Boulle Clock Restoration #1: Top restoration

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Patricelejeune posted 04-02-2015 01:07 AM 2806 reads 1 time favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Boulle Clock Restoration series Part 2: Almost done »

We were contacted by a client to restore his Boulle cartel clock.

Boulle is no fun to restore, it is time consuming and quite a special.

For budget reasons we are restoring his piece by stages. The clock is composed of 3 parts and each of them will be restored in 3 sessions.

We will start with the top

We remove the bronzes

The unglued brass pieces are lifted and rubbing is made for the missing brass elements

The cavities are full of oxidized glue that needs to be cleaned

We apply moisture enough to bring back the fish glue to gel but not to much, as it will un-glue the shell

The back of the brass needs to be cleaned also, b humidifying the glue and scraping it carefully without distorting the brass pieces.

Then the pieces are glued back using fish glue

My favorite for this curves is sand bag or hot sand bag

Time for clean up with “eau japonaise”, an acidic solution with a slight rubbing compound to take of the crud.

Of course with boulle, it will un-glue and I will have to re-glue and re-glue, until it is finally stable.

Then again more rubbing for the shell this time. I used some of our old stock legal shell, the vegetarian type that was used in the 19th century thinner than the meat eater used in earlier boulle. This clock as a black backed shell which is not the mos common color, usually they are backed with red.


Fitting and gluing

I did not take picture of the engraving of the brass but the new pieces had to be engraved. Then pore-filling (more accurately gap filling) and engraving line filling with a mix of pumice and black ash first then ash alone.

I have rarely seen the horn being engraved but on that clock it is, one of the reason to choose a black shell

So after the black “pore filling” I cleaned the black filler out of the shell but the engraving was to faint for the gold to take so I had to re-engrave the shell to create a cavity a little deeper in order to be able to put some gold in there.

Then it is time for french polish

Re-glue the parts

Clean the dirty bronzes while I clean the hide glue of the french polish and touch up the finish where I may have left a print or two

I put an overlay of orange shellac to go a little more on the gold side

Some of the details of the new brass pieces

And now put back everything together


And after

The client is happy and is going to send the next part, so see ya in episod 2 of Boulle Clock Repair!


-- Patrice lejeune

14 comments so far

View jacquesr's profile


345 posts in 2024 days

#1 posted 04-02-2015 01:35 AM

Bravo Patrice – Superbe travail!

View Dale J Struhar Sr's profile

Dale J Struhar Sr

504 posts in 3731 days

#2 posted 04-02-2015 02:29 AM

Wow! Great job never seen one of those clocks before. Very intricate.

-- Dale, Ohio

View shipwright's profile


8452 posts in 3399 days

#3 posted 04-02-2015 02:45 AM

Really, really nice Patrice.
Next time out I want to try some metals.
Maybe I have to come back and learn how…..

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View mmh's profile


3679 posts in 4323 days

#4 posted 04-02-2015 04:09 AM

The antique Boulle clock is an incredible piece and to see how you know how to restore the piece and show your expertise and master craftsmanship is quite extraordinary! Your ability to work in such detail and precision is awe inspiring not to mention the time and patience you have to document and share the process.

Thank you for inviting us into your world of artistic craftsmanship.

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

View Luke Addington's profile

Luke Addington

80 posts in 1769 days

#5 posted 04-02-2015 05:47 AM

Wonderful work as always Patrice! The bronzes are beautifully done and the marquetry is excellent as usual.

I was wondering if you could talk about your process for engraving a little bit. In my marquetry books it is mentioned a few times but I have not found much real in-depth information. I see it on so many beautiful 18th century pieces and would love to learn more about the process. Thank you!!

-- Luke,

View Sodabowski's profile


2388 posts in 3434 days

#6 posted 04-02-2015 06:09 AM

Tough process for sure, but well worth the effort!

-- Thomas - there are no problems, there are only solutions.

View JoeinGa's profile


7741 posts in 2608 days

#7 posted 04-02-2015 12:23 PM

Beautiful restore. Cant wait to see the whole clock re-done.

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View Jim Rowe's profile

Jim Rowe

1102 posts in 2913 days

#8 posted 04-02-2015 04:39 PM

Beautiful work. Thank you for sharing with us.

-- It always looks better when it's finished!

View Patricelejeune's profile


383 posts in 2521 days

#9 posted 04-02-2015 05:03 PM

Thank you guys.

Yes Boulle restoration is a different process than other restoration.

I always try to keep picture for the clients and also for our archives documenting what we did and show the process to prospective clients. Then it is easy to share also.

Paul if you come back for metal I can only give you rough training there will be a lot to do on your own after, the engraving is not my specialty. I can do it but not to a very high level. The rest of the process is good to know anyway. We have a Boulle class with exotic material like horn and brass and introduction to engraving. There is an extra cost for material but we teach how to prepare the colored material such as colored horn like the blue in Aaron’s tables.

Luke. I will try to remember to develop the engraving in the next post, I did not take any picture at that time but here are couples.

The tool box

The tools I used the most

The two on the left mostly with a predilection for the losange on the brass

I have couple left over engraving on bones for a repair we did on a bargueño those where a little or not deep enough so we have them

The bone is very brittle like the horn and the side of the engraving tool the “burin” needs to be real shap to avoid excess splitting and jagged edge on the engraving lines

Brass is really tough on the tool and I need to resharpen often as soon as the point is dull, otherwise you rip and this is not good. Each time you sharpen you have to test your attack angle to go straight and not get draged deep in the material etc…

That’s all I got on engraving

Thanks agin for following!

-- Patrice lejeune

View Luke Addington's profile

Luke Addington

80 posts in 1769 days

#10 posted 04-02-2015 05:41 PM

Thank you very much Patrice, that is great information. I will have to take the Boulle class for exotic materials after Stage 1. That was one of my favorite sections in Marquetry by Pierre Ramond.

Merci mille fois!

-- Luke,

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3470 posts in 4314 days

#11 posted 04-03-2015 06:23 AM


Every time I read one of your blogs, I feel like I have just gone on an exotic vacation. Although I will never do anything like this, it is so exciting to read how you do it. Thanks for sharing.

Do you know the approximate year the clock was produced?


-- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View mountainaxe's profile


153 posts in 3106 days

#12 posted 04-03-2015 10:55 AM

Absolutely stunning work!

-- Jeff, "The things I make may be for others, but how I make them is for me."

View prometej065's profile


336 posts in 4284 days

#13 posted 04-06-2015 11:10 PM

View Patricelejeune's profile


383 posts in 2521 days

#14 posted 04-20-2015 04:37 PM

Thank you!
This style is mainly 1860-1880, Napoleon III period, or second empire. No real idea on a specific date though.

-- Patrice lejeune

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics