• Important Executive Director Announcement from the NAWCC

    The NAWCC Board of Directors is pleased to announce that Mr. Rory McEvoy has been named Executive Director of the NAWCC. Rory is an internationally renowned horological scholar and comes to the NAWCC with strong credentials that solidly align with our education, fundraising, and membership growth objectives. He has a postgraduate degree in the conservation and restoration of antique clocks from West Dean College, and throughout his career, he has had the opportunity to handle some of the world’s most important horological artifacts, including longitude timekeepers by Harrison, Kendall, and Mudge.

    Rory formerly worked as Curator of Horology at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, where his role included day-to-day management of research and digitization projects, writing, public speaking, conservation, convening conferences, exhibition work, and development of acquisition/disposal and collection care policies. In addition, he has worked as a horological specialist at Bonhams in London, where he cataloged and handled many rare timepieces and built important relationships with collectors, buyers, and sellers. Most recently, Rory has used his talents to share his love of horology at the university level by teaching horological theory, history, and the practical repair and making of clocks and watches at Birmingham City University.

    Rory is a British citizen and currently resides in the UK. Pre-COVID-19, Rory and his wife, Kaai, visited HQ in Columbia, Pennsylvania, where they met with staff, spent time in the Museum and Library & Research Center, and toured the area. Rory and Kaai will be relocating to the area as soon as the immigration challenges and travel restrictions due to COVID-19 permit.

    Some of you may already be familiar with Rory as he is also a well-known author and lecturer. His recent publications include the book Harrison Decoded: Towards a Perfect Pendulum Clock, which he edited with Jonathan Betts, and the article “George Graham and the Orrery” in the journal Nuncius.

    Until Rory’s relocation to the United States is complete, he will be working closely with an on-boarding team assembled by the NAWCC Board of Directors to introduce him to the opportunities and challenges before us and to ensure a smooth transition. Rory will be participating in strategic and financial planning immediately, which will allow him to hit the ground running when he arrives in Columbia

    You can read more about Rory McEvoy and this exciting announcement in the upcoming March/April issue of the Watch & Clock Bulletin.

    Please join the entire Board and staff in welcoming Rory to the NAWCC community.

Worst Dial Restoration EVER!

Sooth

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A suitable title for such an atrocity.

I recently bought a nice 8 day Forestville ogee clock, with the famous "acorn" movement (has fancy plates). The clock is Rosewood, and will need fairly major work done to it. I may have to strip it down completely, or do multiple touch-ups.

But the dial! The dial is a true horror story. The dial is a signed "JC Brown, Bristol Ct. USA" wooden dial, with painted floral decorations in the corners. However... Someone "restored" it, by overpainting it with a milky-clear coat of white. Then they repainted all the numbers.

All the original dial details are still visible as faint blue lines:

https://mb.nawcc.org/

https://mb.nawcc.org/

https://mb.nawcc.org/

So I decided I'd see if the black numerals would come off, and maybe I'd redo it overtop. I tried lacquer thinner (pretty strong stuff). The black started to come off, but so did some of the white, which revealed a creamy yellow underneath.

I was surprised to see that with careful rubbing, I'll be able to "strip" and then touch-up, the original dial.

Here's a preview.

https://mb.nawcc.org/

I have to be very careful. The background white, and the flowers won't come off (good paint!) but the black is just india ink, and does rub off. I'm not too worried, because I can retrace the dial pretty easily, but I WILL need to be careful with the signature portion of the dial.
 

Thyme

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Sooth,

Let's talk, either here openly, or privately, as I'd be glad to help you with this. Again, it's a challenge that requires deliberation to determine what is needed.

Restoring' repainting dials are my labor of love, and I will be posting photos soon of how well the one that was a complete 'train wreck' turned out. ;)
 

Sooth

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Well, I'm pretty confident that this one can be restored pretty well. I have repainted some dials using traditional tools (fountain pens, and drawing instruments, using India Ink). But it's just really SAD that this dial got such a horrible treatment. It's beautiful underneath.

I'd love to see Photos of you work.

As for me, I can't "afford" to hand my work out to others at the moment. I'm pretty broke. And this clock obsession is putting a hole in my wallet.
 

Thyme

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I'd love to see Photos of you work.
As soon you, (and everyone here) will. I can inform others on how to do such work, but, (not to brag, because that's not my intent*) that doesn't mean anyone, less experienced, will be able to.

