POUVILLON RESTORATION PROJECT - February 2012
Restoration of the wood pedestal base
This month we describe the restoration of the clock's
pedestal or what we will refer to as the base. The base contains the clock's
pendulum, pulleys and weights. I decided to insert this into the February section
even though it was completed in January and was done over the period of late
October through January since there was not much else to report on the
mechanical portion of the restoration in this month.
The restoration of the wood base was done by
an outside firm. So there are only photos of the base as received and then a
few ‘in progress’ photos from the cabinet restorer.
The restoration of the
Pouvillon clock is being done by the Buchanan firm in Australia. When it was
imported from London early last year the wood base was examined by
Australian Customs and was found to have had an infestation of wood worms.
It’s likely that this was an old one, but the Customs officials insisted
that the base go through quarantine and be fumigated to eliminate any danger
of infestation. The clock and base had been well packed in England and had
made the journey to Australia without incident. However, the fumigators had
damaged the base. It looks like something had either backed into it or ran
across it. This is the nightmare of anyone who ships valuable clocks –
damage in transport or from customs inspection. Thankfully
the clock was not attached to the base at the time and made it through
In addition to the scarring along the upper edge, the base slightly smashed,
probably from impact with a forklift truck.
The first photo shows a
section of wood that had come away with extensive wood worm damage. Notice
the wood powdering near the lower end. The next photo shows another section
with similar damage. At this point we were unsure if the case had retained
enough structural integrity to support the heavy weights that powered the
clock. Not a propitious beginning to the restoration of the base!
These photos show two areas of the underside where the brass feet are
secured. In the first photo one can see the area adjacent to the brass foot
has been filled in with new wood, next another view of that area. The next
photo shows another mounting point with evidence that the foot has been
moved at least once or that a different foot with another set of holes
was used before the current version.
Here we have the lower
seat board for the clock. There are two seat boards used and are sandwiched one upon the other. The
upper board, not shown, is attached to a decorative trim surround and lifts off the base
with the clock attached; allowing for easy transport and presentation of the
clock without the base. This lower seat board has the upper weight pulley
attached and remains fixed to the base. It's apparent that there have been
many alterations in the various attachment points over the years. Next an inside shot of the cabinet floor with the lower pulleys in
These photos show a close up of the lower base pulley
pair as well as the initial stringing of the weights to test for the
structural integrity of the base. The
weights are triple compounded and so are quite heavy requiring the case to
have a good structural integrity. The
rigging is first shown from above and then from below. After an initial trial it appears that the seat board is sufficient
to take the weights. The remaining base is yet to be evaluated.
Buchanan decided to
gingerly wind up the weights and after the broken pendulum rod was repaired,
we initiated the pendulum. Needless to say the clock would only tick for a
brief period of time before stopping. The movement has been in disrepair for
at least the past 28 years as we know from photographic evidence as far back
as 1983 that the clock has been unchanged from that time though the present.
Fortunately, the base looks to be solid despite all of the visual damages.
Next we evaluated the
rear access door. It was severely warped and there was no prospect of it
ever closing properly in its current state.
These photos show
evidence that the base did not originally have a black, painted finish. In
fact, upon close inspection it was evident that the black finish was spray
painted on an underlying wood finish and it scraped away rather easily. We
were cautiously optimistic at what appeared to be our good fortune. This was
to be short-lived. Of course why would anyone spray paint a perfectly good
wood grained cabinet? Well we were about to find out.
The first evidence of
damage, one of many areas which ultimately lead to the cabinet being
painted, was located in the rear access door. After the paint was removed we
found several very deep gouges were hidden by filler before being painted.
The last photo shows some of these gouges went clear through the door.
The first photo shows another gouged out area near the base. The next
depicts an area where wood was replaced with later piece of joined wood.
The next photo shows a curiously repaired area where apparently wood
doweling as well as a wood block was used to repair a broken section.
Here we have further
areas with wood filler.
Here we have more
filled cracks and in the second photo more damage to the left edge of the
front, center panel. There were countless areas of scratches gouges and
other signs of abuse and neglect all over the surface of the base. The base
is made of oak and was stained to look like a mahogany finish.
photo shows damage near the upper door hinge area.
There were very few
areas that could have been salvaged in a presentable fashion by merely
scraping off the black spray painted top coat. So we were left with the
Forget about the fact that the base originally had a wood grained finish and
paint the case back to the way we found it, which is a glossy black finish.
B. Try to
refinish the case back to what the original case finish looked like while
keeping as much of the original material as possible and accepting the fact
that prior repairs and damaged would be visible.
C. Create a
new base in the same manner as the original and finish it off in the same
Choosing C would not be in keeping with our restoration goals within the
scope of this project and was not even considered, especially since we had
determined that even with all of the existing problems the structural
integrity of the base had not been compromised.
However the choice between A and B was a difficult one
as were several of the restoration steps we took with the clock movement
itself. The strict conservator faction would say we should have never have
touched the black finish in the first place and given that we did should
simply repaint the areas where we removed the paint back to a finish
as close to the rest of the black finish still in place. Since the base
originally had a wood grained finish we assumed that the base was painted
after Mr. Pouvillon’s death and opted to retain the original material with
all its flaws and still try to reveal the finish as would have
originally been seen when Pouvillon had first completed the base. So in
summary I chose B. I now show the refinished base.
Here are some of the areas that showed distress before restoration. In
the first two photos one can see we accomplished a near perfect reversal of
the damaged and wood filler areas. In the third photo we were less successful and accepted
the prior damages as a part of the case 'patina'.
In this photo the base is seen from above and we also see the upper
seat board with its decorative surround.
Notice the very slight color difference along the left vertical line at
the edge of the center panel as it runs along the inner edge of the adjacent
molding. This entire area had quite noticeable damage all along the grain and I was uncertain how this would turn out. I am pleased that the
cabinet maker was able to overcome this as well as the many other obstacles
that the base presented. These photos also represent the truest sense of the
cabinet color while most of the rest have a slight red-shift to the color.
Here we see the rear access door is straightened and now closes as
The center panel had suffered too much damage to be salvageable and a new
carcass of plywood was used to prevent any future warping and this plywood
was then veneered with a matching material on both sides. This is how one
gets a mirrored graining on both sides of the door to give it the look of a
panel made from a single, solid material.
Given the extensive damage the door had sustained, this was a
wonderful result. We left the interior of the case as found and one can the shadows
where the lower pulleys are located.