Why I do restorations and not just repairs

Clocks can be fantastically expensive to restore so I simply dont charge for a lot of the time I spend on restorations. Typically a mantle clock from the 50’s, mid-range, pendulum, laminated sylised case, is about 30 hours work. The mechanics require a strip down, clean, and plate polished even if the clock is working because you cant have dirty movement in a clock you want to make “new”. Thats a good 7 hours as you really have to learn the clock to completely take it apart. All the mechanics work fundementally the same but the arrangement of components vary. Its incrediby easy to whizz through and dissassemble once you know the method, but if you havent just looked at it for an hour and seen exactly the way it works, then it will take twice as long to put back together. Its necessary to photo document the movement from every angle so that when you come accross a problem you can refer to the precise positioning of cams, levers and springs. I still do this even though I can now operate without a camera and sometimes the precaution is appropriate.

The case requires a completely different set of skills. Its all about colour and finish. I know a disturbing amount about varnish and how it behaves it different dilutions of thinner. Nobody can teach you, not even a video because it a very tactile and material dependent. Ive worked with exotic hard woods like Sequioa and Ebony, British staples like oak and walnut, as well as fruit woods and box wood!. Each one takes the finish differently and requires a slightly different method.

This is the other reason I do resotorations – its a nice change of pace to completely change to a different dicipline like finishing and polishing because you always make progress and learn something new.

The other thing that is essentail for a case restoration is a bit of oil painting. I use oils to cover blemishes or lost veneer because

  1. Its good for colour blending on the pallette where you want to be working with several closely related hues.
  2. You can mimic wood grain with different hues and a brush tips
  3. Oil paint (dried) will not change colour or hue when a clear gloss finish is applied with varnish.
  4. Oil paint is viscous enough to partially fill scrathes and dents.

Most clock veneer repairs via this method can only be spotted under close scrutiny and the trick is of course how well you are able to do this – im always improving.

Restorations are only undertaken by people with emotional motivations. Its never about money on either side really. Even with my unmetered approach its still expensive, or I regard it as so anyway; low hundreds.

What it adds up to is achieving something beyond providing a useful service to people – I get to make people genuinely happy which is very rewarding. I got this card today from Wally, my brothers father in law. His clock was in a bad way so it was either “get it running” or a complete refurbish. Guess which one I felt honour bound to provide. I enjoyed every minute of it.

Ironically I forgot to take a picture of the clock but here it ia halfway through the finishing!.