Restoring a c. 1750 English oak longcase

NigelW

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My clock case has a number of faults which need correcting. The most glaring is a replacement plinth which was not attached straight, giving a Leaning Tower of Pisa effect.

20190531_105658.jpg

The top of the hood does not look right to me either:

20190531_105405.jpg

If it had any superstructure I think it would have been more like the one below (by the same maker). The gold paint on the curved moulding is wrong too.

Hedge clock sold at clevedon.jpg

Since the first two pictures were taken I managed to drop the hood on the floor

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NigelW

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Step One has been to remove the offending plinth. Not an easy task as it was glued on firmly with PVA to the lower moulding (already in a fragile state) which in turn was crudely but firmly nailed to the trunk.

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FDelGreco

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What a mess!

Looking at images 2 and 3, I would say that the clock originally had a pagoda top and it was removed, perhaps to allow the clock to stand in a room with a low ceiling.

With regard to dropping the hood, let me tell you a story. I visited a clock friend years ago who had a ca. 1740s oak grandfather clock. It was perfect. Then he told me a story. At one point, his German shepherd jumped against it and it fell over, breaking into several pieces. He got so mad that in a rage he picked up the clock case and threw it down the basement stairs. It broke into a hundred pieces. Later, when he had cooled off, he told himself, "I probably shouldn't have done that." He then began the meticulous process of putting the clock case back together. I was looking at it after it was reassembled and you couldn't tell. So there is hope for the hood if you are careful and take your time.

Frank
 
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NigelW

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What a great story! Actually the damage to the hood is nothing like as bad as it looks and should all be fairly straightforward to fix. I was showing it off to fellow clock repairers during a Zoom call and put it back on the table behind me. As I sat down again in front of the computer I heard a terrible crash as it fell to the floor - all in full sight, but not recorded. Had it been I might have been able to turn it into a Youtube hit.

The maker is Nathaniel Hedge of Colchester and there are plenty of images of similar clocks and cases in the excellent book on clocks from that town by Bernard Mason, including these:

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novicetimekeeper

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I don't think there is any evidence of a pagoda but a nice caddy would improve the appearance..

Early caddy tops were removable and not part of the structure of the hood but those were pre arch.

I only have one clock with an arch and flat top, it is a bit later and in mahogany but a provincial clock like yours.
 

NigelW

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Having decided to sacrifice the replacement plinth I sawed off the top two inches with the fragile original mouldings attached. This helps keep them rigid while I restore them and I will remove the remnants of the original plinth later. I have extracted most of the old nails and have started to glue them back together. The thinness of the oak element of the moulding means that there is considerable risk of them distorting while the cracks are glued and clamped so I am making some jigs to the approximate reverse profile to keep them the right shape.

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NigelW

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The front moulding was very badly split from side to side, close to the top edge where it is very thin and unsupported by its backing, and hanging by a thread (I made it worse while removing it from the truck and extracting the nails). Part of the moulding on the right of the clock was completely broken off as can be seen in the pic in the previous post. The very crudely inserted nails which I had to saw through and which were securing the moulding at a rakish angle were hand cut so it looks as it if a bad repair was made a very long time ago.

I made two blocks shaped to the approximate reverse of the moulding to keep it in alignment while glueing:

20200709_101937.jpg 20200709_102042.jpg

This is the left hand piece post glueing. It is now very stable and I am filling gaps in the back with a mix of hide glue and sawdust. I will probably to the same on the front to fill the nail holes, but only once the main re-construction work has been completed.

20200709_102022.jpg

Next task is to hunt down some English oak to make the new plinth and other bits. Most "English" oak sold in England comes from France or further afield such as Croatia I believe, but I am told it looks much the same.
 

NigelW

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I agree that a caddy top would look good. This is my initial sketch:

Caddy top.jpg

I think an extra component is needed in the cornice moulding to make it look right. I intend to make a mock up first. Because of the foreshortening effect of viewing it from below there is a risk that something which seems OK on paper won't be in the flesh.
 

NigelW

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Drove the length of Kent today to buy some oak for the plinth and caddy top. The sawmill, specialising in oak, imports from the continent and converts it for use mainly in timber framed buildings and joinery - not so much cabinetmaking. After rooting around in their sheds for almost an hour I found a lone plank, about fifteen feet long by 14 inches wide and an inch thick, sawn not planed.

It is cut through the middle of a small to medium sized tree, with all the associated problems of the central pith, some shakes and some knots, which is why it was probably rejected and left over from the batch. As I only need to use it in short lengths to make my plinth and other bits for the clock case I should be able to work around the defects. Being a quarter cut it has some nice bits of figure and I should have plenty left after finishing the clock case repair. I got the mill to cut it into two so that I could fit it in the car.

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FDelGreco

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Are you sure it is kiln dried? If they rejected it after sawing, it may not have made it to the kiln. I don't think you want to use air dried lumber for your plinth. Just my opinion.

Frank
 

novicetimekeeper

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It would have been air dried originally though. I remember the sawn trees all air drying at the timberyard near us when I was a kid.
 
