Dial paint cracked and crazed... stabilise or restore?

Discussion in 'Reverse Glass and Dial Painting' started by Peter Planapo, Feb 26, 2020.

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  1. Peter Planapo

    Peter Planapo Registered User
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    Mar 23, 2019
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    Hi all,

    This is my new 14" dial clock, 18" overall, with a pre-Smith Coventry Astral fusee pendulum movement dating it to 1910-1930. In fact, I have reason to believe it's associated with the Royal Flying Corps of WW1, the precursor to the RAF.

    As shown, the paint is crazed and cracked, with lifted edges, and in fact paint has gone missing in a few small places.

    Obviously, leaving it alone is not an option as the flaking will continue. Also I'm pretty sure sending it to a dial restorer for stabilising will cause more paint loss (caused by Post Office fragile-parcel handling procedures), so I have 2 options:

    1. Spray it a few times (letting dry between coats) with some kind of satin-finish archival artists' fixative, and possibly fill in the missing bits with matching paint (or possibly not fill in the missing bits and just leave them)

    2. Have it completely restored/repainted.

    If I do 1, then of course 2 is always open to me, but not the reverse.

    I read so much here about dial restoration being a poor idea, originality destroyed, value drops, etc.

    What would you do?

    Peter

    20200226_135200 (Large).jpg 20200226_135209 (Large).jpg 20200226_135222 (Large).jpg
     
  2. lylepete

    lylepete Registered User

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    I would try to save it. I would email a conservator about what u have and what to do about it. Then proceed from there.
    William
     
  3. brian fisher

    brian fisher Registered User
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    well, generally my policy is that if you can read the dial, it is better to just try to stabilize it. yours really isn't in too bad of shape. perhaps an archival art spray would be a good idea.

    i have a dial like this on a loose movement. i save the flakes as they fall off and glue them back into place.
     
  4. Chris Radano

    Chris Radano Registered User

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    #4 Chris Radano, Feb 26, 2020
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2020
    You should used something ph neutral, so over time it won't darken.
    Soluvar Gloss Varnish | Liquitex
    There are probably other products. I have been using this.
    Soluvar should work on your dial. Brush it on with a soft brush, make sure the varnish fills in all the cracks and lifting areas. It's flexible and will last a long time. You can remove the varnish so it will remain in the cracks, or just leave the varnish on the dial surface. Sometimes I will remove the varnish so it cleans surface dirt, then use Renaissance wax. If you have a fading signature, removal of the varnish may remove more of the signature. Use care.
     
  5. brian fisher

    brian fisher Registered User
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    that looks like a great solution chris. i shall try it. the only part about this product that i don't like is that it is glossy. for me personally, i would definitely want to remove the finish after i have filled in the cracks.
     
  6. Chris Radano

    Chris Radano Registered User

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    Soluvar used to come in a matte finish, which I have. But I'm not sure if it still comes in matte finish. I find I still used the gloss finish more often. It's not too shiny, in my opinion it livens the colors and is closer to what the dial finish looked like when it was new. Soluvar is a versatile material, you could probably do more things with it. I found out about using Soluvar from this message board years ago, so I am mentioning it here again. As always, test in a small inconspicuous area first, and follow the directions.
     
  7. Peter Planapo

    Peter Planapo Registered User
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    Well it seems to be the consensus to save the dial and stabilise the rot. I think it looks its age now, while looking brand new would be a bit out of order.

    Soluvar isn't available in England but it seems to be a high quality art stabiliser. We have such products here, and I might go for satin rather than gloss.

    I'm unsure wherther brushing the stuff on would be doable. I can see that it might help force the thinned varnish into and under the cracks, but I'd be in fear of dislodging flakes with the brush. Would an aerosol not be as good?

    Would you leave the missing bits or touch them in with colour-matched paint? Or indeed get a pro dial restorer to do that bit?

    Peter
     
  8. Chris Radano

    Chris Radano Registered User

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    Hi Peter, it's up to you how you would like your dial restored. When I apply varnish on a chipped and lifting dial...I use a soft brush, I get a little excess varnish on the brush, dab the liquid on a small section of the dial, then gently work it around to distribute the varnish. This is a far cry from vigorously working the varnish across the flaking bits. I do a small section at a time. Really I've not come up against anything I couldn't handle this gentle way. Some really small bits of paint may come off, depending, but they may so insignificant that they really may not be noticed. If your dial is that bad, maybe you should have the whole thing repainted. Where there is already missing paint is usually where the feet are adjacent, and maybe the outer edge of the dial. Right now you're not missing too much, but really it's up to you how you would like it. My experience is it's difficult to match up colors for inpainting.
     
  9. Peter Planapo

    Peter Planapo Registered User
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    Thanks Chris, I think I'm with you guys in wanting to keep originality. I have spoken to a well-respected dial restorer who said he wouldn't touch it as (he says) once the paint has started detaching itself, it can't be stopped. I think that may be a pessimistic view but I get that he doesn't want to put his name to a stabilising job that might start shedding bits.

    I'm going to try the stabilising since it might work for me and it might fail, in which case plan B is a total repaint. Can you say what size of soft brush you use?

    An alternative might be to buy one of the 14" repros on ebay, they're aluminium not steel, but screen printed like the originals. It would need fusee mounting pins fitted, but that's easy enough. Then I can keep the old one safely and offer it if ever I want to sell.

    Peter
     
  10. jmclaugh

    jmclaugh Registered User

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    #10 jmclaugh, Feb 26, 2020
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2020
    Tricky decision but I'd give the case some tlc and have a think about the dial, but definitely keep the original dial and not to sell but on the clock. The movement in it is high quality.
     