*I've never taken 'before' and 'after' photos of any restoration I've done before joining this forum. To me, it never mattered before, at all. I just did what what I needed to do. But when someone who is also knowledgable says that a case is very difficult, or impossible, I rise to the challenge. ;)

As for me, I can't "afford" to hand my work out to others at the moment. I'm pretty broke. And this clock obsession is putting a hole in my wallet.
That was not what I had in mind. When I say doing any restoration is a "labor of love", I mean it as exactly that. Neither you, nor anyone here, could pay me enough to do what I have learned to do. You yourself have spent many hours fabricating case parts in your interest in attaining the skill, and the learning experience of doing it. The appication of skills necessary (by you or me) for achieving an excellent restoration would in $$$ exceed the present value of the clock. (Even at minimum wage <:???:> ;)) However, I do try to pass along what I know or have discovered - AKA: shared knowledge.

I offer what I know and the rest is up to you (meaning not 'you' personally, Sooth, but all those here who might benefit from it). ;)
:)
 
C

clockdaddy

Sooth,

It never ceases to amaze me at the level of stupidity that the American public can attain!!

You're doing great with that dial....slow and easy!!!

Thyme,

If you ever decide to start teaching your methods, I'd love to learn if you'll be kind enough to let me!!
 

Sooth

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I know a lot of people do certain jobs as a "labor of love" but honestly, most people at least seek compensation. Dial restoration is always one of the "high price" specialty repairs. I've seen repainted dials before, and though they are nice, I always preffer damaged old ones.

I had someone on eBay offer to repaint some dials I had bought. He did okay work. His dials were well done, but all of them were "too perfect" and on a few of them, I preffered the "before" shots.

I haven't seen too many restored dials that I thought were "fantastic" with the exception of some touched-up ones that Tom T has done (it's in his e-book). He did not attempt to repaint anything, except missing areas, and left all worn areas "as-is" eventhough he could easily have redone them.

That's why I want to see your work.

And I would LOVE to see how you proceed with certain repairs, or techniques.

I have only done a few complete repaints.

This was my first repaint:

Dailantiqued.gif

The previous person had repainted the numbers with pencils, and it looked awful. I managed to rub everything off, leaving only the white base, and a faint outline of the dial. Then I repainted it with paint and fine point markers.

On later dials, I used a drawing set with inking compass and india ink.

This one, you can't see the details, but it was a complete repaint. The original dial was traced, then stripped, and repainted to match the original exactly.

Putnam.gif

I'm not too happy about the white. It's too bright, eventhough I added a lot of black to it. I can always antique it with stains, but I haven't bothered yet.

And here's another early attempt.

NotQuiteDone.gif

That one wasn't finished yet. I also copied the floral spandrels after this, and antiqued the dial. It's just painted on thin aluminum flashing, and was only a temporary dial for display. I plan to redo a good one on correct zinc sheeting (later).

That's about it. Nothing too exciting to see for now. I have several other dials that need restoration, which I haven't gotten around to yet. Mostly small touch-ups.
 

Bob Reichel

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You mention the "acorn" movement. Yes, its like the one in the "Acorn" by Brown, but don't we more properly call it a "lyre" shaped movement?
 

Thyme

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I know a lot of people do certain jobs as a "labor of love" but honestly, most people at least seek compensation. Dial restoration is always one of the "high price" specialty repairs.
Sure, because it's labor intensive. As I suggested jokingly, skilled labor is worth much more than mimimum wage - and work like this takes many hours.

I've seen repainted dials before, and though they are nice, I always preffer damaged old ones.

I had someone on eBay offer to repaint some dials I had bought. He did okay work. His dials were well done, but all of them were "too perfect" and on a few of them, I preffered the "before" shots.
I'm of the same opinion - that if a dial is totally redone it comes off as looking too 'new' for the rest of the clock.

In fact, that's the hardest part of restoring anything well: making whatever work you added match whatever the age/condition level is of the existing piece.

I haven't seen too many restored dials that I thought were "fantastic" with the exception of some touched-up ones that Tom T has done (it's in his e-book). He did not attempt to repaint anything, except missing areas, and left all worn areas "as-is" eventhough he could easily have redone them.
That's the same approach that I use. Often the hardest part of the whole job is matching the original paint to fill in flaked/missing areas; when the paint is aged and discolored it can be difficult. The only way to do it is to mix very small batches of paint to get the coloration to match the old paint - then make a large enough batch to work with.

