What is acceptable in dial restoration?

Discussion in 'General Clock Discussions' started by novicetimekeeper, Sep 13, 2020.

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  1. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    I would describe myself as a longcase collector but those who follow me know I have a fairly good collection of dial clocks.

    All but two have painted dials. I have some dials restored if they are no longer clear to read or have extensive damage or have been previously redone badly.

    The dial restorer I use will retain as much as possible of the original, will match in, but not artificailly age.

    I have been shown another dial painter's work. They artificially age, they do it very well. They introduce crackle, they introduce the crazing you see around dial feet even on brand new dials.

    That makes me uncomfortable. I would not use them, and I would be worried about buying something they had worked on.

    Is this just me or is it going too far?
     
  2. Snapper

    Snapper Registered User

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    I suppose there are at least two sides to this conundrum. If the clocks are being restored by a dealer to sell on to the public, the average non clock enthusiast would probably neither know nor care whether the ageing or paint was old or new as long as the clock looks right to the purchaser. On the other hand I suspect most folk on here would put originality very high on the list of "musts" so your first scenario would be a priority. It certainly is for me and I have turned down many clocks I have been offered owing to over-enthusiastic "restoration".

    As far as repair work is concerned, I always ask the customer whether he wants any case or dial work doing. His word is law.
     
  3. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    I particularly don't like introducing crazing around dial feet. Introducing deliberate faults seems at least a couple of steps too far.
     
  4. brian fisher

    brian fisher Registered User
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    i guess i hadn't really given it thought until you mentioned it here. i have a history of buying some seriously derelict clocks. in this situation, i generally try to restore them with the mindset i would use in restoring a fine automobile. my new haven #10 floor standing jeweler's regulator had a great original crackle finish on about 60% of the clock. the rest of it (door, base portion, and some of the trim on the bottom of the cabinet)was un salvageable. so....my options were to have a perfect shiny finish on 40%, endeavor to match the original, or refinish the entire clock. well, needless to say the best option in my opinion was to match what was already there. is that dishonest? i don't know.....but i really love my clock and am totally happy with how it turned out. do i intend to sell it and dishonestly represent it as being something it isn't? certainly not.

    i think in the case of the dial you mention above, there is a potential for this very thing to transpire. i assume this is why you take issue. however, my opinion is that as long as it is only to be enjoyed by its owner, i think the clock(dial) can should be restored however its owner will enjoy it most. if i owned the clock, i am pretty sure i would enjoy it more with a nice looking period finish on the dial. i would assume perhaps if you could take out the potential for deceit, you would as well.
     
  5. brian fisher

    brian fisher Registered User
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    another thought: many of the clocks you(and i) have restored have brass dials. how many of them were sanded down and resilvered? if you were to get down to the brass tacks of it, how is that really any different?
     
  6. bruce linde

    bruce linde Technical Admin
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    i’ve had several dials repainted due to age damage. my guy does a great job but they all look new... while the cases do not. i would have liked a little crazing and age. maybe somewhere in the middle?
     
  7. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    Resilvering is something that happened to clocks during their life, and it doesn't make them look older than they are.


    My cases are often restored, so yes they do look pretty new, though a new case would never look quite the same because of a couple of hundred years of life.

    This would be the equivalent of adding worm holes and bashing the case about to make it look older than it was.

    Adding crazing caused by dial foot movement when the dial feet have never moved at all is to me simply dishonest.

    It makes you question any signature too, which is often a problem with dial clocks (and painted dial bracket clocks) where the dial has been restored, perhaps why signed movements are a premium. I always feel more comfortable with a signed movement in a dial clock but they are uncommon.
     
  8. bruce linde

    bruce linde Technical Admin
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    Unless you include notes with each clock, logging last service, dial replaced in 2020, etc.
     
  9. bruce linde

    bruce linde Technical Admin
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    sorry… one more thought. A dial that looks brand new on 150-year-old clock seems out of balance to me. There is an overall aesthetic that should be cohesive. a hint of crazing over the entire dial would not bother me. fake ng dial feet movement and wear would be a step too far. imho.
     
