Basic repair, restoration or conservation

The first thing to be decided about the repair of your clock is which of these three approaches to take. The decision may be straightforward or it may well be quite difficult. I can advise you, but ultimately it is your decision. The 3 choices can be summarised as follows:

In practice most of my work is a combination of restoration and conservation in as much as I tend to conserve as much as possible of the original movement, and yet sometimes have to compromise this principle in order to get the clock running reliably.

How the movement is repaired

I can repair most of the spring or weight driven clocks you are likely to have at home. That includes grandfather, mantel, table and wall clocks. If I feel that your clock is one of the few that are beyond my capabilities I will recommend you contact another clock repairer, rather than risk a doing a poor job that neither you nor I will be satisfied with. Note that I do not work on watches or electric clocks.

  1. The repair will always start with full dismantling and cleaning of the movement. (The movement is the mechanical part of the clock inside the case.) This is usually the most expensive part of the repair but I will not take short cuts such as dipping the whole movement in cleaning fluid.
  2. The second step is to inspect all moving parts of the clock, before repairing any wear. Often this means bushing worn pivot holes, (fitting new bearings in layman’s terms,) burnishing the pivots, (smoothing and hardening the axles,) and polishing the pallet nibs, (the pallet is the bow shaped steel lever that drives the pendulum.) Other parts of the clock are repaired as necessary, or if they can not be repaired, new parts will have to be made.
  3. The third step is to reassemble the clock, checking the operation of each part individually before lubricating at the appropriate points.
  4. The clock is set up on a test stand and run for between one and four weeks for adjustment. During this time it will be connected to an electronic timer and a computer to record its performance. A printed graph of the clock’s rate will be given to you on its return.
  5. The movement is refitted to its case and run for another week as a final test of proper operation, before being returned to you.

Dial restoration

Dials were made from a variety of materials: silvered brass, painted iron, enamelled copper, and printed paper being the most common. Cleaning and repair techniques are obviously vastly different for each of the different materials involved.

Generally I will do little more than simple cleaning with a little soap and water, except of course for paper dials which would be damaged by contact with water. If it needs any form of repair, restoration or major cleaning I will, if you wish, send it to a specialist for this work to be done. Specialists can resilver brass dials, repair damaged enamel, and repaint faded or damaged painted iron.

Case repair

Like dials, clock cases were made from a wide range of materials, such as the wooden cases of classic long case (grandfather) clocks, the black limestone (so-called “marble”) of French mantel clocks, the porcelain of many European clocks, indeed almost any material that can be moulded or carved to support a movement.

I can carry out cleaning and minor repairs of many types of cases, but like dials, those needing major work can be sent to a specialist, if you wish.