Thursday, February 28, 2013

Longcase - Small Repairs

A lot of the repairs that are needed on this particular clock are simple (and not-so-simple) solder repairs. Some a tricky, some could potentially be a complete nightmare, but so far, so good.

Let's start with the pendulum rod and rating assembly. This was one of the first things I tackled.

You may remember that it looked like this:

There are two repairs needed here. The broken rod (with the broken tip in the top of the rating assembly), and the severely bent threaded rod.

What most people would be tempted to do is to grab a pair (or two pairs) of pliers, and attempt to straighten the threaded rod. This could work, but it could also cause several problems. In the "best case scenario" this works fine, and the rod is once again functional. However, in the "worst case scenario" you could end up snapping the rod, or crushing/marring the threads. On items this old, it's always better to tread carefully.

I chose to heat the threaded rod with a torch until the steel was soft, and then simply bend it as best as I could, using the hole in my anvil as a leverage point. This left me with a very safe repair that insured the safety of the threads, and applied very little stress on the rod. The result is not a perfectly straight "good as new" repair, but the nut moves easily from top to bottom.

For the top of the assembly, I was lucky to find that a small portion of the threaded tip was still protruding, and it came out with almost no force. I chose to use hard solder (high heat silver solder) for this repair, since it will need to handle a fair amount of stress.

Another repair option would be to re-thread the end of the rod (since only 3/16" was broken off), but it's been my experience that the threading on these is almost always "non standard". In fact, I was going to flip the rod to have the soldered repair at the top, but the threading on the suspension spring block is not the same size. Silver soldering can be tricky to learn, but it is essentially the same as regular soldering. The only differences are that you need a special solder (I believe mine is borax based) and you need to be sure that both parts being jointed together are RED HOT. If the parts are not hot enough, the solder will not flow.

One of the drawbacks of high temperature solder is that on most items, you will completely discolour the metal(s) being fused. You will also want to make a very neat repair, since the cooled solder will need to be ground or filed off.

Here is the finished repair (sorry the camera was not quite in focus).

Another quick and easy repair was the bell stand. I was able to bend the break back 95% without having it snap off, and then I soldered the break with silver solder.

Here you can see the soldered joint before clean-up. You can see how darkened and discoloured the steel is, and the silvery-gold colour of the silver solder.

Once cleaned-up, the repair (especially in a crevice like this) is nearly invisible.

Another simple repair was fixing the light bend(s) in the crank key. The key is VERY sturdy, but I was able to bend the key with just hand pressure. This "repair" isn't that much of a repair, but it does make a noticeable difference.

The last little repair (so far) was this screw. This is one of the two screws holding the bridge piece for the hands (which is also broken, and will be discussed later). It appears to have been in use "as-is", but I wanted to try to repair it.

I have NO IDEA how someone managed to split a screw in a partial spiral down the centre, but I suspect it may have been an original defect in the steel.

I used regular (soft) solder for this repair.

You can still see the split, but I didn't want to use too much solder. The head of the screw was also repaired. When I see badly mangled screws, I usually take a few minutes to file-off the marks around the slot, and improve their look as much as possible.

The next post will cover the repairs to the clock hands.

Longcase (Movement Photos)

Here are a few photos of the movement from the Allan longcase. As you can see, it hasn't been in working condition for quite some time. It has numerous breaks and a few repairs.

The arrows point out a replaced (ugly but functional) count hook, a poor solder repair to the rack, and the horribly bent calendar wheel (on its bent post).

Here you can see an unusual choice for a gut-line end stop (the other one is a bone-shaped wooden block), and the broken section of the seat board.

The cracked end of the bell stand.

Side view:

And I have to point out the stunningly beautiful click springs. I've seen a handful of longcase movements, and they are almost never this fancy. Often they will be a simple shallow curve, or a plain rectangle.

Here is the seatboard with the movement removed.

