Terry Jr Pillar and Splat clock: how to re-ebonize columns?

Discussion in 'Wood Movement Clocks' started by jboger, Apr 3, 2019.

  1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.
  1. jboger

    jboger Registered User

    Jan 7, 2019
    233
    58
    28
    Male
    Country Flag:
    I have an Eli Terry, Jr, pillar and splat clock that has much going for it: original glass, wood works runs strong, clock paper in great shape, original lithographed dial, original hands, etc.

    The negatives are, someone did a terrible job refinishing the case. Whatever shellac was used must have degraded because it never dried to a hard finish. Just to touch it would leave finger marks in the gummy stuff. Furthermore the original black paint had been stripped from the splat and columns and repainted with something that also left fingerprints and other marks in it. This was easily removed with ethanol, and when I did so, I saw remains of the original paint in the nooks and crannies. Transfer decals was the final insult. These were applied to the splat and columns.

    No, none of this was original. The original surface was long gone. I have now removed all of this.

    That's the background. What I would like to do is apply a black paint that mimics the original splat and columns as much as possible. I will worry about the stencils at a later point. Should I use an oil-based, flat-black paint? If so, how should I apply it? I'm afraid if I use a brush, brush marks will be left in the paint after it dries. I like the idea of using a spray paint but I'm afraid I won't be able to control where the paint goes. I want to do this first before I re-shellac the other parts and then do the stenciling.

    Has anyone successfully done what I would like to do? Sure could use some help.

    John B
     
  2. bruce linde

    bruce linde Technical Admin
    NAWCC Member

    Nov 13, 2011
    5,351
    456
    83
    oakland, ca.
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    check out tom temple's extreme clock restoration book... Clock Restoration

    pretty amazing guide
     
  3. klokwiz

    klokwiz Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Feb 4, 2009
    1,231
    35
    48
    WRENCH
    Annapolis, MD
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    John, flat black rustoleum is what I use. apply with a good quality brush. they did not have spray cans in the 1800's. if applied well will leave few brushmarks. also if you are going to stencil you normally wet sand out brushmarks in base coat. plus if you are going to shellac you should sand smooth too. and yes the temple book is a great guide to much of what you will be doing. joe.
     
  4. Joseph Bautsch

    Joseph Bautsch Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Dec 9, 2006
    1,098
    116
    63
    Male
    Retired
    Atlanta, GA
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    John B., I would not use any kind of spray paint or any sort of oil based finish. Rattle can spray paint is very hard to control and with out a lot of experience using it you will wind up with a big mess. I would use artist acrylic paints. They are water based, easy to control and less likely to run, come in multiple colors which can be mixed with no problem. Your final finish should be shellac which will adhere to the acrylic with no problem. The columns as well as the splat should be removed from the case before refinishing. Trying to refinish these items while still on the case will lead to disaster. The columns should be just nailed on and will pry up. Mark which column goes on each side, they are not always the same length. The splat is not glued or nailed in but sits in a slot cut into the sides of the towers. There should be flat wood capes nailed on top of the towers, remove them and the splat should come out. The case was originally assembled with hide glue, heat will soften it to remove any items glued on. Hide should be used when replacing these items. It would be helpful is you posted photos of the case from several angles so the construction can be seen by MB people.
     
  5. jboger

    jboger Registered User

    Jan 7, 2019
    233
    58
    28
    Male
    Country Flag:
    First, thanks for the advice to all who replied. The columns look to me made of walnut. I do see the nails. The cleanest paint job would certainly be had if i could remove the splat and columns, but those columns are really set very tightly into the case. I think it would be difficult not to damage the case if I try to remove them. OK, I'll take some pictures tomorrow.
     
  6. Joseph Bautsch

    Joseph Bautsch Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Dec 9, 2006
    1,098
    116
    63
    Male
    Retired
    Atlanta, GA
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    The columns are probably not walnut. Walnut is a finish hard wood and usually not found under a paint style of finish. These columns were usually made from white pine or of american bass wood. I've removed many of these columns without damaging the case. Take a thin piece of sheet metal and place it along the edge of the coulmn to protect the case from being damaged. Use a sharp one inch wide wood chisel to pry up the edge of the column. Put the chisel spine down on the metal plate and pry up with the flat side. The columns are usually nailed at the top and bottom. Start prying about one third the way down where there will be more give and will allow the chisel to get under the column then you can work your way up and down leveraging the nails out. You may have to break through several coats of finish to get it started. If that proves to be difficult use heat to soften the finish. The first time can be a little intimidating but in the end you will be glade you did. I have seen many of these columns and other clock case parts where someone tried to refinish them in place and created an awful mess.
     
