Clock Dial Restoration

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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 restoration.

Many 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 Acetone.





The surface must first be carefully tested, but once confirmed that it is safe, much dirt can be removed with careful use of solvents and swabs.

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.

A 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 scratch.

Chapter 11 will prove to be an extremely useful chapter for those restorers who have previously avoided dial work.