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19th c American Painted Wood Works Tall Clock

Jim DuBois

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From time to time, we come across something that is interesting enough to bring home. There was a time when painted clocks brought a lot of money. Not so much today. This example has decent paint. The movement and dial are not memorable but OK. The ogee bracket feet are a bit strange on a WW case but invite further inspection. The first pass looks good but strikes me as worth a better look. I like it and I guess that is what counts.

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Andy Dervan

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Hi Jim,

Thank you for sharing.

Nicely painted case - is there anything that could be done with all the speckled areas on door and lower base to improve its visual appeal without messing it up?

Andy
 

Jim DuBois

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Hi Jim,

Thank you for sharing.

Nicely painted case - is there anything that could be done with all the speckled areas on door and lower base to improve its visual appeal without messing it up?

Andy
Andy, I will most likely give it a try. I have a lot of acrylic artist paints, so some judicious application seems called for. Not only do I need to more or less match the colors, but I need to keep it all level with surrounding surfaces and keep a similar look to the top surface of the patch. I know I can improve it, but I am not convinced I can do it all "good enough."
 

Andy Dervan

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It sounds like a good Cog Counter's article to illustrate how much is feasible to reduce / minimize defects.

Does anyone understand how artists created the decorations, because this case looks really nice?

Andy
 

rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

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Hi Jim,

Thank you for sharing.

Nicely painted case - is there anything that could be done with all the speckled areas on door and lower base to improve its visual appeal without messing it up?

Andy
Sorry, but those "speckled areas" are part of the natural wear and tear. If the paint on this case is original, it should be left alone.

For a collector, faultless would not be desirable. In fact, it is a red flag.

When painted surfaces are faked or simulated (like all the furniture at places like "Hobby Lobby"), wear is simulated as well.

Wear has to make sense, too. That's another point that gets missed when faking or simulating painted surfaces and is another red flag for collectors.

And yes, there a folks out there who are VERY GOOD at doing all that.

So, if the paint on this case if genuine, I feel that the suggested fix is a bad idea.

It sounds like a good Cog Counter's article to illustrate how much is feasible to reduce / minimize defects.

Does anyone understand how artists created the decorations, because this case looks really nice?

Andy
There is much literature about how these surfaces were created using brushes, combs, crumpled paper or rags, feathers, stamps, candle flames, stencils, fingers, etc.

There are some excellent books on the topic of painted furniture.

Fales, "American Painted Furniture: 1660-1880." Great reference. Notice how most of the examples shown, which are considered amongst the best and were at the time of publication were in important private collections and museums, have defects in the surfaces and were left the way they are. For many collectors, expected, part of the history and I dare say, charm.

Churchill, "Simple Forms & Vivid Colors: Maine Painted Furniture, 1800-1850". There is a very good section, "Techniques in Decoration."

Schaffner and Klein, "American Painted Furniture." Pictures some great examples and touches upon techniques and even pictures of the implements used. Clock cases are shown.

RM
 

Jim DuBois

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I had a number of books on painted furniture, including those you mention RM, as well as how to create the painted work we still see preserved on a few pieces. They are now in the hands of Pat H as she had more interest in them than me. So, I have to trust memory, and we all know how that can go. RM, I have to agree with you on not spiffing up painted surfaces. But, sometimes, a bit of judicious repairs are proper, are they not? Missing pieces and parts, when recreated, need to look proper, do they not? And there is always the question of when is enough enough and when is it too much? I offer up a usual piece of thread drift as it does apply to the restoration of painted surfaces. How much of this is real, and how much is Memorex? When is a restoration more than a restoration? In the case of the subject clock, I think I will leave it as is. I am not skilled enough to do the work properly, and there are certainly ethical ramifications if we make things better and either damage a piece more or disguise repairs that should not be overlooked?

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rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

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I had a number of books on painted furniture, including those you mention RM, as well as how to create the painted work we still see preserved on a few pieces. They are now in the hands of Pat H as she had more interest in them than me. So, I have to trust memory, and we all know how that can go. RM, I have to agree with you on not spiffing up painted surfaces. But, sometimes, a bit of judicious repairs are proper, are they not? Missing pieces and parts, when recreated, need to look proper, do they not? And there is always the question of when is enough enough and when is it too much? I offer up a usual piece of thread drift as it does apply to the restoration of painted surfaces. How much of this is real, and how much is Memorex? When is a restoration more than a restoration? In the case of the subject clock, I think I will leave it as is. I am not skilled enough to do the work properly, and there are certainly ethical ramifications if we make things better and either damage a piece more or disguise repairs that should not be overlooked?

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IMCO, no need in the instance of your clock case.

