French Clock Service & Restore

Discussion in 'Case Construction, Repair & Restoration' started by BLKBEARD, Nov 16, 2017.

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  1. BLKBEARD

    BLKBEARD Registered User
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    Nov 15, 2016
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    Here's a nice little French Clock in for repair. The Case has one leg assembly blown off and lots of brass inlayc & ornamentation loose. Two porcelain numerals have fallen off and several others are loose.
    It's here to have the case restored/repaired & the movement serviced, The movement I can see from the outset has a broken suspension spring
    Any information about this clock would be welcome and passed along to the Client. I'm sure she'd be interested.
    Looks like the biggest challenge will be laying in all the loose brass sheet stock
    The biggest mystery is the two nail holes strait above 12 o'clock. I see no discoloration or scar from them fastening anything

    I guess you would refer to it as cloisonne, but I'm really not sure. I know it will be no small task to lay it back in there.

    French Clock Restore111617 001.JPG French Clock Restore111617 002.JPG French Clock Restore111617 003.JPG French Clock Restore111617 004.JPG French Clock Restore111617 005.JPG French Clock Restore111617 006.JPG French Clock Restore111617 007.JPG French Clock Restore111617 008.JPG French Clock Restore111617 009.JPG French Clock Restore111617 010.JPG French Clock Restore111617 011.JPG
     
  2. BLKBEARD

    BLKBEARD Registered User
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    Nov 15, 2016
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    Here are some closer pictures of the loose brass inlay. On closer inspection with magnification It seems pretty evident that the brass was incised into the Tortoise Shell. You can see the oversize cuts and the slips of the incising tools. So I now think that Cloisonne is ruled out. My current thought is a Tortoise Shell wrap incised with Brass Inlay. I don't think its Faux Tortoise Shell, but others on this board would probably know better than myself.

    french clock111717 001.JPG french clock111717 002.JPG french clock111717 003.JPG french clock111717 004.JPG french clock111717 005.JPG french clock111717 006.JPG french clock111717 008.JPG
     
  3. BLKBEARD

    BLKBEARD Registered User
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    Here's photo's of the movement and the markings discovered thus far.

    french clock movement 111717 001.JPG french clock movement 111717 002.JPG french clock movement 111717 003.JPG french clock movement 111717 004.JPG french clock movement 111717 007.JPG french clock movement 111717 009.JPG
     
  4. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

    Jul 26, 2015
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    What age is the clock? Faux tortoisehell made from celluloid was around by the late 19th century, the other alternative being horn but I don't think it is that.

    Trading internationally in tortoisehell products is restricted, though that may change in the US it won't anywhere else.

    I don't know a non destructive way to test the stuff.
     
  5. BLKBEARD

    BLKBEARD Registered User
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    I don't know the age of the clock. I'm hoping that some of the collectors will weigh in on that.
    I do know that it's a family clock which has been passed down through generations and the client is not looking to part with it. I don't think it's celluloid. Celluloid usually seems to have tell-tale cracking, and I see none of that under magnification. All she knows is she inherited it from Uncle Bob and is very fond of it and wants to see it functioning once again.
     
  6. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    Yes, I believe celluloid exhibits cracking, certainly the earlier type. I think it is probably real tortoiseshell.
     
  7. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Blkbeard,

    This is a Boulle case. The surface veneer was made by cutting a sheet of brass and a sheet of tortoiseshell sandwiched together, with a piercing saw. The end result would be two patterns, one 'positive' and one 'negative'. There are several threads here on the restoration of these cases if you search for 'Boulle'. As Nick says, obtaining real tortoiseshell now is probably impossible, (it's from a turtle, not a tortoise), so I don't know how you'll restore this.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  8. ClipClock

    ClipClock Registered User
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    Traditionally they used fish glue, you can still get it now if you want to go with the original method. When I was repairing an old boulle clock case in Furniture Restoration class my tutor suggested using 2 part araldite instead (lol) which I did. Doesnt look like any of the shell is missing on yours?
     
  9. BLKBEARD

    BLKBEARD Registered User
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    My current thought is to lay the brass back down using contact cement. In some areas this will work well. In other areas it would be very difficult to apply the contact cement to both surfaces. There is virtually no Tortoise Shell missing. I ordered a new suspension spring yesterday. I have time to ponder the best approach to lay the brass back down.

    Thanks for the information contributed thus far............................Mike
     
  10. BLKBEARD

    BLKBEARD Registered User
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    Comments of contributors, and reseach into Boulle Restoration all seem in agreement that Fish Glue is the proper adhesive, both originally & for repair. I ordered a bottle from Lee Valley, and I'm awaiting some Suspension Springs from Timesavers. Research has also found that the brass must be annealed before its laid back down to get rid if the springy-ness.
     
  11. Bill Ward

    Bill Ward Registered User
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    This type of clock appeared during the reign of Louis XIV, in the late 1600's, but the style of movement, the chasing and its smaller size indicate a date no earlier than mid 19thC. It's a style that remains popular even today. Still, it's a high quality clock, and so, in accordance with accepted conservation standards, all work done on it should be reversible. That means no permanent adhesives, like epoxy or contact cements. This is even more important if the materials are irreplaceable.
    Presumably it's glued with fish glue now, and fish glue softens with heat. So, I don't see how you'll be able to anneal the brass without reducing it all to a 3-D disassembled jigsaw puzzle.
    There do appear to be some missing sections of material, e.g. on the clock's left shoulder. But the material appears to be of a solid, unvariegated color, which makes me wonder if it really is tortoiseshell. It might be made of horn, which would be much easier to obtain. Horn is really made of the same material as hair, so if you apply a hot wire to an inconspicuous spot on the inside, the odor of burning hair will be produced. Otherwise, you'll have to use a synthetic substitute; I think that Constantine's sells some.
    Is that red silk on the back?
    There are only a few people in the world who are experts in Boulle repair, but I do know someone here in PA who might undertake it, if you decide to farm out that part- email me if you do.
    What are you planning to do about the missing enameled cartouches? That could prove a project in itself!
    Good luck!
     
  12. BLKBEARD

    BLKBEARD Registered User
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    Thanks for the info on the dating. I have the missing Cartouche's They're laying on the rotary table the clock is sitting on in the 1st photo. At this point the plan is to re-attach the loose brass with fish glue, fill the saw kerfs as needed, and polish the clock. The movement will be serviced. I'm not planning on replacing any missing segments of brass or tortoise shell, but that may change. If need be I can source a damaged clock or something for salvage material. This is a family piece and the client isn't looking for perfection, she just wants a functioning, presentable clock.
     
  13. PhillipHolbrook

    PhillipHolbrook New Member

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    I have an 1889 Boulle clock that is faux tortoiseshell as well. That is probably about the age of yours.
     
  14. PhillipHolbrook

    PhillipHolbrook New Member

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    Mine has been overhauled and is in generally good condition but there are some cracks in the tortoiseshell, so I am considering having the case restored.
     

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