Restoration & Stencil Making Part 1: Many of us feel
that we are not particularly "artistic". We can rebuild a complex movement, refinish a case with original materials
or craft a missing piece from wood or metal, but when it
comes to the more delicate tasks such as restoring or creating a
painted tablet, we tend to shy away and outsource the project to an
Fortunately, for those of us who feel we lack artistic flair,
there are a number of techniques that can be employed to accurately
restore a tablet or custom make a high quality replacement. As
with the other jobs you perform such as re-bushing a movement, it's
all a matter of finding the right tools for the job.
Sometimes you need
to restore an existing, but damaged, tablet. At other times, the
tablet you need happens to be on a friends clock or on a clock you saw at a
regional. Here, what you really need is an accurate reproduction of
the tablet design on correct antique glass.
One approach to
creating a tablet design is to hand cut a
stencil. This is a delicate and time consuming task with many
opportunities for mistakes. When only a single tablet will be
produced, hand cutting a custom stencil is a significant investment
of time that may not be justified. Additionally, some tablet designs
were produced using a direct to glass printing process. Many of
these designs simply cannot be produced in a stencil form.
are some viable alternatives to hand cutting stencils. The
presentation that follows is Part-one in a four part series. It shows a method capture, electronically restore
and resize a
tablet image as necessary to produce a highly detailed "master"
artwork that will be used to create a new tablet.
Parts two and three in
the series show two different methods to get the newly created image
onto the tablet glass. The techniques presented utilize some modern
methods that do not require any cutting as with a traditional
stencil yet produce exceptional detail.
Part four covers completion
of the tablet by adding the final coloring and protective backing.
Methods to use both paint and metallic powders to produce
professional results are covered.
An authentic and
serviceable tablet adds tremendously to the overall quality of a
clock restoration. The ability to create the necessary patterns and
transform them into a finished tablet is a worthwhile skill and one
that any restorer with reasonable shop skills can master. This four
part presentation should be useful for those who wish to master this
We've all done it,
taken on a restoration project that will be, at best, a real
challenge of our skills and abilities.
While these projects
take a tremendous amount of time to complete, they tend to be the
most rewarding and educational.
number came to me with the original movement, dial glass and
upper tablet. Beyond that, things got a little dicey.
There was only
enough of the top crown to provide some good contours for pattern
The lower door
consisted of only the side that was attached to the hinges.
were not heavily damaged, but the gold was pretty well worn away on
All in all, a
typical season-long project.
One thing about the clock that caught my interest was the tablet.
While most of the black backing paint was worn away, the gold was
almost complete, although damaged.
I planned to restore this
tablet, but I also wanted to create a stencil of the image since it
is not a design seen in either of the Fenn books.
tablet is another story. This presentation concentrates on capturing
the image and creating the artwork for a new stencil.
The first step is
to get a good "digital" photo of the tablet. This can be a challenge
since the tablet needs to be well lighted to capture all the detail, but lights
tend to create glare and hot spots.
It's possible hold the camera at a angle to the tablet to
avoid the glare, but this creates distortion known as
"Keystone" error where the top is wider than the bottom.
In the end, the
best compromise between capturing detail and avoiding glare is
achieved by using natural daylight and positioning the camera about
three to five feet from the tablet. The camera's zoom feature is then used
to move in close to the tablet to capture detail.
with light and camera positioning will usually lead to a good quality,
glare-free photo that can be used for making a stencil.
There are a lot of high quality photo editing programs
available at reasonable cost.
Corel, Adobe and Jasc all make
quality products that can be very useful in clock restoration work.
Paint Shop Pro
from Jasc is one such product and was used here simply because
it's the program I have.
Other programs may offer
more or different features than Paint Shop, but the features used
here are common to all of the software packages noted.
With the digital image of the tablet loaded into the
photo processing program, restoration can
There are a lot of
strategies for restoring the image,
but one that works well and reduces the work is to
divide the image into quarters.
Most tablets are
symmetrical. That is, the left side is a
mirror image of the right. Additionally, many tablets
are also symmetrical top to bottom.
With this in
mind, the restoration work can often be
reduce by 1/2 or even 3/4.........
The basic strategy is to select the quadrant with the best (least
damaged) image and carefully restore that quarter. The restored portion is then be copied
and pasted over the un-restored sections to produce
a fully restored image.
