Tall Clock Case Repair

Discussion in 'Clock Case Restoration and Repair' started by fbicknel, Aug 5, 2019.

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  1. fbicknel

    fbicknel Registered User

    Apr 14, 2017
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    Hello again,

    I have this tall clock (my grand-aunt's) that I've been putting off until I get more repairs under my belt. I've been eyeballing the case; and while it's mostly in decent shape for its many years of life, it does have this very annoying door:

    20190726_132630.jpg

    I've been struggling to figure out how to fix this thing and so far nothing short of slicing the front off, straightening the back with a plane (by hand, of cuss), and gluing the "slightly thicker than normal veneer" that is the front piece back on.

    That's very risky to the real veneer, though. Or so I would think.

    It seems to me that the piece wouldn't respond well to the steam treatment. Even setting aside fro a moment how to steam a 33x7-1/4" slab of lumber like this -- and the veneer would surely peel off in that treatment -- it just doesn't seem like the solution, either.

    Scenario II-b might be that the veneer does peel off intact and then I just plane out the twist on what's left and replace the veneer. Ugh. I can't imagine that ever turning out looking right.

    I'm also not sure that this is the original shellac. I don't think so... hm. Experiment:

    So here's the back side of the door. This is the lock mechanism. Whoever *ahem* "painted" it last got a bunch on this lock.
    20190805_101949.jpg
    Let's see if alcohol touches it: Alas, from this picture it does not.
    20190805_102136.jpg
    So I moved on to a corner on the inside of the door. The circle is where I rubbed the alcohol-laden swab pretty vigorously for about 15s. If it were shellac, it would have come off on the swab.

    It ain't shellac. Not even close.
    upload_2019-8-5_10-28-0.png

    It would be just like my grand-aunt to give this to one of the local townsfolk to be refishished and they used -- I dunno, "varnish"?

    I think I'll repeat the experiment with other solvents. Something surely cuts this. If not, then someone knew about polyurethane back in the sixties and used it. I think she got this clock in the fifties, but I'm not sure. They may have had it refinished when they bought it. Sadly.

    If it is poly, then no amount of steam is gonna do anything unless I strip the door first. Can you strip poly from veneer??

    Here are a few more pictures of the door. There are a couple sighted down each edge that show there's no warp to it: just the annoying twist.

    20190726_131442.jpg 20190726_131448.jpg 20190726_131453.jpg 20190726_131458.jpg 20190726_132638.jpg 20190726_132647.jpg 20190726_132653.jpg 20190805_102215.jpg
     
  2. Carl in France

    Carl in France Registered User

    Mar 14, 2019
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    I suspect i will state what you already know so sorry but here goes any way.

    I have been working on furniture for a few years and clock cases recently. In common with all though is the fact that over many years wood moves in weird ways. Generally it can be moved back, i do not move it back if there is risk to veneers.
    I think age improves furniture and restorations often take a good looking piece that shows character to a point where it looks near new again and though some love this i think they just ruin a nicely aged piece.

    The twist on that will be hard to correct with the veneer and will probably ruin the veneer if you go at it . The twist is the clock case aging, dare i say....leave it.
    Strip the surface dirt and re finish the case, it will look great.
     
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  3. fbicknel

    fbicknel Registered User

    Apr 14, 2017
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    Thanks, Carl. I'll definitely take another look at it, with an eye toward mitigating the warp without trying to "fix" it.

    I am a little concerned that someone back in the 50's or 60's has finished it with poly. I'm pretty sure it's not shellac, as it won't dissolve. I may be missing something , though... is it possible someone shellacked it then put a coat of lacquer over that? Is there a better way of identifying finishes than trying to dissolve a bit of it in a solvent?

    The base has a vertical crack down the right side where the side panel is pulling away from the rest of the clock (or perhaps vice-versa). I saw a video recently where a guy pulled the base all apart to fix this. He wound up shrinking the frame of the base (i.e., trimmed it down a bit) just enough so the gap disappeared. On reassembly, touch-up, and finishing, it looked as if that crack were never there. This definitely seems like master craftsman level stuff.

    20190726_131520.jpg
     
  4. Carl in France

    Carl in France Registered User

    Mar 14, 2019
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    Most repairs over the years i have come across do not pay attention to original methods and usually use what is handy in the average home so are rarely water soluble. I have found that clock cases are usually and luckily an exception......well apart from yours i am sorry to say.
    Is the crack something that could be clamped back together and glued? Or, left as is? Luckily it looks evenly spaced along its length which would assist clamping.
    Also, is the gap due to shrinkage over the years, awkward when different woods shift and shrink at slightly different rates.
     
  5. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

    Jul 26, 2015
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    warped doors are a pain, warped cases are often lived with over here. Beautiful 17th century marquetry cases tend to have curved sides that were once flat. It gives a slightly concave look to the front of the case.

    It is caused by the veneer and actually looked for when checking the age and authenticity. The carcase is veneered on the outside and left bare on the inside, so that the inner shrinks further than the outer resulting in a bow.
     
  6. Bruce Alexander

    Bruce Alexander Registered User
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    I'm not a finish carpenter or cabinet maker so please excuse the ignorance behind this question: Could you carefully and conservatively plug the original hinge screw holes with hardwood doweling and rehang the door so that the top is more or less flush with the cabinet again? Much easier to say than to do (isn't everything), but possible maybe?
     
  7. Carl in France

    Carl in France Registered User

    Mar 14, 2019
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    Definately an option.
     

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