Chronometry: How to make a missing chronometer box top lid.

Discussion in 'Chronometers' started by Paul Regan, Nov 29, 2015.

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  1. Paul Regan

    Paul Regan Registered User

    Mar 4, 2003
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    I purchased this Bliss & Creighton chronometer in early May for an amount that I could not resist and I was looking for a project at that time. As can be seen there is no top lid. Unfortunately one common custom back then was to remove the top lid deeming it unnecessary and storing it who knows where.
    This particular clock was made in NYC around 1850. It is serial number 1645. The partnership of Bliss & Creighton terminated in 1853 with the serial numbers in the 2500's. It was not an amicable split and while it was being contested both parties died in 1854. Bliss' son John eventually took over under the name of John Bliss & Co.
    This is the story of the making of the lid to as close to what it would have been originally. I researched what the brass inlays should be like and determined the existing wood was Rosewood. Though it may be hard to believe the materials to make it cost me over $400. All the work was performed by me. I did obtain the brass from Gary Sellick of Ship Clock Cabinetry in SLC, Utah
    This is going to take some time to enter so I would ask that all wait till I show the final product before commenting so that we can keep the story together.
    Thanks for looking, Paul
    Here is what I started with.
     

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  2. Paul Regan

    Paul Regan Registered User

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    The first thing I had to do was find a decent piece of wood. A quick trip to Amazon Exotic Woods nearby produced just what I needed. The piece started out as a block 3"x9"x13". I had the place slice (re-saw) it twice giving me plenty of wood to work with and all matching grain. This little hunk wood cost me $80.

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    Now came the fabrication. The first item to tackle was picking out what grain of wood would best match the original that it would be next to. So when the lid is closed we want the nearby grain to be fairly close in pattern. I think I agonized about this for two days before I cut the first pieces. I only had one chance to get it right. At this time I also studied the joinery methods used for the corners and very top piece.
     

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  3. Paul Regan

    Paul Regan Registered User

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    Here we have the lid all cut, grain matched and glued together. No going back now as I did not have enough good wood left.
     

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  4. Paul Regan

    Paul Regan Registered User

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    Now came the most tedious task of the project. The inlaying of the corners and medallion. The corners are particularly difficult because they are three dimensional inlays. Two opposing vertical and one horizontal. The vertical layout is accomplished by reversing the brass piece, placing it on the wood and outlining it with an Exacto knife. Once the verticals are outlined I placed the lid in my milling machine and exactly milled them out. I now placed the brass piece in its(they were all different dimensions) corner and traced the horizontal portion with the knife. The purpose of the knife is to accurately break the grain of the wood so that when taking out the meat it won't splinter. Next step I took a very small router and routed out the top portion as close as I dared to my cut lines. I followed up with a series Exacto knives.
    This was the hardest part and nerve racking. I only had one chance to get it right and five chances to screw it up.


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    Once I was happy with the fit I had to pin the corners with four pins then file everything smooth. I then spent hours sanding to a mirror finish the entire lid.

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    Next step was to color match the old to new and the new to old. Due to the 165 years age difference between the old and new, something had to be done before I could put the final lacquer finish on. I used some expensive Trans Tint dyes to accomplish this. I used a mahogany tint on the lid to get some deep red into it and some maple brown in the original base to bring it to the brown in the lid. I then went over the entire case with the maple in the end. You have to be careful with the tints as only a couple of drops in 16 oz water could be all you need. I achieved the correct color in about ten steps.
    This picture is before color matching.
     

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  5. Paul Regan

    Paul Regan Registered User

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    I proceeded to strip all material off the bottom portions apply the tint and ended up with a real close match. You can see the matching of the grain at this time. The goal is to make it look like every piece came from the same tree at the same time.

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    After five coats of lacquer this is what I had. Now onto making a key for it(original was missing) and polishing the brass handles and other pieces. I know we are for the most part purist and don't like shinny things however I had no choice in order to do it right.
     

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  6. Paul Regan

    Paul Regan Registered User

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    Well here it is all shinny and happy to be whole again. Certainly a fun project and challenging. In about a month I will put a good wax on it after the lacquer cures.
     

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  7. burt

    burt Registered User
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    Sep 5, 2008
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    And that's why I call him a Master Craftsman! The selection of the wood, density and grain and color matching is about as good as I have observed. If you have ever tried inletting metal in any hardwood you will appreciate how tight the fit is. It's like the brass grew there. Beautiful case for a great and historical American chronometer.
     
  8. gmeyer4

    gmeyer4 Registered User
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    Paul, Fantastic job and thanks so much for sharing. Two thumbs up!!!
     

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