Sunday, January 26, 2014

Very Rare Seth Thomas 8 Day Column Clock - Case Restoration

The case has been finished for a little while now, (2 weeks?) but I haven't had time to go through my photos, edit them, and write this post until now.

The following are some detailed photos of the case partially disassembled for restoration. The back was removed (it was held in place with dozens of newer, mismatched screws), and the loose lower moulding was set aside.

As previously mentioned, this case had already been repaired using carpenter's glue by a former "restorer". Some of the current glue blocks are not original. This block is newer, and held with 2 screws and lots of yellow glue.

These two small blocks are original, but coated in new glue.

Another photo shows the new block on the left, and the original triangular upper block with an added brass escutcheon pin (nail). You can also see the mess of holes in the top board from the unoriginal screws added to the backboard.

One (of 2) original lower glue blocks, coated in yellow glue.

The next shots show just how loose the case pieces were before restoration.

The entire upper left side was missing the mahogany veneer. Case sides don't always have veneer. Sometimes they are sanded or otherwise polished smooth, and stained/painted to match the surrounding wood, since veneer does not stick very well to the end grain.

Lower left.

Lower right.

The lower right half of the bottom board had come unglued at the lamination joint. This is not a common problem, but it's also not difficult to repair. Also note original hole from the packing crate. If you're interested, you can search for more information on this topic. Basically, a lot of early clocks had holes drilled half way into the top and/or bottom board(s) with wooden pegs, fitted to boards for wooden packing crates (for transportation).

Kind of an odd angle, but this is the bottom front (right) corner, showing a large chip in the veneer.

Again, this is the left half of the bottom board. I chose to remove and replace this entire section of veneer.

This was a complete mess and NOT FUN to remove. What you see below is one of the 4 tops/bottoms of the sides of the case, smothered in yellow glue. This was carefully, and painstakingly removed with a sharp chisel, a little at a time.

Here is the case disassembled for glue removal/cleaning. You can see a bunch of the small little wooden glue blocks at the top.

Simple repairs: reglue the split bottom board, using hot hide glue liberally applied in the crack, and clamped 24 hours.

New veneer to the top left side.

Veneer patch to the top right column block.

Label repairs. A lot of people are afraid to damage labels, and this is with good reason. I have seen a lot of ruined labels from restorers attempting to varnish them, or by using inappropriate glues.

Labels like these are over 150 years old, and must be treated with extreme care. Generally, I don't do much to labels, except for very little "spot repairs" to re-adhere loose portions, or areas that could result in losses down the road. The areas of concern are usually the areas of text, and the areas near the weight tracks, which are usually fairly damaged.

When working on labels, be sure to use a pH neutral glue. There are several options available, and they will either say "acid free" "photo safe" or "pH neutral". These glues are available in liquid, gel, and pastes. I have both a liquid and a paste version, and I find that the paste version works better, since it doesn't soak as much into the dry, fragile paper.

Apply minimal glue, and use a small brush.

These were the spots I repaired:

After: Not a huge difference, but since the backboard was already removed, it was worth the effort to inspect and repair the label.

During the repairs, I decided to replace the glue blocks. I did not like the original assembly method (which used oddly sized double blocks at each corner). I replaced the blocks with stronger single-piece blocks, which were stained, treated, and aged before gluing. The original blocks will be kept with the clock, and all the case pieces were glued with hide glue (which is reversible).

Here is the case completely reassembled, with some of the veneer sections cleaned-up and ready for new patches (bottom arrows). The arrows at the top show one completed patch, and 2 nail holes which will just be puttied/painted.

The door needed attention as well. It was solid in 2 opposite corners, but loose everywhere else. It was disassembled, glasses removed, and reglued with hide glue.

More veneer patches. The veneer on parts of this clock was very thin, and on other parts it was "med" thickness (in between 1/16" thick, and 1/42" standard modern veneer) so I had to use thick veneer, and shave/sand it down to the correct thickness (which is a lot more work).

All the veneer repairs done, with a coat of dark brown stain applied.

Parts of the case (for example, the new top moulding's pine edge) had to be touched-up with additional stain, and paints to match.

Bottom left after patching and first coat of stain.

Top after first several coats of shellac and before any toner was added (not nearly done at this point).

Here is the finished case, after several additional coats of shellac, paint, toner, and flat lacquer, to the repaired areas. I did not want to refinish the case in any way, so I had to get creative with several different products layered together to match the old cruddy finish. It came out quite well, and I still need to take additional photos.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Very Rare Seth Thomas 8 Day Column Clock - Restoration Notes

Restoration Notes

One of the best things to do when undertaking any restoration, is RESEARCH. Researching is one of the most important things you can do if you want to be able to successfully restore a clock or any other type of antique item. Find similar examples, look through books, and equip yourself with as much information as you can find. I've had this clock for several years, and I've stockpiled dozens of photos in order to help with my restoration.

