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The Inheritance

Possibly better than a million billion dollars, when my Gram moved outta her Pittburgh home into a down-sized (and super cute) condo, you may remember that I inherited some of her wonderful, original, old-timey and absolutely fantastic stuff. It started with a manila envelope overflowing with my old drawings, photo albums and cards, to a handful of ceramic trinkets – and topped off with the most amazing mustard chair. But perhaps you caught a commenter’s mention of the clock hidden away in the office for months during that whole flood-we-shall-not-mention?

Since then, it’s been tucked carefully in our utility closet, alongside brooms, dustpans and a clothes rack. Oy. And while snooping for lunch the other day, I was immediately snapped back to the reality of it’s awesome-ness when I spotted this photo on our fridge:

The problem is that the photo is over twenty years old (and obvious points aside – only a mini-me is looking into the camera, Gram’s eyes are closed, and my baby sis is slipping away – I love this snapshot with all of my heart), and the current state of that clock is less than ideal.

After scrubbing at unknown, hazy smudges with water, Pledge, and even Purple Power, I began to wonder if the wooden blades could be salvaged. Unfortunately, they’re an MDF with a walnut-ish veneer, so it’s doubtful mineral oils would be of much help.

Even the brassy sunbursts are starting to rust – in more spots than one – and although it’s hard to tell from these photos, the face has odd white spots (perhaps a raw spot in the finish?) and the hands have begun to flop over time. (Ha, time. Get it?) Scott removed the corroded battery and tightened up the screws, and hopefully some new juice will get the guy running again.

Due to the seemingly sad state, we toyed with the idea of painting the wooden blades a shiny white, but would that take away from the sought after mid-century feel? Or what if we fought harder for the walnut finish and sprayed the less-than-perfect brass with a mock gold? What if we painted everything in golds and whites, eliminating the numbers? Would it provide a modern take on a vintage shape?

But then we went and Googled. We pored over images of gorgeous clocks, most of which were found in dumpsters, junkyards, and flea markets. They were all cleaned up (although how, we still don’t know) and hung on fresh, white walls and photographed for us to envy. Of course we stored them away for inspiration – a reminder that white paint doesn’t always save the day. (Will I bite my tongue later?) Here’s some proof:

To say we’re a little confused would be an understatement. To paint or not to paint? We don’t mean to bring up the whole camera debate again, but for reals, y’all, we’re at a complete and utter loss. Or perhaps you know of a much needed magical potion that rubs away rust and tarnish from brass and wipes unknown residues from veneer?  Our guts are telling us to restore rather than to reinvent, but what do you think?

Google Images found here, here, and here.

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  • Alicia2.16.11 - 8:39 AM

    Love the clock! Have you tried Brasso yet? it works great for removing tarnish from brass!ReplyCancel

  • Monique J2.16.11 - 8:54 AM

    If the walnut is veneer on mdf you could gently scuff with a fine sanding sponge and use some minwax walnut stain with poly. if the back side of the walnut pieces are the same as the front you could test the back first or you could use zar finish which is one that can be used on “more than just wood” but be careful as that can streak. The brass might be able to be salvaged with some brass cleaner available at Ace or other hardware store. Or if you don’t mind a duller finish – possibly never dull wadding. Good Luck!ReplyCancel

  • Kelsey2.16.11 - 10:21 AM

    I wondered who inherited their clock! I should have known that everything cool from their house went to you guys, haha.

    I vote don’t paint! For the brass parts, did you try Bar Keeper’s Friend? I’m not sure if it’s actually safe for brass as I’ve never used it on that before, but I know it took all the rust and gunk off of my bicycle with very little elbow grease, and I use it a lot to clean out the kitchen sink. What about Brasso? Not sure what to do for the wood parts though…would be much easier if they were actual wood. Are they “finished” on both sides? If so maybe you could just flip around that one with the white stain, if the back is clean and if it will still attach backwards.ReplyCancel

  • Andrea B2.16.11 - 11:06 AM

    I second the Bar Keeper’s friend suggestion. That stuff is amazing. My husband uses it to clean our copper pots and pans, our sink, our counters … everything!

    Paint would look ok, goldleaf would look better (can you do that on metal?). Cleaning the rust would probably work best with the clock and its original look.

    I love that you’re updating your grandmother’s clock. I have a clock from my own grandmother that is near and dear to my heart. It symbolizes the good times we had in her kitchen, to me. Daniel is working on getting it in working order again so we can have it as part of our good memories! We will be staining it a richer, darker brown than its current blond wood look, though.ReplyCancel

    • Kim2.16.11 - 11:17 AM

      Everyone, thank you for the help and advice so far! And thanks for confirming our suspicions on keeping it true to it’s original form. We’re very excited to give your advice a go!

      As an update, the back of the veneer blades are NOT the same as the front. They are a rough MDF, and they have notches cut out where the blades adhere to the clock.ReplyCancel

  • Amanda @ Our Humble A{Bowe}d2.16.11 - 12:58 PM

    I agree with Alicia and Monique J. Try Brasso and a walnut stain in a satin finish. If you very gently scuff the veneer with a fine grit paper, it should keep the veneer looking like woodgrain. OR, you could look for wood veneer sheeting at Home Depot or something and glue it on to the faces and then stain it walnut. Just an idea…ReplyCancel

    • Kim2.17.11 - 10:18 AM

      Amanda, we never thought of looking for wood veneer sheeting – great tip! Thanks!

      And Kalli and Jennifer, I’m into the idea of replacing with real wood too, but Scott seems to think we can salvage what we have. Perhaps we’ll start using ideas we’ve been given for the veneer, and if all else fails, I can definitely nudge Scott into putting his wood working skills to good use, eh?ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer2.16.11 - 6:03 PM

    Kim, have you thought about recreating the wooden piece being Scott is getting pretty handy with the wood working tools. I have faith that you can restore it to its old glory and Pap Pap will be shining down on you like he did when Josh read at his viewing. Whenever you look at the finished results you will think of that.ReplyCancel

  • Kalli2.16.11 - 9:12 PM

    Yeah, I second maybe replacing the wooden parts with solid wood. Whether you can clean up the brass or have to paint it over with a metallic paint, I love the wood & metal combination. All of those clocks are great, now I want one! That photo with your grandparents is adorable.ReplyCancel

  • Tiffany Harkleroad2.17.11 - 7:33 PM

    Kim,
    You could also look for some paper with a wood grain design, like scrapbook paper, and mod podge the planks. Just a thought. Cloth would work too.ReplyCancel

  • Cait @ Hernando House2.17.11 - 10:11 PM

    I don’t have any advice, but that clock is awesome!ReplyCancel

  • Amanda @ Our Humble A{Bowe}d2.18.11 - 9:12 AM

    Could you possible get wood veneer sheeting to adhere to the damaged designs and stain a deep walnut color? I think Brasso or something might work, too. If that fails, I would try a brass-looking spray paint…ReplyCancel

  • Paul2.19.11 - 7:44 PM

    Try Brasso, if that doesn’t do the trick, use scrap wood to recreate the pieces. Use pieces to match the cart that Scott just completed. That would give a different look to the clock. I’m sure the Grandma and Pap Pap wouldn’t mind.ReplyCancel

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