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Is it ok to write repair dates on a clock case

Gage_robertson_collector

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Hello all,

I was just curious as to what everyone’s opinion is as to is it ok to write repair dates on a clock case, or, in other words, what is the best way to permanently document a repair date for a clock, so that people can know the date/ repairs-person years after the repair was done, and/or the clock has changed ownership, e.t.c. This question came to me after looking at my 1843 Jonathan Frost wooden mov. Wall clock and noticing all the pencil marks on the door of people who have repaired it over the years. it is packed with dates, names, and various work that has been done to the clock over the years. Because my clock has been sitting not running for probably 20 years, I wanted to put my name on it or document the work I have done to it somehow so my name can carry on in the history of the clock like all the other people who have worked and documented their work on the clock.

(below you can see the writing on the back of the door to the case)

thank you kindly for any and all words you have to add on this matter,

Gage Robertson
BF5854B8-AB83-48D8-8C8F-4A212A2AA570.jpeg 9AB42A2B-B1D8-42E0-8E81-534D6646815B.jpeg
 

Dick C

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I prefer that nothing be written on my clocks if/when repaired and I do not want anything scratched into the movement, the back of the bob, etc.
 

wow

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I normally do not write on cases but last week a customer brought in an old family mantle clock which already had repair dates written on the inside of the case. He asked me to do the same and sign my name in same place as the rest. I plan to do so.
 

Gage_robertson_collector

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H
I normally do not write on cases but last week a customer brought in an old family mantle clock which already had repair dates written on the inside of the case. He asked me to do the same and sign my name in same place as the rest. I plan to do so.
How do you think you will mark it? By writing your name, date, repair you did, e.t.c.?

Gage
 

Thomas Sanguigni

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You can also provide a more detailed written document and photographic documentation. It is more than a few initials. The Old North Church in Boston recently restored a clock hanging from the choir loft. Inside the door was some pretty historic names inscribed. Here is some of the text I pulled from Ken Pearsons description:

"Technically there is no record of Simon Willard Sr. working on this clock; if I read the inscription correctly Simon Junior and his brother Benjamin F. Willard cleaned it in 1823 and 1823.
In 1823 Simon turned 70 and admitted Simon Jr. into partnership with him.

Simon inscribed his name and date on other clocks he repaired, most notably the tall clock in the Metropolitan Museum with "Benjamin Willard Roxbury fecit" on the brass dial.
On the front plate the scratched inscription reads: "Made by Simon Willard in his 17th year / Cleaned by him on August 10 1833 in his 81st year". A series of photos is on the Met website."

Simon Willard's service record is once every 64 years or so. ;)
 

Jim DuBois

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I recall an old saying "fools names, like their faces, often appear in public places." While not directly applicable to signing clock repair work I do not sign anything other than Franken clocks I build. I would be greatly peeved if someone currently whacked a repair name and date to a clock I owned that I think to be a museum-quality piece. So, even on run of the mill more common pieces I think the same should apply. Franken clock label details here

20200407_144533.jpg
 
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Willie X

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A business card is good and probably the best advertising you will ever do.

I mark (permanently) all new replacement movements. Old overhauled movements are marked with a sharpie. Usually with just the date (month/year) and my mark.

It makes you look a lot more professional when you can say, with confidence, I repaired this clock in 1998, etc.

And clocks move around a lot more than you may think, especially in the last few years.

Willie X
 

R. Croswell

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I think it is OK to mark one's own clocks if one desires to do so. I do not mark repair dates on other's clocks. If the owner wants to record the repair date and details on their clock they can do so. I provide an invoice with a pretty detailed description of what was done. A date alone found on an old clock really doesn't provide much useful information without knowing what was done. Is it the date it was oiled, the date it was rebuilt, the date it was acquired?

RC
 

DeanT

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Whilst reading ancient marks is fun I would be horrified if a clock restorer marked one of my clocks.
 

Schatznut

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I wish the clocks I have had markings on them so I would know a little of their history. These clocks are anonymous and always will be. That's unfortunate. Only in one case, wherein a clock was a service award, have I been to trace it back. I agree that a valuable clock would be defiled by someone scratching something into the plates, but pencil notations on the back of a wall clock, for example, would be welcome.

