Brief History Of The Longcase Clock
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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!
Polishing A Longcase Clock