by Stephen Nelson
I retired 2 years ago to pursue my antique clock business — which is focused on the hand-made
Viennese clocks from the 1800s, though some of the German factory pieces from the second half of
the 1800s also come my way. With a buyer in Salzburg I have been fortunate in finding beautiful
examples of these fine clocks. And now that I am retired, I have the time to sympathetically
conserve the cases and mechanisms!
My case conservation work entails replacing missing veneer and bits of trim, removing poorly done
previous repair jobs (a lot of time spent softening poorly applied glue with strips of tissue soaked
in water), and finally matching the original colors, shading, patina and finish of my replacement
I suppose the average size of the pieces that I replace on a case is between 2 and 3 inches long. So,
a shop like mine (can you say "densely packed" or even perhaps "crowded"?) really does work.
Granted, if I need for some reason to rip a piece of plywood I can open up the barn doors. Or, I
can run a piece of lumber through my table saw and right out the window.
As is fairly obvious, I wholeheartedly subscribe to the belief that you can never, ever, have enough
clamps. A quick count came up with 270 (but I am sure there are a few I missed).
Tools I use the most? The Porter-Cable router hung under the cast iron extension to the Delta table
saw is a godsend. The Biesemeyer fence does double duty for both the table saw as well as the
router. Likewise, the Delta 14 inch band saw with its Kreg fence system and Carter blade guides
makes it possible to shave the original veneer off of the various bits of furniture that I use as
sources for my repair work. And lest I forget, the Myford wood lathe is used for everything from
making replacement finials to applying faux finish to match the originals. Oh, and for cutting and
spinning tapered dowels for polishing the inside of pivot holes in clock mechanism plates.
Living in Oklahoma, the winters are not as cold as in many areas, but the old kitchen oven below my
main bench sure comes in handy on a chilly day. And it does a fine job as a paint drying booth when
spraying metal pieces that need a bit of heat to properly set the lacquer and eliminate any hazing
due to excessive atmospheric humidity. And set a bit higher, it blues the small screws and other
parts of the clock mechanisms!
I wish I could say that my shop is as clean and tidy as some that I see featured, but it just
isn't. Right now I am making about 2 feet of trim that is missing from a beautiful case made back
in the 1860s. Hence the rather thick layer of wood shavings and the Makita miter saw on the