  10. JTD

    JTD Registered User

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    I agree. And here is a little story:

    about 15 years ago I answered an ad in a local paper for a long case (case only). I had a movement which I thought would fit so I went to see it. It turned out to be a lovely mid-19th century case, made of various different woods and with a label inside with the case-maker's name (never seen that before or since). I bought it and loaded it into my car. As I was about the leave, the seller said 'Oh, by the way, did you want the engine as well? It's in the garage'.

    The 'engine' turned out to be the painted dial (signed, local to the case maker), movement, pendulum and weights!

    The dial was in bad shape and I sent it to a dial restorer who had been recommended to me. She was a very skilled artist and restored the dial perfectly. The only trouble is that, 15 years later, the dial still looks rather new. I am not a an artist and know little about such things, but I wonder if there is a way for a dial restorer to use paints which are somehow a little duller or less bright, thus giving a look more in tune with the rest of the clock?

    JTD
     
  11. bruce linde

    bruce linde Technical Admin
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    i asked my dial restorer if he could fade the black used for numbers just a bit, and whether he had ever experimented with putting finished dials (or samples) in an oven to introduce crazing. he couldn't even grasp the concept.

    i asked tom moberg if he could dial back the black background on a lower tablet he just did for me for my seth thomas 1 and he got it immediately and it doesn't look quite so fresh-from-the-factory. it's subtle, but it helps.

    again... i love that my clocks are so old. having a brand new dial on an old clock is like having one brand new looking fender on your faded 20-year-old car... better than no fender, but should not be noticeable...
     
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  12. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
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    Here is an example of a dial that had been meddled with several times. It was flaking as can be seen in the original photo. It had also been treated with varnish or shellac in a failed attempt to minimize the flaking. The after photo shows a fairly sympathetic repaint. While I generally try to preserve original paint whenever possible this is an example where maintaining the original didn't seem proper. The repainted dial is in keeping with the overall case condition and appearance.

    FullSizeRender (2).jpg 1075644 (2).jpg
     
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  13. bruce linde

    bruce linde Technical Admin
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    agreed... the important thing is that the 'after' dial does not look brand new and glossy. it looks appropriate.

    here are two ST 2 dials... one has an area between the I and II that was trashed and touched up with water paints, and the other was a total repaint by my dial guy... respectable, but a touch too perfect for any self-respecting ST dial that old. yes, they both look good from across the room, but i think i like the touched up one better... it reads older, even if it's a subtle thing.

    dial_damage_near_I+II_touched_up.jpg IMG_2397.JPG
     
  14. Chris Radano

    Chris Radano Registered User

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    I had a dial that was restored with artificial craquelure. It was done by Martha Smallwood (retired), but the company is still around ("The Dial House").
    The dial looked fantastic, better than I expected. The artificial aging was not distracting at all. I would use them again.
    What's most important is the numerals, chapter ring, and signature are the correct proportion as the original.
    I have seen many "vintage" dial repaints that I didn't like. By vintage I mean probably done in the 1950s-70s. Wrong signatures, numeral size (usually too large).
    I tried to find that clock that I had the dial repainted, but I sold it years ago (lol!).
     
  15. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
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    Here is a slightly aged dial done for one of my replica clocks in 1980 by Martha Smallwood. It has stood the passage of 40 years quite well I think. The second dial is someone's misguided effort to preserve a signature. Apparently they overcoated it with a thin coat of varnish/shellac/lacquer that has not aged well. The rest of the dial looks fine and the signature is fine also other than the overcoat.

    20200913_171000 (2).jpg 20200913_171803.jpg
     
  16. rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

    rmarkowitz1_cee4a1 Registered User
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    To me, the fake craquelure looks just that, fake.

    And that's not just on clock dials. It's often attempted on painted furniture.

    Re:complete repaints versus appropriate restoration. A dial is original just once.

    If a dial is barely readable then a complete repaint is probably the more cost effective approach. Honestly, that is probably true of many clocks.

    For a rare unique clock, I believe the appropriate approach is to conserve and restore. It's a shame to completely repaint and lose that originality.

    The restoration in those instances is more akin to painting restoration. A good restorer will undo previous restoration campaigns, e.g., removing old shellac, cleaning, stabilizing the remaining paint, inpainting as necessary, etc.

