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Grandfather Clock Makeover (Plus 38 More Thrift Store Projects)

Sharing a thrift store grandfather clock and how to give it a beautiful makeover!
clock face before after

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I really lucked out in the husband department...in more ways than one! ๐Ÿ’™ My guy likes to shop! On one of our little anniversary getaways, we stopped in at a thrift store and Mr DIY spotted this grandfather clock. It was in serious need of TLC, but just look at that price! I actually had to be convinced to buy it...I'm a realist and was thinking 1. that looks like a LOT of work! and 2. where will we put it? Obviously I was talked into it, and now that it's been made over, I'm SO glad that we purchased it! 

Today is March's installment of At Home DIY, a huge group of blogging buddies who are all sharing an Upcycled Thrift Store Project today! You'll find all the links at the end of my tutorial!

If you follow me on Instagram, I shared this makeover in my stories. As is usually the case..when Mr DIY goes away on a trip, I take on a big project. I don't know why I do this to myself because I have no one but myself to rely on and make decisions...and move all the heavy stuff! I don't know, maybe I enjoy the challenge? Maybe I'm trying to prove something to myself? Do you do this too?

This large clock had been sitting in our front room (hidden in a corner) for over a year! I dragged it out into our sun room where there's lots of light so I could get a good look at it and see just what was going to be required for this makeover...I apologize for the blurry before photo...I had to grab it off my stories...apparently I was so excited to get started that I didn't take an actual picture!

grandfather clock in need of TLC

The clock was made by Colonial in the early 70's. I found a replica online, and this is how beautiful it can look when it's fully restored. Notice the price!!

Colonial Grandfather Clock restored
Photo Courtesy of Chairish.com
Did I mentioned I paid $25 for our clock? Here are a few close up pictures of the state of my clock. Eewww, right? TLC needed indeed!

dirty clock

My goal with this clock was not to restore it to original condition, and not even to fix it so it could work again. The gong was missing, as well as a couple of the pipes. I didn't have the knowledge to mess with that, and honestly, no one in my family appreciates a clock that chimes on the hour anyway!

My goal was to clean it up and make it look pretty! 


It's a large piece, and I knew it would be a fun conversation piece once painted. The wood was in great condition, other than the thick dust!

How to Paint a Grandfather Clock

Clean Before Paint

The biggest issue was dust and grime! This baby was dirty! So the first order of business was to clean it! I used my vacuum, as well as my favorite degreaser to make a good start. I did find a few interesting items in the bottom amidst all the dust, including the original warranty from 1973, and an extra bottle of conditioning oil in the original box with postage of $.10!!! I also found the side 'windows' that we thought were missing! They're actually panels of wood that slide in and out of their slots! This saved me a lot of time and money because I thought I was going to have to have glass cut to fit those spots! 

original warranty and oil found in bottom of clock

I absolutely love that this grandfather clock has a story to tell! And at some point it resided in NC, which is where Mr DIY grew up! Full circle ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

Remove Door

To make this makeover as easy as possible, I chose to remove the door from the clock. I also knew that this makeover wasn't going to be completed in a day! I gave myself the week to work on it, which made it more manageable than having unrealistic expectations!

Chalk Paint

Once the clock was as clean as I could get it, it was time to give this eyesore its makeover! I painted it with my favorite white chalk paint and Purdy brush. There were a lot of places that needed paint, sp rather than getting overwhelmed, I focused on the outside of the clock first! Three coats of white and already it was looking like a different piece!

painted outside

I was able to unscrew the corbel from the top and paint it by holding onto the screw and just turning it in my hands. Much easier than painting it while it was still attached to the clock!

painting corbel

Add an Accent Color

I wanted to emphasize the columns on the front of the clock, and was able to easily do this with one coat of paint (I used this color) and a small, flat craft brush. This brush made it easy to paint the edges without having to tape anything off. 

accent color

Paint Inside

Once the outside was finished, I painted the inside...a little more difficult as I had to paint around the clock works. But I took it slow, did a lot of squats ๐Ÿ˜ and breathed a sigh of relief when it was finished!

Tackle the Face Plate

The whole time I was working on the outside and the inside of the clock, I was thinking about the actual face of the clock. I'll spare you my ruminations! But suffice it to say that I thought LONG and HARD about  how I wanted it to look, and how I was going to achieve that look! The gold was too gaudy for me, but I really liked the pictorial scenes that rotate as the clock moves through the time. I also wanted to preserve the word 'Colonial'. In the end, here's a little progression of the steps I took. I'll break them down below the picture.

painting clock face

  • after removing the face plate from the door (it was held on with screws), I taped off the decorative piece at the top as well as the manufacturer name, and tried to paint the numbers with black paint, but it was slow going and streaky
  • then I moved in another direction, and instead I spray painted the entire plate black
  • once dry, I rubbed a piece of wax on the numbers only
  • then I spray painted over everything with white paint
  • last, I used my nail to scrape off most of the white from the numbers, revealing the black that was underneath, giving it a bit of a chippy look
This technique is one I share in more detail in this post. The wax preserves the bottom layer (the black), which can be easily revealed even after a layer of paint is added above it. If you have any questions, please ask in the comments! I like how the black letters match the clock hands, and pop on the white background!

Once the side panels were painted and put back into place, the door was reattached, and a new key purchased (I found an inexpensive replica on Ebay) to keep the door closed, I could finally say "It's done!"

Here is how this beauty looks now!

shabby farmhouse dining room with painted clock

"She" is currently residing in our dining room. I have filled her with books and plants. You can see how she's already changed her look a few times in here!

painted grandfather clock in dining room

Here's a better view of those side panels. I think the original clock had some sort of plexi glass to disguise the "innards", but I like it how it is!

shabby chic clock makeover

Here's a closer look at her beautiful face.

grandfather clock face

She is perfectly shabby and stylish and fits right in with our home's decor! I would be honored if you chose to Pin and Share this image!

Grandfather Clock makeover

Are you ready to see MORE thrift store upcycles?





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20 comments:

  1. What a beautiful clock makeover! Goodness you got a good deal on it too! Love the entire transformation!

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  2. I have been wanting to makeover my own grandfather clock. You have inspired me to finally just do it! Thanks so much, Cindy.

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  3. This looks fabulous! I can't believe it is the same clock! Great job! I love the shabby chic look.

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  4. She's gorgeous! Amazing transformation! Thanks for the inspiration and sharing.

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  5. Oh, Cindy! This is absolutely gorgeous and what a great price you paid for this piece! After seeing this, I'm going to keep an eye out for an old grandfather clock to redo! Thanks for sharing your inspiration!

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  6. It looks stunning and yes you are right, it looks perfect in your home. Great recycle project.

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  7. You gave it such a refreshing new Makeover!

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  8. I'm blaming you when I force my husband to help me drag home an old grandfather clock as soon as I can find a cheap one! LOL! This is absolutely stunning ... would have never thought of painting them. That old oak is a bit meh. The white is so much better.

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    1. Hahaha, it's a great way for them to show us their muscles ;) Thanks so much Danielle, good luck finding one!

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  9. Omg Cindy, this is GORGEOUS! You did an amazing job!! So funny that your hubs loves to shop and found it :) I love how you decorated it too :) I'm going to be on the hunt for one of these now. P.S. Those are the exact same two things that I say to myself too when I'm thrifting lol

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    1. Aww, thanks so much Eileen!! I wish you luck with your search ๐Ÿ˜Š

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  10. This is beautiful and it is a perfect addition to that room! Love it!

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