The most challenging one I ever did (and recently) was a 12" drop dial that had been in a fire. The top portion of the dial was very discolored from smoke damage and NOTHING used could remove that discoloration - it was indelibly, permanently darkened by the heat from the fire. (In fact, the ghostly outline of the hour hand will forever appear as a burned-on shadow on the face at the 9:30 position.) Needless to say, when the top portion of a dial has become a gradually much darker shade than the bottom, you can't use the same shade of paint, throughout. The original painted numerals are still all slightly blistered from the heat. But it came out looking good. Even the discoloration gives the dial an overall patina or shading that is not displeasing to the eye - just unusual.

That's why I want to see your work.
You will soon (of the dial where I had to scrape off everything yet retain the numeral and time track).

And I would LOVE to see how you proceed with certain repairs, or techniques.
Just ask lotsa questions. We'll talk. :biggrin:

(About your restorations/photos:)

The previous person had repainted the numbers with pencils, and it looked awful. I managed to rub everything off, leaving only the white base, and a faint outline of the dial. Then I repainted it with paint and fine point markers.
One of the first ones I did was similar to that. The previous 'restorer' used magic markers and got the lines all wrong. I had to go by eye to straighten everything out while trying to retain as much of it as I could, yet get the lines back to where they should be. I never use magic markers (ugh!). I often use very fine pencil to outline, but the painted lines go on over that.

The second example is really beautiful! Is it ink or paint? Again, what you need to do is that initial study of finding the right tint to add, to make a pleasing off-white ground, before beginning work. Often it is not just black but tiny amounts of yellow or red that are needed.

On the last example, you apparently did a complete remake (?). I would have filled in all the missing paint and retouched the original. Sommetimes this can result in a surface texture that is less than perfectly smooth - but it still will look good, and IMHO is far preferable to pasting a paper dial over the damaged original.
 

Randy Johnson

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Speaking of sad clock stories, this reminds me of the lady I was talking with in Wal-Mart a few months ago. After we somehow got on the subject of fixing clocks she told me about inheriting a "real old wall clock" when her aunt died a few years back. "It's over a hundred years old but it never did keep good time" until her nephew "fixed" it for her. I asked her if her nephew is a clockmaker and she said no, that he had never 'made' one that she knew of, but that ever since he put that little battery motor in that one it had kept good time so she painted it white and hung it up in her dining room. I couldn't eat my supper that evening.

Randy
 

Paul H

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Jun 23, 2005
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Sooth;

Nice detective work on figuring out how to get back to the original paint on your dial. I agree with you that it is better to touch up an old dial no matter how bad it is.

I feel this (dial restoration) is an area were I could still improve. Reading from Tom Temple's web site has helped me quite a bit for the last couple of restorations, but I still want to be better.

My biggest problem on the touch ups is that I am colored blind. So I rely on my wife or daughter to tell me if I got the color right. Sometimes I'll come up with a good match, but other times I'm way off.

Thyme;

I'd love to see some of your work. I've use fine line markers in the past to touch up numbers and have always thought I was cheating a bit. You say you use india ink. What kind of "pen" do you use to apply the ink. Do you use a caligraphy "dip" pen or do you use a rapidigraph technical pen? Or do you use something else? Have you got any tips on how to reproduce the signed portion of a dial?


Sooth:
So how many projects do you have going on at the same time:???: I thought you were deep into your Boardman Well wood works, then there's this ogee?? What else are you not telling us about.

Take care and keep ticking
Paul
 

shutterbug

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Sooth - I'm actually a bit impressed with the repainted numbers :) The rest is atrocious but the numbers look better than I could do, at least!
 

Sooth

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Hi again,

I'll get you a good photo of the Ogee dial, and of the mini cottage repaint.

I thought I had a good shade of white for the ogee, and even tinted it darker on the last coat, but I didn't. I tried matching the paint from an old dial as a guide, but it didn't work.

The reason I did a repaint on that one, is because the original dial is SO fragile, that even just picking it up will cause little flakes to come off. I wanted to make a copy before anything happened to it.

I don't think every dial can be saved, though. That one is pretty far gone.