I have taken to placing small adhesive stickers on clocks I work on with my initials and date, typically under the base or on the back. This way, if someone in the future wishes to anonymize them, the stickers can be removed and any adhesive residue can be cleaned off with a light solvent.

Who was it that said, "If you don't know when the clock was last serviced, it needs it"?
 

Thomas Sanguigni

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I agree Schatznut. I always make notations on the receipt, and recommend they keep the documents together. Once, I had a woman with a box of repair notes for a J. Lakin bell strike GF. Mr. Lakin inscribed his name on the back plate in 1775. Pretty neat I thought. At least there were notes on the previous repairs.
 

DeanT

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Some are fun. I have a bracket clock from 1760 which has the following engraved into the plates.

"Peel defeated by a majority of 27 in the House of Commons 7 April 1835"

Which refers to the vote of no-confidence in Sir Robert Peel as PM and his subsequent resignation.
 

Gage_robertson_collector

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You can also provide a more detailed written document and photographic documentation. It is more than a few initials. The Old North Church in Boston recently restored a clock hanging from the choir loft. Inside the door was some pretty historic names inscribed. Here is some of the text I pulled from Ken Pearsons description:

"Technically there is no record of Simon Willard Sr. working on this clock; if I read the inscription correctly Simon Junior and his brother Benjamin F. Willard cleaned it in 1823 and 1823.
In 1823 Simon turned 70 and admitted Simon Jr. into partnership with him.

Simon inscribed his name and date on other clocks he repaired, most notably the tall clock in the Metropolitan Museum with "Benjamin Willard Roxbury fecit" on the brass dial.
On the front plate the scratched inscription reads: "Made by Simon Willard in his 17th year / Cleaned by him on August 10 1833 in his 81st year". A series of photos is on the Met website."

Simon Willard's service record is once every 64 years or so. ;)
very cool. And August 10 is a day before my birthday! (2004)

Gage
 
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Gage_robertson_collector

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A business card is good and probably the best advertising you will ever do.

I mark (permanently) all new replacement movements. Old overhauled movements are marked with a sharpie. Usually with just the date (month/year) and my mark.

It makes you look a lot more professional when you can say, with confidence, I repaired this clock in 1998, etc.

And clocks move around a lot more than you may think, especially in the last few years.

Willie X
so you are saying it is ok to mark the case/movement with a name and repair date?
 

Mike Mall

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Don't forget these MB posts live on in infamy. I have read old posts, and learned from experts, no longer with us.

It may be a real thrill - for someone in the future - to find a Willie X, Schatznut, or WOW autograph, someday.
:)
 

R. Croswell

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Anything modern or a replacement it really isn't an issue.

Anything that is historic, in my view, would be a terrible practice.
The clocks we call "historic" today were once modern, and the clocks we call modern today will become historic if they survive. I believe we should treat all clocks with the same degree of respect, especially if they belong to someone else. That being said, this clock that is now mine has a date written on the label 12/18/34. Most folks would likely take that as the date this clock was serviced. Actually, it is the date my grandfather wrote on the label in 1934 when he purchased this clock as a Christmas gift for my grandmother in 1934. It is the only thing I have that was written by grandfather's hand, and this clock and that notation mean a lot to me. My uncle told me what the date was and the name of the store where the clock was purchased shortly before he died at age 93. If one does place markings in their own clock, they should make it clear what the marks mean - serviced [date], serviced by [name date], purchased [date], wedding gift [from date], etc. Clock shops might leave a card or tag but refrain from defacing the movement or case except at the owner's request is what I think.

RC

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Gage_robertson_collector

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The clocks we call "historic" today were once modern, and the clocks we call modern today will become historic if they survive. I believe we should treat all clocks with the same degree of respect, especially if they belong to someone else. That being said, this clock that is now mine has a date written on the label 12/18/34. Most folks would likely take that as the date this clock was serviced. Actually, it is the date my grandfather wrote on the label in 1934 when he purchased this clock as a Christmas gift for my grandmother in 1934. It is the only thing I have that was written by grandfather's hand, and this clock and that notation mean a lot to me. My uncle told me what the date was and the name of the store where the clock was purchased shortly before he died at age 93. If one does place markings in their own clock, they should make it clear what the marks mean - serviced [date], serviced by [name date], purchased [date], wedding gift [from date], etc. Clock shops might leave a card or tag but refrain from defacing the movement or case except at the owner's request is what I think.