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NigelW

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It would have been air dried originally though. I remember the sawn trees all air drying at the timberyard near us when I was a kid.
Indeed, but the question these days would be for how long. In theory quarter cut boards should be more stable but ones that go the whole diameter of the tree like mine can do funny things in the middle.
 

novicetimekeeper

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I remember when we put a new beam in the cottage I was living in to replace a bowed softwood one the Council building inspector said it had to be 12" square oak seasoned and stress graded. The builder pointed out that 12" square oak would take centuries to season, and stress grading was ridiculous. Timber framed buildings were originally built with green oak. After much argument they accepted stress grading was for wimps and it could be 3 years felled, so we found a tree that had been felled 3 years and had it made from that.
 

FDelGreco

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It generally takes 1 year for each inch of thickness for boards to air dry, although there may be some variation among species.

When in doubt, use a moisture meter.

Frank
 

Jim DuBois

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Air drying is seldom enough these days, And Frank is quite correct, use a moisture meter.

“Using wood with a moisture content above 14% isn’t recommended. Wood moisture content at approximately 15% can cause corrosion of metal fasteners and, at or above 16%, may lead to fungal growth. The normal moisture content of wood (or EMC) varies from 7%-19%, depending on the relative humidity in the air. If a central location has an average relative humidity of 40-52%, wood placed there will have an average EMC of 8-9%. This is based on charts and substantial analysis in Wood Handbook: Wood as an Engineering Material.”https://mb.nawcc.org/#_edn1 However, this range will vary slightly according to the region because of varying relative humidity levels of geographic areas as well as heating being utilized in the area where the work resides. It is perhaps a bit redundant to mention relative humidity will differ in Seattle as compared to Phoenix.

For woodworking cabinets, fine furniture, musical instruments, dishes, toys, decorative art, boat restoration, or various other wood products, the acceptable kiln-dried wood moisture content normally ranges from 6% to 8%.

Therefore, in order to avoid post-construction problems, a woodworker building a cabinet for this particular interior environment would need to dry his wood to a moisture content of 8- 9% beforehand and then keep it that dry during the construction process.”


https://mb.nawcc.org/#_ednref1 Centennial EditionWood HandbookWood as an Engineering MaterialForest Products Laboratory • United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service • Madison, Wisconsin
 

NigelW

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Air drying is seldom enough these days, And Frank is quite correct, use a moisture meter.

“Using wood with a moisture content above 14% isn’t recommended. Wood moisture content at approximately 15% can cause corrosion of metal fasteners and, at or above 16%, may lead to fungal growth. The normal moisture content of wood (or EMC) varies from 7%-19%, depending on the relative humidity in the air. If a central location has an average relative humidity of 40-52%, wood placed there will have an average EMC of 8-9%. This is based on charts and substantial analysis in Wood Handbook: Wood as an Engineering Material.” However, this range will vary slightly according to the region because of varying relative humidity levels of geographic areas as well as heating being utilized in the area where the work resides. It is perhaps a bit redundant to mention relative humidity will differ in Seattle as compared to Phoenix.

For woodworking cabinets, fine furniture, musical instruments, dishes, toys, decorative art, boat restoration, or various other wood products, the acceptable kiln-dried wood moisture content normally ranges from 6% to 8%.

Therefore, in order to avoid post-construction problems, a woodworker building a cabinet for this particular interior environment would need to dry his wood to a moisture content of 8- 9% beforehand and then keep it that dry during the construction process.”


Centennial EditionWood HandbookWood as an Engineering MaterialForest Products Laboratory • United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service • Madison, Wisconsin
The United States has a drier climate than our damp little island here on the other side of the Atlantic. The recommended moisture content for mildly heated buildings here is between 9 and 13%. Modern central heating of course creates a drier atmosphere, which is why even antique furniture which has never left these shores tends to crack and shrink.
 

novicetimekeeper

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all my provincial caddy tops have a double curve on them, I think I have five or six here. The 17th century caddies were more like your design but I think the 18th century was rather more attractive and follows the development of bracket clock cases.

This is quite a shallow one, most are higher but this was easy to photograph

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NigelW

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Thanks for this pic and comment. I was wondering if the bottom element should have a reverse curve but it's sometimes hard to see from the photos. I was using this other Colchester clock of about the same date from the Mason Collection as my model. I have written to Colchester museums, who should be holding it in one of their stores, to ask if I can inspect it and similar examples but have received no reply.

Of course what it looks like on a drawing board in an orthographic projection is not a great guide to how it will look in practice from lower down and not straight on, hence my decision to make a mock up first.

My existing clock case is quite simple so I don't want to add anything too complex to it. Your caddy top and the blind fret in the freize is much more sophisticated.

20190531_131122-jpg.599379
 
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NigelW

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I just tried called the Colchester museum and they told me the Bernard Mason collection is closed to all visits until at least 2021.
 

Jim DuBois

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Some slightly different examples of caddy tops. I suspect all of these are a bit later than your clock, but they are good examples and not often seen around here.

GF3.jpg IMG_4128 (2).JPG hood 7.jpg IMG_4145 (2).JPG 20180125_165046 (2).jpg 0125181455b_resized (2).jpg
 

NigelW

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Some slightly different examples of caddy tops. I suspect all of these are a bit later than your clock, but they are good examples and not often seen around here.

View attachment 600337 View attachment 600338 View attachment 600339 View attachment 600340 View attachment 600341 View attachment 600342
Jim Most interesting and helpful, thank you. The first pic is the closest to what I had in mind, although the moulding round the arch is different. The lower element is neither concave nor convex, just a straight slope. The back view is fascinating too. These old makers were really economic with their use of material!
 

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