Appropriate conservation, stabilization are one thing. This chest had a later overpaint removed by a professional conservator to reveal the original color underneath. That's different than replacing parts, repainting, inpainting, etc. Here is how it appeared at the time of its sale:

elisabeth holinger..JPG

A late 20th century cootie green paint that was advocated in those "how to antique your furniture" magazine articles that corresponds with the 1970's obsession for avocado green for everything from your kitchen appliances to your shag carpet to your Dodge Dart. How any bird brain could think this looked better than the original somewhat faded surfaces with losses is beyond me. And this is the problem that comes with advocating "correcting" every defect.

RM
 
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Jim DuBois

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RM, while the conservation efforts on that box are commendable, IMO, it fails when it comes to feet. Too much "correction" applied? Here is an example with legitimate age I think.

Pennsylvania.jpg
 

rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

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RM, while the conservation efforts on that box are commendable, IMO, it fails when it comes to feet. Too much "correction" applied? Here is an example with legitimate age I think.

View attachment 736244
Killer!

By the way, the dull appliance bulb flickered on over my head. The blanket box you posted above you have previously posted on another thread as part of another similar conversation.

By the way, I think the feet were okay. Because the "before" pix were taken with the box on carpeting, you lose that little detail that appears on the after pix.

I will throw in this example, also previously posted on the Forums:

laughlin auctions blanket chest.jpg

Recently purchased for > $50K by a very knowledgeable collector/auctioneer. Horrors. Dirty paint with defects, some height loss to the feet, losses to the original bail pulls. I believe may be a masterpiece by Spittler?? Who cares, needs to look like new!!

Ooops. Another highjack.

RM
 

Jim DuBois

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Yeah, we have definitely gone off course once again. But, patina, original surfaces, making a piece "look like it did originally," piano finishes, french polish, shellac vs. varnish, high gloss vs. flat finishes, on and on are all applicable to our discussion of clocks. We have all seen entirely too many clocks lose all original finish, lose what some think is a highly desirable patina, and become overly refinished and absolutely inappropriate in appearance. At least as I see it. We see thousands of examples of clocks now nearly nude as far as finishes are concerned. Much is lost in the "efforts to make it look new."

These blanket box photos and the story they tell seems applicable to our clocks. Sometimes it is necessary to remove a current surface to get back to something more original. Sometimes it is important to leave the surface we have as it exists today. Many times stripping it all is absolutely wrong. Seldom is it the correct solution. In one box we see the highly undesirable green overpaint. Then we see the restored/conserved box with what I think to be improperly restored paint on the feet. Over restored, at least just a bit. Showing a bit of wear there would be my choice rather than solid black. So, restoration/conservation can be subjective as well as arbitrary to any of us.

Very few clocks survive with their original surfaces. The clock that started this discussion has a lot of original paint, and leaving it as is is the correct answer. I have owned one clock, dated 1755, in a case that is thought to be original paint. Stripping it would be a crime IMO. Just like the current clock only worse yet. Just like stripping any of these blanket boxes? End of thread drift on my part. Hopefully food for thought for anybody still with us.
 

Dick C

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We are still here with you and enjoying the conversation.

Having lived in many locations throughout the U.S., I would expect that originality is appreciated by 5% of the population. As we go on in years, that percentage drops.

Now, I would also expect that those that appreciate the originality are primarily located in the middle atlantic and north east states.
 

Jim DuBois

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DickC, since we have an audience of at least one let me get back to surfaces and my various rants on the same.

I bought this clock a few years ago, it is 1755 by David Blasdel and has the date engraved on the boss on the dial. I bought it because of the maker, not because of the case or its finish. I assumed from the photos it had been reworked more than a bit finish-wise. And had a shortened base. After a fair amount of research, as well as some careful analysis of the case I learned differently on more than one level. Firstly, there are several other Blasdels with a similar short-bottomed case, so based on inspection as well as other examples, it was concluded the base was "right" in its current form.

But, to the finish on the case. I wrongly assumed the trunk door had been stripped. Not so. What we see on its front surface is paint, artificially grained to look like something other than what it is. The top molding on the hood, as well as the hood door, are in black paint and appears original and intended to represent ebony? Between the hood door and the edges of the hood, the wood is grain painted to represent rosewood. There is a fair amount of patina everywhere. But, many folks would have stripped this case to look like old pine finished new. And a lot of history would have been lost. To have a pre-revolutionary war clock in original paint is pretty neat IMO. The clock now lives in the NAWCC museum, which I think is appropriate as part of the American story.

The clock, as received, did sit on a base seen in the last photo that was a later addition, not attached, just set on it. Round nails and all that, so it was pretty clear it didn't belong.

And yes, we have discussed this clock on the MB before.

