Petit Portico (Japy) - restoration options?

Betzel

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I could not resist this at a flea market. $85 seemed high, as it has been unloved for a long time. It's not expensive or rare, but I would still like to ask for some restoration advice. It seems small ones like this (maybe 14" tall?) with only two columns are less common, but I would be curious to see what you all have to say. The larger versions with four legs seem fancier, and more expensive, etc. I believe Millet (the final t is missing, but not pronounced in french anyhow!) was a retailer in Carcassonne, which is about 2 hours from where I am in france. The store name is inked on the porcelain dial, which has a few faint cracks, and the hands seem original, but are not fancy.

The flea-bagster who sold it to me likely put the dent in the back and broke the base, but at least he kept the broken piece. The movement has not been serviced much. It was preserved in "dip-it" sauce, so it has almost no wear. Pivots are perfect and even the pallets are nearly-new. No rust. The movement, bezel and dial all have the same assy. numbers, some screws are slit off-center, and the blueing is still nice and dark all around. Only the bell, suspension spring and pendulum were missing. What's in the photos were purchased used online for the repair. If I find a good "sun & face" pendulum bob at a fair price, I may change it out. The plate back plate is stamped Japy and the Brocot (from "The Brocots" by John G. Kirk) looks like the Fifth 1866 patent version, but it is in two pieces, brass on the side and steel underneath. The steel fork part falls out if it's not adjusted perfectly!

The outside has some serious wear. If it was gold plated, as I suspect, much of that appears to have been worn off, leaving only the dark patina of tarnished brass. What do you all think about restoring this metal? Should I try and remove the dent? Would you keep the fabric on the inside of the back cover, or remove it?

Also, the marble has dents and chips, but (if you can see it in the photos) the top of the main section (the part just below the pendulum bob) seems particularly etched by acid rain or something, so it is really dull. How could it have become so porous? Would you polish it? Also, what would folks recommend to re-attach the missing base section. Is it some kind of plaster of Paris?

TIA

Back_Bezel.jpeg Back_Dent.jpeg MvmtTop.jpeg RepairQuestion.jpeg Bezel.jpeg MvmtFr.jpeg Main.jpeg Brocot.jpeg MarbleWear.jpeg SurfaceWear.jpeg
 
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Betzel

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Also, if you know these things, what kind of glass should go in the bezel?
 

jmclaugh

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You'd need to know what the case is made of to know how to best clean and restore it, it looks as if it may be alabaster which is more porous than marble. The back door covering appears to be a replacement, it would originally have been silk to keep dust out which is a good idea. The front glass on French clocks is typically a snap fit and is flat and bevelled at the edge. Opinions vary but I'd clean the brass as for me it is just tarrnished brass as opposed to patina.
 
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Betzel

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Thanks. Very helpful.

Quick research (which leads me back here) shows many French clocks were made of alabaster, which will scratch with a hard safety pin. I tested, and it scratches so I think you're right. Explains a lot. Unless someone cautions against it, if I can get the columns off, I'll see if I can try "push once and rotate" lapping against super-fine wet/dry glued to glass for a clean-up.

I can find some silk. Black? Or, dark grey? I'd like to take out the ding out, but that can wait. Also the pinned hands would appear to protrude through the plane of the inner edge of flat glass. Maybe it was low dome on this one? This can also be done later on.

My wife agrees on cleaning it up. But, I think it's all cast brass. Ammoniated solvents can damage this, so I'll need another way. And, I think these are gold washed? Maybe it will look okay with some clean brass against some plating? We'll see.

Thanks again for the very good suggestions!
 

Ralph

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The clocks I have seen of the same genre, mostly had convex glass.

Ralph
 
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Betzel

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Convex will be the only way out. Going to be a tight fit. Thanks, Ralph.

The alabaster cleaned up well with fine wet/dry paper, as it seemed to have grown a calcite-like beard of sorts which trimmed well. And the gold washed brass improved enough with mild natural remedies and a few passes with a buff stick. To look fabulous again would require reapplying the gold, but that's just too far. I'm happy with clean, but not artificially turning back the hands of time, so to speak.
 

Burkhard Rasch

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the metal parts of Your clock are most probably made of spelter or potmetal (scratch it at a hidden spot and it will show white/silverish instead of brass) and electroplated.Harsh cleaning will remove the last gold atoms from it.Regilding the parts might be an option, there are sets to be bought to do it Yourselv.
Burkhard
 

Betzel

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Thanks.

I've learned the hard way that not all that glitters is brass, bronze or ormlu. This one tested as brass with a gold wash, and natural acids from the air mixed with cigarette smoke and other deterioration agents had eaten much of the gold off the top half, then tarnished and pitted the brass which lies underneath it.

It's a bit embarrassing but, after a good rinse of the metal parts in white spirits, the mild acid in vinegar and tomatoes within ketchup (acting for about a minute or so) with a toothbrush helped remove a century of severe pitting such that the buff stick could work well to get the brass to a point where it was clean and still yellow enough to blend reasonably well with the remaining gold washed parts (underneath, from 9 to 3) so it looks okay. A few licks with a brass bristled brush helped in the "round knurl" crevices. The movement is just clean, as it was well preserved in "idiot-dip."

I know large plating shops can redo most coatings, including gold, but I have always thought to do it well requires skill and real facilities with toxic solutions. Have you used a DIY gold kit on old brass with good results? If this were older and fancier, it might have been a possibility. I believe there was once some beading for the crevice on base, and everything in exposed metal (incl. a soleil pendulum?) was plated in gold.
 

Micam100

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Hello Betzel,

Have you thought of gilding (with gold leaf)? I haven’t done it, but I’ve seen it done…pretty straight forward. Google “gilding antique clock” videos.

Michael
 

Betzel

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Actually no, I had not considered it as it's not clear what the bond would be to hold it down to the brass, but it might be an option. I had the pleasure of watching an old master apply leaves of silver and gold (via the hairs of a paintbrush) and burnish it onto a ceiling once, but that's all I know about. So, I will look at the videos to see if it might make sense. Thank you for the idea!

Just watched an Australian woman do her stuff. This is a viable option. The wife will be thrilled :) so thanks again. Who knew?
 
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Betzel

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Well,

Thanks to the help I got from all of you, this one cleaned up well and is keeping good time at 8901 BPH. (6P/0L)

I forgot to do a train count, but JTD identified LaBounty's published beat rates in another forum --saving me the trouble of finding it the hard way. Alabaster looks way better, yet still has it's scrapes and scars, and although replating or gilding are case restoration options for the future, after service and regulation, I'm going to see how the brass darkens and stew on what if any further work to do. Lots of copper in the alloy.

Plating is expensive to do well and gilding would involve using an oil size as the bonding agent. May work better on large artwork? I'm worried about getting it fully into the rope knurling and/or coming off when handled by ordinary people. Dunno. The hands are not original, but the hour wheel was not changed.The PR simply spread the hour hand out of proportion and made a mess. I'll need glass and another set of hands. Maybe something like I've seen on this one's bigger brothers. And a soleil bob would be nice. We'll see.

Not like the other portico gems I've seen here, but even with a dirty phone cam, it's a champ for me. Maybe I'll become a collector?

JapyCleanedUp1.jpeg
 

Burkhard Rasch

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verry nice, I´d leave it that way! Congrats!
Burkhard
 
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