Pequegnat gingerbread clock and dial inpainting

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In this article, I will describe the steps taken to inpaint and restore the dial of an Arthur Pequegnat time and strike gingerbread clock.

But first, what is inpainting? And what does it have to do with clock dials?

Inpainting is a dial restoration or conservation process where damaged, deteriorating, or missing parts of a dial are filled in to present a complete image.

And what does the term dial restoration mean?

Dial restoration includes adhering loose flakes, filling areas of loss, cleaning, colour matching, repairing graphics, inpainting of decorative artwork and sealing. Some dials are easier to work on than others but generally speaking American antique clocks dials are good candidates. Dial inpainting can be hit and miss, and the final results can range from fair to excellent.

Here is an earlier project. The before photo shows the significant losses on the dial of an 1850s Seth Thomas column and cornice clock.

Before inpainting

And, after inpainting. In this example, restoring the floral spandrels and the chapter ring was the most challenging part of the project.

Working on a clock dial

I was pleased with the final result though these dials are among the easiest to work on.

After: Seth Thomas dial, column and cornice clock

Now let’s turn to a circa 1918 Arthur Pequegnat Canuck time and strike gingerbread clock. There was considerable paint loss, numerals in a script that is a challenge to reproduce and a chapter ring consisting of small dashes with a 4-dot pattern every 5 minutes. To make matters worse, a previous owner had made an attempt to paint in larger sections of the dial.

Given its poor condition, I was initially tempted to buy a replacement dial; $50.00 for paper-on-tin and $4.00 for a paper dial plus tax and shipping. However, I decided to attempt inpainting.

My supplies, which I have on-hand, consisted of:

  • Level 3 – 10/0 spotter artist’s paintbrush
  • #2 artist’s paintbrush
  • A selection of satin finish water-based acrylic paints; white, yellow, red, and blue
  • Black paint for numerals
  • Pitt artist’s pen, fine tip
  • Pencil eraser
  • Toothpicks for mixing paint
  • Q-Tips to remove over painted areas and polish brass bezel
  • Woodblock

Occasionally I use a pencil eraser to remove dirt around the centre and winding arbour hole holes. It is very effective at removing years of dirt and grime.

White is the base paint. Others colours are mixed to replicate the aged finish. There is no magic to this. It takes trial and error to match the dial colour which had yellowed considerably over the years. An exact match is more luck than skill and there are a thousand shades of off-white. I suggest painting in warm light or natural light for best results. Arriving as close as possible to the aged finish was my objective.

The numbers were in reasonably good shape and it takes a steady hand to fill in the missing sections especially the dashes on the chapter ring. For very thin lines, I use a black artist’s pen with a fine tip.

Before and after

Of course, upon close examination, you can see the infilled areas and the touched-up numbers but from average viewing distance, it is difficult to tell.

About 1/2 meter away (the case had been cleaned earlier).

While I was working in the dial I cleaned the brass bezel with Q-Tips and Brasso.

Before (inset) and after

There are some dials I leave as-is since the age and patina of the dial is an important part of the character of the clock but if it is too far gone, as in these examples, inpainting is certainly an option.

All in all a very satisfying project. Now on to servicing the movement.

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