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Brief History Of The Longcase Clock

Longcase clock close up
Longcase Clock Grandfather Clock Angled Front View Of Clock Close Up Of Clock Face And Dial

Longcase clocks were first introduced following the development of a more accurate escapement (the mechanism that drives the to and fro motion in the clock, the cause of the ticking) with a long, thin pendulum. At first, cases were plain but soon became decorated with inlaid fruitwoods such as olive, burr walnut and chinoiserie. Then as now the majority of cases were made from oak; with Mahogany being more expensive, and Walnut at a premium.

Early longcase clocks were unlikely to be more than six foot high and featured three small brass dials which increased in size as time went by. The dial gradually got larger and then became arched when in the 1760s white enamel dials, attributed to Wilson, became available causing the brass dial to become less fashionable. The corners of these dials were raised with plaster and then gilded to mimic the spandrels on brass dials. As the Victorian era progressed, the artwork featured on the dials became more elaborate, as did the styles in general.

The early clocks were handmade. In some instances the whole clock was made by the same man, but it was common for a cabinet maker to be commissioned by the horologist to make the case. Consequently, specialists emerged (wheel cutters, dial painters, casters, gilders, bell makers and cabinet makers) before mass production inevitably dominated the way clocks were made. A clock being made by more than one person should not be confused with the malpractice of different movements and dials being fitted to any case at a later date. This was and still is often done and can drastically diminish the value of the clock. Most lantern clocks need to be wound daily by means of a rope. This is also true of thirty hour longcase clocks, which normally will not have winding holes in the dial, as opposed to eight day clocks which are wound weekly with a key. Occasionally we see a month or even year duration clocks but these are extremely rare!

Other Resources:
French Polishing A Longcase Clock


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