  7. klokwiz

    klokwiz Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Feb 4, 2009
    1,231
    35
    48
    WRENCH
    Annapolis, MD
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    John as has been mentioned you shall have to remove the parts to properly refinish them. It would be quite helpful if you would post photos of the clock. Joe
     
  8. rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

    rmarkowitz1_cee4a1 Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Nov 26, 2009
    4,627
    538
    113
    Country Flag:
    What caught my eye was "original lithographed dial".

    Typically the dial would be a white painted wood dial. There might be any combination of polychrome painted decoration, gilding and gilt raised gesso decoration with black painted numerals which are usually Roman, sometimes Arabic, with a black painted chapter ring and minute markers.

    Typically, and part of the charm of these dials, are that they were hand painted, NOT lithographed.

    HOWEVER, there are RARE instances of the use of a dial lithographed onto paper then applied to a wood backing in shelf clocks of this period.

    For example, see these threads:

    Interesting paper-on-wood dial Samuel Terry/W. Griswold half column and splat...

    and

    A rare Torrington (Norris North?) paper-on-wood dial clock.

    Please post pix of the clock and especially the dial. It's either "wrong" or most interesting.

    RM
     
  9. jboger

    jboger Registered User

    Jan 7, 2019
    233
    58
    28
    Male
    Country Flag:
    Finally, some pictures. Sorry to take so long. Wife, family, job--just living. Anyway, here you go.

    DSCF2177.jpg DSCF2178.jpg DSCF2180.jpg DSCF2182.jpg DSCF2183.jpg DSCF2185.jpg
     
  10. jboger

    jboger Registered User

    Jan 7, 2019
    233
    58
    28
    Male
    Country Flag:
    #10 jboger, Apr 17, 2019
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2019
    My photo of the lithographer's imprint is fuzzy. The dial states: Lith. of Endicott & Swett, N. York. Not sure about Swett; could be Swott.

    I see the nails that secure the pillars to the frame. They look like half-head nails. No way can I remove them without gouging the wood. That's not acceptable. I would need to pry the pillars out, and hopefully the nails would come up as well.

    I've come to dislike the term "ebonize". It means too many things. I would like it to mean to blacken would via chemical means, such as the application of iron acetate. But the term means different things to different people, and in the most general sense seems to mean to make would black either by paint or some other treatment.

    I see the remains of black paint that were covered up by the coating that I easily removed. I assume it's the original paint that Terry applied. Was that an oil-based flat black paint?

    I tried to show some pictures of the edges where the pillars meet the frame. These pillars are definitely not pine. I agree that the pillars must be removed if one is to do a neat job of conservation/restoration. Just not sure how to get them off without risking non-recoverable damage.

    Thanks to everyone who has responded. I can take more pictures should anyone ask.

    John
     
  11. rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

    rmarkowitz1_cee4a1 Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Nov 26, 2009
    4,627
    538
    113
    Country Flag:
    BINGO!

    Nice E. Terry, Jr. 1/4 column "transition" clock.

    Appears to have the original tablet.

    Yes, the columns and splat are stripped. But enough about that.

    What makes your clock a wonderful and rather scarce find is the use of a lithographed dial applied to a wood backing.

    Some decent pictures of the dial with the door open would be great for documentation purposes.

    Please see the links I provided above. Here's a teaser pic from one:

    79208-jpg.jpg

    RM
     
  12. jboger

    jboger Registered User

    Jan 7, 2019
    233
    58
    28
    Male
    Country Flag:
    We have the same dial. I believe both yours and mine have faded from their original bright colors, yours much less so than mine.

    Let's assume I somehow get those pillars off. What do I do next?
     
  13. rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

    rmarkowitz1_cee4a1 Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Nov 26, 2009
    4,627
    538
    113
    Country Flag:
    The clock pictured in the other thread is not mine.

    RM
     
  14. Joseph Bautsch

    Joseph Bautsch Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Dec 9, 2006
    1,098
    116
    63
    Male
    Retired
    Atlanta, GA
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    The final finish on the pillars will be no better than the underlying preparation. Use a very fine sand paper or steel wool to level out the wood structure. When that is done I would seal them with a couple of coats of shellac, rubbed down with steel wool between coats. Then apply several coats of gesso using steel wool between each coat. Your objective is for the wood grain to be completely hidden under the gesso. If you have any blemishes in the gesso finish they will be visible when the final finish is applied. Now you have to pay attention the the area of the case where the pillars came off. If you are going to refinish the entire case that is a good place to start. If not then a good cleaning and polishing of that area as well as the rest of the case. You indicate you want to re-ebonize (blacken) the pillars. I would use black acrylic artists paint. Its water based and easy to use. Same thing finishing process applies here. Apply several coats with a steel wool rubdown between each. Apply a couple of coats of shellac oner the acrylic. Use the same holes the nails came out of to reattach using finish nails (or the ones that came out of them if still good). Sink the nail heads, fill with wood filler and touch-up with the black acrylic and shellac. If you use a flat piece of sheet metal under the chisel and use a wide sharp chisel you should have no problem getting the columns up. I've never had a problem with the nails coming out. Take your time working the chisel up and down the side of the columns.
     
