Tell me how to refurbish this vintage Elgin wall clock.
August 5, 2013 10:02 AM   Subscribe

Need some advice on refurbishing a vintage 60s Elgin wall clock.

I don't have much experience doing this sort of thing, so I'm looking for some guidance here.

Here is an identical model in nice shape.

My clock is a little less spiffy. I disassembled and cleaned it, but that wasn't enough. Specifically, the brass "rays" have lost a significant portion of their plating (paint?) (example 1, 2, 3). And I also managed to "clean" the white off the face of the clock (example 1, 2).

It seems like I can go down one of two roads--either make everything look brand new or try to make some improvements while maintaining the "vintage" look. What would you do?

Also, replacing the electronic clock mechanism seems like the easiest part of the job and I've found some clocks via Google. But feel free to give me advice on this too in case I'm missing something.
posted by mullacc to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
Are you sure the rays aren't simply tarnished?
posted by Teakettle at 10:03 AM on August 5, 2013

Are you sure the rays aren't simply tarnished?

I'm not 100% positive, but I did scrub the shit out of them with soap and water and steel wool. That's also how I scrubbed off some of the white paint.
posted by mullacc at 10:06 AM on August 5, 2013

It sounds like the brass rays are brass-plated, and once the coating's come off, it's gone, and you'd have to really want this porject done right for it to be worth finding someplace to replate them. If it were my project, I'd use steel wool to smooth them out as much as possible, then spray with a metallic spray paint (these instructions suggest a primer). There will probably be some compromise in accuracy/aesthetics, since paint is better at emulating brushed metal than a real mirror-shine finish, but spray paint technology has probably been improving while I wasn't watching, so I suspect it'll look pretty good, and since it's a clock, not a lamp or doorknob or something that gets touched/handled, the finish will probably be durable enough.

About the face, it's unfortunate that you rubbed through the existing paint. I'd say the goal should be to fix the worn spots but not try to improve the other areas. From the photos, I can't tell what it was you were trying to fix when you acidentally scrubbed the white off. It's really hard to use a brush-on paint without adding texture, but spray paint can blend in really well, especially in a matte finish like that.
The numbers don't come off, do they? The trick will be (a) getting a color match, and (b) masking off the numbers accurately enough that you can paint right next to them, and then spraying a really light coat that doesn't build up to make a noticeable border at the edge of the mask. There are probably paint-on masking compounds that you could coat the numbers in before you spray, but I don't know; check model-building websites for techniqes? Blue-tack poster-hanging putty can be used for this, roll out little ropes and squish them onto the numbers, then paint, and the putty will come off after the paint's dry.
posted by aimedwander at 11:56 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

If that were me....I'd lacquer it, preserving all the wear it currently has. I hope someone more knowledgeable comments on whether this would be vandalism. But I can't imagine being able to patch up the mistakenly rubbed bits/match the original paint.
posted by glasseyes at 1:50 PM on August 5, 2013

I needed to get bits of a bookcase replated once and it was surprisingly cheap and quick. After a bit of Googling my half-assed guess is that you can probably get them replated in CHicago to match the original finish for around $40, or negotiate a lower price if you're not too particular about the finish. As an alternative, I read about an easy way using oven cleaner to remove the plating and create a consistent finish.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:10 AM on August 6, 2013

I'm leaning toward just leaving it alone and embracing the worn look.
posted by mullacc at 6:00 AM on August 6, 2013

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