Dorrin K Mace, Horologost

Dorrin K Mace, Horologost
The Clock Man in a pensive moment

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Sweeten That Finish

Many of the antique and vintage clocks that arrive in my shop for repair and restoration of the movements, have cases that need attention.  Unless a clock case has been coated in paint or a urethane coating, I exercise a sympathetic restoration approach.
If the case has minor scuffing or whitish water marks, I use a product manufactured by Howards called resto-a-finish. This product is essentially a mineral oil with a dye in it and is available in several different hues/colors.

When applying this product, I begin by cleaning the case of all dust, dirt, and loose finish using a soft, china bristle, parts brush.  After the initial cleaning, restor-a-finish can be applied with a china bristle brush, a soft cotton rag, or 0000 steel wool, depending on the condition of the current finish and the look desired.

Should the finish need more than just a refresh from restor-a-finish, I use a soft paste wax with a color added to breath life back into the case and imbue a warm, soft hue to the finish.  My product of choice for this is BriWax from England.   BriWax comes in several shades from clear to ebony.
Again start with a soft, china bristle brush to remove dust, dirt, and any loose finish from the clock case.  Apply the wax with a soft cloth or 0000 steel wool, buffing the finish to a pleasant, warm sheen.

I often use a hand crafted beeswax polish on historic or special pieces.  A simple beeswax polish can be made from grated beeswax and pure, clear turpentine.  Simply grate the beeswax into a glass jar that has a screw on lid, add your pure, clear turpentine to cover.  The beeswax will dissolve in less than a day and create a nice paste wax for application.  Apply this wax with a soft cloth and buff to a warm satin sheen.

Should the finish of the case be to the point that is has gone black with age, severely checked/alligatored, or has failed to the point that it is flaking off, I use a refinishing solution of boiled linseed oil and pure turpentine.
The recipe for the solution is 2 parts boiled linseed oil & 3 parts turpentine.  Apply the mixture with 0000 steel wool rubbing in a circular fashion until the finish is softened.  Rinse the steel wool often in the solution to ensure the impurities are removed and not redeposited on the finish.  After the finish is cleaned and reworked to the desired appearance, go over the entire piece with a clean 0000 steel wool pad that has been dampened with the refinishing mixture, going with the grain.  Allow the finish cure for 72 hours, then topcoat with the beeswax polish shown above.

The example below is a mid 19th century ogee clock that was located into the rafters of the detached garage after a house fire.  The clock remained in the rafters of the garage from the 1950's until 2017 when it was discovered by owners grandson.  During my restoration of the case, I found a photo of customers great-great grandfather under the grime on the lower tablet.
The case was reclaimed with the boiled linseed oil and turpentine mixture, then top coated with the beeswax and turpentine polish.  A pleased customer.

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