Clock Restoration

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

Tablet Restoration & Stencil Making Part 4: Parts one through three of this series focused on creating the artwork for a tablet and getting the image detail onto the glass. This final presentation will begin where these presentations ended and proceed to completion of the tablet.

Completion involves two steps: First the clear cells created when the image background was put onto the glass is filled with the appropriate colors or metallic. Second, a backing material is applied to the completed tablet image to provide long term protection.



The black background and detail lines applied to the tablet glass previously now  provide a guide for applying color to the main image. Having the black outline makes it much easier to apply the paint accurately and create a professional looking finished tablet.



If the tablet is to be a gold/black design, it should be noted that the gold can be applied using either liquid metallic gold paint or gold metallic powders.  Both techniques will be presented here.


With regard to gold paint, it should be noted that there are actually many shades of gold. Selecting the correct shade will improve the authenticity of the tablet.

Readily available gold paints range from a very light pale to a deep yellow-orange "antique" gold. Inspect several original tablets to get an idea of the correct shade for your project.

It is usually helpful to apply several different gold paints to clear to get a good idea of the variety of shades available.






If creating a new tablet that will be put on a clock that also has an original tablet installed (as in a triple-decker clock) it is important to match the gold paint of the new tablet to that of the original.

MATCHING PAINT: Often, it is necessary to "dull-down" gold paint to look older and more oxidized. This can be done by carefully adding a dark, flat green to the gold. This will add a slight green tint similar to oxidized gold paint. A little experimentation and testing on clear glass usually produces a close match.

Another way to achieve an aged look in the gold is to allow it to oxidize naturally by not applying a backing material immediately. Over a period of months, the gold paint will darken and loose some of the original bright finish. Once the paint reaches the desired look, apply backing paint over the gold to stop or slow further oxidation.


BRUSHES Once the paint shade has been selected or matched, the paint can be applied to the clear cells of the tablet.

It is recommended that a selection of good quality artists' brushes be used. Flat, square-faced brushes are very useful for painting right up to the edge of the black outlines.



The brush should be very lightly loaded with paint. It helps to have a sheet of white copy paper handy to brush away excess paint before beginning strokes on the glass.



The direction of paint strokes depends on the image being painted. Here, strokes across the width of the "leaves" seems more appropriate than strokes along the length.

Carefully work the brush up to the edge of the black. It will be necessary to change from wide to more narrow brushes depending on what area of the image you are painting.


Because of the black background "mask", it is not necessary to be an artist to create the gold pattern. With this technique, it's more of a "fill in the blank" approach.

While the mask means you don't have to stay precisely "within-the-lines" care should still be used to avoid becoming sloppy.



Flip the tablet over and the crisp gold image is clearly visible. Hold the tablet up to a light and any missed areas of the clear cells can be seen and filled.

Once the first coat has been applied, allow it to dry and cure over night then inspect again.



With the correct shade of gold paint and careful application, the tablet will look very professional. In the background is a 2nd tablet with a different shade of gold paint.

SPRAYING PAINT: The paint can also be applied using an air brush. This will produce a very smooth, stroke-free finish.

If you do not have an air brush, basic units can be purchased from hobby shops or supplier such as Harbor Freight for less than $20.00.

If you plan to use an air brush, it is important that the black background be opaque and free of holidays that would show gold in the wrong place. Inspect and touch-up as necessary.

Before attempting to use an air brush on glass, practice with different paint thicknesses and air pressures. This will provide the practice necessary to apply paint precisely where you want it.

Allow the paint to fully cure for 24 hours before applying the final backing.

Backing paint provides a layer of protection for the image and helps to slow oxidation of metallic paints.

It is suggested that a water based acrylic paint be used for the backing. The reason is that, being water based, it will not soften the color coat when applied.

Apply the black backing paint with an almost dry brush to reduce the chance of bleed through.

A relatively wide brush can be used to reduce the number of strokes required.

Allow to cure for several hours then apply a second and final coat.

METALLIC POWDERS: A second method to apply gold color to a tablet utilizes "metallic powders" which are available from art suppliers such as MrArt and Dick Blick.

Metallic powders usually produce a brighter more reflective finish than liquid metallic paints. This is  due to the millions of tiny metallic grains each reflecting light slightly differently.

The type of sizing used also has an affect on how metallic powders look when applied to glass. A quick drying size will tend to dry in little lumps. When the powder is applied, it looks like that on the left of the photo.

If a slow drying size is used, it will tent to spread out smoothly. This results in a smoother gold finish. Both look good. It's just a matter of application.



Metallic powder is used by first applying a clear sizing to the area of the tablet to be covered with powder. Oil based size such as Rolco brushes out very smooth which helps to produce a smooth gold finish.


Brush sizing into the clear cells of the tablet. Try to stay within the bounds of the clear cells as much as possible. This will reduce the amount of powder that is applied to the black masking material and produce a neater finished tablet.

Allow the sizing to cure per the directions before beginning to apply powder.

Once the sizing has cured, the metallic powder is brushed on dry using a soft artist's brush. Apply plenty of powder to get complete coverage and use the brush to gently work the powder into the sizing.


As with gold paint, the black backing paint will have an affect on the final look. Here, a piece of black card stock is held behind the tablet to check this out.

A second coat of sizing and powder can be applied if needed but the first coat should be allowed to cure over night.




The finished tablet with gold powder. The backing material must still be applied.







Metallic powders produce a more brilliant finish than paints. If this is the correct finish for the clock tablet being created, then metallic powder is the only way to achieve it.



Side by side comparison of a gold painted tablet and a metallic powder tablet show some of the differences. The metallic powder tablet on the left is actually a more brilliant finish than the metallic paint on the right.

A close up view of the two tables shows one of the important differences between a tablet created with a decal for backing and one created with a silk screen and paint.

The tablet on the right was created with a decal. It is a photo-perfect duplicate of the original artwork. There is no lost detail or bleed-over.

The tablet on the left was created with a silk screen using the same original artwork as the decal. Notice however that there is some loss of detail and thinning of lines. This is normal with a painted screen. With care it can be minimized, but it actually produces a finished tablet that looks closer to most originals. The slight imperfection seen here is common on original tablets. Look closely at one and you will see.......

Sometimes a tablet calls for crisp detail with no loss of image. At other times, a slightly more "worn" image will look more correct. Choose the technique that best achieves what you are after.

The technique for creating high quality artwork shown in part one of this series, when combined with the image-transfer techniques in parts 2 and 3 produces a very detailed image outline on the glass. The techniques and materials detailed in this final presentation show how to complete a tablet with all the quality and durability of the original. By using these techniques a very  professional tablet can be produced by even us "non-artist"...........

The materials needed to try these techniques are quite inexpensive and the results can be very impressive. It's worth giving it a try just to see what is possible.

Tom Temple