RC

View attachment 692421
Very well said. I agree with all of it. My stepmother has a Sessions ‘Ideal’ black mantle that is exactly what got me into this hobby and she didn’t know much about it other than that it had been in her family for a long time. We talked to her mother, and I pursued a sort of research project on the clock. We determined the clock was purchased by her grandfather, so, my step mom’s great grandfather. Unsure as to weather it was a wedding gift for him and his wife or if it was just purchased as a household clock, but through the research we learned a lot about the man who owned it and my step grandmas past. His name was Alfred Lillibridge. The clock is one of the nicest clocks out of the 22 clocks currently in our house, and is all original. No markings on mine. Wish there were though.
6B15A484-7939-4A86-B577-D6EFDB20C84D.jpeg
 
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DeanT

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The clocks we call "historic" today were once modern, and the clocks we call modern today will become historic if they survive. I believe we should treat all clocks with the same degree of respect, especially if they belong to someone else. That being said, this clock that is now mine has a date written on the label 12/18/34. Most folks would likely take that as the date this clock was serviced. Actually, it is the date my grandfather wrote on the label in 1934 when he purchased this clock as a Christmas gift for my grandmother in 1934. It is the only thing I have that was written by grandfather's hand, and this clock and that notation mean a lot to me. My uncle told me what the date was and the name of the store where the clock was purchased shortly before he died at age 93. If one does place markings in their own clock, they should make it clear what the marks mean - serviced [date], serviced by [name date], purchased [date], wedding gift [from date], etc. Clock shops might leave a card or tag but refrain from defacing the movement or case except at the owner's request is what I think.

RC

View attachment 692421
Hi RC,

If the British Museum asked you to service one of the Thomas Tompion’s in their collection would you write or engrave your name on that? The answer is a definite NO.
 

roughbarked

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At my place of work where I spent fifty years on and off depending on the local economy, it was standard practice to sign and add a number which was filed on the books. This ascertained when the watch or clock was last serviced and what was done to it, for future reference.

Would I do it to a clock in a museum? No. They have their own records.
 

Bruce Alexander

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I think that a business card with a brief summary of the work done, lubricant used, etc. with date can serve a useful purpose without vandalizing the clock with graffiti. Anything I have to say will only be useful to the next guy or gal. After that, it can be assumed that the antique clock has received adequate care through the years if it is still running. I am a firm believer that the best maintenance has been done by an invisible hand. I'm okay with being another ghost in the machine. But, that's just me. :emoji_ghost:
 

Schatznut

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At my place of work where I spent fifty years on and off depending on the local economy, it was standard practice to sign and add a number which was filed on the books. This ascertained when the watch or clock was last serviced and what was done to it, for future reference.

Would I do it to a clock in a museum? No. They have their own records.
I agree with you, Roughbarked. No museum will ever ask me to work on one of their magnificent and magnificently documented clocks so for me that's a specious argument.

The only record that comes with a thrift store clock is the sales receipt. When asked where one of my clocks came from, I answer, "The thrift store." It's an unsatisfying response. The one exception, as I mentioned above, is a service award clock bought, where else, at a thrift store. I traced it back to the person to whom it was given, and then through a little research found her son. I contacted him, and explaining who I was and what I was doing, shared photographs of it with him. I also offered to send it to him or one of his family members if there was any interest. He thanked me profusely for taking the time to reach out to him, and said he'd ask around the family. I've not heard back from him yet. I may not. And that's OK.

The only record most clocks have is the one physically attached to them one way or another - whether pencil marks, engravings, stickers or business cards. We generally follow the Hippocratic Oath when working on clocks - above all do no harm. Attaching a record, done responsibly, honors that credo while leaving a trail of breadcrumbs for whomever ends up with the clock when our stewardship of it ends. Whether as a service record or an account of its genealogy, to me, that's worth doing.
 

