Tempus Fugit - Pete Insole's workbench oddities and other things

Discussion in 'Area 51' started by Peter Insole, 16 August 2017.

  1. Peter Insole

    Peter Insole Western Thunderer

    Every now and then I get a commission to retouch or completely restore a clock dial.

    Now I quite enjoy the challenge of mixing paint colours to create a seamless and almost invisible repair or doing fiddly, twiddly bits with fine brushes, but when it comes to a full face job I tend to panic and end up procrastinating like crazy!

    Here is one such "tucked-in-a-corner queen" that has been haunting me for far too long.

    As I am temporarily minus my motor car (with a dodgy clutch) and found myself unable to attend Love Lane this week, it seemed a pretty good idea to pull the proverbial digit and problem out - and get on with it?


    A trawl on the net seems to reveal that "Joyce" of Whitchurch clocks, including many of those supplied to the LMS suffer from a fairly common sub standard substrate: The face base paint coat flakes off, leaving the bare steel to busily corrode!

    Although at first glance this poor old specimen doesn't look too bad, closer inspection reveals that it has been patched (in places very crudely) so many times that there is sadly no alternative to a complete strip down and repaint!


    Trouble is, to my mind at least, the dial is one of the most visually important part of the machine's history. Indeed, I am always a bit suspicious when viewing fully restored clocks, there being no way of telling whether lettering, layout or other embellishments are in any way authentic whatsoever!

    It is so much better to repair, unless it ends up in a mess like the above pic!

    Admitting that no one else will know, I like to ensure that the replica is as true to the original as practically possible.


    Using the fixing screw holes, I attached a piece of scrap wood behind the dial to provide the compass centre point. I could then carefully trace out all the detail.

    Incidentally, this revealed that the minute ring and numerals where slightly distorted out of true between two and six!


    Just to make absolutely sure that there were no earlier markings hiding below the more obvious legends I gave the face a steady rubbing down with a fine abrasive.

    Only when completely satisfied that this was all there was, it was time to break out the stripper!



    Oh well, 'tis done now...!

    A pretty planetary appearance eh?!

    You can now see just how much rust was quietly munching away hidden underneath the old paint, threatening to burst out later and ruin any restoration work!


    Trust me, all those deep scratches and gouges are nothing to do with me...!

    While the cutting back of the brass studs was rather enthusiastically over done so many years ago, all the rest are likewise part of the manufacturer's surface prep.

    You might also note in the last two pictures that there is a diagonal line from the top right to the bottom left edge screw holes through the centre for alignment. Whatever straight edge was used for scribing, it was anything but straight...

    ...Which probably explains why the minute ring is "orf" at the bottom right, right...?...!

  2. Yorkshire Dave

    Yorkshire Dave Western Thunderer

    Does someone else repair the mechanism and case to restore the clock to working order?
  3. geoff_nicholls

    geoff_nicholls Western Thunderer

    It sounds as though you are going beyond what the Antiques Roadshow would call restoration, or is all that reworking allowed?
  4. Peter Insole

    Peter Insole Western Thunderer

    Indeed there is Dave.

    He is an incredible horologist (semi retired now) of some repute!!

    'Twas he that once said;

    "Time is short - and so are you..."

    Tom Insole and BrushType4 like this.
  5. Yorkshire Dave

    Yorkshire Dave Western Thunderer

    Good question, how far do you go on repairing/restoring an object before nothing original is left to to call it preserved or an antique?
  6. Peter Insole

    Peter Insole Western Thunderer

    I quite agree Geoff and Dave!

    Conservation is the most important way of preserving our heritage - Restoration might look nice, but can end up completely destroying the object's genuine history.

    A classic case in point is the sad wreck of the only intact surviving Lynton and Barnstaple coach (Brake Composite Saloon 6992) in the NRM at York.

    There be many a soul who would like to see it beautifully (and usefully?) returned to pristine condition. Trouble is, there is a mass of original paint all over it. There is also all the "Scumble" and some superb signwriting - the handiwork of some now unknown Pilton painter. These amongst other items are vital historical "evidence" for future generations - and we are after all supposed to be custodians! Yet we seem to be content to destroy that - all for the sake of a tidy appearance?

