Antique Long Case Clock Troubleshooting Tips
Longcase Clock Restoration and Conservation
We have been restoring antique clocks for over 45 years, and are proud members of
BAFRA and the Antiquarian Horological society.
Our movement repair and casework is considered by experts to be the finest there is. We are employed by museums, embassies and societies to undertake restoration or conservation work for important clock cases and movements.
This page is intended to provide helpful tips regarding restoration or for the purchasing of longcase clocks.
Longcase or Grandfather Clocks - Useful Tips
The Dutch marquetry clock in the first image is an example of a clock well worth purchasing. Whilst its movement as shown in the second image, is rusty and in need of cleaning, this can be easily restored.
The movement in the third image is of a fine 18th century movement striking on six bells. These clocks have sometimes been converted from eight-day clocks, so one should be aware of the pitfalls.
Longcase or grandfather clock movements have often been adapted or poorly repaired. We have seen both superglue and epoxy glues used as a quick fix solution. We have also seen soft solder, (commonly used in the 1930's and 40's) and metals that you don't expect to find in old clocks, such as aluminum. We remove this solder, and replace parts in a proper fashion for the period. Please be aware of additions that are not contemporary to the period of manufacture.
Sometimes the clock movement has been changed entirely and this often applies to the escapement. Restoring a clock movement properly can be a very delicate and time consuming restoration project.
The movements may require extensive work such as the re-making of broken movement parts, as well as dial restoration which is often needed. The cases may require restoration too, such as the making of new mouldings, re-veneering from contemporary timber, and general cleaning. We always look for post-industrial methods of workmanship such as modern saw cuts or judder marks from planer blades, etc
Many longcase clocks were cut down over the generations, perhaps to fit inside a cottage with a low ceiling space. And in this case, they require new feet to be made to match the original concept using period timber.
What to Look For When Purchasing A Grandfather Clock
When looking to buy a grandfather clock or longcase clock, one has to first decide on the style of clock and period that fits your requirements.
Generally speaking, the earlier clocks and those that are particularly fine are going to be the most expensive. For example, a clock made by a well-known London maker is going to cost more than one made by a small village horologist. Despite both clocks working perfectly, they demand different prices.
You can sometimes find a longcase movement sitting on the cheeks of a longcase trunk where it is blindingly obvious that the two were never intended to go together. More often than not, it's harder to tell where changes have been made. Movements were often mixed and moved around, generally for profit. Taking the time to see if the movement is right for the case is an important part of purchasing clocks. Always check if the seating board for the movement is original, and shows no signs of a previous cut. Checking where the board sits on the cheeks of the trunk is also encouraged, as signs of cutting are often found here too.
Another thing to look for within the movement is whether it has been Birmingham plate fitted.
These plates were generally used to fit mismatching movements to dials. They were also used if one decided to fit additional motion work at a later date.
Below is a photograph of a Birmingham plate or a false plate.
It is also worth noting that even the most distressed and damaged clocks such as this one in the right hand photograph, can be worth buying. After restoration the value may raise considerably.
Longcase or Grandfather Clock Case Restoration
A large portion of our restoration work is known as Dutch marquetry restoration. This type of marquetry is extremely attractive but time-consuming to renovate in a proper and correct fashion. To maintain or restore the value of a clock we always stress to seek the help of an experienced restorer. Taking short cuts in the repair of these clocks can be damaging and costly. We have found repairs of Dutch marquetry where car filler has been used to fill in damaged areas. A correct approach led by an experienced restorer, would involve killing any woodworm or infestation, and replacing any base structure with contemporary timber (usually oak).
If we find inappropriate repairs we suggest that the marquetry be removed. In our previous example where car filler was used, this was immediately removed and the base structure repaired using period oak. The marquetry was then re-laid as it would have been originally.
Our aim in our clock
restoration of long case clock cases is to leave invisible repairs, so that even an expert eye
will find it difficult or perhaps impossible, to tell if repairs have taken place.
What to be aware of when Purchasing, Selling or Seeking the Restoration of a Longcase or Grandfather Clock
If you are looking to purchase a grandfather or longcase clock one should always be aware of the pitfalls.
Many longcase clocks of all designs have been changed by dealers over the years for monetary gain. Movements have often been found in mismatched cases.
In the past, if a fine movement was found in a plain and slightly worn case, it may have been removed and placed within a case more deserving. While this may have made sense at the time, this of course removes the historical value of a completely original clock.
In grand houses where they could afford multiple longcase clocks, parts may have been accidentally switched during times of general maintenance and cleaning.
Sometimes certain clocks of the past during earlier periods, as valuable as they are now, may not have been worth a lot of money. Timbers and materials not compatible with the period of manufacture would have been used for cheap repair or as a quick fix. One should always look for these changes and tweeks when purchasing a longcase clock.
If it's a 17th-century clock for example you should not expect to see marks made by a machine. These marks are often of a consistent juddering nature, as they would of been made by a power plane, or something similar.
Our advice when looking at a clock for purchase is to conduct a thorough check. Does it look right? Are the proportions right to your eye? Does the dial fit correctly within the aperture of the hood door? Always look at the cheeks within the case, (these are the sections of timber that are under the seeking board) to see if there is evidence of cutting there. If so, then the movement probably isn't original to the case.
Please contact us regarding any clock restoration
project you might have. We would be pleased to receive photographs of
your damaged clock.
Looking for an experienced antique clock restorer - contact Green and Cockburn on …
Tel : 01462 790646 or E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org