Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Trash to Treasure Lantern Clock Project

This is a quick project I decided to make over the past 6 or 7 days. I just finished it this afternoon, and I've been looking forward to sharing it on the blog.


This clock was an ugly duckling from the junky clock haul in early 2015. I had it listed for sale at only 15$, with zero interest. After having worked on both Zaanse clocks recently, I noticed that this clock had the same kind of movement, also made by Hubert Herr. The bell was quite nice, and it was in working condition. The only problem was that it was hideous. This was a nice small movement that was perfect for converting into something better.

Clock before:


The movement is in excellent condition.


The inspiration for this clock is something I've had at the back of my mind for a few years already. I saw this clock years ago made by Simon Douta (dated 1762). It is a simple iron clock with a decorative brass front. More recently I've also really developed a love for comtoise clocks, which share some similarities with the Douta clock. The following collage shows 2 Simon Douta clocks, two early comtoise clocks, and an early painted Germanic chamber clock. These were the inspiration for the clock.


I had a wide assortment of options for lantern clocks from some of my clock books, and these were 4 that I considered. For whatever reason, I really liked the one that was "for the Turkish market".


The dial I wanted to use was a donation from Jim Dubois (a clockmaker friend). This engraved dial was originally supposed to be for a tower clock, but it had a flaw on it where one side was engraved deeper than the other half, so he sent it to me as a sample showing silvering using silvering powder. The centre had 3 holes (a hole for the hands, and two screw holes), so I cut away the centre to make a small chapter ring.

With the chapter ring ready, a scale drawing/pattern was made life size. The overall size is 5" wide, and about 9" high.


All the brass sheet that I used for this clock came from a door kick plate. This is thin brass, but still fairly hard and durable. I had bought two of these kick plates several years ago on clearance because they had a damaged corner.


The plate was cut with a regular hack saw, and then hand filed along the edges. No fancy tools here.


The bulk of the tracery was cut with a standard jeweler's saw, but for some of the deeper sections, I had to use another saw with a very deep frame.


Rough cut. Note that this is not 100% perfect. The top centre has an especially bad screw up (two lines that don't meet), and I sawed into the design on the centre inner left leaf. Most of this was corrected by filing.


After filing. Note that I didn't correct the one saw mark into the leaf. I would have had to modify the shape too much, so I left it as-is.


Also note the chapter ring. I did not want to do traditional wax filling, so I used oil paint. I had originally planned to sand the top back to fresh brass and re-silver it fresh, but after having quickly wiped away the excess paint, I kind of liked the old weathered look to it, so I've left it as is. This was a complete accident.


If I were a bit more lazy, I could have reused the old case, but I didn't like the plywood, and I wanted it to match the size of the dial. A new case was made from scraps of pine. The case matches wag-on-the-wall style German clocks. If I had a larger selection of sheet metal, I would have made a metal case and painted it gloss black (like a comtoise).


Movement mounted, dial affixed with two tiny screws (from inside), and centre hole drilled for hands.


I had to make a new bell stand, because the thickness of the pine case did not match with the old one. The threaded rod wasn't long enough. Clock hung for testing.


I liked the Douta hand, so I copied it for the hour hand. The pendulum above, and the hands, were made with the off-cut of the 9 inch brass sheet. For the bob, I mounted a square of brass in my universal face plate (in my watchmaker's lathe) and spun some circles into it. I then domed it by hammering the back side against a piece of pine until it had a nice gentle curve. The cupped sheet was then cut along the outer line and cleaned up with a file. To keep the bob in place, a smaller sized sheet metal circle was cut, and two thin slots were cut into it. This was also domed, and then soldered into place. The wire rod just slips through with a friction fit. The finished pendulum is seen farther down.

The brass hands were blackened and fitted.


The brass front was also blackened for patina. This isn't necessary, but it's a detail I wanted to add. I blackened both the front and back (in order to get all the edges and for everything be even). Then just the front was polished back to a shine (not the edges or the back).

I had a bit of a hard time deciding how to attach the front to the case. Older clocks have either screws through the front, or slots and pins. I decided to use hidden brackets. The bottom one slides over a metal pin, and the top two are screwed down to the case top.



Here's the little pendulum bob. I debated between a pear shaped (crown wheel/verge style) and a small flat disc, but I'm happy with my decision.


I left the patina on the bell, and I gave the case a dull black painted finish (semi-gloss).


The weight were the hardest modification on this project. They are the originals, but I did not like the shape of them (see first photo). I removed the hooks, and rounded off the tops in the lathe. I then made new hooks, stripped off the paint, and added black patina to the steel. These are just 7/8" diameter steel rod, and they weigh just about 1 Lb each. They're about the same weight as pine cone cuckoo weights.