Jim DuBois

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A prolific graffiti artist who both built and repaired clocks was Elnathan Taber. I had a Simon Willard Grafton wall clock a few years ago, the movement in these is very small. He has scratched his FULL name and dates on the very small plates 7 times in about 35 years he evidently repaired the clock. I could have scratched the information far better. And to what end? To suggest the work was sloppy would have been kind. You can't see the graffiti in the photo. Strangely he didn't put anything on the back of the dial, although a couple of other parties did so, very hard to see. It reminds me of wild animals marking their territories....but let us not go there?

IMG_0790.JPG IMG_0795.JPG
 

Schatznut

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A prolific graffiti artist who both built and repaired clocks was Elnathan Taber. I had a Simon Willard Grafton wall clock a few years ago, the movement in these is very small. He has scratched his FULL name and dates on the very small plates 7 times in about 35 years he evidently repaired the clock. I could have scratched the information far better. And to what end? To suggest the work was sloppy would have been kind. You can't see the graffiti in the photo. Strangely he didn't put anything on the back of the dial, although a couple of other parties did so, very hard to see. It reminds me of wild animals marking their territories....but let us not go there?

View attachment 692485 View attachment 692486
Let's not "go" there? I'm laughing out loud right now, Jim! Best look up Samuel Whizzer of Gummidge-on-Trent...

At least you know directly the clock's era, as Taber died in either 1848 or 1854, depending on which information we believe, as well as more or less where it was during that time. Seven times in 35 years suggests the owner was very fastidious about the clock's care and maintenance, an interesting tidbit.

The only other guy I know of that has worked on my clocks is some dude named Bill O'Sale.
 

Jim DuBois

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Let's not "go" there? I'm laughing out loud right now, Jim! Best look up Samuel Whizzer of Gummidge-on-Trent...

At least you know directly the clock's era, as Taber died in either 1848 or 1854, depending on which information we believe, as well as more or less where it was during that time. Seven times in 35 years suggests the owner was very fastidious about the clock's care and maintenance, an interesting tidbit.

The only other guy I know of that has worked on my clocks is some dude named Bill O'Sale.
I think the earliest repair date on that clock was 1788, Taber would have been 20 then, still under apprenticeship to Willard. It was fairly common for clocks to require cleaning and fresh lubrication every 4-7 years. Whale oil and porpoise head oil will coagulate/spoil/turn rancid/stop lubricating for certain in about 7 years under ideal conditions. I have had a couple of clocks with repair dates covering 50+/- years, in one case all by the same guy. His signature was very crisp and proper in the first entry. By the last several his signature was quite shaky, we could see his loss of his steady hand progress over the last 2-3-4 repair dates. And that was one of the very few times I appreciated the repairs being documented on the inside of the front door. And I neglected to take a photo, remember the fellow's name, or even remember the name of the repair person. But, it was another track that started in the latter part of the 18th century.
 

Gage_robertson_collector

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I think that a business card with a brief summary of the work done, lubricant used, etc. with date can serve a useful purpose without vandalizing the clock with graffiti. Anything I have to say will only be useful to the next guy or gal. After that, it can be assumed that the antique clock has received adequate care through the years if it is still running. I am a firm believer that the best maintenance has been done by an invisible hand. I'm okay with being another ghost in the machine. But, that's just me. :emoji_ghost:
I like yours and others idea of creating a business card with the work done on it, but how do you ensure the label stays with the clock? Would it be ok to use a small tac and tac it to the inside? Tape? Glue? E.t.c. I just don’t think having the label loose inside the case is a good way of ensuring it stays with the clock for a longer period of time.

gage
 

Bruce Alexander

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I like yours and others idea of creating a business card with the work done on it, but how do you ensure the label stays with the clock? Would it be ok to use a small tac and tac it to the inside? Tape? Glue? E.t.c. I just don’t think having the label loose inside the case is a good way of ensuring it stays with the clock for a longer period of time.

gage
I think it really must depend on the clock. Some cabinets/cases lend themselves to stable storage of something like a business card. If you need to secure it in some inconspicuous fashion, I've used a small piece of blue painters tape. Usually the bottom of the case does just fine if there is no other location that will hold it. As others have said, a detailed invoice really should be the record of choice but the chances of those staying with the clock are almost nil if it changes hands. Great Thread and questions Gage! :thumb:

Regards,

Bruce
 

Dick Feldman

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If you were a plumber and did some repairs on someone's privy, would you leave your name or mark on it?
Inside the flush tank, on the under side of the seat?
Or, would you leave a duplicate somewhere of the mermaid tattoo on your arm?
To each their own,
JMHO
Dick
 

Fitzclan

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I don't know, I like reading tidbits left behind by someones hand 50 or 100 years ago.

