Junghans Hunsruck roundtop mantel clock – refreshing the case

Junghans, a renowned manufacturer of high-end wristwatches today, acknowledges their significant role in the clock industry by providing access to their catalogs to anyone interested in researching their clock production since the company’s establishment in the 1880s.

This demonstrates the company’s commitment to preserving the history and legacy of their brand and allowing collectors and enthusiasts to gain valuable insights into the evolution of their clock-making techniques and designs over time.

Auction photo

The 1915 Junghans catalog identifies this clock as the Hunsruck, named after a mountain range in Germany, and provides its specifications as 28.5 cm in height with a mahogany or oak case construction, a 14-day run time, and a silvered dial.

While I haven’t yet had the opportunity to service the clock’s movement, I have focused my attention on refreshing the clock’s case, which is the main topic of this post.

This particular clock was originally offered in both oak and mahogany versions, and the one in my possession is the mahogany variant.

A comment on the finish

Despite my expectations that the finish would be consistent throughout the entire case, I have noticed a noticeable tonal variation between the base and the top, sides, and front of the clock. This observation leads me to suspect that the base may be crafted from a different type of wood than the rest of the clock.

We will have to wait and see if any measures taken will have an impact on the tonal difference between the base and the rest of the clock.

All brass is polished and after one coat of stain is applied

Work begins on the case

I began by giving the case a thorough cleaning using Murphy’s soap. Following the cleaning, I applied a light coat of Mahogany stain from a company called Minwax, being cautious not to leave it on for more than the recommended 10-minute period to ensure the stain penetrated the wood correctly. After 10 minutes, I wiped off any remaining residue and gave it an additional wipe at the four-hour drying point.

After the initial staining, I observed that the base of the clock still had a tonal difference compared to the rest of the case.

Through previous experience, I’ve learned not to overdo the staining process, and often, one coat is more than sufficient. Despite this, I opted to apply a second coat of stain to the base only, intending to stop there, even if the tonal difference was still present. As a result there remained a subtle variation in the finish, perhaps only discernible to me. Nevertheless, I was very satisfied with the performance of the stain as it effectively concealed the scratches and nicks on the case.

For the final stage of the case restoration, my original plan was to use a product called Wipe-On Poly by Minwax but using a modern finish for restoring antique clock cases is not a conventional practice.

After careful consideration, I opted for a less intrusive approach by utilizing a finishing paste wax specifically designed for dark finishes, also made by Minwax (and no, I don’t have shares in the company). Clock cases were typically dusted, waxed, and polished during their time as part of routine housekeeping.

After one coat of finishing paste wax

As always, my goal is not to restore the clock case to its original factory finish but rather to conceal any imperfections caused by wear and tear on the wood surfaces in order to enhance its overall appearance. The light refinishing effectively achieved the desired outcome.

The brass

To clean the dial, side door button, and ball feet, I used a cleaning and polishing product called Brasso. I was pleasantly surprised by the results since I had anticipated that removing years of accumulated dirt and grime would be a significant challenge. However, the Brasso worked remarkably well in restoring the brass clock case features to their former shine. I removed the ball feet by unscrewing them so that I could polish every part of them thoroughly.

The dial

Despite efforts to remove the blemish between the numbers four and five with Murphy’s Soap, which was clearly visible in the auction photo above, it was found to be impossible to eliminate completely. However, it is now slightly less noticeable. I initially assumed that it was dirt, but upon closer inspection, it turned out to be some sort of abrasion.

In sum

Restoring an antique clock case can be a delicate and challenging process that requires patience and attention to detail. By using a combination of cleaning and staining products, as well as conventional finishes it’s possible to bring new life to a piece that may have been neglected or damaged over time.

While it may not always be possible to eliminate every imperfection entirely, taking the time to restore a clock case to a semblance of its former glory can be a rewarding experience for both the restorer and the future owner of the piece. Ultimately, the care and effort put into restoring an antique clock case can help preserve its history and ensure that it remains to be enjoyed for generations to come.


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