Steve Green asked if I would watch his wife’s family watch. Steve married Michelle Wade. The clock belonged to Michelle’s grandparents, Carroll and Edna Wade of Plymouth. He lived in a closet for 30 years, waiting for the resurrection.
This Ansonia clock was produced between 1890 and 1900 and was referred to as a “kitchen clock” at the time. Today, they are known commercially as gingerbread clocks and are often made of oak. Earlier examples were made of walnut.
What is interesting to me is that this clock has an oak case with a nickel-plated dial and a nickel pendulum. The silver stencil on the tablet was erased by years of aggressive cleaning. Oak-cased gingerbreads usually have a brass dial, a gold stencil on the back of the door panel, and a brass pendulum.
The walnut gingerbreads had a nickel-plated dial, a silver stencil and a nickel-plated pendulum on the door panel. I wonder why you care. I believe Ansonia made this oak clock during their transition from walnut cased clocks to less expensive oak cased clocks, using a leftover supply of nickel plated parts from some oak gingerbreads. It could also be a separate order. Either way, I’m interested.
Years ago I met a timer who told me about using kerosene as an evaporative lubricant. It used a screw lid made of tin. He placed the lid with kerosene in the bottom of the clock case and closed the door. As the kerosene evaporated, it collected on the dial, movement and pendulum. I don’t recommend this.
Over many years and refills, the kerosene attracted dust, which captured the movement. The first thing I did was give the movement a good bath in watch cleaner. I then dried and oiled the assembly, oiled the springs, and set it up in the dyno. It went perfectly, just needed some minor tweaking.
When they brought the watch to me, it was repainted twice, each time a different color. I removed as much of the paint as I could with paint remover and hours of scrubbing and picking. Finally, the paint was very stubborn. In some places, I was able to hide the paint in the end grains with a colored pen. It was impossible to get everything.
The pendulum was badly corroded by kerosene. I went through my collection of watch parts and found the exact pendulum in mint condition. So I switched pendulums. I’m always looking for watch parts. Now you know why.
I called Lindy Larson in Westminster to see if she had a silver stencil gingerbread sign. Lindy is a nationally known watch retailer. “Yes, come down,” he said. Lee Decatur and I drove down to Lindy’s in Lee’s 1953 MG. It was an enjoyable trip in Precious.
Lindy had several tablets for me to choose from. I selected a beautiful new old stock tablet. This board was not a template. The visible design is etched directly into the glass. The tablet had to be cut to size. Neither Lee nor I felt qualified to cut the glass. One mistake and it’s over.
I took the door frame and tablet to the Vermont frame to see if they would cut it. John DeBenedetti first cut glass to size with his wall-mounted glass cutter. Then he cut the nails at the top of the door. Perfect. I held my breath!
After I was done with the paint remover, I went over the entire house with fine steel wool. Now he was ready for the new ending. I used golden oak stain. The tree was dry and thirsty, so it had to be applied three times.
Resetting the clock required the help of Lindy, John and Lee. The paper dial was yellowed by petroleum and had to be replaced. Lee cut a new dial and glued it to the dial.
The result of this teamwork is a beautiful watch that the family will enjoy for years to come. Like cars, antique watches require regular maintenance. I don’t do a lot of watch repair anymore. I have always liked Ansonia clocks and wooden grandfather clocks.
This week’s old saying that I heard years ago: “When you’re on a dirt road and you come to a fork in the road, keep right if you don’t know which way to go. You’ll be right more often than wrong.”