  15. jboger

    jboger Registered User

    Jan 7, 2019
    233
    58
    28
    Male
    Country Flag:
    In response to a request for more photos of the dial.

    DSCF2186.jpg DSCF2188.jpg DSCF2189.jpg DSCF2190.jpg
     
  16. jboger

    jboger Registered User

    Jan 7, 2019
    233
    58
    28
    Male
    Country Flag:
    Joseph: Thanks for your response. I have a very good idea what needs to be done, what's in store for me once I start this job. Couple of questions. Were the columns originally treated with gesso? And why not an oil-based flat black paint? Isn't that what was originally done? These questions are asked party for an understanding of the original treatment. Since the original surface is long gone, I don't necessarily mind parting from the original formula, but I do like to know how the treatment you describe differs from the original surface.
     
  17. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
    NAWCC Member Sponsor

    Jun 14, 2008
    2,475
    380
    83
    Male
    Magnolia, TX
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    In my experience, the columns originally painted and stenciled are not gesso covered. Gesso is generally only used with gold leafing I think.
     
    PatH likes this.
  18. Joseph Bautsch

    Joseph Bautsch Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Dec 9, 2006
    1,098
    116
    63
    Male
    Retired
    Atlanta, GA
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    The original finish most likely used black shellac as the color finish. If you want to go that way you can buy black shellac already mixed. I don't recomend it becaues of the shelf life of any shellack is about six months and you don't know how long its been on the shelf. The original black shellac was made by mixing the shellac with lamp black which is a super fine carbon powder. The problem you will run into is that the lamp black is a solid and does not dissolve in the shellac. It settles out very quickly and you will have to continuously keep it stired up to mantain the deep black color. I have used this method on several clocks and did not find any real advantage to using it other than its the original method. Gesso is used under leafing type finishes but is also used as a base for other finishes as well, (artists use it under their oil paintings), where a flat smooth finish is needed. It is a filler that will cover the wood grain and works quite well under shellac. You don't have to use gesso but it will save you a lot of time and trouble achieving the finish you are looking for. The original columns had a very smooth finish and often had a bronze stenceling and often some type of leafing. Different colors were used as the base finish to give any leafing a differnt color accent.
     
  19. gleber

    gleber Registered User

    Jun 15, 2015
    1,432
    140
    63
    Male
    Underwater Robotics Expert
    Downingtown, Pennsylvania USA
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    Are Tortoise shell columns also usually gesso?

    Tom
     
  20. Joseph Bautsch

    Joseph Bautsch Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Dec 9, 2006
    1,098
    116
    63
    Male
    Retired
    Atlanta, GA
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    I have several clocks where the columns are tortoise shell finished and they do have gesso as a base. They have scratches and chips where the gesso shows through. Gesso is also often used under faux marbeling finishes.
     
  21. rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

    rmarkowitz1_cee4a1 Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Nov 26, 2009
    4,627
    538
    113
    Country Flag:
    Tortoise shell columns on a clock like this would be rather unlikely.

    The 1/4 columns had a black ground and were then gilt stenciled. They were not coated with gesso. That was a very popular decorative technique used at the time, especially in CT (think Hitchcock Chairs!). It was used on all sorts of objects and tin ware.

    Here's 2 examples of what the original decoration might have been on a 1/4 column "transition clock":

    IMG_3888.JPG IMG_3889.JPG terry 1.jpg terry 3.jpg terry 2.jpg

    The example from center to right is a bit hard to see due to a healthy layer darkened original surface.

    RM
     
  22. Joseph Bautsch

    Joseph Bautsch Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Dec 9, 2006
    1,098
    116
    63
    Male
    Retired
    Atlanta, GA
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    You are correct. Bronzing was a very popular decoration at that time. It was not suggested he finish the Columns in tortoise shell. But only stated as an example of where gesso is used. I suggested using gesso as a base because it is a lot easier and less work to achieve a level smooth finish surface. Really nice clocks you have there.
     
  23. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
    NAWCC Member Sponsor

    Jun 14, 2008
    2,475
    380
    83
    Male
    Magnolia, TX
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    You are correct, I missed the boat on not mentioning that gesso was used under marblized finishes on columns. T.E. Temple covers the re-creation of such finishes quite nicely in his book "Extreme Restoration". The book is excellent, the online version even better. Not cheap but he has a lot of great ideas and a few we could argue with but it is a great reference in any event.
     
  24. Joseph Bautsch

    Joseph Bautsch Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Dec 9, 2006
    1,098
    116
    63
    Male
    Retired
    Atlanta, GA
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    I agree T.E. Temple's book "Extreme Restoration" is a great place to learn new/old restoration techniques weather you are just a beginner or an old hand. Not cheap but well worth the price.
     

Share This Page