And while it was in the clamp to reattach the broken section. Note the candle wax drippings (which could be up to 100 years old). The perfectionist in me wants to scrape those off and clean the board, but it's just SO NEAT that I'm leaving them there.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Longcase Clock Overview

Before I start on any major project or restoration, I like to take detailed photos of everything, and noting down as much information as possible.

On this longcase, I took over 200 preliminary photos, so these are just the more important ones (around 50), along with some quick notes.

Overall view of the case "as-is". Note the huge bubble in the glass.

Unusual triple cove profile under the hood. Reeded 1/4 columns on trunk.

Both back feet are broken, and will need to be repaired.

All the trunk and hood mouldings are solid all the way through, and are each made of two laminated boards. This particular moulding is loose, and will be removed and reglued.

Here you can see that the backboard was slotted into the bottom board. The entire back is mainly one large board, except for this bottom rectangle, and added narrow side pieces on the top.

Note 2-piece laminated block for moulding.

I am usually very confident in identifying woods, but I'm not 100% sure what this clock case is made from. This is the only clear view of the wood grain, which is on the interior of the trunk door. From a distance the wood resembled mahogany, and it is stained/coloured like mahogany, but it doesn't have the open grain and characteristic markings of mahogany. It almost looks more like poplar, but it's not greenish/pale enough to be poplar. It's not heavy enough to be birch (and birch is not a common wood used on longcases). Any thoughts? Is this just a very poor quality mahogany?

The trunk door is missing its lock.

I am now certain that these hinges are not original.

The seatboard mounting blocks are also very suspicious looking. They are held in place with large clot head screws. Also note old candle wax drippings.

Here are details of the hood. The entire thing is in very rickedy shape currently. You can partially see the 4 holes caused by incorrecty chosen hinge screws.

Right hand fretwork.

The left side has a different fabric.

Unusual door hardware (missing).

Very sturdy door construction.

Sewing pins are the only thing holding this small piece in place. The upper crack cannot be repaired without disassembling the entire door (including removing the original glass and putty), so it will only be wax-filled to minimize the defect.

String inlay detail.

Same problem on this side.

Evidence of a column base (both columns and all associated hardware are missing).

The entire right side dial surround is missing and will need to be recreated.

Original coloured putty around glass. Also note how the door was made. It's too difficult to cut a square corner in a sheet of glass, so a gentle curve was used.

The pendulum was dropped and/or mishandled at some point, resulting in several issues. The rating assembly is bent/mangled (but not broken), and the tip of the rod is broken inside the lower assembly.

The original suspension spring (which fits perfectly in the bridge notch).

Hands "as received". Note the repair to the hour hand, and the snipped-off tip of the minute hand.

The hands have beautiful "carved" details filed into them.

Original crank key with slight bend in the narrow shaft.


Current pieces are glued crooked (this is how it lines up at the moment). Note shadow of correct location.

The entire corners of the cornice (on both ends) has been chewed/broken away, and will need to be recreated, as will the bottom 1/4 of this moulding.

Detail showing poorly aligned previous repair.

A very nice detail is that the centre plinth fits into the upper crest with dovetails cut into the edges. These are TINY (maybe 1/8" deep)!

Parts of the main (top) cornice.

The arrow shows a tiny remaining sliver of the string inlay to the front (sides are plain).

Evidence of column, as well as marks from a swivel hinge.

Front (left corner).

Hood lower side mouldings (I'm very glad I won't have to recreate these from scratch).

Dial details.

Upper foot is bent and loose, and lower foot was torn out (I have it, and it's another piece that I'm grateful wasn't lost).

I also suspect that this clock could be a marriage. Note how the door doesn't line up with the dial.

So there you go. The clock has definitely had a hard life over the past century, but hopefully I can put it back together in a way that makes it fairly presentable.

Stay tuned for additional posts soon (hand repair, pendulum repair, seatboard repair, and some photos of the movement).