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rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

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Yeah, we have definitely gone off course once again. But, patina, original surfaces, making a piece "look like it did originally," piano finishes, french polish, shellac vs. varnish, high gloss vs. flat finishes, on and on are all applicable to our discussion of clocks. We have all seen entirely too many clocks lose all original finish, lose what some think is a highly desirable patina, and become overly refinished and absolutely inappropriate in appearance. At least as I see it. We see thousands of examples of clocks now nearly nude as far as finishes are concerned. Much is lost in the "efforts to make it look new."

These blanket box photos and the story they tell seems applicable to our clocks. Sometimes it is necessary to remove a current surface to get back to something more original. Sometimes it is important to leave the surface we have as it exists today. Many times stripping it all is absolutely wrong. Seldom is it the correct solution. In one box we see the highly undesirable green overpaint. Then we see the restored/conserved box with what I think to be improperly restored paint on the feet. Over restored, at least just a bit. Showing a bit of wear there would be my choice rather than solid black. So, restoration/conservation can be subjective as well as arbitrary to any of us.

Very few clocks survive with their original surfaces. The clock that started this discussion has a lot of original paint, and leaving it as is is the correct answer. I have owned one clock, dated 1755, in a case that is thought to be original paint. Stripping it would be a crime IMO. Just like the current clock only worse yet. Just like stripping any of these blanket boxes? End of thread drift on my part. Hopefully food for thought for anybody still with us.
My misunderstanding. I thought you were referring to the configuration of the feet rather than the color.

Now, let me throw this out. This past summer, I sold a very sweet sack back Windsor armchair. Full height, solid, no repairs, great "stance" (looked like if you clapped, it would go prancing across the room), rather delicate, great turnings. It had 3 layers of old paint. The newest probably about the 1840's. A crusty Spanish brown over an almost lipstick red (used on "fancy chairs") over the original green. Great wear. Scrape it down the original paint?? Nope. That was an instance of "paint history" adding to the desirability.

Sorry, wasn't quite ready to get back on topic...now I am, at least for now.

RM
 
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ToddT

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I appreciate these discussions and have learned a ton from them.

My mother collected antiques in the 1960's and 70's. I recall a number of pieces that were "antiqued". My wife and I also collect antiques though more of them have been maintained in the same condition as found. Some have been in the family since the late 1800's.

In our vintage 1910 farm house we've also done quite a bit of work reclaiming and refinishing original trim. We aren't the first to have done so (it was painted black in the 1970's and stripped with a wire brush in the 1980's). It's interesting seeing the evidence that the trim was installed first, then a layer of red shellac painted on top after installation.

As I started my clock journey, one of the first clocks I bought was this little Gilbert. It was cheap, and the finish was extremely alligatored, to the point where it significantly detracted from the beauty of the wood underneath. The original finish appeared to be VERY thick, and the cracks across the top were huge. This was one of my first experiments with shellac. I attempted amalgamation, but couldn't get anything satisfactory and ended up stripping it and refinishing it (in shellac). In retrospect, maybe I should have left it the way it was.

The point is - These types of conversations are valuable discussions. And while many like myself may not chime in, we are lurking and learning.
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Jim DuBois

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Condition condition condition. And that all starts with finishes/outside surfaces. Here are photos of two box clocks. They are rare and pricy if and when one surfaces. The first clock has been stripped and shows signs of other abuse, and is missing its full-length tablet/glass. The other is described as all original except for the replaced tablet/glass. The original surface clock sold for $52,000. The other one sold for 1/20th of the "all original except for." I bought it and had to do far more restoration to it than I liked. It will never be worth anything close to what the all original is worth. The last photo is of the restored version of the clock. To me it looks over-restored and too flashy, but since I did the work and own the clock I will take it all up with management. And had not some well-meaning party stripped out and otherwise damaged my clock I would not have been able to afford it, so........

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Dick C

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Condition condition condition. And that all starts with finishes/outside surfaces. Here are photos of two box clocks. They are rare and pricy if and when one surfaces. The first clock has been stripped and shows signs of other abuse, and is missing its full-length tablet/glass. The other is described as all original except for the replaced tablet/glass. The original surface clock sold for $52,000. The other one sold for 1/20th of the "all original except for." I bought it and had to do far more restoration to it than I liked. It will never be worth anything close to what the all original is worth. The last photo is of the restored version of the clock. To me it looks over-restored and too flashy, but since I did the work and own the clock I will take it all up with management. And had not some well-meaning party stripped out and otherwise damaged my clock I would not have been able to afford it, so........

View attachment 736477 View attachment 736478 View attachment 736479
Put the restored clock in a southern facing window and in 50 years it will be worth more than $52,000 dollars!

Did you build the hour and second hands?
 
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Jim DuBois

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Put the restored clock in a southern facing window and in 50 years it will be worth more than $52,000 dollars!

Did you build the hour and second hands?
Yes, I made the minute and second hands. The hour hand is original and shows it was sawn out, not stamped like slightly later versions of these hands, so both those that I made were sawn and completed in a similar fashion.
 

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