  11. daveR

    daveR Registered User
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    Hi Peter , to back up Chris I would not go near repainting the pieces. It always looks bad as , apart from the difficulties of colour matching, you will see that the area younhave shown is not an even white due to slight staining over the years. Also the older paints leave a thicker coating so un less you can build it jp you get a nice clear shadow line around the infill !
    David
     
  12. Peter Planapo

    Peter Planapo Registered User
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    #12 Peter Planapo, Feb 27, 2020
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2020
    The case is pretty good and needs little more than a cleanup of a century of smoke and atmospheric grime and the inevitable tiny spots of paint splash. The movement is a beauty, but it seems odd to me that it's gut not chain, and the fusee groove is most definitely round-bottomed and would not take a chain. I had believed that all these Astral fusees were chain so either I'm wrong or someone has swapped out the fusee for a gut version. Anyway that's a point for a different post.

    Very good point. I'll just try to stabilise it so as not to be forever picking up flakes and sticking them back.

    May I ask, if a water-thinned solution of PVA might work? It's recommended on some artists' websites for sealing oil and acrylic paintings. It's cheap enough that I could just make up a dilute bath and immerse the dial, allowing the glue to penetrate under the flakes. I could always spray with proper archival stuff when it's dry, though in my experience PVA does seem to last for ever.

    Peter
     
  13. gleber

    gleber Registered User

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    Hi Chris,

    Can you describe how you "remove the varnish?"

    Thanks,
    Tom
     
  14. Chris Radano

    Chris Radano Registered User

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    #14 Chris Radano, Feb 28, 2020
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2020
    In the link in post #4, it describes how to remove varnish. I don't think their directions are very clear, however.
    I usually drop the varnish on the dial and distribute evenly with a soft brush. After the varnish sets for at least a week-10 days, the varnish can be removed. I use a "shop towel", and shake mineral spirits on the towel. Then rub the towel with mineral spirits on the dial a small section at a time. After a bit of rubbing, you will see the varnish dissolve and removed by the towel. By the time the varnish sets, the dial will be tolerant of rubbing with a wet towel.

    This is one of the more deteriorated dials where I used Soluvar. Most of the brown staining was not removed, as it's part of the paint. When I removed the Soluvar, I think some of the address in the signature faded just a bit more than it was beforehand. But I can still see enough to tell it's "14 (or 11?) Caernarvon Place" I applied a few coats of Renaissance wax on the dial after varnish removal. I think this dial won't deteriorate for a long time, after the work. It's already past the point where it's unsightly for a lot of people. I think it looks fine. I see a lot of reproduction round wall clocks made today, that attempt to mimic the aged wear look that this dial accomplished over years.
    Or, you can simply leave the Soluvar on the dial and not remove it. I have a few dials I've left this way. I have dials, and paintings as well, where people applied varnish many years ago. I have one dial that is brown because someone put varnish on it that was too acidic. That won't happen with a product such as Soluvar.

    A. Winterhalder 12 inch dial clock 004.JPG A. Winterhalder 12 inch dial clock 005.JPG
     
  15. Peter Planapo

    Peter Planapo Registered User
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    Well, I can certainly see why you kept the old finish, it looks splendid.

    But the deterioration on yours is a bit different from that on mine. You have a few rusty areas where the paint has been pushed up and lost, whereas on mine the entire layer of paint has lost adhesion and cracked into tiny pieces. They remain in place by the Power of the Force rather than any remaining adhesion, and a feather will dislodge some of them.

    Here's what my dial restorer had to say:

    Hi Peter, I see this all the time on these clocks. As I said on the phone, it is such a “can of worms” job that it wouldn’t be something I would want to undertake. If you wanted to try to do it yourself, I would superglue (carefully) the pieces back in, then the missing pieces I would drop white humbrol enamel paint into them, a bit at a time until they were built up level, and then colour match the patches. The blackwork all seems ok, so once it is done you could spray it with some sort of fixative/stabilising spray to try to hold everything together, but I certainly wouldn’t soak it in anything at all. I fear though that after all the work, you will just get up one day and new flakes will have started to fall off again in different places, you can clearly see where the enamel is simply “floating” on the dial surface I’m afraid. Best Wishes, Simon

    So, that's what I'll do, being careful not to superglue my fingers to the dial.

    If it doesn't work I'll just buy a replacement and store the original safely.

    Peter
     
  16. Chris Radano

    Chris Radano Registered User

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    If you don't want to work on that dial, that's understandable. But to me, the next course of action would be a repaint of the original dial, based on the original paint. You have a perfectly good dial, to replace it would not even be in the conversation if it were me.
     
  17. Peter Planapo

    Peter Planapo Registered User
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    I don't think I said I don't want to work on it. I'm just following the dial painter's advice. If it turns out as he predicts, I can buy a 14" screen-printed repro for little money, or I can send mine off for repainting. But I have yet to see a repainted dial that doesn't look hand painted on inspection, and I think most dial painters do a better job on cherubs and roses than lettering and numerals. Is a modern screen print or a modern repaint closer to the original screen print? I don't know.

    Perhaps keeping the original is unnecessary. The more I look, the more I think it's already a repaint job. For instance the minutes are not all the same width. In the 1st pic the minute between 6.30 and 6.31 is much wider than the preceding. And the separation of the hour marks varies as much as 5%. They're not all over the place but they're quite inaccurate.

    Were clocks sold with hand-painted dials with such errors? Second 2 pics are another clock on my wall. Much worse. It looks DIY, surely no pro would produce such work. Or would they? Maybe this painter was under the influence, or maybe standards weren't as rigid back then. So as long as there were 60 minute marks and 12 hour marks, in roughly the right places, all was well..

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  18. gleber

    gleber Registered User

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    Thanks Chris. I never would have thought the varnish could be removed without ruining the work it was protecting.

    Tom
     

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