With the inheritance of an amazing mid century clock handed down from Kim’s Grandma, we came to you (our dear readers!) with a few timepiece repair quandaries. We were thrilled with your helpful responses, and we ended up with some outstanding advice. And just recently, we put all of those great tidbits of knowledge to use and are super excited to show you how everything turned out.
We began by attempting to clean, dissolve, and strip that stubborn white spot with every cleaner and solvent known to man – but from paint thinners to Goo Gone, nothing seemed to work at all. So we finally decided the heck with it, and risked further damage to the fine faux finish with a bit of wet fine-grit sandpaper, a tip suggested by many of you. I worked in the direction of the grain until the mystery spot was gone. And whaddya know, it worked! Smarties.
The sandpaper was probably a bit coarser than necessary – we used what we had in the toolbox – and a fine layer of the finish was wiped away with the problem gunk. Not really a big deal; hardly noticeable. So even though our clock blades are a walnut veneer, that didn’t stop us from trying a dab of Restor-A-Finish we had on hand. (It certainly couldn’t hurt, right?) It seemed to add shine to the sanded parts, but nothing else – and we weren’t going to start sanding all the blades! Too risky. There had to be another option.
Feeling determined and not yet defeated, we went to our local Ace, picked up some Brasso (as recommended) and a can of spray poly in a satin finish (we had a plan), and proceeded to hope for the best. As soon as we got home, it was first things first: Kim unscrewed the “wooden” blades attached by wing nuts and removed the face plate and the clock guts.
Before starting any repairs, we prepped by wiping down all the loose parts with a tub of Mrs. Meyer’s mild soap to remove the decades of lingering grime. Of course, this was the easy, somewhat pleasant part.
But we should mention that several blades had lost their pucks (attached to the blade and then secured to the central plate with the wingnuts), and this thick, globby residue was left. Awesome, 50 year old glue. Since we were practically starting from scratch (and more than half the clock parts were scattered around the kitchen by now), Kim used a flat head screwdriver to pry off what she could. Cuss words ensued.
While she wasn’t able to get them squeaky clean, she managed to scrape most of it off. And most importantly, she eliminated about a 1/4″ of depth the gook originally left behind – which would allow the blades to adhere more evenly once we moved on to the next step.
From there, one dot of gorilla glue was all we needed to put the pucks back in place. Using every clip and clamp in the house, we allowed the glue to do it’s thing while we moved on to de-tarnishing with Brasso.
Kim fought me at first (she thinks she’s so tough), but eventually pulled on a pair of gloves before dealing with the Brasso. Good thing, cause the stuff’s no joke. And – queue the angels singing – it worked! We thought for sure the rust and tarnish would be a challenge, but even the darkest spots were removed – after several passes of Brasso and a whole lotta determination.
Because the Restor-A-Finish didn’t work as we had hoped, and because we were able to rid the pesky white residue, we crossed our fingers and hoped a smooth, satin coat of polyurethane would add a desired richness. And holy smokes, it did.
The veneer took a liking to the poly (more angels), and with every coat – we did three, our “walnut” blades gained the dimension and deeper color we had hoped for. They almost look like real wood, no?
After giving things a couple of hours to dry, it was time to put her all back together. We bent and tweaked all of the golden spikes to center perfectly between the wood panels, tightened up the wing nuts, popped in a new battery, and called it a day. An afternoon, really. A quick measure and nail job and the clock is now holding down the fort atop a splash of green in the entryway. (Which, of course, lends a new problem – where should the old black and whites go? Drats!)
And here’s another view to get a better sense of how it works in the our very grand foyer (hah). The front door is there on the left (utility closet is what you see straight ahead), so we can greet the new ticker every time we walk in the door.
It’s even kind of cool to see how it looks in our vibrant Windy City condo compared to it’s original (and very loved) home in Pittsburgh. And we’re so happy it can live on with our little family.
Lucky for us, the bones of Grandma’s clock were solid – again, thanks, Gram! With a few tweaks, a bit of elbow grease, and that shiny new battery, the old girl was good as new. And many, many thanks again for all the advice. You folks are pretty smart, but we already knew that.