Sal's Clock

As woodworkers we’re all occasionally tasked with fixing a damaged piece. Such was the case when my friend, Sal, asked me to look at the heirloom clock he and his wife have. The desk clock was made by the E. Ingraham Co. If the hand written date is to be believed, it dates back to 1928.

The clock door.

The clock is in very good condition for its 84 year age. The only damage, besides a generally worn finish, is broken bit of veneer on the face and missing fasteners for the rear door hinge.

Because I’ll reattach the hinge using small brass screws in place of the tacks it was originally attached with, I focused on the damaged veneer which will be much harder to repair.

The damaged veneer.

I began by testing dyes on a sample board. I used General Finishes Medium Brown and Dark Brown. After much experimentation I found that five (5) coats of Dark Brown dye was an almost perfect color match. Two coats of spray lacquer finished it nicely.

The dye samples.

With the finish sorted, I thought about how to make the new veneer and settled on simply resawing the face off of my sample board. To do this I attached a sacrificial fence to the table saw and used my Woodpecker 1/32’” Setup Block to set the distance from the sacrificial fence. After a quick test cut, I ran the dye sample board through and had a perfectly thicknessesed veneer to make the repair patch out of.

Unfortunately, as soon as I made the cuts, I realized I had the wrong edge of the test board on the saw and therefor cut into the test board from the wrong side. This meant that my veneer was not as wide as it should have been. I did not want to make another piece of veneer from scratch, so I elected to leave the small piece of existing clock veneer which separated the two damaged sections in place.

The patches first fit.

I cut two (2) oversized pieces from the veneer using an X-Acto knife. Then, using the pieces as a guide, I marked around them with the X-Acto knife and deepend the damaged areas with a sharp chisel. Once the veneer patches fit flush with the face of the clock, I glued them in using Nexabond.


All went will with the glue up, except for the unsightly gaps around the veneer patches. As of this writing I’ve applied 5 coats of Dark Brown dye to the unfinished wood in the gaps. That now makes them nearly invisible to the camera. I’m still debating if I’ll leave it like this, try to patch the voids or remove the existing veneer patches and start over. Regardless of how I address the gaps, I’m ready to move on. The clock repair has languished in my shop, and I can only conclude that is because I’ve got no desire to work on it.

Though hard to make out in this photo, the patches are still clearly visible.

Don't forget about the Modern Woodworkers Association Podcast. We talk woodworking with Guests from around the world of woodworking every other week. Subscribe to the RSS feed or iTunes today