Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Brewster & Ingrahams Beehive Case Repair

This post details a small chip repair on the case of my early brass-spring Brewster & Ingrahams clock. The case is in near mint original condition, with the original worn finish, however, there was just one chip at the very top of the case that I wanted to fix.

The chip looks fairly large, but in reality, you have to realize that this is an extreme close-up, and the actual size is just over 1.5 inches, and barely half an inch wide. The broken pieces of original veneer had been reglued in the past using hide glue, but they were glued in place a bit crooked.

The first step in the repair was to carefully remove the veneer slivers (dampening the area with water, and working under the veneer with a palette knife). With the veneer removed, the excess glue can be removed along with any stain or finish.

The slivers of veneer were then soaked in hot water to clean off the remaining glue. This caused the shellac to become white and cloudy, but the area will be sanded later, so it's not a big concern. If you're aiming to save the finish, avoid using water, and simply dry-scrape the glue.

At this point, I had to decide if I wanted to glue down the existing pieces of old veneer, or trim everything and install a new patch. Since most of the original wood was there, and everything fit together relatively well, I decided to keep everything original, and just fill-in the missing wood. The veneer pieces were reglued using hot hide glue, and the remaining gaps were filled with putty (just regular mahogany coloured wood filler).

Once everything was completely dry, the entire area was block-sanded to give a perfectly flat surface.

The area was then given some touch-up paint, a few coats of shellac, darkened with a bit of dark toner, and coated with a few additional thin layers of shellac. Once the entire area was fully cured (overnight) the shellac was buffed and polished with #0000 steel wool and tinted wax.

I'm very happy with the repair, and the finish blends in nicely with the rest of the case (without needing to refinish anything).


  1. Very nice job! Is the toner you used actually a stain and is the wood filler a plastic type wood filler? Last question; where do your source your hide glue?


    1. I have a few toners I use, but generally when I mention a toner, I simply mean anything that acts as a secondary colour correction layer. This can be more paint, a strong stain (alcohol based or otherwise), a spray toner, a dye, or in this case, a bit of coloured touch-up marker. The wood filler is NOT the plastic kind. I don't use "plastic" wood filler in any of my restorations. It's just the normal wood putty/wood filler that is sold in all DIY centres and it comes in various colours. Once it's dry it can be sanded, stained, or painted, and if you rub it down with water it will dissolve and come right off.

      My hide glue is from Lee Vally. It's probably not the best, but it's what I bought, and it seems to work fine for me. They sell it in pearl form, which is much trickier to use than granulated hide glue. Hide glue is normally sold in different strengths, and there are specialty manufacturers and sellers. Patrick Edwards (who is a specialist conservator in marquetry and veneer work) suggests hide glue from Milligan and Higgins. He has several videos on YouTube, and more info on his blog:

    2. Thanks JC. There is a hobby shop near me that should be familiar with the wood filler you mention. I agree, no plastic and I suppose you feel as I do that a restoration should be as true to the materials available at the time though there are limitations of course.

      I think they sell the granules or pellets if I remember. Thanks I will check out Patrick's site.

    3. Hey Ron, I had a look at your blog, and added it to my reader (there seems to be a lack of clock blogs). I also saw that you're in Canada. The wood filler I use is Lepage (it is water based) in the tubes. They cost maybe 3.50$? I normally get mahogany or walnut (the darkest two), but if you're working with a bunch of oak or lighter woods, get Natural as well.