy areas, but I wanted to preserve as much of the character/patina as possible.


I did not do very much with the back. Mostly just a cleaning and wax polish.


The top had at least two very bad cracks in it (which eventually ended up being 4 cracks), so I had to separate it to repair it. You can see how there are no corner blocks in the pointed corners.


I discovered a very alarming problem with the violin's top, and I was very glad that I decided to remove the top. The entire bass bar was split and coming loose from the top. There was also a crack along the edge (where the bridge sits).


Interior view. No names, inscriptions, or repair dates. Just dust.


Some of the top repairs were easier to glue than others.


I did look at several violin repair tutorials and fixed it in the normal acceptable current method, which is to install small patch blocks (cross grain glued) made from cedar, and then pared down thin. I also had to slightly sand and re-shape the glue-side of the bass bar for a tighter fit.


Here were the cheap fittings. Painted pine fingerboard, and maple tailpiece stained to look like ebony.

A quick note: when it comes to violins, there doesn't seem to be any real impact what fittings you put on it. Generally it needs an ebony fingerboard, nut, and saddle, but the other fittings are to your choice. The pegs, tailpiece, and chin rest can be any wood you like (Rosewood, Boxwood, and other exotic woods are popular). Some can be carved, or have fancy inlays of shells, ivory or metals. Changing the fittings doesn't seem to affect the value of a violin. For this one, I went through a lot of trouble to track down plain ebony fittings (no inlay or anything, just very plain black ebony).



Before and after:


The old pegs were a complete mess. Someone had hand carved some very crude oak pegs for this and they did not work or look good. When I fit the new pegs, I had to enlarge the worn out holes slightly, so I tried to straighten the pegs as much as possible. Most are good, but the bottom one is still quite crooked. Also note the nut (before and after). Yikes!


The saddle that was there was probably a replacement, but it was very badly carved. It didn't need to be replaced, but I did clean it up and sand it significantly. I had a new end button in my new parts, but I chose to keep the old one (this is the only part of the old fittings I kept because it was actually ebony).


The top had two small chunks broken from the edge that I was able to patch. One is nearly invisible, but the other one shows a little bit.


A close up of just the pegbox:



Hand carved and antiqued bridge


That's it. I may post a photo of it again once it's strung.