Joseph Wills

Discussion in 'Your Newest Clock Acquisition' started by tom kerr, Sep 11, 2012.

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  1. tom kerr

    tom kerr Registered User

    Jul 2, 2012
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    This will be my last purchase for quite a while. I had a great week. I just picked up a Joseph Wills tall case clock, dated 1743. His name is always mentioned alongside John Wood, Sr and Peter Stretch as the earliest American clockmakers. The economy has created a strange marketplace out there right now. I made the first bid, someone bid $100 more and I won the clock for the next $100. I don't know how that happened, but I am ecstatic.

    The four others that I've located are at the Baltimore Art Museum, Winterthur, Williamsburg and the Library Company of Philadelphia.

    There is no doubt that the case, brass dial, movement, weights and pendulum are original. Folks may have been scared off by the item description that said "the hands and other parts were loose and non-attached." The case is 279 years old and looks sensational for its age. The tooling marks are incredible. Some of the glue blocks are simply sections of limbs planed flat on two sides only and essentially whittled on the outside.

    I live in northern Virginia. Harold, can you or others recommend someone to whom you would entrust cleaning/restoration of a historical movement such as this. I don't want to mail this one. I'll hand deliver. Compared to later period brass movements this one actually appears very simple. - Tom
     
  2. irritable_badger

    irritable_badger Registered User

    Aug 29, 2012
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    #2 irritable_badger, Sep 11, 2012
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 11, 2012
    Tom,
    I have used Eastern Standard Time in Purcellville, Virginia for all of my clock needs. I intend on taking my current clocks to them. The owners name is Frank. Here is a link to the site: http://www.easternstandardtime.net/index.htm

    There is also a guy in Hagerstown, but I have never used him. I definitely recommend Frank and recommend him to all of my furniture restoration customers.

    Hope that helps!

    I.B.
     
  3. Warren Brook

    Warren Brook Registered User
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    Please post some photos for us to drool over!
     
  4. tom kerr

    tom kerr Registered User

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    #4 tom kerr, Sep 11, 2012
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2012
    Thanks, I.B. - just what I needed, and they only have a 2-3 week backlog.

    This case is a bit unusual. Take the photo of the hood. There appears to be a standard hood door ending with the 3/4 columns on both sides - only it isn't a door - no hinges, no removed hinge mortises, no screw holes. It simply pushes into place and is held by friction. Note also the four faces cast into the spandrels. In some photos, I turned the movement, but I didn't turn the seat board to match. The hammer is under the bell dome.

    Photos:
     

    Attached Files:

  5. harold bain

    harold bain Registered User
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    Interesting clock, Tom.
    Spittlers' and Bailey's American Clockmakers and Watchmakers has this on your maker: "Born 1700, died 1759. Philadelphia PA, Ca 1725-1759. Tall Clocks. Third St. All have brass movements, 8 day and 30 hour, some sweep second, some with alarms, moon, brass dials; some 10 1/2" square brass dials".
    I think Tom Spittler would be quite interested in seeing this clock. Not many makers put a date on the dial. The birdcage movement seems to be unusual for this maker.
    I don't know any repairmen in your area, so check out Badger's recommendation.
     
  6. irritable_badger

    irritable_badger Registered User

    Aug 29, 2012
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    Glad that EST is going to work out! If you need help with the case feel free to call me at 703-727-5691. I specialize in French Polishing and restoration of original finishes. Good luck with the clock!
     
  7. tom kerr

    tom kerr Registered User

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    Thanks, Harold

    This is a 9-7/8" square brass dial. There's a small book cutout blurb thumb-tacked onto the inside of the case back:

    "Wills, Joseph.
    c.m.[?]
    Born about 1700, died 1759. During latter part of his life Joseph Wills
    lived on Third St. south of Mulberry (Arch) St. There is no evidence that Jo-
    seph Wills left any children."

    Also found out today that the clock came from the estate of the late Franklin P. Luckman of Abington, PA. Army (Air Corps) Captain Luckman was a distinguished World War II veteran who flew Republic P-47 fighter bombers. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and flew more than 50 air combat missions during his European tour. For me, that is a fine provenance. I flew more than 100 combat missions as a UH1E door gunner with USMC squadron VMO-6 during 1967/68. A real pleasure to become the steward of his clock for the next few years. The other 200 years of provenance are unknown. --Tom
     
  8. tom kerr

    tom kerr Registered User

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    Re: Joseph Wills (update)

    I'm very proud to "own" this 1743 clock, but the two photos of the case above are a bit misleading. Otherwise, I wouldn't even considering restoring anything but the movement. That incidentally is underway and will be done in about 2 more weeks. I'll post photos and details when I get it back. Eastern Standard Time has agreed to document everything that they do with narrative and before-and-after photos.