So after all this, the clock is finished and running. I do plan to take the movement apart and clean it, but it will also need the chains lengthened. The chains are a standard size, so I will add a length to my next parts order.


I made 4 new brass hoops.




I hope that this post serves as inspiration for what you can make with just a few simple tools. The majority of the parts for this clock were made with just a jeweler's saw and files.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Ingraham Violet Case Repair

This gingerbread clock was fixed around the same time as the New Haven and the Waterbury.

This is an orphaned case that was donated to me. It has wonderful original finish, the original glass, and the gong. The only issue with the case is a small break to the top.


The "Violet" is a very popular model (not at all rare) and I was able to find several photos to use for a pattern. This is a decent example of a Violet:

Ingraham Violet 02

The pattern was made the same way as on the Waterbury Niles. This shows what the Photoshop file looks like when I work on a pattern. The image was resized to actual size (which is why it looks so blurry), and then a grid was overlaid on top. The darker grid lines are inches, and since the graph paper I was using had 5 squares per inch, I used 5 subdivisions on the grid.


The colour of the repair turned out well, and I was able to get a rough surface on the varnish/shellac, but I was NOT able to match the crackle effect. I tried multiple effects on some sample, and I wasn't able to get an exact match.



This is one of those clocks that is on the back burner. If and when I find the parts for it (dial and movement) I'll assemble it and finish it. For now the case is ready.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Double Dutch... Clocks

It's not often that I get to work on two nearly identical clocks from the same client and at the same time. One of my newer clients, however, pulled these two Zaanse clocks (also known as Zaandam clocks) out of storage for me to repair.

The larger one had the top ornamental casting torn loose, and both had rather scuffed-up cases. Aside from some touch-ups, they mainly just needed regular servicing.

This is the first time I work on one of these clocks, and because they are so mass produced (and not significantly old) it's doubtful that I will ever buy one, so I thought I would share photos of them. I remember many years ago almost buying one from a yard sale, however the man wanted 125$ for it. I was a teen at the time, so 125$ was a lot of money, so I passed on it. It looked more like the second clock (farther down), but I think it was even smaller than both of these.

Both of these clocks date to around the 1970s.

While both clocks are very similar, I think this is my favourite of the two. It's a little larger, and has more of a square front. The scalloped edge on the back is also a bit better defined. This one is by FHS (Hermle) Germany. It has an 8 Day movement with teardrop weights. The pendulum is suspended from a standard style suspension spring on a leader (on a post off the back of the movement). The movement is bolted through the base (like a longcase clock). The side lights are a dark brown art glass. This clock has a back wooden panel. The front veneer is bird's eye maple. Dial backing is just painted black. Dial is roughly 5.25", and the clock is 24" overall.





The second clock is by Hubert Herr of Triberg Germany, made 29 July 1971 (stamped with red ink on the case back). It has an 8 day movement with pear shaped weights. The pendulum is hung from a "swing" type suspension (like early Black Forest clocks) attached to the case. The movement is fixed to the front with screws (like a cuckoo movement). Side lights are clear glass for easier viewing of the movement. No back panel (you can see the wall through the side lights and in the pendulum opening). The front veneer is burled wood (possibly walnut). Dial backing is black velvet. Dial is a little over 4", and the clock is 24" overall.

This one is a bit smaller, and the wood is lighter. I prefer the hands on this one.





Waterbury Niles Gingerbread (Repaired Case)

Here are some photos of the repaired Waterbury Niles clock case. For the repair details, see the previous post here:

As you can see, the two repaired horns are not EXACTLY the same colour, but they have no stain on them. They do match depending on the viewing angle, so I'm happy with how they came out. Note the new glass transfer (on antique glass), and the new paper dial (lightly distressed). The previous dial was the wrong size, with the time track skirting the edge of the pan.



New grommets were also installed. They are a bit too shiny, but they will eventually dull down. The hand washer is not installed yet, as the movement still needs to be serviced.


The repair from the back side.


Monday, January 30, 2017

Gingerbread Clock Case Repairs

These are two cases that I repaired a short while ago. They are a Waterbury Niles (the lighter walnut one) bought from a yard sale several years ago, and a New Haven "Merchant Line B" (dark oak) bought locally though Kijiji (similar to Craigslist) not long ago.

Both clock cases needed work, but both were purchased quite inexpensively. The Niles was 60$, and the Merchant Line B was 40$.

Let's start with the Niles. This was the clock as-purchased:


Both top "horns" were broken off, the glass had been replaced (no transfer), the dial was awful, and the hands were incorrect. When I got it home I also discovered that it had been fitted with a New Haven movement. The clock is not valuable enough to spend 100$ to swap the movement for a correct Waterbury one, but I still want to fix it up as much as possible.