    That type of restoration takes time and $$.

    Any restoration needs to be sympathetic and make sense which in turn requires some thought and consideration.

    IMCO, the worst form of attempted "restoration" is the reproduction clock label.

    RM
     
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  17. bruce linde

    bruce linde Technical Admin
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    agree... i am specifically talking about when the only option is a complete repaint.

    a friend of mine worked for a high-end furniture store in l.a. that charged an arm and a leg for 'distressed' furniture. he was the customer service guy who would take angry calls and remind customers that they had paid extra for the scratches and dings. :cool:

    i'm not talking about making a photo realistic counterfeiting of a 200-year-old dial. i am only talking about something that is... subtly... more than just a flat color behind black numbers. you can't really see the details of dial crazing and slightly uneven tonal shifts from across the room, but they add an ambiance that says 'old'... where most complete repaints say 'new'.
     
  18. zedric

    zedric Registered User
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    It is clear we will get a variety of opinions. For me, it comes down to matters of taste, and value.

    Very few of us have historically significant clocks - very few are even rare and far less unique, and unless restoration is undertaken by the most skilled, it is generally possible for a skilled observer to say where it has occurred even if in these days it might fool someone looking at an auction photo. So restoration is not really being undertaken to deceive.

    Since we are talking about clocks we own, to me it is then a matter of do you like what you see when you look at the clock, and if considering re-sale at some point, how will restoration affect value, ie will someone pay more, or less, for a clock that has been knowingly restored.

    As an example, here are two of my clocks, both with enamel (not painted) dials. The carriage clock on the left has been dropped heavily by a previous owner, and the dial broken. It has been repaired by filler and paint in a most amateur fashion, and the signature has been rubbed to the point it is barely visible. The case is also bent slightly. This one I will probably have a replacement dial made for, including restoring the signature, and I will fix the case - although it is old for a carriage clock, it has no particular historic significance and to me it will look better with a new dial. The capucine, on the other hand, has also had a hard life - it too has had cracks filled and painted. But it has a curious feature (to me at least) that the calendar dial only runs from 1 to 30 (not 31) - nothing historically significant, but curious, and it would be lost if the dial was remade (as would, to me, some of the character and charm of the clock). So I plan on trying to clean up some of the cracks, but keep the dial, even if my wife finds it ugly!

    Both of these decisions are motivated by what pleases me, as these are items I own...

    IMG_3417.JPG
     
  19. Alex K

    Alex K Registered User

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    Fake craquelure I believe the absolute evil, and no justification to one who is making them, if someone is making them to reach dial and case to be appropiate - could be but who knows when those clock finally appear on the market and the seller could present those fake craquelures as ancient one. - what will you feel abou that... Dont work with people who is making "craquelures" ;)

    scientific approach in restoration is rather complex but main rools are:
    1. must be reversable
    2. all new things must not looks as ancient (this is refers to craquelures btw) to make observer see what is original and where is replacement
    btw if you learn how restoration is done usually - this is not one person job, for every serious action history scintists, archelodists, engineers and so on (depending on a case) collectively take a decigion about what to do with the object and how to do. Like medical council, same approach... Complex, yes, but this is correct way.

    However for us who loves clocks there could be some good news - clocks are still a tool for measuring a time. And since most of the clock we have are not unic of very rare so you can just repaire them with more freedom. So you can chose for yourself who you are - repairer or restorer. And for me to be a repairer of ancient clocks is a bigger proud to be sice your level must be not lower than of that clockmaker who created a particular clock you work with. Considering all that when I got clock - I can chose who I am - for some I am a repairer for others where I do not have enough qualification - I am a restorer and for some cases I just look and dont touch piece with my fingers)) until I feel that I am ready)) - yes that's hurd...
     
