A simple tall clock for Mike and Jessica.
Our youngest daughter Jessica got married a few years ago and moved half way across the province, no doubt we wouldn’t be seeing her and her husband Mike as much as we’d like to. As a father and a woodworker I wanted to build a project for Jessica and Mike that would remind them of the ones they left behind.
I asked Jessica what she thought she would like to have as a reminder of her parents so many miles away and her answer was a clock. She told me that a simple clock would be something that she could use on a daily basis and something that was missing from her new home. Jessica told me that the design was up to me but keep it simple. So with that in mind I set out to design and build Mike and Jessica a “simple tall clock”.
The clock is made from Zebrawood, ebonized Red Oak and Obeche, along with Wenge plugs for the primary numbers on the clock face.
The clock is made up of two main sections (the base and the clock body) tied together with two round supports. The only other piece is a clock mechanism cover for the back of the clock face that I’ll discuss later. All of the red oak parts for the base and the two round supports were milled to a final thickness of 1 ¾”.
The base consists of three pieces of red oak all of which are 7 ½” wide, two pieces being 30” in length and the single center piece being 48” in length. These three pieces of oak have been glued together to form the blank for the base.
When the glue has set, the blank is sanded and the bottom edge is cut square on the table saw. I laid out the cut lines on the blank including the notch to accept the corresponding notch on the base foot and I’ve placed a layout line straight up through the center of the piece that will aid in locating the upper round support and clock body. I cut the angled sides of the blank with a portable circular saw and a straight edge and then cleaned up the cuts on the jointer.
The 1 ½” tall X 1 ¾’ wide notch on the base ready for cutting. The rather large and heavy base needed help being held in place for this operation, so I joined two shop made mitre gauges together using a wide and tall piece of scrap plywood.
This whole assembly made cutting the notch using a single blade and multiple passes easy. The notch on the base foot was cut with a single mitre gauge and the multiple pass method. The entire joint took less than 15 minutes to accomplish and here are both notches completed, one in the base and the other notch in the base foot.
The base is now sanded being careful to leave the layout line through the centre of the piece which I’ll need later to locate the upper round support. The base assembly is glued and assembled using one 3” #8 wood screw that is place on the underside of the base in a predrilled hole and driven up through the notch joint into the base. Because I took the time to produce a well fitting joint in the base and the base foot, the single screw acts as a clamp until the glued joint cures.
The base assembly is now put aside and it’s time to get started on the Zebrawood clock body and the Obeche clock face. Both materials for the clock assembly have been milled to exactly ¾”. I thickness plane both materials at the same time and check their thickness with a pair of dial calipers. It’s important that both materials are exactly the same thickness as I’m joining the two materials together as I want a seamless, even joint.
I cut the clock body on the band saw following my layout line and being careful to leave enough material to run the piece over the jointer for a crisp edge that will accept the clock face. I then glued up a blank large enough to cut out a 13 ½” square piece of Obeche to be used for the clock face (see drawing). Locating the center of the black, I carefully laid out the 13” finished outside diameter of the clock face.
I also marked the cut line of the clock face where it will eventually join the Zebrawood body (see drawing).
I was careful to align the blank’s grain so that the grain on the clock face is running north to south. I want the grain in the clock’s body and the grain of the clock’s face to be running in the same direction. I then cut the angled cut of the clock face on the band saw leaving enough of the material to run the cut over the jointer for a crisp edge to be joined with the Zebrawood clock body. Next thing was to cut the clock’s diameter out of the blank and that operation was done on the band saw and the rough edges were sanded smooth.
The next operation was to join the clock’s Zebrawood body with the Obeche clock face. I measured down 8 ¾” from the top of the clock’s body (see drawing) and held a framing square at that location and then struck a pencil line across the Zebrawood. The original lines that were drawn on the clock’s face were not removed and it was then just a matter of lining up the east to west line with this location line across the Zebrawood.
Because I had earlier jointed both of these mating edges the fit was just what I wanted but gluing this odd shaped configuration was going to be a bit of a challenge. The simple solution was to drill a ¼” hole into both pieces close to the centre of the joint and place a dowel into the joint. This will stop the clock face from trying to slide along the Zebrawood body when clamp pressure is applied to both pieces. Before I commit myself to gluing though, I always dry fit the pieces to make sure I’ll have no surprises during the glue up. Once aligned, glued and clamped, the piece was set aside to dry.
