Clocks & Barometers

Dial Restoration.

Longcase clocks dials can often require restoration/conservation work as they are rather vulnerable to damage and degradation.

Much can be learnt about an individual clock from its dial; the type and style of decoration, the mounting method, and the name of  the clock maker is usually present, all giving valuable information to attribute the work to particular people, dates and locations and placing the clock at a particular point in the progression of styles. Because of this it is very desirable to preserve dials and if possible retain or restore any information and decoration before it is lost, especially so for painted dials which are more prone to deterioration.

Work to brass dials can involve repairs to the  dial sheet, mounting feet etc., replacement of missing pieces and re silvering, (tending to be the engraved areas). Any required engraving on missing pieces can also be carried out. Work to painted dials can get a lot more complex, often involving treating rust, conserving flaking paint, re-inking the numerals lines and script, restoring painted scenes and decorations, straightening distortions, reattaching dial feet, and repairing moon phase mechanisms.

It is very important that any work is done correctly after very detailed examinations, with a worn dial nearly always there is information hidden in the dials that to the naked eye cannot be seen but with the correct equipment and techniques can be revealed.


A painted moon phase dial by William Finnemore of Birmingham from a Scottish clock, at this point with no visible clockmaker named. Dial makers on painted dials are often stamped on the back and often also on the back of date wheels and moon dials, With just the Finnemore information alone this can be dated to c.1815-22.

Here the dial has been cleaned ready for further inspection, some of the background white is flaking with some rust beneath, the painted corner decoration is worn and damaged with gilt areas worn off, much of the blackwork (numerals and lines) has worn off and faded and the hemisphere decoration is completely gone



The dial examined under Ultra Violet light. Residue of the original ink/paint can be present in the white background but not seen under normal light, the UV light makes this residue fluoresce, becoming visible, the exact style and position of missing original lines, numerals and script can be found in this way.

Below is well illustrated the difference in what can be seen under normal light compared to under UV light, here the clock makers name is revealed either side of the 30 minute mark, not a typical position generally but perhaps more common on Scottish clocks.



 This dial now has all its important features returned accurately and is a fine example of a Finnemore dial of the period, with very interesting transitional features of the single ring and minute divisions and the quarter hour minute numbers and a good typical Finnmore starburst corner decoration.



Osborne dial for William BayfordA dial by the Osborne dial manufactory  c.1790 on a clock by William Bayford, Bishop's Stortford.
Being of a distinct style used  in this first of three distinct periods of dialmaking. Features distinct to Osborne. T. Osborne in partnership with  J. Wilson  were the first noted makers of the painted form of longcase dial.
Interesting feature being the moon dial and especially the hemisphere maps , which on this dial are of a particularly detailed design which has also been noted on some Wilson dials (post partnership ) requiring re drawing by hand.
Note that this dial required previous poor repairs to be removed, photo shows this done first.
A more simple clean and touching in of detail on the numerals and script. Period 2
This dial on a clock by Henry Peach of Beaminster, being from the second period 1800-30  In which the use of arabic numbers for the hours was quite common. This period sees a bit of experimentation with styles, and the phasing out of minute numbers, this dial has only the 15,30,45 & 60, earlier would tend to have every 5 minutes indicated.
This dial  cleaned, numerals and script restored.
This arch top dial on a clock by Matthew Collingwood of Alnwick  can be seen to be of a style of decoration distinctly different from the others, being of the last period of painted dials. All of the corner and arch space  filled with painted scenes, a return to roman hours  and a basic segmented chapter ring with no minutes indicated.
This dial amongst other issues had a problem with crazing and  flaking paint and worn name.
A dial dating from about 1795 by James Wilson of Birmingham, on a simple 30 hour longcase clock for Henry Spiller of Biddeford.
Note similarities with the Osborne dial at the top, distinctly similar features of decoration but two dials at opposite ends of the makers price spectrum.

This dial suffering severe fire damage, poor overpainting, and loose dial feet.

Here showing the moon phase dial by William Finnemore of Birmingham, on a clock by Thomas Barclay, Montrose.

In a similar state to the other  moon dial by Osborne shown above but clearly of a different period  (approx. 35years later) . Here the hemisphere maps not yet restored, but fortunately these Finnemore maps were avaliable as transfers, a far simpler process than re-drawing by hand.