Using the zoom feature, the area you wish to work on can be magnified to the point that you can see every
There are a number of
features to the software that
make it easy to restore the image at this level.
you can copy a small section of
undamaged image and paste it over a damaged area.
This works well for filling pin-holes in the image. An "Erase"
feature allows you to rub out a flaw. Several other
features can be used in combination
to remove any and all of the flaws to the image.
Take your time
and restore the section of image completely. Don't rush. It is
usually better to complete a restoration such as this over several
sessions instead of trying to do it all at once.
Once satisfied with the restored quadrant,
use the "Copy" feature to select just the restored area.
A feature called "Mirror" is used to reverse the
copy of the left-lower quadrant to be correctly shaped for use in
the right-lower quadrant.
You can move the
copied-mirrored section down
to cover the lower, un-restored, right hand section
of the tablet image.
With care, it can be
aligned to perfectly register with the image on its left and top.
With the entire lower
half of the tablet digitally restored, the lazy approach to
restoring the upper half is to simply copy the entire lower half.
A feature called "Rotate" will allow you to rotate the
copied lower half through 180 degrees so it can be
used on the top.
With all four
quadrants restored, the center section
still looks a little rough.
An alternative to carefully touching up the entire
center section is to use the "Shapes" feature of the software.
This feature provides a
number of pre-drawn shapes ( circles,
squares, triangles, etc).
feature, it's a simple matter to draw a
new center section, drag it into position and size as needed.
You can set the color of the shape to match the color of the rest of
the image and the new section is totally undetectable.
This is a nice
feature to use when you change the
height and width of the image and your circular
center section suddenly becomes an oval. The
correct circular shape is simply dropped over the old
To make a stencil
it is usually better to work with a simple black & white image
instead of color.
To convert the restored
image to high-contrast black & white, the monotone feature can be
With the image in black
& white, it is usually a good idea to go over the image and clean up
small flaws at this time.
You can often eliminate small "gray" dots simply by
brightening the entire image slightly.
At this point you will
see that the image is actually
very detailed with crisp lines.
that may be useful is the "negative image" feature.
This simply makes
the white areas black and the black
areas white. This is the type of image needed for
the "no cut" stencil making technique detailed in a
When using the
image to create a new stencil for a specific application, it may be
necessary to have height-width dimensions that differ from the
This is easily
accommodated using the "resize" function of the software, but it is
critical how you
go about resizing.
Many photo editing packages default to a 72 dpi (dots per inch)
image in the editor. If you originally took the photo with a high
resolution camera (say 4 megapixels or greater) then the software package will show the size of the image to
be around 23 inches per side.
There are two ways to
resize this image:
1. Select "resize" then change the height and width
"resize" then change the dpi from 72 to
some greater number.
Which method you employ
makes a tremendous difference in the quality of your final image.
If you simply
resize the height and width you will have
an image of your desired size but at only 72 dpi
resolution. This is actually quite low quality that is
apparent when you print the image.
If, instead of directly
resizing the height and width, you
increase the dpi figure, the image size will be reduced
because you are putting more dots per inch (ie increasing image
Normally, when working
with a good photo image
it is best to set the dpi figure at 300 or more then
set the height and width to your final desired dimensions.
Try it both ways
and you'll easily see the difference.
Here is a closer
look at the stencil image created from
the photo shown at the start of this presentation.
As can be seen,
there is a tremendous amount of
detail captured that will allow a high quality
stencil to be created.
With the ability
to resize the stencil image as needed, this image will be useful for
restoration projects for many years to come.
The pattern has
been resized to fit the recently built lower door on the
The nice thing about digitally creating the pattern is
that is can be easily resized, printed and tried out before
committing to producing the final stencil.
pattern may, or may not, be the final design for the clock,
but it's nice to test it out..........
With the image restored and stretched to the correct height/width
proportions, the next step is to actually get the image on to our
tablet glass. Normally, this
would mean printing a copy of the image, pasting it on a suitable
stencil material then spending
several hour carefully cutting out the image. This is tedious work
and it's easy to make a mistake.
Parts two and three of this series show different methods to
transfer the highly detailed tablet image to glass
"Without Any Cutting....."
Click the link
to proceed directly to Part-two