The dial on a clock
being restored can be found in a wide range of conditions ranging
from dark, but very readable, to totally devoid of any paint or
numerals. Since the dial is the most frequently viewed part of the
clock, it is important to the overall restoration that the dial be
presentable and authentic.
Many restorers shy away from dial
work feeling that it is “too artistic” for their skills.
For a craftsman who is able to make complex missing pieces of the
case, repair the delicate bushings of a movement or match a case
finish perfectly, dial work should present nothing more that an
opportunity to learn new skills.
With patience, planning and the right
tools, cleaning, touching-up or even totally repainting a clock dial
is no more complex than any of the other skills commonly practiced
by the clock restorer. The techniques presented in Extreme
Restoration were developed for the competent craftsman who may
not regularly restore clock dials. The techniques are intended to
result in a dial that looks its age. Old, but quite serviceable, and
retaining as much of the original material as possible. Avoiding an
"over restored" look is stressed throughout the chapter on dial
dials, particularly paper type dials, can often be significantly
cleaned and lightened using document cleaning pads made specifically
for this purpose. Most painted dials used a very robust oil based
enamel paint and can be safely cleaned using solvents such as MEK or
The surface must first be carefully tested, but once confirmed that
it is safe, much dirt can be removed with careful use of solvents
The numerals on many antique clock dials were painted. They were
first outlined, possibly in ink, then filled in. Close examination
of the numerals will often show this.
Worn numerals can usually be successfully darkened using a high
quality black India-type ink.
Artist calligraphy pens can be purchased very inexpensively and work
well for applying ink to numerals.
Sometimes a dial is in such poor condition that you have no choice
but a complete strip and repaint. This is actually less difficult
than you might think if you have the right tools.
Using a home made turntable and a professional pin-stripping tool it
is relatively easy to repaint the chapter ring on a dial. Laying out
numerals is relatively straight forward.
very professional repaint is possible by any restorer with average
shop skills and a bit of patience.
Chapter 11 of Extreme Restoration is dedicated exclusively to cock
dial restoration. It has over 75 pages and over 350 high quality
digital photographs. Every aspect of dial restoration is addressed
from touch-up to total repaint to building a correct type dial from
Chapter 11 will prove to be an extremely useful chapter for
those restorers who have previously avoided dial work.