    Of course, there are now some absolutely superb replicas of L&B carriages in service, so we can enjoy something of the experience of travelling in that stock anyway!

    Having said all that, this clock is rather badly damaged, and was purchased for repair and resale as a fully working object.

    Sadly, the dial had reached a point where it's condition would simply not have been acceptable to any potential customer when fitted back into a restored case - however lightly or subtly the work is done?

    allegheny1600 and BrushType4 like this.
  7. Peter Insole

    Peter Insole Western Thunderer

    Fortunately the weather has been reasonably warm over the last few days. Ideal for drying paint!

    Here comes the naughty bit:

    If I was a proper conservationist / restorer I would of course use traditional enamels for the dial, probably of the stoving variety. That stuff is fantastic, but is jolly expensive and can only be purchased in large, almost industrial quantities! I would also require a dedicated oven to cook the job in. As the kitchen is about the only tiny space left in our house that I have not contaminated with all my work / stuff / junk, I reckon it is probably not a very good idea to even contemplate making any sort of move in there?

    So what about the fridge with no sides then?

    Ah - hah! I didn't say which fridge I cut the steel sheet (for boiler cladding) from did I..?!

    Anyway, I have been assured that the good old automotive rattle can is quite acceptable in this case, so here goes...


    Several coats of primer, well rubbed down between have been required to fill all those appalling gouges and scrapes.

    A super fine filler would have been preferable, but once again the cupboard is bare, so another waft or two and a whizz over with a sanding block has had to suffice!


    There was still enough left in an ancient tin of Ford Ivory from a previous dial, so I didn't have to disturb the purse moths for this either!

    The freshly applied first coat does still have a somewhat lunar surface texture to it - and the worst of the scratches are still faintly visible as well, but it does shrink down quite remarkably as it dries!


    It is much too glossy though!

    I will be cutting it back after 24 hours, then re-coating and repeating the process another couple of times at least before I'm satisfied with the depth of colour or the smoothness of the thing.

    While that paint is drying, I have been getting on with another little job that has been neglected for far too long...!

  8. Peter Insole

    Peter Insole Western Thunderer

    ...So now I'm back for some more brick and tile work...!

    This was the state of play until today; or on which date I ran out of excuses...


    Phil had asked me to finish off this charming little coal office. He wanted it to look as if it had been recently abandoned or left in a run-down state.

    After spending so long working on the Love Lane station roof, with it's multitude of miniature clay tiles, these scale slates seem to be massive!

    The ceramic tiles of the period appear to be rather more vulnerable to frost damage and breakage than slates, so it was entirely appropriate to select a few casualties. Lightweight slates are generally more prone to the effects of wind, rotting battens or rusting nails, and tend to just slip out and disappear.

    I have seen far too many commercial model offerings where the effect has been awfully overdone, so I was fearful of doing the same and ending up with it looking just as corny!

    On my regular trips, en route to Love Lane, I noticed a slate roofed outbuilding of very similar proportions to this model, and conveniently in the desired condition too.

    I may still have chickened out with the odd one here and there, but it is more or less as per prototype?!


    Now fast forward to the present:

    PHP had provided me with an alternative signboard, neatly laser etched and filled as seen in the pics, but this time with the background pre coloured with acrylic black paint.

    A slight problem was that the original was sandwiched by the roof sheets, forming a continuous ridge (for strength) and had been firmly glued in place. The process of rubbing off the white paint on the fairly soft MDF to reveal the lettering had slightly rounded the board face, making it difficult to glue the new sign on top.

    The solution was to make a slender wooden frame for the sign:


    For the first part, I selected a thin ply wood sheet and cut a narrow strip that was only slightly wider than the thickness of the sign. The bottom tab/ridge was cut away, and the ends and top then trimmed, reducing the overall sign dimensions by the depth of the ply frames.

    As I cut the MDF, the paint chipped and flaked off! A happy accident maybe? A rooftop sign would suffer all the elements as well as wilful neglect!

    xcoalSAM_w3619.JPG xcoalSAM_w3621.JPG

    On such small parts, Resin-W grabs and sets quite quickly, so only needs to be briefly held against a square edge before it can tolerate gentle handling!