I'll post pics in a few hours.
 

Sooth

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Sooth

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Thyme (and others), here's the two photos I wanted to post.

You can see how well I did on the Ogee dial especially. The mini gilbert dial is mostly a practice. As I said before, it's painted on very thin, and overly soft aluminum flashing, and was meant to be temporary until I could do a better one. The leaves need to be darker green.

MiniGilbert.gif

OGDial.gif
 

Thyme

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Speaking of sad clock stories, this reminds me of the lady I was talking with in Wal-Mart a few months ago. After we somehow got on the subject of fixing clocks she told me about inheriting a "real old wall clock" when her aunt died a few years back. "It's over a hundred years old but it never did keep good time" until her nephew "fixed" it for her. I asked her if her nephew is a clockmaker and she said no, that he had never 'made' one that she knew of, but that ever since he put that little battery motor in that one it had kept good time so she painted it white and hung it up in her dining room. I couldn't eat my supper that evening.

Randy
Randy,

If all she wanted was a clock that ran and showed the correct time, it didn't bother her. Maybe she grew up in a world where having any clock at all was a luxury - perhaps one she lacked.

You need to tell yourself that if this doesn't bother her, it needn't bother you... ;)
 

Thyme

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Thyme;

I'd love to see some of your work. I've use fine line markers in the past to touch up numbers and have always thought I was cheating a bit. You say you use india ink. What kind of "pen" do you use to apply the ink. Do you use a caligraphy "dip" pen or do you use a rapidigraph technical pen? Or do you use something else?
If you are using any markers at all, you are indeed "cheating", because the ink is not indelible, nor permanent. I sometimes (but not often) use india ink - only if the original dial was done expressly in that medium. I use a rapidograph pen, as that works best for applying ink.

Have you got any tips on how to reproduce the signed portion of a dial?
I would need to see an example. If any/most of a signed name is still legible, it can be restored. If it is obliterated, it would be virtually impossible to do it without a lettering transfer.
 
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Randy Johnson

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If all she wanted was a clock that ran and showed the correct time, it didn't bother her. Maybe she grew up in a world where having any clock at all was a luxury - perhaps one she lacked.

You need to tell yourself that if this doesn't bother her, it needn't bother you...
Good thoughts, Thyme... but over the course of our conversation she revealed quite the contrary - even to say at one point that she knew it was probably worth more like it was. Considering all the labors of love that we passionately devote to these wonderful old relics, anytime I hear of one which has escaped destruction for a hundred years only to suffer such fates as whitewash and quartz retrofittings it bothers me. But, if there were no such atrocities people like us wouldn't get to enjoy the rewards of satisfaction that come with restoring them. :)

Randy
 

Paul H

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Thyme;

So I can see not using markers. What do you use when the dial was originally not done with india ink?

How can you tell if the dial was originally done in india ink. Was india ink what they commonly used on early American clocks circa 1820-1850?
 

Sooth

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Yes, most early dials were done with india ink (at least for the outlines.

The repainted ogee dial is all india ink, and looks great.

However, other dials, I'm not sure. Many later dials were printed, or transfered (sink screen?), because they look "stamped".

Paul, If you take a good look at your old dials, the numerals especially, and the minute track are usually done in ink. Ypu can usually see an outline where the numerals are traced, then they are filled-in after, maybe with a brush.
 

Thyme

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Yes, most early dials were done with india ink (at least for the outlines.

The repainted ogee dial is all india ink, and looks great.

However, other dials, I'm not sure. Many later dials were printed, or transfered (sink screen?), because they look "stamped".

Paul, If you take a good look at your old dials, the numerals especially, and the minute track are usually done in ink. Ypu can usually see an outline where the numerals are traced, then they are filled-in after, maybe with a brush.
All true, except that some were outlined in ink then done with paint.

Most of my restoration work is done with paint and a 000 brush. Brush work is a lot trickier and often more painstaking than using a pen. Also, paint is generally more durable than ink.
 
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Sooth

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Well, I started stripping the dial. So far, so good.

From the looks of it, the dial was just dirty. The dirt, however, is all coming off, along with the new paint.

At this point, I'm figuring that when I'm all done, I'll be left with the original background, the flower spandrels, and partial numbers and time track. Fortunately, these are easy for me to restore.