  20. brian fisher

    brian fisher Registered User
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    well, to a good extent, i agree with your sentiments here, but...would you suppose that the original maker of the clock had intended for the dial to be re-silvered at some point in its life? i would assume they never thought about it. i would further assume they simply endeavored to build what would sell in that day and hoped to purvey as many as possible without a thought in the world as to who would be its curator in 200+ years.

    my point of this tangent is: why is it acceptable in a restoration to re-silver a dial without harm to collectability or value yet to (egad!!) hypocritically repaint a dial is the collectible equivalent to flipping the holy ghost the middle finger?

    i would hypothesize that perhaps they are both accomplishing the same intention? i understand your original question is really in regard to "fake aging", but i feel like this topic goes further than this. i suppose that i am basically an advocate of simply making your clock into whatever you wish it to be as long as you don't misrepresent it when it is time to pass it on to the next caretaker. cough! cough! cigar clocks...cough! lol

    i have seen "cracklature" "shabby chic" furniture a few times in antique malls and such. it does not look "original" or "period" to me by any means. it just looks silly in my opinion. that treatment on a dial would be....awful. but there are people out there that can make a dial look very period by aging in an artistic way. i do not own any clocks of this sort, but personally, i am a fan of that.
     
  21. bruce linde

    bruce linde Technical Admin
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    i'm talking about a hint of tasteful aging... not painting on spiderwebs, etc. :cool:
     
  22. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    Given that longcase followed on lantern clocks I would say the majority of makers did expect it to happen, yes. They would have seen enough clocks themselves, and they more than likely maintained clocks for others. I'm sure they did not look two or three hundred years into the future but resilvering would have been part of their trade.

    I have lots of painted dials restored, I'm not against restoration. I'm talking about artificial ageing. Not just artificial ageing of the already old but artificial ageing of the brand new to make it look old. Introducing faults into the dial that was made yesterday to look like the dial feet had moved and fractured the paint finish.

    Faking is faking, and though in this case it is without doubt done to deceive in effect it always is, we are the sustodians of these pieces, they live longer than us and will be here after we have gone.

    We must disagree. I don't think it is ethical to introduce faults into clocks to deceive.
     
  23. Chris Radano

    Chris Radano Registered User

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    Well if you have the dial repainted, probably everyone knows it's been repainted.
    If the dial is repainted bright white, it's very obvious. Me, not being a dial repaint expert, will defer to the experts. What is a solution for not having the dial appear too new? The artificial craquelure. Usually it's obvious the dial is a repaint, and the craquelure has been added. So, I'm not sure it's really deceptive, except to make the dial appear less stark.
    I had a dial done with the added cracks, when I saw it in person it was fine. Yes, it was fake. Yes, it looked OK. Better than I thought it would.
    If you don't want it done that's also fine. But I'm the only one here who had it done, I maintain the clock was OK. No matter how you slice it, the dial was still a repaint.
     
  24. rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

    rmarkowitz1_cee4a1 Registered User
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    Big difference. When repainting a dial, you strip the dial of it's original paint and thus, IMCO, it's originality and replace it with essentially a reproduction surface. Resilvering does not strip away the originality and it can be reversed. One might also argue that it makes the dial more "functional" as often it may be easier to read once resilvered with the numerals are filled with black wax. By the way, if I had a nice old brass dialed clock, say from CT, I would opt NOT to resilver as I accept that an old object has wear and tear.

    I wish I could age artistically. People can't and antiques can't.

    Sorry if a double reply. Some how I messed up my first one. I have requested that it be removed.

    RM
     
  25. jmclaugh

    jmclaugh Registered User

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    What is acceptable is a very subjective question and therefore one you'll get different answers to. My view is do as little as you can or need to but bear in mind nothing lasts forever.
     
  26. leeinv66

    leeinv66 Moderator
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    I think we are discussing restoration and conservation as if they are the same thing in this thread. And just to muddy the waters even more, we have thrown in faking :) As Jonathan says, this is all very subjective. Restoration and conservation have some process similarities, but they have very different end goals. Coming to an agreed limit on how far is too far and applying it to both of these competing views may just be a bridge too far IMHO.
     
  27. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    It's the faking I find a problem, and that doesn't fit in with either restoration or conservation. The idea of introducing faults that weren't there to give an illusion of age.

    One of the problems with painted iron and wooden dials is that they may have been damaged or the numerals and signature worn to the point of being illegible. At that point I have them restored. They don't come back bright white, not sure they were ever that white in the first place, the ground is matched to the colour on the back of the dial if it needs the ground redone, the numerals are traced and repainted or just touched up. If possible the ground is just stabilised.