    This allows a bit of time to easily pop off, trim or replace and re glue any mistakes. I still try to work as quickly as possible so that I can get everything nice and true before the piece is clamped up, wedged or weighted down to set!


    Some careful rounding off around the outside of the frame will hopefully reduce it's appearance rather than it's substance, and should hold the whole assemblage firmly in place?!

    A paint update is promised for the morrow...!

  9. Osgood

    Osgood Western Thunderer

    Wow - I must remember to pack a magnifying glass for Telford so I can enjoy the results of your work on that sign!
  10. Tom Insole

    Tom Insole Active Member

    Some mighty fine work as usual! I am rather interested in the method of getting said tracing of clock face onto the freshly painted face for a project of my own so may have to bring over mine to discus the best strategy.
    Keep up the good work :)
  11. adrian

    adrian Flying Squad

    Pounce away.

    allegedly a few sticks of chalk in an old sock and crush them is a good solution for a cheap pounce pad.
  12. Peter Insole

    Peter Insole Western Thunderer

    Tom, Adrian is spot on! I shall indeed be using the ancient art of "pouncing", or at least my own version of it...!

    The chalk sticks keep falling out of the holes in my socks though!

    I don't have one of those fancy little whirly cutting wheels handy, but apart from the round minute ring and numeral serifs all other markings on this dial are in straight lines: I only need to prick out the terminal points, and then (hopefully aiming for the right ones!) carefully join the dots.

    That first bit is easy. The heart in mouth part (that I am now desperately trying to find any excuse to put off) is applying very black ink to a lovely pristine, creamy white clock face that has taken bloomin' hours of work getting it like that!!!

    I think I can hear that kettle just coming to the boil...?

    ...perfect timing for another cuppa I'd say...!!

    Tom Insole and allegheny1600 like this.
  13. allegheny1600

    allegheny1600 Western Thunderer

    Hi Pete,
    I am in awe of your work, the coal office is lovely but the clock face, Mmmm! I'm eagerly awaiting the results but, . . . don't rush!
  14. Peter Insole

    Peter Insole Western Thunderer

    Work on the coal office was temporarily delayed by a slightly awkward problem: I had forgotten to bring home two of my vital brick mix colours from Love Lane! OK., I could do with some more tins anyway, but I've only one local supplier remaining now - and he carried neither in stock!

    Before all that I had prepped the walls with "mortar" and applied the slate mix.

    So to bring this up to date:


    I usually use Matt 103 "Cream", Matt 98 "Chocolate" and some Matt Black for a typical lime mortar mix as a base coat. Laid on fairly thick, with only a dribble of thinners added to help get the paint to drop down into the laser courses where necessary.

    Very little of his muddy base coat will be seen in the end, but when the walls are given a final rub down (to clean up the joints after applying mortar) the lighter colour will slightly show through, randomly creating a texture of tiny blotches and bumps on individual bricks.

    Or at least, that is what it is supposed to do!!

    The weathering process starts right at the beginning, and I tend to steadily add more black to the mix down toward ground level as well as up the outside edges. Hopefully this will represent the effects of splash back and pollution, and I think it helps to make any model building look more solid and firmly rooted?

    It is reasonable to assume that this one would be located in a coal depot yard, so there might be quite a bit more of the black muck around than usual?


    Slates come in a variety of colours, ranging from silver-grey through greens to purple. I have found that mixing Matt 64 "Light Grey" and yet more 98 "Chocolate", with a little matt black and finally a dose of Metallic 53 "Gunmetal" (to provide that natural, slightly reflective slate effect) a very satisfactory compromise.


    This time the tiles came out a bit too shiny, and with not nearly enough variation, so I will rough the lot up and return to them later...!

    It was nice to be painting some greys on this roof, rather than all the orange and pink of Love Lane though!

    But it was only a brief reprieve: The missing tins of paint have been retrieved...


    I am aiming for some fairly bright Midlands style red bricks this time, so some neat Matt 82 "Orange Lining" was thinly dry brushed over all.