Because of the swapped movement, I had a very difficult time tracking down the model and maker. The clock has no label remaining (as is often the case with gingerbread clocks), so I had started my search with New Haven examples. I then switched to Ingraham, and I eventually stumbled on a match. This was very important because I did not know what the missing horns looked like.

Here's a good example of a Waterbury Niles (this one fitted with an alarm):

Niles w Alarm 01

I have a number of different photos, some with close-ups, and I was able to use those as a pattern.

The New Haven had a broken latch, no glass, and the entire case was loose. In addition, both clock cases were missing their triangular glue blocks behind the crests. Here is the New Haven Merchant Line B as-purchased:


It looks almost like the case has been painted black, or been darkened with shoe polish, but I can assure you that even though it doesn't look quite right, the colour is 100% original.

You will have to excuse my slowly dying camera. It has a hard time focusing properly, and it's honestly on its last leg.





The Merchant Line B is a very interesting clock because the same pattern was cut in at least three different shapes with little regard to the actual pressed design. This particular clock has one of the cut designs that makes the most sense. I will eventually make a whole write-up about the clock and show off the variations once the clock is fully restored.

This clock needed the least amount of work. I took the case completely apart aside from the bracket base, and reassembled it with hide glue. I also cut, shaped, and antiqued a new latch for it. The commercially available latches NEVER fit correctly, and they rarely have the same shape. It's far easier and cheaper to just cut one from thin brass stock.


A new pine glue block was cut to match the existing shadow lines. Pine was used because the entire rear box of the clock is pine. If it had all been oak, then oak would have been used. This particular block is quite beefy and thick compared to others. They tend to be quite randomly sized, so try to match what was there.


I was working on both cases at the same time, so ignore the Niles case for now.


The glue block was then antiqued with acrylic paints to match the colour and patina of the case back and sides.

Here are the repairs to the Nile case.

To repair the horns, it was necessary to remove the top crest entirely. I passed the tips in the table saw (very carefully) to get nice straight and flat joints to glue new walnut blocks. In most cases (99% of the time) repairs are done with hide glue for reversibility, but in this case I believe I used carpenter's glue for a more permanent repair. It's up to you to decide what's appropriate during restoration work. This is a fragile area, so I wanted a very strong repair.


The rear glue block was cut from a walnut scrap, and you can see that this one was MUCH thinner than the one on the New Haven clock.


Using Photoshop, I took one of my source images and resized the image to "life size". I did this by cropping the image flush to the sides of the upper crest and then measuring my crest and making the image the same size. Once the photo on the computer is life size, I then overlay a custom sized grid on the image to match some graph paper. The easier way is to just print the life size photo or a cropped section of the photo to use as the pattern, but my printer isn't working. The image was just copied freehand to graph paper for my pattern. The pattern is then cut out of thin cardboard and traced onto the wood.


A quick trim on the scroll saw finishes up most of the repair. This is the part where you need skill with your tools. The cut outs should be sawn ONLY with no sanding or corrections made to them, which means that they need to be cut accurately in one shot. I've cut thousands of patterns over the past decade and a half, so I have plenty of practice at this. If you're attempting a similar repair, have a skilled cabinetmaker cut the pattern for you. It will make a big difference. Sloppy or crooked cuts are incredibly hard to hide, and if you start to sand or file the edges, it will be very apparent in the finished repair because all these clocks were quickly cut and have rough dark edges on them.


The way that the pressed pattern is applied also makes a big difference. An alarming number of people believe that these clocks were "hand carved" but that is very rarely the case. Some of the very early Eastlake period examples are, but they are the absolute minority. 99% of these are pressed the same way as "pressed-back chairs". The wood is basically fed into a press with a large metal punch that imprints the design into the wood. If you look carefully at the designs, you will see that the fibers of the wood are crushed and often splintered at the edges of hard lines.

For this reason, the best way to make these designs is by crushing the wood as opposed to carving it. Any number of household items can be used as punches. The simple lines on this design were made with a used slot screwdriver.


Note the crushed fibers all look the same across the original section and the repair:


Though additional source photos as well as faint shadow lines, I found that this model had rear braces. Apparently Waterbury must have known that these tips broke easily and these reinforcing braces were added early on.


These are just simple walnut sticks with the ends pared down slightly.



The bottom corner on this clock was also separated, so I fixed that with a bit of hide glue and some clamps. This is a tricky corner to clamp, so a wooden scrap was placed along the back.



The finished repairs were sealed with orange shellac (no stain). The final colour matched pretty well, except that the existing walnut does have a bit of sun fading. The new repairs should eventually mellow with a bit of time.

I have no final photos of the clock yet, but I have replaced and antiqued a new Roman dial, installed a glass transfer, and changed the hands. I am quite happy with the results, and I will try to post a photo soon.

Edit: Finished clock was posted here: