Long ago there were not battery operated clocks on the wall. There were not watches on every wrist and there were no cell phones to check the time on. Back in the day people often used hour glasses to mark the passage of time. When the glass was turned over it would take exactly one hour for the sand to completely fall into the bottom part. Hour glasses today are collected by many. Some have quite a bit of value. If you have an old antique hourglass you can restore it. Doing so will not decrease its value but rather may increase it.
It’s a good idea to take the hour glass out to your garage or work shop to refinish it. The hour glass will need to be sanded and you don’t want the dust released into your home. It’s not safe to breathe in and will make a mess. Be sure to wear a face mask when sanding to avoid inhaling the dust. Old finished can contain chemicals which could be toxic if inhaled.
To prepare the hour glass for sanding you will need to cover the glass parts. Use painters or masking tape and newspaper or plastic. Wrap the paper or plastic around the glass then secure it using the tape. Painters tape and masking tape both have a gentle adhesive. Neither will leave residue on the glass like other types of tape will. Once the glass parts have been covered move on to the next step.
The next step in refinishing an antique hourglass is to sand it. Never use and electric handheld sander on such a delicate item as it could result in damage. If the sander were to hit the glass it could break it or scratch it right through the paper or plastic. To avoid damage use a single sheet of medium grit sandpaper. Rough grit may be too abrasive for the antique wood so it’s best to use medium.
Very gentle rub the sand paper back and forth in the direction of the wood grain. Do this until all of the old finish has been completely removed. Once there is nothing left but bare wood switch to a piece of fine grit and go over it all again. The fine grit sand paper gives the wood a smooth flawless surface for the new finish will adhere to.
When you have finished sanding with the fine grit use a soft dry cloth to clean any remaining dust off of the hour glass. No dust can remain on it or the new finish will be flawed and blemished. The dust will get trapped under the new finish and will cause bumps.
Find the exact color of stain that was on the hour glass. Restoring means bring the item back to it’s original state so you don’t want to use a different shade. Apply the stain using a dry cloth. Gently rub it on the quickly rub it back off using another cloth. Do not allow the stain to set on the wood as it can create dark spots. If the stain doesn’t look as dark as the original finish after the first application then apply another. When you are satisfied with the color of the stain proceed on to the next step.
The next step is to apply polyurethane to the wood. The poly will protect the antique wood and will preserve it. The old finish was likely stain and poly or varnish. A new coat of poly will duplicate the original finish. Apply the poly using a small foam paint brush. Allow the fist coat 25 minutes to dry then apply a second. Allow the second coat 30 minutes to dry then remove the tape and paper or plastic. Let the hour glass sit where it is for at least 2 hours before moving it. This gives the poly time to set and dry completely so that when the hour glass is moved the poly will not be dented or damaged in any way.
After the poly is completely dry use a paper towels and glass cleaner to clean the entire hour glass. This will remove any finger prints or smudges from handling it. Set it in a display case or on a shelf. The polyurethane makes it so that the hour glass can be cleaned when it becomes dusty.