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Old 4th May 2020, 1:59 pm   #1
EduardS
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Default Repairing old butler bell box (annunciator).

A year ago I bought for 56 euro an antique vintage butlers or servants wall mount a 7 way red& white flag bell box.

The interior was very old, corroded but it seems complete. My idea is to install it in my 1914 build home in The Hague. Luckily I found in this platform a thread of Station X who restored his bell box.

I started with the cleaning of the metal bearings of the flags. In the end I used a sandpaper and a Dremel to remove the rust. Then I made a picture of the board to keep the overview and removed everything: all nails, screws and electric wires etc. I sanded the wooden box and painted it again.

I bought new electric wires and started to build up the bell box. To clean all the copper parts I used a solution of vinegar and salt, this was really great.

Using Pages of my apple I recreated the red and white stripes.

Now the bell board is working again, I try to figure out the best voltage.

I do have a problem with the painted glass. The original is in very bad shape. Using a photoshop and pages I recreated it on paper, but I would really like not to stick paper image behind the glass but to paint it as it was originally. So I bought two extra pieces of glass and paint and will try to do it myself. But if someone has any tips or tricks please let me know.
Attached Files
File Type: pdf bell board original.pdf (27.9 KB, 127 views)
File Type: pdf bell board parts.pdf (25.8 KB, 71 views)
File Type: pdf bell board restored.pdf (37.8 KB, 99 views)
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Old 4th May 2020, 2:46 pm   #2
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Default Re: Repairing old butler bell box (annunciator).

Lovely, but where does one get reliable butlers these days?
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Old 4th May 2020, 3:06 pm   #3
Dave Moll
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Default Re: Repairing old butler bell box (annunciator).

Mine runs satisfactorily on 3V (2 x "C" cell). Probably best to find the lowest voltage on which it works, thus minimising any stress on the coils.

By the way, I can't quite visualise what you're trying to do with the glass, but one way might be to print onto transparency and fasten this to the inside of the glass.
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Last edited by Dave Moll; 4th May 2020 at 3:10 pm. Reason: added comment about glass
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Old 4th May 2020, 3:10 pm   #4
EduardS
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Default Re: Repairing old butler bell box (annunciator).

Hi Dave,
I will try to find the lowest voltage possible. You are right, lower is better.

Who can give me a good tip to repair the glass?
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Old 4th May 2020, 3:20 pm   #5
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Default Re: Repairing old butler bell box (annunciator).

What about printing onto paper (as a mirror image) and then temporarily fixing this to the OUTSIDE of the glass.
With the print as a guide or a template, then hand paint onto the inside of the glass.

It might be worth connecting a neon lamp, without any series resistor, across each coil. This will not affect normal operation but will limit back EMFs to about 90 volts and reduce the risks of insulation breakdown.
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Old 4th May 2020, 4:35 pm   #6
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Default Re: Repairing old butler bell box (annunciator).

Perhaps, using the drawing program in your computer, you may be able to print a completely new mask for the glass using 'waterslide' decal paper, and fix it to the inside of the glass.
A search for "waterslide decals" will bring up quite a few possibilities.
Bear in mind there are different types of decal for laser and inkjet printers. Tony
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Old 4th May 2020, 5:16 pm   #7
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Default Re: Repairing old butler bell box (annunciator).

Some of these old bell indicator boards in stately homes and vicarages worked via several Leclance cells (Might have got the spelling wrong) anyway, in square glass jars with zinc anode. We used to scrape the anode with a pocket knife to get them going again. Would look good working with a few of them in place. The railways had lots in cabinets below the signal boxes.
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Old 4th May 2020, 7:21 pm   #8
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Default Re: Repairing old butler bell box (annunciator).

My Parent's house had two Annunciator boxes,one downstairs and a larger one in the ground floor hallway The whole system incorporating bells worked for years on the old screw terminal 4.5 Volt bell batteries, occasionally a spare couple would vanish only to end up in my latest project as I had been rumbled regards pp9 Batteries for the Hacker going AWOL

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Old 4th May 2020, 9:18 pm   #9
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Default Re: Repairing old butler bell box (annunciator).

Quote:
Originally Posted by ex 2 Base View Post
Some of these old bell indicator boards in stately homes and vicarages worked via several Leclance cells (Might have got the spelling wrong) anyway, in square glass jars with zinc anode.
Leclanché cells were the ancester of the modern zinc/chloride cell and gave the same output of 1½V, so you would need the same number of these instead of the number of "C"/"D" cells. Incidentally, the jar contains a solution of ammonium chloride.
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Old 5th May 2020, 8:53 am   #10
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I will try to do this, I think it was originally also done like this.(without computer but with a template)

This will be my second best solution. The third is to stick a paper print behind the glass!
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Old 5th May 2020, 12:09 pm   #11
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Default Re: Repairing old butler bell box (annunciator).