    Then comes the varying mix with mostly Matt 61 "Flesh" and 100 "Red Brown" added to the orange for the tedious, but ultimately satisfying picking out...

    xcoalSAM_w3652.JPG xcoalSAM_w3656.JPG xcoalSAM_w3657.JPG

    It is the final mortar pointing job that frightens me every time! It never seems to behave and stay put where it is wanted, and sticks like what-have-you almost everywhere it isn't!

    We shall see what happens soon...?!

    Last edited: 26 August 2017
  15. Peter Insole

    Peter Insole Western Thunderer

    Bank Holiday weekend. What is a weekend? Worse, it is not even the usual wet one!

    We can't go out anywhere as the clutch on my motor still isn't fixed. That is not the only thing that is slipping either; Telford is looming, and I did promise...!

    But then, I never will make life easy for myself?

    I had decided to paint this building in BR Western Region colours, for two reasons: Previous commissions for Phil were similar structures, one loco men's hut modelled on that at Brightlingsea, naturally had to be finished in Eastern Region green and cream, and that delightful GCR weighbridge hut that was correctly done in latter day Midland Region maroon and cream. This time I rather fancied the opportunity to finally nail the all too familiar Western brown and cream shades!

    How is it possible to lose a whacking great enamel station nameboard in a very small house?

    Answer; Careful and very effective squirrelling! Trouble is, I'm a starving one that can never remember where I hid my nuts...!

    After turning the place upside down again, the blessed thing was eventually located. By the way, my wife is being kept rather busy at the moment with our latest grandson and granddaughter, so when she briefly popped home in the afternoon and witnessed the mess I had created, said: "Why didn't you call me - I could have told you EXACTLY where it was...!"

    And she did!

    Ho, hum!

    But I am happy with the resulting mix, matched to the original paint on the back of the offending object...


    The patch at bottom right has come out smack on the button!

    Top left is very, very close, but I copped a reflection when photographing it - so it looks way off here. Unfortunately, as Humbrol had dropped number 107 from their range, (many years ago now) I had to use a tiny drop of Gloss 20 "Crimson" to achieve the desired match. Of course, mixing some of that with matt leads to a slightly satin finish!

    All quite nice you might think?


    Perversely, it would seem that the Western Region only ever used a flat, MATT paint for their stations and structures. Well, just to be jolly awkward, they where, where they not?!

    The stuff on the back of my sign certainly confirms that theory anyway!

    Was all the fuss really worth it? I only needed a little bit for the door anyway?


    And, having carefully applied the "perfect" mix...

    xcoalSAM_w3670.JPG xcoalSAM_w3671.JPG

    I then set about destroying it ("distressing" they call it)!

    There is not an awful lot of that lovely shade left on it now!

    Incidentally, Humbrol Matt 103 "Cream" for the rest is pretty close, but is just an uncomfortable touch too yellow, so the merest whiff of brown was added to knock it back a bit! (There are a few splashes and drips of the cream on the sign for accurate comparison, but I couldn't be bothered with it this time, and simply did the job roughly by eye!) I should really sort it out now, or at least before I hide the reference material away and lose it again?!

    The next task brings me ever closer to that dreaded pointing...


    A quick slap of Ronseal gloss (Yep, yet more gloss!) varnish all over the brickwork!

    This is essential to prevent the water based "mortar" from soaking into, and irreparably staining the matt brick faces.

    For the moment it really does look like the wet weekend we haven't had?!

  16. jonte

    jonte Western Thunderer

    Hi Peter

    Thanks for sharing your valuable insight into BR WR colours and your recipe for a potent brew!

    You've saved me the effort of having to start a thread asking for help as I'm not far off having to spill some paint on my WR BR box, for which you've already provided invaluable help.

    Luv Love Lane btw, and this small hut is a little gem.

    Sorry to hijack your thread, but couldn't resist the opportunity to thank you once again for saving my bacon.

    Enjoy the rest of you bank holiday.

    Best wishes,

  17. Peter Insole

    Peter Insole Western Thunderer

    Only too happy Jonte!

