Using a paint roller to revive a clock dial

It might sound a little strange to use a paint roller on a clock dial. This is not just any paint roller but one specifically designed for the purpose. The candidate is a embossed dial pan for a Waterbury Wren shelf clock C.1895.

Most of the paint has been rubbed off the dial over the years which you can see in the photo below.

Should the dial be left as-is or retouched? It is an age-old clockmaker’s dilemma. We all have our views but I tend to take the position that if it is grimy and unsightly and takes away from the look of the clock it should be cleaned and retouched.

I decided to start from scratch. I knew that if I immersed the dial in my ultrasonic cleaner with the heat setting on I would risk stripping away all paint from the numbers and that is exactly what happened.

The cleaning also took off a thick layer of grime and dirt leaving a much brighter dial.

Dial as found

Hand painting is an art and a steady hand means the difference between a homemade job and one close to the original factory application. I used a multi surface water-based acrylic satin black paint, one I often use for clock dials, hands and so on.

Here is the dial just out of the ultrasonic cleaner. All paint has been released from the embossed areas. The ultrasonic solution was black and had to be discarded.

The paint roller is made out of 18 gauge wire and masking tape, specifically made for this job. I added a strip of double-sided tape to the roller to allow a rough surface so that the paint could adhere.

A homemade paint roller

The roller worked reasonably well over the embossed dial and it was certainly a lot faster than hand painting. Excess paint was removed from the dial with a Q-tip and toothpick.

Using a Q-tip to clean excess paint

I used the roller for the chapter ring as well. After rolling there were some touch-ups and an artists brush #2-0 was used for areas the roller could not reach.

Artist’s brush

I allowed the paint to dry and scraped off the excess.

Inpainting nearly complete

I am very pleased with the results. Here is a before and after shot of the dial.

Movement yet to be installed

It is not factory perfect but from a reasonable viewing distance it is difficult to tell it was repainted plus, it looks much more presentable.

Now, to find a 5 1/2 inch bezel and glass to complement the dial.

6 thoughts on “Using a paint roller to revive a clock dial

  1. Looks really nice the dial. looks like an american clock to me. Probably open mainsprings. I have worked on quite a few now. I have a triple plate waterbury, chime and strike. That may be a challenge. It needs re bushing and the pivots polished up.My new cat on profile photos, and she isn’t smoking the pipe. L.O.L


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