If you have been able to draw up or re create the glass image on your computer then you may well be able to find a screen printing shop that will screen print the image onto the glass for you with a modern glass paint that would last a long time.
Due to screen printing also being in pixels you would find the shading would be really effective as well in the areas you only want a light coverage.
The slide o. transfer is a great idea too if you have a good quality printer it should give a very similar result to screen printing.
Print the transfer in reverse and apply it to the rear of the glass panel and apply a good quality clear spray varnish over it once dried.
More fidly but cheaper than screen printing
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Old 10th May 2020, 3:13 pm   #12
EduardS
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Default Re: Repairing old butler bell box (annunciator).

I tried to paint the letters myself with a template, but it looks very amateur like.
So I have now 3 options. decal waterslide, stickers, or this screen printing shop.
I have found in Amsterdam a screen printer, Next week I will ask how much it will cost!
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Old 10th May 2020, 3:42 pm   #13
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Default Re: Repairing old butler bell box (annunciator).

Try Googling the Dutch equivalent of "Signwriting on glass".

In the UK there are sign writing companies which do this sort of thing on shop windows. I don't know what it would cost though.
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Old 10th May 2020, 4:43 pm   #14
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Default Re: Repairing old butler bell box (annunciator).

That does prompt me to suggest something else. Back in the eighties I wanted my house number inside the glass above my front door. I approached the local sign makers to see if they would paint it on the glass for me, but instead they used a vinyl cutter to cut out what I wanted.
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Old 1st Jul 2020, 6:49 pm   #15
EduardS
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Default Re: Repairing old butler bell box (annunciator).

my butler bell box is finished!!!!!!
And it works
Just an overview of what I did: In the end I wanted to restore also the bell mechanism. it was corroded. Than I did something stupid. The spring in the bell which opens and closes the contact and make the bell operate did not function well. So I tried to bent it in the correct position. To prevent it from breaking I heated it up under a flame. In the end because of the heating all tension was gone of the spring. So it did not work anymore. I bought a new bell, but sadly this was a what we call in dutch "wisselstroom" it needed the plus and minus to change, while the old system works on a fixed plus and a fixed minus. If I connected this new bell it gave just one "tick". I installed it anyway, also because one tick means also one "gong" with is better than an alarm bell ringing.

Left was my problem of the painting of the glass. I tried to paint it myself. This did not go well. So as a temporary solution I printed it out on paper and sticked it behind the glass. Not so original. Than I got this idea from one of you forum members: there are companies who can print on the glass I found one in Amsterdam. Normally I think you paint first the gold, and later the black. I did it the other way round. I printed the black. All what was left white stayed transparant and I could paint it gold. Problematic were the family crests. Those were also printed, but not in color, that was far to expensive. I let the company print 3 glasses so I could experiment. (3 or 1 is the same price). I tried to handprint with colorpaintpencils for painting on glass, and all went well. I changed also the bell itself for a copper one (thanks also to one of the forum members) by buying a hotel push bell. Indeed it is the same size as the original one!

The pictures: you can see the original glass, the inner work with the new bell mechanism, the box temporary finished with printed paper behind the glass, and the finished box with painted glass!

Thanks folks!

Now I have hanging next to my old (working)telephone my butler bell box! It waits now for the time when we will renovate the house and we can actually install the push buttons in the rooms!
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Old 1st Jul 2020, 7:23 pm   #16
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Default Re: Repairing old butler bell box (annunciator).

A very nice restoration, well done.
A friend of mine has one of these boxes, I must try and get him let me restore it.

Peter
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Old 1st Jul 2020, 8:41 pm   #17
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Default Re: Repairing old butler bell box (annunciator).

That looks beautiful Eduard, a very fine job indeed!
Reminds me that I have one waiting in the garage for restoration....... sometime. ��

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Old 1st Jul 2020, 9:14 pm   #18
Dave Moll
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Default Re: Repairing old butler bell box (annunciator).

Now you just need to run cabling through to bell-pushes in the various rooms - and employ a butler to respond when they're pressed.

By the way, it shouldn't be too difficult to source a DC trembler bell to replace the AC one that you currently have.
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Old 2nd Jul 2020, 1:11 pm   #19
EduardS
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Default Re: Repairing old butler bell box (annunciator).

yes when I stumble on one of them I will do and I will never heat a spring!
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Old 2nd Jul 2020, 2:21 pm   #20
Dave Moll
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Default Re: Repairing old butler bell box (annunciator).

I seem to recall that heating and cooling (annealing) softens the metal, then hammering it restores the hardness. Presumably, this also restores the springiness, but I'll leave any further discussion to those with actual experience of metallurgy.
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