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  1. #1

    Default Restoration of a Seth Thomas wall clock

    My wife has asked for my help restoring this Seth Thomas wall clock which belonged to her gran and which is precious to her, even though it is unlikely to have any commercial value.

    It's in a sorry state too, having been left in a damp loft for many years, but hopefully not beyond the scope of man to repair. Alas we don't have the money to give it to a professional, so it is going to have to be done by me.

    I know all the working parts are present and I remember it working a long time ago too, so hopefully the mechanism can be got running again. But first things first I want to address how it looks. This might seem rather about face, but the wife says she'd like to hang it as an ornament even if it can't be got going again.

    I'm pretty handy, particularly in the wood working department, so that I can tackle confidently, but there are a few other cosmetic issues which I hope to get some advice about.

    1. I guess at one time it had a domed glass, but this is missing. Is it possible to obtain a replacement?
    2. The metal bezel is broken. Is there a way to repair it?
    3. The circular brass insert in the clock face is partly lost. Is there a way to fabricate a new bit?
    4. The 'brassing' on the bezel is worn away. Should I attempt to address this, or leave well alone?
    5. Some of the enamel at the centre of the clock face is missing. Should I attempt to address this, or leave well alone?

    All help and advice will be well received.

    Thank you

    Nick
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  2. #2

    Default Re: Restoration of a Seth Thomas wall clock (By: SurreyNick)

    My suggestion would be to replace the glass and have the movement serviced/repaired. Don't touch the dial (except with a soft barber's brush), carefully clean everythng up, oil it with good furniture oil, and enjoy your beautiful old clock.
    IMO, the worst thing you can do to an old clock is to 'over restore' it.
    My 2, Willie X

  3. #3

    Default Re: Restoration of a Seth Thomas wall clock

    Welcome to the board, SurreyNick.

    To answer your questions:

    1. It may have had a convex glass but many of these clocks only had flat glass. Either way, you can buy replacements but flat glass is a lot cheaper. I would use flat glass, in which case any glass merchant can cut you a circular piece and it won't cost much. Convex glasses can be got from the material supplier houses.

    2. The broken bezel can also be replaced. They are sold by material supply houses such as Meadow & Passmore in Brighton (go to their website and browse through their lists). Otherwise, how are you at soldering? And, (though please don't let the others know I said it!), there is always the wonderful world of epoxy.....but I never said it.

    3. The brass trim in the centre is different matter. I have to say I have never tried to fabricate a part for this, nor have I ever replaced the whole thing. I am not sure what the best way would be to deal with this. Maybe someone else will come up with an idea.

    4. You may find the bezel is in fact all brass, and nothing is 'worn away', just very tarnished. You could try cleaning it with something like Autosol and 0000 wire wool in an inconspicuous place and see how it comes up. I think you may be pleasantly surprised.

    5. Personally I think the dial is in pretty good condition and I wouldn't do much to it except give it a good (but gentle) clean. The numbers are probably painted on, so don't rub them hard, but soapy water and a damp cloth will remove most of the surface grime and the dial will look a whole lot better.

    Overall, clean and tidy is good, over-done isn't, after all it isn't a brand new clock.

    Hope this helps; please let us know how you get on and shout if you need more help.

    JTD

  4. #4

    Default Re: Restoration of a Seth Thomas wall clock (By: Willie X)

    It's not a rare clock, and they turn up on Ebay fairly frequently. I think you'll have to get a donor to borrow the new bezel from, so you may be able to get the glass and circle for the dial as well. The movement will be beyond your skill level, and I agree with Willie .... get that part repaired professionally.
    A man with a clock always knows the time. A man with two clocks is never sure.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Restoration of a Seth Thomas wall clock (By: shutterbug)

    To me, the most obvious issue is the bare wood replacement part at the bottom right. - either was replaced or lost veneer. You can paint it a matching color with faux graining and it will be less obvious. As stated earlier this is not a rare museum piece. As for the bezel crack, if you want the entire clock to retain that "old look" do not polish or solder. A thin piece of brass placed behind the bonded with something like JB-Weld will give strength and be invisible from the outside. If you plan to polish the bezel you can solder or JB-Weld the patch on the back side. Flat glass will be fine IF the center shaft does not hit the glass when closed up. The dial looks like it should, nothing you can do to it improve it. Enjoy until it gets a lot worse. The movement is a simple one and easily repaired.

    When Willy said "oil it with good furniture oil", just so there is no confusion, I sure he meant oil the case, not the movement! I might opt for a good paste wax. Some furniture polishes build up. Be careful around that which looks like decorative inlay, it may just be gold paint and could be fragile - can't tell from the photo.

    Nice old clock and should be enjoyable for many more years.

    RC

  6. #6

    Default Re: Restoration of a Seth Thomas wall clock (By: R. Croswell)

    Thank you for the replies so far.