    The case is another matter. The finish is 100% shellac, but in shape well beyond what finish consolidation can deal with. I am stripping it with denatured alcohol. That effort shows that it has undergone major restoration before a very long time ago. The workmanship for the previous restoration is impressive in its own right and is very consistent with recent industry guidelines. Hide glue used everywhere. Tinted hide glue fillers for all boo-boos. Darkened highlights adjacent to almost all moldings. Appears to have all original case hardware. The escutcheon is hand cut from sheet brass - it's not perfectly symmetric - the screw holes are clearly hand drilled. Same wrt the waist hinges.

    By at least cognizant awareness of best restoration practice, the hinge screws are slotted cylinders (not cones) made by cutting off much longer brass screws to 5/8" length. The (few) nails in some moldings are square cut. Now we come to the punch line. See my poor photo #1 of the full length case. Note the horizontal molding (7/16" wide, 3/16" thick, raised bead about 4" above the top of the feet. The face of the base is is jaggedly cracked vertically in the center because of seasonal wood expansion. The small molding covers a horizontal, perfectly straight crack the 3-sided perimeter of the base. Now the kicker: the grain of the lower parts of all three sides of the mahogany base perfectly matches the grain of the upper three parts on all three sides.

    IMO(?), the base many years ago was shortened 6-3/8" by a saw? The 3D cutoff was saved. A good restorationist restored the clock case to full height with inside framing/jointery and a small 7/16" molding to cover the outside seam. Any other thoughts from you CSI-trained horologist historian woodworkers?

    This be a fun project. Hope that I can do as well as the previous restorationist. I took Doug Moran's course a few weeks ago in Columbia, but this is a bit beyond the curriculum.
     
  9. soaringjoy

    soaringjoy Registered User

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    Re: Joseph Wills (update)

    Tom, that is one very respectable clock you have there.
    The movement looks like it was built for eternity, the case has a simple, but elegant
    style, which I for one like very much.
    Shellac was and still is the finest wood finish around, so I'm glad you're going to it, because
    it will give you new insights of the fine craftmanship in days of old...
    Hope that's not, umhh, too pathetic.
    Enjoy the restoration and do keep us up to date.
     
  10. Chris Radano

    Chris Radano Registered User

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    Re: Joseph Wills (update)

    I wonder if anyone else notices the dial center may be from an older clock. The engraving is a different style from the rest of the dial, and appears 17th century. I haven't been reading my Brian Loomes books recently, so I won't be able to get too detailed in the description of the motifs of the dial center at this time. But that's a good source to verify.
     
  11. jmclaugh

    jmclaugh Registered User

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    #11 jmclaugh, Sep 27, 2012
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2012
    Re: Joseph Wills (update)

    Very nice clock. Quite a busy dial and the lovely engraving in the centre of the dial was obviously done by someone very skilled in engraving and usually that tended not to be the clockmaker and is quite up market for the less exalted 30 hour clock .

    Below is what Loomes has to say on Joseph Wills in his book Brass Dial Clocks which has an illustration of an 8 day arched dial longcase clock with seoonds dial and calendar by Wills dated to around 1725. On that clock the dial centre is matted, which is more typical of earlier dials and the chapter ring has no hour hand quarter hour markings but has minute hand quarter hour markings.

    "From about 1725 to 1759 Joseph Wills (probably English) worked in Philadelphia presumably in rivalry for the first 20 years or so of that period with Peter Stretch. Wills made some 8 day clocks and but also made 30 hour longcase clocks of posted movement construction which would not have competed for Stretch's market."
     
  12. Chris Radano

    Chris Radano Registered User

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    Re: Joseph Wills (update)

    The engraving of the dial center is tulip engraving, and is distinctly 17th century. Could be the engraving is simply done in a past style, or the dial could have been used from an older clock. Interesting. Here is an image of a lantern clock dial.
     

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  13. jmclaugh

    jmclaugh Registered User

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    Re: Joseph Wills (update)

    Interesting you mention lantern clocks Chris as posted movement were often persisted with on longcase clocks by makers familar with them on lantern clocks, plus of course they are cheaper to make.
     

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