NOTES FROM THE BENCH
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Clock Repair Archive - - Clock finishes:
In 25 years of repairing clocks some facts about old clock finishes became
painfully obvious. First if you are not a wood worker do not attempt to "restore"
your clocks finish. There are thousands of clocks that have had their antique value
completely ruined by well meaning owners.
By value I mean two things from the perspective of a collector, or a museum :
A. The "market" or monetary value.
B. The value that you cannot put a "price" on; that value that brings something out
of the past of society and its creations of manufacture to us here in the present.
What an old clock usually means is a piece of the past here in front of us now. The
fact that it is a time piece increases this feeling. The industrial revolution
was part of this. Many factories made millions of clocks. As a society we like to
be able to see part of our past. If you take this past and destroy it or change it
you are in effect cheating society out of their ability to see the past. Altering
an old timepiece by painting it or changing its finish is an example of this.
Clocks that have been in families for multiple generations are an exception to this.
An example would be "Great Grandfather made this clock and this is the finish that is
supposed to be on it". How can you argue with this? You can't. At least not and be in
business. How can you tell someone that their ancestors destroyed the value of an
excellent antique clock? You can't. My suggestion is don't try. To them it doesn't matter.
So value is relative. Be aware of this before you decide to do something to the finish of an old
clock, or any clock for that matter. Unless it is custom built from the ground up ;
do not alter the finish; and even then you are taking a chance.
If you have an old clock and you change its finish to make it
look like new; you will alter its value forever. The only time I would recommend
re-finishing an old clock case is if it is literally falling apart ; in other words it
is in pieces. Get a professional furniture refinisher with a good reputaion to do the work
There are things you can do to make a case look better without destroying it.
Lemon oil on a SOFT rag can work wonders. I have left the rest up to wood workers.
If you are fortunate enough to have 15 or 20 years of professional experience
in wood working and 15 or 20 years in clock repair then you are probably qualified to
do case work and mechanical clock mechanism repair. ( Lets see, if you were 21 when you
started you either worked 80 or 90 hours a week for 20 years or you worked two careers
back to back and you are now in your late 50's. Well , any way you get my point.)
Usually clock repair shops will have someone they work with that knows case
repair. If you want to know what your particular old clock should look like you should
check with your local chapter of the NAWCC. They are
a non-profit organization. You will get your best information from them.
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Copyright (c) 2002 David Tarsi.
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