Clock Restoration

Home Useful
Place Order How To's Look Inside Special Finishes Clock Labels Clock Dials Glass & Tablets Contact

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.

Gilded Columns: Clocks became more and more ornate throughout the Victorian era. This was in keeping with the furniture and styles of the times. Gilded trim and columns became very common around 1850 and continued until near the turn of the century.

Restoring gilded work on a clock is a sure way to dramatically improve the look. Basic gilding is relatively simple. Gilded columns with embossed rings around the circumference present somewhat more of a challenge. The following is a very brief recap of the process.

Supplies: There are a number of different gilding products and techniques. Real gold leaf can be used for this process, but good quality imitation leaf is closer to the product originally used on mass produced clocks.

Clock columns were usually made of wood.






To seal the wood grain and provide the smooth surface needed for gilding, the columns were usually treated with gesso.


The gesso was applied to a thickness of about 1/8 inch.







It was carefully sanded smooth once cured.

The gesso is usually painted with a base color such as a rust red. This can often be seen "peeking" through on original, worn columns.

Alternatives to red include yellow which hides missed spots well. Gold paint can also be used to improve hiding of thin or missed spots.

Imitation leaf is held to the columns by first applying an adhesive product which can be either water or oil based.





Leaf comes in sheets that are about 5 inches square and held in a "book" of 25 squares.

Once columns have been fully gilded, the rings must be added to match the original column finish.





This requires some special tools and fixtures that can be easily made in the average shop.

With the column mounted in the rotating fixture, the rings are firmly pressed into the gilding while being careful not to cut through.

If the alignment of the rings are carefully matched to the original, then the columns look very authentic.

The ringed columns should be sealed with several coats of shellac or some other protective finish. This will prevent excessive oxidation of the gilding and tone down the brassy look of new gilding.

Restored gilded columns with the ring pattern greatly enhance the overall look of a restored shelf clock.
Gilding is not difficult, but does require some planning and practice.

Chapter 6 of Extreme Restoration spends a great deal of time covering the preparation, application of gesso and leaf. Details for building the fixtures and tools for pressing rings into the columns is also covered in detail.