ForestvilleDial5.gif

The dial should look very good when it's restored. The bulk of what was stripped so far, took about 40 minutes. I estimate that if I work on it a little at a time, I can get the dial stripped in under a week.
 

TomT

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Hi Sooth,

I think your dial is fantastic! It's a nice piece with some great detail under the prior repair attempts.

You're on the right track to take your time. The dial has been around for nearly 200 years. If you take 6 months to carefully restore it, it's time well spent. As I watch the board, you just keep getting better at this....

One thing to tuck in the back of your mind is the use of glazes. Once you have the dial painted in were necessary, you may find a bit of "splotchyness" due to color mismatch. I've had good luck mixing up a very translucent white or tan glaze and carefully brushing over the entire face. This tends to blend light and dark spots and create a uniform face finish. It's a great way to "hide" your repair work.

Regarding how far to go. You are dead right to not want to restore the dial to prestine condition. It just won't look right. Take it back to servicable and presentable condition and leave it at that.

Please post photos as you progress. I think it will look great when you're done......
 

Sooth

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Hey Tom,

Long time since I chatted with you. I don't think the dial will need any touchups anywhere. It looks perfect underneath. However, I will need to redo all the numerals and chapter ring. They are in perfect shape underneath, but as I remove the paint, it fades off, since it's only ink.

I will repaint the numerals with slightly diluted black india ink, which should look just fine, and not "brand new" once I'm done.
 

Thyme

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I will repaint the numerals with slightly diluted black india ink, which should look just fine, and not "brand new" once I'm done.

Why dilute the ink? I think it would only reduce its effectiveness. I'd outline in india ink if needed, and then use paint. That's probably what was on it originally.
 
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Kevin W.

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Randy, sad story, i have seen this too and people just dont apreciate old clocks or old objects for what they are.thankfully there are good people here who try hard to preserve the past.
Sooth, you are the master.man dial and case work, what can you not do.You are very skilled my friend.perhaps you can redo a cottage clock dial for me.I think it is from 1870,s.Anyways maybe we can talk about that sometime. :p
 

Thyme

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I don't want it to look "jet black". I want it to look just a bit faded (by diluting it).

As far as filling the numerals, I haven't seen any painted ones. All the ones I've seen in the 1840's period are all ink. It's very easy to fill with ink once there's a border.
I know exactly what you mean, because when I restore anything I try to keep the level of artisanship such that it blends in imperceptibly with the level of the age of the piece as possible. You need not worry about it looking "jet black", as over time it will fade. (Unless you plan to sell it soon for a quick turnaround - which I know is not your intent.) :)

If it was originally all ink, then it it right to keep it all ink. (But gee, if this dial is re-inked once every 170 years or so, I wouldn't worry about using full strength ink on it...) ;)
 

Sooth

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Slowly but surely...

ForestvilleDial6.gif

Also, I made a discovery today. Believe it or not, the black numerals are the actual original ink. The "restorer" "carefully" painted AROUND the numerals. This is why they rub off so easily with the lacquer thinner. So with this new bit of information, I'll proceed more carefully, and try to save more of the numerals (as much as possible). It's very hard, because the white paint in BETWEEN, and overlapping onto the numerals are hard to get to.
 

Jim Burghart

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I happened to come across this topic in a Wood Works book. It is a 1969 - 70 edition of Repairing Wooden Works Clocks. The author discribes the exact method discribed in the first post for restoring a dial.

Light coat of white wash, and ink in the numbers. Now I know not to try it:)
 

Thyme

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Believe it or not, the black numerals are the actual original ink.
I certainly believe it. ;)

Nice progress, Sooth. It's going to look great when you are through with it. :)
 

MikeFields

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Hello, I'm a beginner and am interested in restoring the dial on my E. N. Welch OG 8-day. I'm studying this thread and another one called "Dial Improvement" but all the photo links say they've been moved or deleted. Does anyone know if photo links expire on these threads after some time, or if the online repository of them moved? I just ordered a set of Sakura Micron pens, india ink, oil colors... and artists' 120lb paper.... I'm going to start by making a color wheel as in the June 1997 NAWCC Bulletin article. Thanks so much for all your valuable info!
 

shutterbug

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When pictures are uploaded to this board, they are kept indefinitely. But when folks link to other storage facilities, the images often disappear in time. That's the issue here.
 
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