A veneer repair can make a difference on a Seth Thomas shelf clock

Among the most respected and prolific American clockmakers is the Seth Thomas Clock Co. of America. Every collector I know has at least one Seth Thomas clock in their collection.

My modest collection consists of six Seth Thomas clocks representing several styles, all unique and from the period 1865 to 1930.

This is a Seth Thomas time and hour strike large round top (model name or number unknown) made in the 1870s. For first impressions of this clock, go here.

Seth Thomas round top shelf clock, veneer missing top left of the door frame

This shelf clock was purchased at the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors conference in Springfield Ma. in June of 2019.

The clock case is in such remarkable condition it would be a shame to ignore that one small blemish and once you see the missing veneer the eye is always drawn to it

The clock measures 15 inches in height, 10 inches wide at the base and 4 inches deep. The attractive Rosewood veneered case has a mirrored rectangular lower tablet. The grain of the Brazilian Rosewood is bold and nicely textured. However, a sliver of the veneer is missing between the 9 and 12 o’clock position of the dial bezel which, in my view, is repairable. My wife did not notice this until I pointed it out.

A previous owner attempted to hide the missing veneer by tinting the exposed area.

The exposed  bezel frame is sanded using 100 grit sandpaper resulting in a lighter colour than the above photo

The ethics of making changes, however minor, to an antique clock is always on my mind and is a constant subject of debate but the clock case is in such remarkable condition it would be a shame to ignore that one small blemish. Once you see the missing veneer the eye is always drawn to it.

I have a small supply of Brazilian Rosewood veneer, so, I decided on a repair. The repair is reversible. If I do not like the end result I could easily live with the missing piece.

Now for the next steps.

Beyond the veneer which I have on hand, materials include;

  • two small dollar-store clamps,
  • scissors,
  • razor cutter,
  • sandpaper,
  • cellophane and
  • yellow carpenters glue.

To remove the tint and to ensure good adhesion for the glue I sanded the exposed frame with 100 grit sandpaper.

Veneer today is somewhat thinner than veneer used on antique clocks many years ago making it is simpler to trim and shape. Using scissors and a razor cutter I cut a rectangular piece of Rosewood veneer in the same grain orientation as the surrounding veneer and shaped the new piece to fit. Yellow carpenter’s glue is a quick and easy fix for this type of repair.

I secured the piece in place using dollar-store clamps. The cellophane ensures that any residual glue does not stick to the clamps.

Two small clamps

Once the glue was set I released the clamps and applied 4 coats of shellac (1 lb cut), prepared in the traditional way to achieve a close match to the existing veneer. I allowed 1/2 hour drying time between coats.

A new piece in place under artificial light
Close-up view of the repair, natural light

I am pleased with the repair and the new veneer piece is made less visible by the unique textured grain just above it.

Looking good on a hall table

The difference is subtle rather than dramatic and few could identify the repair.