New Haven hall clock – Restoring the case

I found the clock on an online for sale site in the spring of 2021 and contacted the seller the same day. When I saw the sellers photos my first thought was that it was pretty reasonably priced for a hall clock, known by many as a grandfather clock. I decided to take a chance, arranged a meeting with the seller and arrived to pick up the clock.

During our brief discussion I learned that the clock is inexpensive for a good reason – it is not quite what I thought it was.

Seller’s photo

Missing are the door handles, otherwise it is complete. It has a mechanical movement with a pendulum but what I was not expecting was a spring-driven movement. Almost all hall clocks are weight-driven.

Is it a conversion? Was the old movement worn out and a new movement installed in its place. I don’t think so. There was never a seat board in the case as seat boards are almost always present on a clock driven by weights. So it seems that from day one this was never intended to be a weight-driven clock.

The case was likely made by someone other than The New Haven Clock Company and the dial, hands, pendulum rod and bob, weight chains, weights, acorn chain pull knobs and the wood dial face were purchased together as a package from New Haven and installed in the case.

Fakes weight chains below the movement

Okay, that’s different!

Cleaning or stripping?

The decision to clean or strip is made easy by a good cleaning. After a good cleaning it is better to assess whether or not it requires stripping. What was revealed was a very nice red oak case.

All cleaned except the base

In the photo above the base, which was the last section to be cleaned, is almost black.

Base section

What is truly remarkable is the weight of the case and no wonder, the base sides are two inches thick. The top and base can be removed but the middle section alone cannot be lilted by one person, it is that heavy!

I left the cleaning aside to work on the hands and brass (fake) weights.

Clean weight on left
Brass hands and Brasso

The brass hands might looks flimsy but they are surprisingly heavy. Brasso was used on all brass pieces except the dial numbers. They appeared to have been lacquered either from the factory or sometime later.

A very light coat of red oak stain accentuated the grain. I considered shellac for the final finish but opted for Wipe-on Poly, an amber tinted polyurethane.

Finally complete

Yes, there are flaws, nicks and scratches that are consistent with age but given that it is over 100 years old some of the flaws add character. The fake weights went back into the clock to complete the look of a weight-driven clock.

I like it!