    I'd like to have a go at repairing the bezel if I can. I think my wife would prefer to keep the original one, even if it's a bit tatty. I have done plenty of electronics soldering and have a very good soldering iron. Will this be suitable and if so is there a particular type of solder and technique which works best for this type of repair?

    I will take the advice about the flat glass, thank you for that.

    I agree with the comments about restoring. I don't want a 'new' looking clock and I know my wife doesn't, so I will take your advice and limit myself to just giving the clock face a careful clean with soapy water and try cleaning the bezel with Autosol and 0000 wire wool in an inconspicuous place.

    I trained as a cabinet maker and the veneer work is well within my skills, so that I will tackle quite happily and the re-finishing too. The decorative inlay is just paint - well spotted shutterbug.

    I will need to remove the movement in order to carry out the case repair, but other than that I will leave well alone. Hopefully it won't need repairing and just oiling. Fingers crossed.

    N.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Restoration of a Seth Thomas wall clock (By: SurreyNick)

    It was RC who should get credit for spotting the inlay I doubt that an iron will get hot enough for the bezel repair, but you can try it. You'll need at least a moderately hard solder and a brace piece. Be careful with the dial. Water could take off the paint.
    A man with a clock always knows the time. A man with two clocks is never sure.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Restoration of a Seth Thomas wall clock (By: shutterbug)

    OK credit to RC. Thank you

    Really worried about the paint on the clock face. My wife just had a gentle touch around where it has flaked off and more came away!

    I can't leave it because it really is filthy. Should I try very carefully cleaning it with acetone and cotton buds as an alternative to soapy water?

    Is there a way to seal it after cleaning too?

    Thanks

    N.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Restoration of a Seth Thomas wall clock (By: SurreyNick)

    Quote Originally Posted by SurreyNick View Post
    OK credit to RC. Thank you

    Really worried about the paint on the clock face. My wife just had a gentle touch around where it has flaked off and more came away!

    I can't leave it because it really is filthy. Should I try very carefully cleaning it with acetone and cotton buds as an alternative to soapy water?

    Is there a way to seal it after cleaning too?

    Thanks

    N.
    Acetone will likely take everything off - numbers, paint, everything. I agree with Willie, just a soft brush. No water, no soap, no acetone.

    As for repairing the bezel, it sounds like you plan to polish it back to bright brass. If it is brass, it will solder easily if the metal to be soldered is clean and bright. Don't try to just solder in the crack and pile up gobs of solder around it. You need a thin brass patch soldered behind the crack. Almost any solder should do but you will need probably a 100 watt soldering iron or gun. The little pencil irons used for electronics won't provide enough heat. Electronics solder is non corrosive and with the patch piece bridging the crack should be plenty strong enough. Will help to 'tin' both surfaces first.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Restoration of a Seth Thomas wall clock (By: SurreyNick)

    Repeat, leave the dial alone, except for a soft brush, like a barber's brush or a high guality soft paint brush. There are many good reasons for this warning.
    Willie X

  11. #11

    Default Re: Restoration of a Seth Thomas wall clock (By: Willie X)

    OK. Message received loud and clear about the clock face. I will be very, very careful. Thank you

    I have ordered some thin brass sheet to solder behind the bezel and if my soldering iron station isn't up to the task I will get another.

    N.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Restoration of a Seth Thomas wall clock (By: SurreyNick)

    A 125 watt regular chisel tip soldering iron is good. If you like a pistol type soldering gun, a Weller D-500 will do it.
    Flame soldering is good too, but it takes a lot of practice, bezel and hinge repair can get a little trickey sometimes ...
    Goof luck, Willie X

  13. #13

    Default Re: Restoration of a Seth Thomas wall clock (By: SurreyNick)

    Make sure the solder flows between the bezel and the patch. The solder you see isn't doing any good. I suggest you clean the area to be soldered first (leaving the bezel tarnished) which will prevent any solder running through the crack and 'sticking' to the outside surface. Rosin core 'electronic solder' has flux that will burn, not a good choice for flame soldering. An iron (copper), or gun is your best bet. If you have insufficient heat the solder will just pile up around the patch and not flow into the joint.

    RC

  14. #14

    Default Re: Restoration of a Seth Thomas wall clock (By: R. Croswell)

    Thanks. I will have a go with my soldering iron first, following the instructions you've all given me. If that fails to work I may resort to using JB-Weld. My wife is never going to sell the clock, so I'm sure she won't mind as long as the fix is sound and clean.

    I'll report back once it's done, which I expect will be a few weeks because the brass foil is coming on a slow boat from China.

    N.

  15. #15

    Default Re: Restoration of a Seth Thomas wall clock (By: SurreyNick)

    Quote Originally Posted by SurreyNick View Post
    I will have a go with my soldering iron first, following the instructions you've all given me. If that fails to work I may resort to using JB-Weld......
    N.
    If you use JB-Weld I suggest you 'rough up' the surfaces to be bonded first with coarse sand paper.

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