Canada Clock Co. Hamilton Cottage Extra – dial in-painting

While waiting for movement parts I continued to work on the case of this antique Canadian cottage clock from the mid 1880s. The dial needs attention and in this article I will describe the procedures for in-painting the numerals and decorative elements.

Decorative hand-painted antique dials need attention from time to time. Through environment and use they become victims of wear and neglect. Stabilizing and restoring dials maintains the value of the clock. In-painting involves filling areas of loss, cleaning, colour matching, repairing graphics and decorative art work.

The Canada Clock Co.

The Canada Clock Company in its three iterations made clocks in Ontario, Canada between 1872 and 1884. The Canada Clock Co, the Hamilton Clock Co. and then Canada Clock Co. (redux) struggled over a 12 year period to put Canada on the clock-making map. Ultimately their efforts failed. Nonetheless, there are plenty of fine examples that have survived to this day.

I found this interesting example in an antique shop in downtown Truro, Nova Scotia. The model is called Hamilton Cottage Extra.

First look

This is the dial when I first saw it. It is unsightly and distracting. Severe flaking over a good portion of the dial surface plus an attempt to repaint the numbers by a past owner presented a challenge for restoration.

Case is in fair condition, dial face has some flaking
Case is in fair condition, dial face has considerable flaking

A close up of the dial reveals the flaking and a poor attempt to repaint the numbers. I was ready for the challenge.

Close up of dial, some numbers which have been hand painted are almost unreadable

I try to reserve judgement when it comes to something like a repaint when folks at that time had limited resources and did the best they could to keep their clocks running.

The VIII and the XII below are examples of the most troublesome areas. The inner dial face had also been repainted with an attempt to match the remaining dial.

However, the flaking and hand-painted numerals are distracting and take away from the simple lines of the case.

A close-up of the number 8
The number 12 as well as other numbers had been repainted and are faded


  • Leave as it is;
  • Sand to the bare metal and start from scratch or,
  • In-paint the damaged dial numbers and decorative patterns.

Two reasons for choosing in-painting

  1. To preserve the floral designs which are in reasonably good condition and
  2. To brighten and enhance the numerals.

These are extreme closeups. At a meter or so, which is average viewing distance, it is difficult to tell the difference.

First attempt with the XI, XII and I

The area around the numbers will have to be filled in and colour matched.

Repainted number VII, the number VIII still needs work

The next photo shows the completed dial. The floral patterns in the corners were filled in and touched up.

Completed dial


  • An assortment of water-based acrylic paints,
  • An artist’s detail brush,
  • Straight-edge,
  • Student’s math tool set with compass protractor,
  • A black Sharpie fine tip pen

And of course, a steady hand.

Mixing colours for a clock dial is always a challenge as there are many shades of off-white. I try to come as close as possible and it is rare that I get an exact match but it is enough to be close. Just when I think I have the correct colour, various light sources effect what I see, but it is important to realize that folks are not going to examine your work at a close distance.

The dial numbers are simpler to reproduce since a flat black acrylic paint is all that is required. I use an artists #3 spotter brush and try to paint as straight as I can and when necessary, use a sharpie pen and a ruler to ensure that my lines are as precise as possible.

The chapter rings are filled in using a fine-tip Sharpie pen and a student’s compass. Once centre is established it is really quite simple.

Retouched decorative design

I have an assortment of acrylic colours and reproducing the floral design requires light sweeping brush strokes. If a mistake is made, it can be wiped away with a damp cloth.

All in all, I am pleased with the final result. Addressing the distracting dial brings out the real character of this simple antique Canadian time and strike 30-hour cottage clock.