I left the assembly to dry overnight and then sanded the pencil marks off of the clock face and body. I then took a compass and drew an 11” diameter circle on the clock face and on the clock body, registering from the center point of the clock face that I had made before. I brought my framing square along the back edge of the clock’s body and lined it up with the centre point of the clock face and struck a line across the entire piece, intersecting the circle I had just drawn with the compass. I now have a location where the plugs identifying the number 9 and 3 will be drilled. I took the same square and placed it on the horizontal line I just drew at the intersection of the centre point and positioned the short leg of the square at 90 degrees to the horizontal line and marked the intersection where the plug for the number 12 will be. I did the same process to find the location on the number 6. Now that the location for the plugs was determined, I drilled the holes with a 1” forstner bit to a depth of 3/8”. I then took a piece of Wenge and drilled four plugs with a 1” tenon cutter that I had purchased from LeeValley some time ago.
The plugs were then glued into the holes with epoxy and sanded smooth when the epoxy cured.
The next operation was to make the round clock body supports and they were made from the off cuts that came from cutting the triangle clock base. These round supports are “not” the same size, so caution is the key word here. Both pieces were laid out on 7 ½” square blocks that are 1 ¾” thick. The upper support is 6 5/8” diameter and that was drawn on the blank along with the lower support but this one is 5 5/8” in diameter.
Both of these round supports need a ¾” wide groove cut into the end grain to fit over the Zebrawood clock body. However, the larger upper support needs a groove 1 ½” deep and the lower support needs a shallower groove cut into its end grain 1 ¼” deep. I cut the grooves in both round supports while they were still square blanks on the table saw using the single blade multiple pass method. I find this easier to sneak up on the final width of the groove resulting in a snug fit on the Zebrawood body.
Before the upper round support can have it’s diameter cut on the band saw, I must crosscut the blank leaving a flat spot on the soon to be circle. This flat spot will be 2 ½” long when cut. The lower round support is cut from itsblank on the band saw with no flat spot cut, that cut comes later.
Now it’s time to assemble the body and the base. Remember the line I drew up the middle of the base that I was careful not to sand off, this is where I need it as a reference.
That line represents the exact centre of the base and the exact centre of the notch. I need that line to tell me where on the base to mount the upper round support. I measured up from the bottom of the base 36 ½” and drilled a 3/8” diameter 1”deep hole into that line. I also drill a 3/8” diameter hole 1” deep into the center of the length and width of the flat spot on the large upper support. I now place a 3/8”X2” dowel into the upper support and place the upper support into the base. Next I clamped the base to the bench to prevent the assembly from tipping over; I need both hands for the next operation. I now take the Zebrawood clock body and slide it into the upper round support that has the ¾” groove cut into it. I measure the distance from the face of the clock base to the back edge of the Zebrawood body and then I cut a spacer out of scrap wood, the spacer required for this clock was 5 1/8”. The clock body is then clamped temporally into the groove of the upper support and the spacer is placed near the bottom of the clock body. This ensures that the back of the clock body will be parallel with the clock base.
I then place the lower round support onto the clock body and slide it down the body until it touches the base’s foot.
I take a piece of scrap plywood that is 3 ½” wide, slide it up against the lower round support and draw a line across the lower support using the top of the plywood as a straightedge. I now have a line that, when cut will fit perfectly flat on the base foot. The lower round support is cut on the band saw and sanded flat, square and smooth on a disc sander. The lower support is now glued and clamped into place with a 3 ½” #8 wood screw fastened from bottom of the base’s foot through a countersunk screw hole.
The upper round support is now aligned so that the clock body sits perfectly in line with the lower support and is drilled and countersunk through the back of the base into the flat spot of the upper support using 3” #8 wood screws. Glue is placed on the flat spot of this support and on the 3/8” dowel and then screwed into place. Tapered wooden plugs are made from scrap oak and placed into the countersunk screw holes and sanded flush to hide the screw heads.
The clock body is then removed and a 3” diameter hole is drilled into the back of the clock to facilitate the installation of the clock movement. The depth of this hole was supplied by the clock movement manufacturer. The movement and the 6” clock hands are installed to make sure everything fits the way it should. The last piece to make is a clock movement cover and it’s simply made from a left over piece of Obeche that is 5” in diameter and has a 3’ hole drilled into its center to a depth of ½”. This cover is then placed over the back of the clock movement and attached to the clock with a 1 ¼” X #8 wood screw.
The clock base was then ebonized with two coats of India ink that I purchased from a local craft store and then top coated with 4 coats of water based polyurethane. The clock body and face were finished with a coat of de-waxed shellac and 4 coats of water based polyurethane.