    I have to mix up some more for the interior of the hut, so I will try and measure the proportions of the brown, although I'm not very good with numbers!!!

    Then I will have a go at that cream...

    3 LINK and jonte like this.
  18. adrian

    adrian Flying Squad

    That's an image I really don't want to contemplate.:oops:

    She ought to know a bloke will never ever ask for directions!

    Thanks for the guide - I've never been that happy with my experiments so plenty of useful tips for me to give it another go.
    jonte likes this.
  19. Peter Insole

    Peter Insole Western Thunderer

    There has been some amusing talk about the use of naughty words and going AWOL when things go wrong!

    I had a phone call this morning from my bank, (it was nice of them to remember me?) but although thanks to his accent (not his fault) I was unable to understand most of the words that the nice man was saying. I think I got the gist of it!

    Which doesn't exactly help matters. Being a bit short of pennies has never acted as a spur for me. It just makes me even more terrified at the prospect of tackling those tricky jobs that are guaranteed to fight back or fail!!!

    Mortaring is one of them...

    ...I was going to do it today anyway!

    xcoalSAM_w3708.JPG xcoalSAM_w3706.JPG

    The B&Q tester pot; "Mary Jane" emulsion, is really nice for colour - but it really isn't the best stuff to use! Sometimes it works perfectly, but then again...

    It didn't quite fill properly this time, or at least as much as I would have liked. I could try a second application, but there is a real danger of losing too much of the background brick colour.

    I might scrape out a few bits here and there (to better match the corners) and will be adding some weathering to finish when the mortar has cured anyway!

    A good time to get the details sorted this afternoon?!


    I have already decorated the interior with a coat of "Eau de nil" distemper over some more of that lovely "Chocolate" mix!

    Mention of which brings me back to my promise for Jonte; Though I'm not sure that this will be of much more help?

    Proportions of Humbrol mix for BR (WR) Brown (weathered):

    5 full brush loads of Matt 113 "Rust" (my tin had the all too common consistency of thick yoghurt - but it mixes OK - so dollops might be a better description?) on a palette, then;

    1/2 (half) brush of GLOSS 20 "Crimson", (there is no other similar red shade available in Matt) and finally;

    1/4 (quarter) brush of Matt 33 "Black".

    Add only a Gnat's ..... at a time, of the last two to the mixture and stir for personal taste!

    By the way, a licked finger applied to the original paint on the sign gave what I imagine to be an impression of the originally applied shade - although this is an even less scientific approach...?! I added brush full of Matt 100 "Red Brown", and a tiny whiff more black to a second batch and happily got a reasonably satisfying match with the wet patch!

    Then I turned my attention to the BR (WR) cream...

    Please ignore the previous waffle; Matt 103 "Cream" is so damn close it is not worth bothering about, so use it neat out of the tin...!

    What then would happen if I did mix a smidge of 113 with it then?

    Ah-hah! 103 could be quite accurately described as "Light Buff" in old fashioned parlance, and 113 is pretty good for plain Red Oxide - both commonly used back in the day.

    So what do you get when you mix 'em? A stonking good match for Southern Railway No. 1A, and LNER "1937"; "LIGHT STONE"; that's what!!

    But dear reader, please BEWARE!

    Just to confuse everyone; GWR "Light Stone" is a completely different animal...!!! It just so happens that I have some super (1923 to c1930) genuine paint samples to prove it!

    All good, irresistible fun, but it wont keep the wolf from "a-huffin' an' puffin..."

    Last edited: 29 August 2017
  20. jonte

    jonte Western Thunderer

    Magnifico! (Was tempted to include an expletive there - it's not poor form, apparently, it's coz I is intelligent).

    Like looking at the real thing already, Peter.

    Been waiting with baited breath for your vital ingredients and precision measured proportions since your last post; I'm not disappointed. Think even I can manage to follow that - but don't place any bets yet, just in case your intent on bolstering that floundering bank account.

    Thanks for bearing me in mind Peter, and ignore any of that 'nobody puts Mary Jane in the corner nonsense' (very clever too using emulsion for mortar; this really is thinking outside the box).

    Till the next post.