Boulle Clock Restoration

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Project by Patricelejeune posted 06-14-2016 07:37 PM 2400 views 3 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Boulle Clock Restoration
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18 months ago we started to work on a Boulle clock restoration for a gentleman back east.

We received the clock piece by piece, starting with the top to show the process and what we could do to our client.

First thing was bronzes removal

The lose brass elements where lifted and then, the fish glue in the cavities was rehydrated and removed, and the back of the brass elements were scraped clean.

Missing pieces are drawned by rubbing on a termal fax paper

The missing elements are cut on brass or on pre CITES black backed tortoise shell.

Other pieces are cut

And glued down using sand bags

The cleaning is done with “eau japonaise. I do not like to use it when there is wood elements on the Boulle marquetry, as the acidic content may be to agressive and damage the wood, but in this case it is perfectly fine.

I also discovered the shell was engraved, something I have rarely seen

When eveything was restored, I used suit black to fill the brass engraving

Then the shell was re-engraved, the cavity filled with gold dust and french polished. It can be sometime tricky to french polish on brass ans the difference in temperature can bring condensation and give a milky consistence to the shellac.

The bronzes were cleaned and installed

Our client being happy with the first part, sent us the rest fairly soon after and I started working on those. The based was the first to arrive. It was the most damaged part of the clock and also the hardest to restore considering the curviness of the sides.

But also because of a lot of missing elements and details on a very tight radius part

Like for the other part, I started by removal of the bronzes, lifting of the lose brass elements and cleaning of the cavities and the back of the brass pieces.

Like for the other pieces, I cut the missing elements out of brass and shell. I harvested some of the original horn from hidden under the bronzes for this purpose.

Cleaning and reglueing using sand bags

And Cawl for the rare flat spots

Before and after cleaning the brass

I recreated the missing elements using the little informations and inspiration from the rest of the decorative elements

We ordered some missing finials in France using a picture of a similar clock

While waiting for the bronzes to be cast in France, I put the clock to the black at the same time of a decanter I was working on at the time

Then the shell was re-engraved

And gold dust was laid in the engraving

Then french polish and bronze cleaning

And finally when the finials were received, we put it back together.

The body had a tendency to lean quite a bit to the back, so I added some dicreet washers on the back horses

And substantial ebony wedges on the top

Patrick also made a new top hinge for the door to make it work very well and a new key to fit the lock.

Now, it is ready to ship!

-- Patrice lejeune

17 comments so far

View Luke Addington's profile

Luke Addington

80 posts in 2411 days

#1 posted 06-14-2016 07:51 PM

J’aime ça!

-- Luke,

View TobiasZA's profile


154 posts in 2781 days

#2 posted 06-14-2016 08:17 PM

Utterly exquisite Patrice. Truly remarkable and painstaking work by the hands of two masters of the art.
Thank you deeply for sharing these images.

View Julian's profile


1656 posts in 3933 days

#3 posted 06-14-2016 08:30 PM

That is amazing work.

-- Julian

View Sodabowski's profile


2401 posts in 4076 days

#4 posted 06-14-2016 08:36 PM

After spending a full month with the museum restorers here in Paris, I can really appreciate the huge amount of work you put into this historical piece. The result is awesome!

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

View ShaneA's profile


7085 posts in 3841 days

#5 posted 06-14-2016 09:04 PM

Whoa! glad I am not getting the bill for this one. That is an amazing job.

View Longcase's profile


102 posts in 2690 days

#6 posted 06-14-2016 09:31 PM

Outstanding work, Patrice, looks beautiful.

View Mark Wilson's profile

Mark Wilson

2949 posts in 2306 days

#7 posted 06-14-2016 09:39 PM

People, people. We’re rubbing elbows with giants.

-- Mark

View Patricelejeune's profile


386 posts in 3163 days

#8 posted 06-14-2016 09:52 PM

Thanks guys. @Mark Wilson, only 6 feet and getting older. @Sodabowski, What was the main thing you learned with the museum resotrer? @Luke Addington, Je suis content quand ça se termine!

-- Patrice lejeune

View shipwright's profile


8751 posts in 4041 days

#9 posted 06-15-2016 01:32 AM

Just a fine piece of work Patrice. The owner was fortunate to find you and Patrick whatever it cost.
Your patience, skill, and attention to detail are not matched by many in this day.

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

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3660 posts in 4955 days

#10 posted 06-15-2016 02:23 AM


You and Patrick are rare indeed! We are totally amazed at your abilities and knowledge to restore such a damaged, but intricate piece. Thank you so much for sharing.

Now, we’ll try to restore our clock. If we’re not successful, could you change the battery for us? LOL


-- “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Benjamin Franklin -- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

View smitdog's profile


471 posts in 3348 days

#11 posted 06-15-2016 01:19 PM

I would have thought “IMPOSSIBLE!” but your skill and patience proved that it was! What a splendid documentation of your process, it was a joy to read through. And the finished piece, even on screen, looks astounding but I bet it pales in comparison to seeing it in person. What a lucky owner to have found you!

-- Jarrett - Mount Vernon, Ohio

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 4109 days

#12 posted 06-15-2016 06:21 PM

Patrice, your work is absolutely amazing. I can’t imagine the skill, craftsmanship, and knowledge that is required for this type of work. It is just such an extraordinary piece of work. I can’t imagine what is involved in working with this sort of intricate and delicate details. And, BTW, you have made a beautiful presentation of the project as well.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View prometej065's profile


336 posts in 4926 days

#13 posted 06-16-2016 12:44 AM

Yes, so do masters of their craft. Congratulations!


View Brit's profile


8443 posts in 4085 days

#14 posted 06-18-2016 10:27 PM

Words fail me. Astounding skill and patience. Thank you for sharing it.

-- Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View Sasha's profile


1301 posts in 2455 days

#15 posted 06-20-2016 04:59 PM

WOW, I take off a hat…......... I see clever fingers, huge patience and Wonderful work….................. I hope the customer adequately I have paid.

-- Ganchik Sasha. Life is not a draft, tomorrow you will not redo......

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