Business cards and paper bills are usually the first things to be lost, even before keys and pendulums. Labels become illegible, deteriorate or detach and the history ends abruptly. Clocks are sold at auctions all day long and many of the handlers couldn't care less about the business card or the little clock history that grandpa wrote that fell out in transit
.
Records kept by companies are usually tossed soon after the company goes out of business. And yes, even websites and message boards die when interest wanes and those who care enough to keep them up leave this world
.
But so far we have a history of one Elnathan Taber and an apprenticeship to Simon Willard, including dates, and even the type of oil used for lubrication back in the day, and some service history signatures and dates by the Simon brothers in Boston and New York.

Had they considered their markings graffiti, we may not have these historic records. Sure, museum records probably last longer than most, but fires do happen and records are lost forever. Apparently even "Museum Quality" pieces have signatures and service markings!

I have been known to sign and date the back of dials after servicing. I think it adds a little something to go on for the person who might see it 50 or more years down the line. Most owners would probably never see it and it might give the next repairer some service history.

I think most people like to know something about their family heirloom and I see these markings as adding something instead of detracting, but that's just me.

I did not realize that service markings were seen by some as vandalism or graffiti. Who'd a thought?
 

roughbarked

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Yes it is interesting when you actually know or have previously known other watchmakers many of whom are now deceased.
It was also interesting when I opened two watches brought in by the same person and saw that both watches had consecutive numbers scratched in the back by myself. In effect both watches had been cleaned on the same day twice previously and were again about to get consecutive numbers in the book and back.
Ten year intervals between each service.
 

Bruce Alexander

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I did not realize that service markings were seen by some as vandalism or graffiti. Who'd a thought?
Sounds like that remark may be directed at me? I take no offense.

As Dick said, to each his own. There has been nothing of "artistic" value that I've seen in names and dates scrawled into brass or wood. If the clock was manufactured a century ago and is still running it can be assumed it has been serviced along the way. In the end, we all sign our work with the quality of service we provide. If someone has really hacked a movement up to the point that it deserves an entry in the HOS Thread, would you sign your name to that even if you didn't do the damage? Here's an example I worked on a couple of years back. I blocked out the scrawled name to protect the vandal because I try to focus on the work and not the person who did the work. https://mb.nawcc.org/threads/clockmakers-hall-of-shame.32142/post-1338449

If someone was truly proud of their work and wished to leave a "well done" permanent record somewhere inconspicuous on or in the clock I really don't have much of a problem with it. "Killroy was here" irks me a little for some reason. Like I said, that's just me. Your mileage may vary.

Some think that Rathbun bushings and the like are part of the clock's history too. I don't have issues with over-writing history where I think it needs to be. Depends on the clock. Depends on the owner. I just don't think it is my place to "sign" some other person's property and I don't sign my own.

Regards,

Bruce
 
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Schatznut

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I am at the moment overhauling a 1913 Huber Uhren 400-day clock I imported from Eastern Europe some years ago. I could tell that it had been worked on before because some of the screw heads were slightly dinged. When I got it apart, I found signs of some work that had been done - not how I would have done it, but effective repairs nonetheless. Scratched on the inside of the front plate where it cannot be seen when the movement is assembled is "CJ 0984". Does this bother me? No. It confirms my observations and indicates that the clock soldiered on for almost 40 years following that work. I am working on it because it only runs for about 8 months on a winding, and I know it can do better. I'm not restoring it or doing any major work like bushings; beyond polishing the pivots, I'm just cleaning, lubricating and adjusting, because that's all it needs and it has a wonderful patina it took over 100 years to acquire. I wish I knew the stories accompanying a couple of major dings and gouges. It lived through two world wars and who knows what all else and it is a survivor.

When I get done, I'll put a small label under the base with my initials and "C/L/A 01/2022". Perhaps 40 or 60 years from now, the next person to overhaul it will at least have an indication as to what the last work done to it was, and when.
 

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