Clock Restoration

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This is an abbreviated presentation of a topic covered in Extreme Restoration. The explanation in the book will be longer and in greater detail, but this overview provides the essentials.

Faking, A Refinishing Technique: During the normal process of restoring a clock case, it is occasionally necessary to replace a section of missing veneer with either harvested or new veneer. When this is done, every effort should be made to match the grain pattern of the "patch" to that of the existing veneer.

Unfortunately, even when the replacement veneer is a good match,  there will usually be a visible joint where the two veneers meet and it is unlikely that the two veneers will be exactly the same shade. As a result, the repair becomes quite obvious.

Faking is a term used to describe a technique used to carefully mask unwanted joint lines and create a seemingly unbroken veneer panel. It is not a difficult technique to master and required no special tools. Learning to effectively “fake” unwanted joint lines can add a lot to the quality of your veneer repairs and case refinishing.

The presentation that follows is taken from the book Extreme Restoration. This technique has been used successfully in a number of clock restoration projects. They have also been posted as a “How-to” presentation on the NAWCC web site
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Materials: As with other faux finishes, faking does not require a large investment in tools or supplies but it is important to gather up the needed materials and get organized before starting a project. The following basic supplies are recommended:

Paint: Just about any type of paint can be used for faking. Oil based enamel, artist enamels and artist acrylics all have been used successfully.

Hobby shops carry a very wide range of shades in enamels both oil and water based.





Artist’s acrylics offer several advantages such as fast drying, easy mixing.  Being water based, clean-up is quick and easy.


Try several different types of paint until you find a favorite.


Brushes: General purpose artist's brushes work well. A selection of round and flat, soft and firm should be on hand to try.





It is common to have to produce some very fine lines so #0, #00, #000 and even #0000 brushes will come in handy

Ink Pens: Fine, hard-tipped pens in both black and brown are very useful in faking. They allow you to apply very fine "grain" lines where two veneers meet.



Special Tools: There are no special tools needed.

Miscellaneous: Basic shop materials such as #400 and #600 sand paper and #0000 steel wool will be needed.






Shellac will be needed to provide the final protective finish.

Practice Pieces: Practice pieces can be easily made simply by gluing two pieces next to one another on a scrap piece of wood. This provides a good way to perfect technique.
Surface Preparation: The section of original veneer must be firmly attached to the case. If necessary, apply hide glue and clamp the piece in place to ensure that it is flat and well attached.

Any surface finish (shellac) on the original piece should be removed. If a larger surface is being repaired, the finish need only be removed from the area within about one inch of the joint line between old and new veneer.


The Process:
To blend replacement with original veneer is a two step process.

First: The color and tone of the two veneers must be made to match.

Second: The line where the two veneers meet must be made as inconspicuous as possible.


Color Matching: Penetrating stains can be found in a wide range of colors. Stain colors fall into three general categories:

Reds (Mahogany, Red Oak)

Brown (Walnut, Cherry)

Yellow (Pine, Early American)

It is usually possible to locate penetrating stains that are a match for most clock cases. Rarely is it necessary to custom mix stains.

Select a stain that appears to be a close match to the original veneer and, using an artist brush, apply stain to the new veneer and allowed to soak in.

After the stain has set for about 10~15 minutes, wipe any excess and a examine the piece for match with the original veneer.

It may take several applications of stain to reach a color match, or you might have to change to a darker stain to get the necessary match.

Working with stains, a close match can usually be achieved.

Remember to wipe excess stain from the surface of the piece. The stain on the surface of the wood has not penetrated and will smear when shellac is applied.

Allow the stain to fully cure and dry.

After the new veneer has been stained to closely match the old, it sometimes helps to give the entire piece a light wipe with stain to further match tones.

Wipe excess.


Faking is the process of camouflaging the joint line between two pieces of veneer using paints. As noted, oil based enamel paints as well as water based artist's acrylics both work well. It's really a matter of finding which you prefer.

To begin the process, it is usually a good idea to place a small dab of several colors that are related to the shade of the piece. Very often, burn umber, raw umber, burnt sienna and yellow ocher and their variations cover the full range of shades on the project piece.

Getting just the right shade often requires custom mixing of colors, but is not a difficult skill to master.

The basic technique for faking is to use an almost dry brush to cover the joint line.

Do not paint a straight, flat line across the joint. Instead use a jabbing or "stipple" technique to put bits of pigment not just on the joint but well to the left and right as well.


As shown in this photo, the normal tendency is to put down too much paint and basically wipe out all the grain. That's pretty normal and not a problem.

Once the paint has fully cured, you can use 220 or 400 wet or dry sandpaper to gently remove some of the paint and achieve more of a translucent look.

The next thing that may need to be done is to fake some of the dark splinter-like grain marks. If these are drawn across the joint line it really starts to make the joint line difficult to see.

Micron ink pens, available from arts & crafts stores come in several colors and with varying tip sizes. They work well to add just a few grain lines across the joint.

With a little practice, the fine fiber-like lines seen in real wood can be "faked" very accurately. This technique, combined with color matching and the paint techniques described above, really start to pull the old and new veneers together

With just a little practice you will be able to accurately "fake" away most unwanted flaws and joint lines.

One trick to improving the result is to work the well to the left and right of the joint. This spreads out the faking affect and pulls the eyes away from the joint line.

The final top finish will complete the faking.


I love using shellac made up fresh from flakes. There are clear and blond shellacs, but the original was orange and was likely the only shellac shade used when these clocks were manufactured.

If the shade of the shellac on other sections of the clock case must be matched, there are several brands of universal tints of colorants that can be added to the shellac to accomplish this.

Mixol in only one brand of tint.

The first two coats of shellac are usually brushed on to provide coverage and protection for the painted sections.

Brush shellac onto the unfinished part of the piece as well as onto and over the existing shellac on the older part of the case.

I personally like hand rubbed shellac. A "rubber" is made up of soft cotton cloth with gauze or cotton inside.

First, alcohol is applied to the rubber to moisten it. Excess is tapped away on a clean piece of paper.

Shellac is then applied with a dropper.


Application is simple, just rub the shellac onto the work piece. A circular or figure-eight pattern is normally used and a bit of pressure is used to lay down the shellac.

The alcohol will soften the shellac already on the piece and allow the new an existing shellacs to be worked together.

Even 100 year old shellac will soften and redistribute when rubbed with alcohol. This allow you to blend old and new areas seamlessly.

If the rubber starts to feel sticky, just rub a finger wetted with olive oil across the rubber and continue.

Once you have applied enough shellac to reach a reasonable thickness, you can French-polish the finish using fine pumice, olive oil and the rubber. The finish is fantastic.

Only a tiny amount of pumice is applied to the face of the rubber. Shellac is then dripped onto the pumice before rubbing on the case begins.

The pumice works in two ways. First, it fills tiny crevices in the finish. Second, the mild abrasiveness of the pumice actually polishes the finish.

Using pumice to smooth the finish will further tend to match old and new finish areas.

As with applying shellac, if things start to feel sticky, apply a little olive oil.

With the shellac built up, it becomes very difficult to find the point where the original veneer ends and the new "patch" begins.

Even close up, a faked joint is difficult to find.

Faking is a great way to improve the look of veneer repairs. Taking just a little time to create a practice piece or two is all that is necessary for most people to master this useful technique.

Chapter 5 of Extreme Restoration goes into greater detail on the techniques for faking a joint or damaged area of a case.