    If damage from moved dial feet is bad it is repaired, of if very minor it is left.

    What isn't done if a complete repaint is required is to introduce new damage to the surface to give it an appearance of age.

    I have renovated a number of centuries old properties in my time and the same goes there, you match, you repair, but you don't artificially age. You are a custodian, your aim is not to deceive those who come later but to pass on with the history intact.
     
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  28. bruce linde

    bruce linde Technical Admin
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    nick - obviously this is important to you. can you provide any photos of dial repaints and/or restorations that are acceptable and not acceptable to you?
     
  29. leeinv66

    leeinv66 Moderator
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    That's an honourable, but still a very much a subjective view. There are other reasons one might introduce the look of age other than to deceive. I have from time to time aged white paper replacement dials so they fit better aesthetically with the clock I am restoring. To me, it is pointless to spend hours cleaning and rejuvenating a case only to plaster a bright white dial on to it. I am not looking to deceive anyone when I do this. I am looking to match the aesthetics of the dial with the restored case.
     
  30. Chris Radano

    Chris Radano Registered User

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    To address the question "is it acceptable?" - Artificial aging is an acceptable practice in the industry, but on an individual level it is perhaps not acceptable.
    I am not addressing repainting with this example, but addressing "fake". Here is a dial with real cracquelure. However, this dial was sprayed with a heavy, shiny coat of lacquer. So, therefore to me it has been faked. The dial was artificially modified in a way that affected it's aging process. Was this done to deceive? To me, no. It was very obvious the dial was sprayed! Now, I coated the dial with Renaissance wax that toned down the shiny and is more acceptable to me (and less stark).
    Are all dial repaints acceptable? Is repainting a dial done to deceive? The answers are: Yes. And yes to some extent. Repainting a dial is meant to deceive the viewer, because the aging process had become distracting in some subjective way. Repainting dials is an accepted process, akin to replacing movement parts such as mainsprings. This is true for all machinery, autos, etc. Parts being replaced is accepted.
    It is important to take the time and effort to answer these questions on an individual basis, to ensure these things are conserved properly (although sometimes I question why we conserve things. I think maybe it's a basic human need).

    DSCN7261.JPG
     
  31. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    If you look at that dial you can see where the dial feet are, or at least three of them.

    What I find unacceptable is a new dial, with this finish showing movement of new dial feet. I know somebody who has copied one of my clocks, including signature, a new case, a new dial, a movement converted to take a shorter pendulum, a brand new dial bearing the signature, and with cracks around the dial feet.
     
  32. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    I don't have permission to use somebody else's photos. All of the dials I have had repainted are on here though.
     
  33. P.Hageman

    P.Hageman Registered User

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    I think the view on what is a good restoration shifts. It does not matter if it is on antique cars, motorcycles or clocks. Nowadays its more towards conservation then bringing it back to the condition "like new" . Speaking about clockdials, I would leave a dial as it is if its good readable. If the signature etc is somewhat faint, I would leave it the way it is.
     
  34. bruce linde

    bruce linde Technical Admin
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    nick sent me a PM with a photo of what he's talking about... the faked cracks/crazing around the winding hole and where the dial feet attach behind the dial look fake. it's one thing to add subtle touches that make a dial look less than brand spanking new, and another fake wear less than artistically.

    i asked my dial guy if he could add a touch of 'wear' (i.e., the appearance of) to a banjo clock dial winding hole. he assured me that his wife did this all the time... and what i received looked like someone had painted a ring around the winding hole... great. (not really).

    if it looks fake, not good.

    if it's blatant, not good.

    subtle, maybe... depends on the clock and the owner.
     
  35. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    Certainly some artificial ageing is just so obvious it is awful.

    This dial was poorly repainted, and then had a yellow wash over it to suggest years of tobacco smoke.

    Now it has been restored, along with the case that has also been restored to a high standard. A matching sound fret to the remaining one there was laser cut from brass sheet, it probably had a wooden fret originally but there was no trace of it. The surround, cock beading and side door trims were all ebonised as there was evidence that was the original finish. The dial was stripped of the yellow and removal of the lettering exposed an earlier style so that was what has been put back.

