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Rediscovering Rohlfs - Tall Case Clock

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Blog entry by Woodbridge posted 799 days ago 4556 reads 2 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch

The second work of Charles Rohlfs that I was fortunate enough to see on my recent visit to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is his Tall Case Clock.

Among the various arts and crafts era furniture designers and makers Rohlfs is less known. As I mentioned in my first blog, I find Charles Rohlfs work very unique and dramatic. There is nothing ordinary about Rohlfs work. So I am taking this opportunity to share his work with you.

The tall case clock is situated next to Rohlfs 1898 desk chair in the Amercian Wing – Gallery 743.

The clock sits on a simple box base that includes decorative metal hinges. A triangular knob sits on top of decorative metal escutcheon that frames the top corner of the door.

The tapered midsection rises from the base. The triangular knob from the base is repeated here. A tear dropped shaped fretwork adorns the middle section and is one of the dramatic elements of the clock. This type of elaborate (perhaps ornate) carving and fretwork is a hallmark of Rohlfs furniture.

At the top and bottom of the midsection there are decorative gussets. I think the clock could do without these and may “photoshop” them out of a picture to see how the clock looks. But these decorative elements are a big part of what Rohlfs was about.

For me the simple but striking clock face is what sets this clock apart from others. It really pops! Most clock faces are framed in a circular ring. Rohlfs dispenses with framing the clock face. To me, the clock face creates an image of moons orbiting a planet.

Even though this clock was built over 100 years ago it still has a striking and modern look to it.

I’m about two weeks away from finishing my Maloof style rocker and starting work on another Rohlfs chair his Tall Back chair. While in New York my wife and I took a day to visit the Princeton University Art Musuem where this chair is on display. I share some of the pictures of that chair next.

-- Peter, Woodbridge, Ontario



11 comments so far

View DocSavage45's profile

DocSavage45

4914 posts in 1477 days


#1 posted 799 days ago

modern and gothic? Ahead of his time. Your next project? :-)

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

1979 posts in 3040 days


#2 posted 799 days ago

wow, what a clock!
Now that I’ve seen it, I could do it, but couldn’t we all?
It’s that dreaming-it-up-process of the original that is stunning, nothing else like it before he did it.
And, like most of his work, nothing else like it since, and what a shame.
Mr. Rholfs was sure something wasn’t he?
Thanks for your posting, I’ve enjoyed all of your projects and your museum postings.

I stumbled onto a Roycroft Tall Clock and handmade wood covered book with copper hinges inside a glass book display at the Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City last week about this time. All three pieces had been donated, but the sercurity guard sitting beside it all day couldn’t tell me anything about it, or why it was there. He forwarded me onto another office, and next time to CMH I hope to get more information about it.

I was just walking through trying to find the pharmacy, and sha-zamm!! there it was. I’d already walked past it three times, and never noticed it tucked back behind a corner where a door frame is located. I was so shocked, and I didn’t have a camera, but I will be sure to get it photographed on the next trip to CMH next month. It’s nothing like the Rholfs Tall Clock, no surprise there. The Roycroft is a typical, expertly crafted arts and crafts piece of quarter sawn white oak, with a very nicely done carved lettering on the front. The hammered copper hardware was just amazing also. Isn’t it fun to discover something you never expected, and when you get excited and look around to see who else noticed it, nobody else cared a bit? Oh, the life of a wood-aholic. Where’s the next meeting?
thanks Peter for the posting,
Mark

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan - www.decoustudio.com

View DocSavage45's profile

DocSavage45

4914 posts in 1477 days


#3 posted 799 days ago

Love you guys! It’s what wood is about!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

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DocSavage45

4914 posts in 1477 days


#4 posted 799 days ago

Metaphorically speaking! LOL!

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View TedM's profile

TedM

2002 posts in 2367 days


#5 posted 799 days ago

Awesome, thanks for bringing this, and Rohlfs, to our attention.

I’d be keen to see the photo with the gussets removed. I believe that I would prefer the uninterrupted line of the body.

-- I'm a wood magician... I can turn fine lumber into firewood before your very eyes! - Please visit http://www.woodworkersguide.com and sign up for my project updates!

View Charles Maxwell's profile

Charles Maxwell

951 posts in 2441 days


#6 posted 799 days ago

Great post. Lucky man!

-- Max the "night janitor" at www.hardwoodclocks.com

View DocSavage45's profile

DocSavage45

4914 posts in 1477 days


#7 posted 795 days ago

Interesting that this post has so few comments?

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View DittoDesigns's profile

DittoDesigns

3 posts in 707 days


#8 posted 707 days ago

I build custom clocks, and have always had an affinity for Charles Rohlfs designs. I was asked for two wall clocks over the years, in the style of this marvelous Hall Clock. I had a chance to see it in the MMA as well, and from some photos of it, came up with 2 versions of a wall clock design – one at 2’ and one at 3’ in height. They are made from qtr.sawn white oak, and the dials and case hardware were fabricated from copper sheet stock. Both customers wanted a more “craftsman” style look ( less Industrial look), so the dial plates are softly hammered. The larger of the two has a full 8-day keywind pendulum movement, and the smaller one is a quartz chiming unit with pendulum. They were interesting clocks to make, and the research on Charles Rohlfs, the artist, proved to be a fun read as well. Just as an aside, I was intrigued by his candlesticks so in my spare time I reproduced his favorite ” The Chinese” out of black walnut and fabricated all the metal parts out of patinated sheet copper. I’m away from the picture archive at this point, but will post a couple of pics when I get back. Great forum BTW…

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DittoDesigns

3 posts in 707 days


#9 posted 707 days ago

View Woodbridge's profile

Woodbridge

2672 posts in 1052 days


#10 posted 706 days ago

your clocks are great. Did you majke the faces? How did you do it?

-- Peter, Woodbridge, Ontario

View DittoDesigns's profile

DittoDesigns

3 posts in 707 days


#11 posted 706 days ago

Hi Peter, thanks for the kind words – The Rohlfs Dial is a lamination of copper sheet on a tempered masonite substrate The dial are roughly laid out on C110 Copper sheet .016 thk. The sheet is annealed to “dead soft”, and washed in mild sulfuric acid to a uniform salmon color. The tooling pattern is worked into the dial with a variety of hammers ( depending on how much and what kind of texture is required). The sheet is re-annealed, acid washed, and worked from the backside using a soft face dead blow mallet, against a steel plate to flatten out the sheet, being careful of not removing the texture. Once flattened the sheet is cleaned once again, and the backside wirebrushed. The substrate is cut to final dimensions, the copper sheet is roughly 1/8” oversized, and the two pieces are sandwiched together with special adhesive, bagged and vacuumed pressed. The copper is dressed back to the substrate edge with a bastard file. File marks are removed from the edge with wet/dry paper. The edge of the dial is then copper leafed to give the appearance of a 1/8” thick piece of copper. Depending on the size of the clock the hemispheres are either purchased or spun on a wood lathe. A steel fender washer is turned down to tightly fit inside the equator of the ball. A FH screw is put in from the backside of each of the hour positions, securing the ball tightly to the dial. Once assembled a chemical patina is applied, brought to the desired color/shade and stopped using clear water. A heat gun is used to bring the entire assembly to a uniform temperature to ensure that no water gets in the lamination or leafing. Holes are drilled for the particular movement and mounting brackets. Last step is to blend any undesired color variations using 0000 steel wool and colored wax, and soft cloth…
Hope that helps.
Mike

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