This antique Victorian style German FMS Mauthe wall clock was purchased from a family living in Truro Nova Scotia that once resided in the town of Parrsboro over 100 years ago.
I have covered movement servicing in a previous article and now for case restoration. The case is part walnut veneer with softwood turns, frame and backboard, likely pine or poplar. All original wood surfaces were stained or lacquered to resemble walnut.
Time and a harsh environment have not been kind to this once majestic clock as the finish was in very poor condition. Stripping the case was my only option.
Stripping and staining were quite straightforward but time-consuming. After rubbing with steel wool I applied a light walnut stain called Special Walnut, a light stain by Minwax which had the effect of enriching the grains even further. After the case was sanded I then applied 5 coats of shellac making the shellac in the traditional way with flakes and alcohol. I found a 1 lb cut ideal for this project.
The movement was cleaned and two bushings were installed on the time side and one on the strike side. It was mounted in its case and has completed a successful testing period.
Although I was pleased with my work on the top door crosspiece, I could not find one clock online with a crosspiece similar to it from that period. Back to the drawing board!
An Internet search for clocks of that style and period revealed that everyone had an arched top trim piece much like this Junghans Crispi wall clock from 1899.
Making the arched top
Walnut veneer is preferred but I had to make do with oak plywood. Oak grain is more pronounced but the end result looks good. Using a router I cut 3/16 inch oak veneered plywood into 2 curved pieces. Making a turn on a router is not as easy as it looks and it took me several attempts to get it right. After the 2 sections were cut (left, right and joining in the middle) I applied a darker walnut stain to match the case. I then covered the pieces with several coats of shellac then glued the two sections onto the top door frame.
The arched trim piece is an improvement and more in keeping with the design of the clock at that time.
The top finial was purchased from a supplier and stained to match the two lower finials.
Unfortunately, there is not much I can do about the darkened celluloid dial. Celluloid dials are impossible to clean. Replacement is an option but it would look out of place.
The clock is now finished. The last step is regulating the movement.
The following is a breakdown of the costs & work completed:
- Purchase price $100
- Amber shellac flakes, alcohol, brushes, containers – $75 (this cost will be spread over future projects)
- Razor scraper for glass cleaning, $5
- Finial $3
- Furniture stripper $10
- Suspension spring $4
- 3/16 inch plywood $12.95
- Corner doweling for the crown (left side) $6
Traditional shellac is the only way to go
- Case stripped down to bare wood with furniture stripper, all surfaces except side frames
- Sanded case
- 1 coat of Minwax “Special” walnut stain. “Special” walnut stain is lighter than dark walnut
- 5 coats of shellac, 1 lb cut, rubbed with fine steel wool between coats. Traditional shellac is the only way to go.
- Crosspiece for top of door fashioned from kitchen cabinet moulding, stained to match case, shellacked (later removed)
- Arched top door insert made from 3/16″ oak veneered plywood, stained and shellacked
- Adler gong and rails, cleaned & repainted
- Beat plate cleaned and made flat, as flat as possible without damaging it!
- Centre pan of dial face cleaned
- Hands painted with flat black acrylic metal paint (2 coats)
- New top centre “curtain rod” finial from Lee Valley, stained and shellacked, hole drilled for support post
- Crown support rail constructed of softwood
- Movement disassembled & cleaned in ultrasonic. Unable to remove the spring barrels. 3 bushings installed
- Glass removed, scraped of shellac residue, cleaned and reinstalled. The residue told me that the case had been shellacked once or twice in the past
A satisfying project that resulted in the transformation of a clock that had been ignored for so long. I can finally appreciate its underlying beauty. Would I do things differently in the future? For the most part, no but there are some minor things I would approach in a different way. Case restoration is a learning process and each new project presents an interesting and unique challenge.
The clock has now been returned to its former glory and will now occupy a prominent location in my home.