    Meanwhile the signed movement has been fully restored. My view is this was the right way to go, I don't think artificial ageing of the dial would be better.

    However the clock Bruce is talking about is actually brand new apart from the movement which has been altered to run in the new case.

    dwerrihouse 1.jpg dwerrihouse restored.jpg
     
  36. bruce linde

    bruce linde Technical Admin
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    Nov 13, 2011
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    the restored dial does not look new... it's not a totally even mono-color and looks great to me. that's all i'm talking about...
     
  37. jmclaugh

    jmclaugh Registered User

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    One good thing to do for an original or old repainted dial and indeed the rest of the clock is ensure they don't get direct sunlight or other direct heat but the other extreme is just as bad.
     
  38. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    we live in a house with many watercolours and pastels, direct sunlight is banned from most of it.
     
  39. rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

    rmarkowitz1_cee4a1 Registered User
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    Direct sunlight as well as extremes of humidity and temperature, are the enemies of most antiques.

    Central heating, that modern necessity, can really do a #.

    On 2 occasions I have been rudely awakened at night by a loud "POP" in the depths of the winter when no matter what I did, the humidity gets very low. That pop was glass cracking. In one instance, the surrounding wooden frame and another the door frame of a book case shrank and racked from the dryness causing the glass to break!

    Some doors on my clocks have warped over time, case veneer buckled and so on.

    RM.
     
  40. Chris Radano

    Chris Radano Registered User

    Feb 18, 2004
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    We are fortunate to have establishments such as The Dial House. I've used them a couple times, and they were excellent. Seen other examples by them, such as Jim DuBois' dial above, their results seem always right on point. There are other dial restoration specialists that do great work, too.
    And as long as we're being subjective, I've seen quite a few dials on English clocks that are so bright and new in appearance, they really "stand out" (but not in a good way).
     
    leeinv66 likes this.
  41. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
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    Jun 14, 2008
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    Since the discussion has wandered a bit from just dials, I offer the following description from a current auction. It is a bit like the old sage of Washington's hatchet, "all original", handle replaced twice, head replaced 3 times. I offer it for our amusement and discussion if others see fit.

    "CONDITION

    The case is in professionally restored good condition with a restored cornice and frieze, the long pendulum door has had the modern brass lock replaced to the original style wood latch, the surrounding door molding has been restored to the original style since having been removed over the years, the base plinth and feet are restored to original style after having been removed at some time and replaced with bracket feet. The clockworks have had little work done, the dial face has had the single hour hand blued as it was originally, the interior works have had some dust and dirt removed but other than the early 20th-century weight suspension chain replacing the original rope suspension little appears to have been done. The pinions are worn and the works do not appear to have been serviced nor professionally cleaned for a long period of time. xxx strongly encourages in-person inspection of items by the bidder. Statements by xxx regarding the condition of objects are for guidance only and should not be relied upon as statements of fact and do not constitute a representation, warranty, or assumption of liability by xxx. All lots offered are sold "AS IS." NO REFUNDS will be issued based on condition."

    What is the potential buyer buying? And, it is a desirable piece even with the questionable restorations, IMO.
     
  42. rmarkowitz1_cee4a1

    rmarkowitz1_cee4a1 Registered User
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    My favorite part is the auctioneer's a** covering statements.

    IMCO, it would seem what is being offered a worn movement in essentially a reproduction case.

    RM
     
  43. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    I buy wrecks, it is how I afford nice clocks. It is what you do to them next.
     
  44. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
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    Jun 14, 2008
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    My general point is making a clock presentable, be it a dial repaint, or extensive casework, is often necessary. And it is something I have done on occasion. And if restoration work is done so well that true experts let it pass, does it really matter? Variable, or negotiable, ethics anybody?
    I am of the thought the description in this auction is more extensive and better than we see in many auctions.

    I know of one very well known but too often sued auctioneer who would describe a really fine 4 drawer inlay New England mahogany chest carrying the label of someone like Duncan Phyfe as "chest of drawers." No further description. Not even calling it a "4 drawer." I notice in the last few years he is adding a bit more detail, but not much. Lawyers and auctions are not always a good mix?
     
    brian fisher likes this.

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