Door Chime Covers

Covers are the part that give a chime its style and most of its decorative character.  Many of the early chimes have covers made of wood, sometimes integrating a clock.  There were also covers made of early Nylon and a few precious models with catalin covers in the prewar years. The early plastic covers often took advantage of the translucent nature of the material and with the additional of a low powered light bulb, created a glowing night light effect.   After 1960, styrene plastic was the predominant material of choice, giving way to some truly distasteful simulated wood models.

The things that go wrong with covers are 1. they get broken, 2. they get beat up, 3. they get lost.   A common request I get is for missing chime covers.  I generally tell people who are hoping to replace a lost or broken chime cover that almost anything is possible in the eBay age, but the likelihood of finding a specific cover would extend the envelope of the virtually possible (with the exception of the relatively common NuTone Jefferson).  Better to improvise.  Think of a missing cover as an opportunity to create something unique that would match your taste and decor.  After all, the cover is just a cover and could look like just about anything.  Make a cover from scratch, from an old clock case, from stained glass panels, from a box decorated with wall paper,  an old hub cap,  a picture frame, a radio case,  a mirror …

The other possibility to consider when a cover is missing is to enjoy the the vintage look of the technology and and show it off proudly in all its naked beauty-- sans cover. Once a mechanism is cleaned up, my sense is that it is really quite interesting looking and attractive. 

For items that are just beat-up, repair may be in order.  Repairing a wooden housing is just like repairing or refinishing any other old wood item.  For those in need of just a little freshening up, any number of finished wood cleaning products will do, then quench any bare, scratched or worn bits with Minwax natural sealer.  For rough items in need of a major rescue, it’s the standard program of strip, sand and refinish. 

Plastic, depending on its  problems, can be imminently restorable if problems are limited to cosmetic issues like dullness, scratches, paint slop. Cracks, breaks, warps, burn marks make for a very poor prognosis for plastic covers, although I have salvaged shattered plastic covers.

Metal covers are easy-- strip off the old, spray on the new.


Ok then.  On to some chime housings that I have had.  

A  Nutone Trinity cover is made of catalin, an early decorative plastic and features an engraved art deco design. The early 4 and 8 note mechanisms that came with this include a night light feature.  When lit, the entire semi-translucent cover glows.  This is one of the first series NuTone chimes dating from 1936-1940.

B  Very hard to find early 1936-1940 NuTone is an amalgam of styles.  The back board has sort of a Chippendale pediment with neo-classical urn-style finial.  The front housing is a simple streamline horizontal waterfall shape box.  The clock face is full-on art deco.  I guess this could look equally at home in-- or equally weird in--  a variety of home styles. It forecast the direction NuTone would soon take: the back board anticipates the styling of the Jefferson, targeted to those with traditional tastes, while the streamline front part is very similar to the Century, which would be aimed at the contemporary market. This one was found in rough condition and refinished.  All walnut, solid wood and veneer.  .

C  The classic and ever popular Nutone Jefferson K-46 clock housing, more often than not found separated from the door bell parts.    With a little age wear, these surely look more convincing as antiques then they did when new. Nutone made variations of this design from 1940 through the 1990’s including some wicked ghastly plastic versions.   These come up on eBay a couple times a month, usually sans bells and generally described as a fine antique clock.   Reality check: this is a mass-produced doorbell housing  from the second half of the twentieth century, masquerading as a 17th century Chippendale sideboard.

Rare NuTone Century  mid-century modern style has classic minimalist form and details, with the blonde finish that was so very popular with modern furniture of the era.  This one is date stamped November 1955.

E  The Nutone Supreme L-42 chime housing that was original equipment in our 1959 house, after renovation. This one is styrene with a metal grill.

F   Ultra-rare Edwards chime with clock in mid-century streamline style in walnut veneer and brass.  Probably dates from around 1950.  Made in Canada.   

G  Rittenhouse 610 – modest colonial style is pleasantly free of overt decoration. 

H  1939 Rittenhouse has simple streamlined plywood cover with walnut book-matched veneer. 

I  Rittenhouse - stately and glamorous art deco design constructed of cherry wood with book-matched mahogany veneer.  Combined with the comparably grand 620 mechanism. This one was found rough and subject to extensive restoration.

J  Edwards Eagle with flamboyant art deco styling.  The cover is reverse painted—which means it is molded from clear material and painted on the back side.  The decorative details are molded in bas relief on the back side.  You might be more familiar with that process as it used to make decorative parts on early transistor radios.  This is by far the largest piece of reverse painting I have ever seen. I have had this one in both 2 and 3-bell variations.

K  NuTone Classic, a contemporary of Trinity. was used as the cover on more modest  2 and 3 long bell chimes.  It is made of what looks to be nylon.  Given that it is somewhat translucent, it may have have served as a lamp shade for a chime with nigh light feature.

L  Simple stamped metal cover on this humble Harmony is pretty none the less.

M  Magnificent organic deco style cover rendered in painted cast aluminum.  This one from a  rare Pryanco brand twin longbell.


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