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 pieces.
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 tablesaw.
Stephen Nelson, a retired environmental engineer, collects, restores and sells clocks in Edmond, Oklahoma. Examples of his work can be seen at www.snclocks.com.
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