For those who are more familiar with Seth Thomas clocks, you may instantly recognize this particular clock case as one designed after the 30 hour "column type #1", of which you can see a few examples below. Several Seth Thomas clocks were made with columns, and there are 3 similar "styles" which are outlined here:

This first clock is in pristine condition, and has an early hand-painted tablet.

This particular clock has incorrect hands, but is otherwise in nice original condition.

While these column clocks are beautiful, they are quite easy to find, and I have seen probably over 100 in the past 5+ years. Since acquiring this particular 8 day version, however, I have NEVER come across another like it.

The key difference with my clock, is the overall size. The case is much taller, and the elements are sized-up to suit, including larger columns, column base/top blocks, and wider mouldings. The main difference, however, is visible in the size of the lower door glass.

I find it unusual that the company would have made efforts to design this larger version, but not made more of them widely available. Patterns and detailed drawings would have needed to be made, and I'm still wondering whether or not this clock is a unique piece.

In my research regarding the James Brice over-pasted label, I was able to find this New York 4 column clock. What's particularly interesting about this clock is that it has the same style of early dial, which has a single outer ring around the minute circle, dots for minutes, and tapered numerals 3,4,7,& 8. I'm not sure who manufactured this particular clock, since there were no images of the movement. It appears as though Mr. Brice was simply a retailer.

It would be interesting to know more about this clock. The label is a good clue, but I don't immediately recognize the border. These 4 column clocks were made by several companies, including Seth Thomas, Ansonia, William S. Johnson, Sperry and Shaw, F. C. Andrews, and others. The label does not match Ansonia or W.S.J. labels of the period. The label also doesn't seem like a match to Seth Thomas, but the dial does.

Regarding the details of the dial, you can visit the link posted above, and see the dial section. On that page, you will note that the early Seth Thomas dials with tapered numerals have a double ring around the outside minute circle, and the later dials with single lines do not have the tapered numerals. My dial seems to fall between the 1842-43 style, and the 1850-55 style. It is currently of an unknown date.

The label as well as the movement indicate a Plymouth Hollow clock, therefore the clock was definitely made between 1842 and 1865. Based on the earlier design of the label, I would lean towards late 1840s, and early 1850s.

Based on other similar clocks (having the same labels and similar dials) the clock would have had a hand painted/stencilled Fenn type tablet.

Here are a few good examples of early Seth Thomas stencilled tablets. I particularly like the design on this ogee clock, and I may decide to use it as a pattern for my clock.

These two are from 30 hour column clocks (as above):

These two are from 30 hour ogee clocks:

The list of repairs needed for the clock are as follows:

- Disassemble the case.
- Scrape and remove new carpenter's glue.
- Reassemble the case using hide glue.
- Replace missing veneer.
- Repair label fragments.
- Reglue door frame.
- Veneer top cornice (which I had previously fabricated several years ago).
- Stain, colour match, and shellac new repairs.
- Paint new reproduction stencilled tablet.
- Touch-up dial.
- Repair movement.

Very Rare Seth Thomas 8 Day Column Clock - Before Photos

I'm currently restoring a very rare and beautiful Seth Thomas column clock. This is a clock that I purchased privately through another collector, and friend from the NAWCC Message Board. I bought this clock from him back in June 2006, and it has sat around collecting dust since then. It needed a lot of work, and until recently, I just didn't have the motivation to work on it.

As received, the clock was missing the top "moulding", the entire case was "broken" with several large sections loose (the entire bottom centre moulding was loose from the case), and the case had been partially reglued with yellow carpenter's glue (ugh!). The case also had several veneer chips. The worst part, however, was the movement, which I haven't tackled yet.

The clock has an 8 day weight driven "S Thomas Plymouth Conn USA" lyre shaped movement, which has had the escape wheel replaced (and horribly soldered), the escape wheel replaced (and horribly soldered) the crutch replaced, the strike fan horribly replaced (and soldered), and a notch cut into the strike hammer (presumably for a leather insert, which isn't present).

Aside from these listed problems, the clock was in overall good shape, had nice old patina, an original (retouched) early dial (which I will discuss later), and was mostly complete. The current strawberry tablet is a new replacement, and although it seems to suit the clock, it's not really appropriate for it (I will discuss this later). You will also note that the label has an over-pasted label stating "and James Brice, Cincinnati Ohio, Warranted Good." I have found only ONE other clock sold by James Brice (I will discuss this later).

Here are the "before" photos:

Note hammer notch:

Note the fan, escape wheel and bridge, and crutch/verge.

Shadow from original top moulding: