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Clockwise Clock Repairs
Clockwise Clock Repairs

 Buying a longcase clock


When deciding what to buy, a few decisions will need to be made, not least of which is where to buy your clock – it is likely to be the only one you buy, and it is a significant amount of money you will be spending. The most important considerations, in my opinion, are -

Do I like the look of it? Is it worth the amount I am being asked to spend? Is it what I think it is?

Only you can answer the first question, longcases come in many shapes, sizes, and prices, so go and look at as many as you can, to help you decide. Longcase clocks were hand-made bespoke items, no two were the same. The only type made between the years 1700 and 1770 had a brass dial, after which the painted dial was introduced, for the next twenty years or so, you could have either, and by 1800, you could only have a painted dial ( or a one piece silvered one that continued in popularity in London). How is this significant? Well, there were many more clocks made in the 19th. century than the 18th., so you will have a greater choice. However there was more diversity in the style in the earlier clockmaking, and after about 1840, nearly all clocks were made in a central workshop or factory, not by the man who’s name is on it. Cases were made from a variety of woods, oak being the most common outside of London, walnut was used for early clocks but was scarce after 1740, when mahogany was imported from the Americas, cheaper clocks were often housed in pine – painted of course, not bare wood as it is seen today. The better woods (walnut and mahogany) were used for the more important cases, oak and pine for country clocks. Again, only you can decide which you want, but bear in mind that walnut and mahogany clocks are far more expensive than oak. Also, by choosing oak or pine, the chances are that the whole clock was made locally to where the clockmaker was operating, including the tree itself, mahogany was always imported. Painted dials were manufactured in places like Birmingham and bought in by the clockmaker to attach to his movement. So the later the clock, the more likely it is a product of different craftsmen in many locations.

Always buy from a clock dealer. Why? Because most clock dealers love their subject and know what they are talking about. Furniture dealers know about the wood of the piece of course, but not the rest of it. Auctioneers, in my experience, know a little about many things, you will need to be either very well informed yourself, or very brave, if you buy at an auction. I hate the job of being the bearer of bad news when such a purchase comes to me for restoration. Thought you got a bargain? Chances are, the opposite!