Recently I went to Wisconsin to collaborate on a few projects with April Wilkerson and Nick Ferry. From that trip I’ve already published two projects; The 1 sheet of plywood shop table, and a $16 twin screw vise. On the final day of that trip the three of us each made a clock. The objective was to all make the same project but put our own twist on them. Not only did the clocks all turn out completely different but they all turned out great.
This project was a bit of a test or exercise for me. I traditionally start my project in SketchUp to get a complete 3D model before I even start in the shop. That wasn’t the case on this day. It was more of a “run and gun” situation that I’m not too familiar with. But for the design my initial thought was to build something like this (I made a SketchUp model while editing the video just to show you where my thought process was).
I wasn’t 100% sold on my initial design and as you will see in the end it’s not how the clock actually turned out. But to start I put a piece of birdseye maple on Nick’s lathe to make the clock face. I knew I wanted the clock face to be round so starting with it at the lathe gave me some time to figure out how the rest of the clock would look.
The blank was originally mounted on a screw center so I made a mortise on the bottom side to reverse it and mount it in a chuck. I wanted the mortise to be deep enough to house the clock movement and, coincidentally, the drilled hole for the screw center was centered well enough to use as the center hole for the clock.
With the piece reversed, the initial shaping can be completed. I was going for a dished out front where the clock hands would be and a taper along the back side to give it a shadow line when it was done.
While it was still on the lathe I did a little sanding. And as you can see we were all working on our individual clocks at the same time which at times presented a few challenges as far as coordination and at other times it allowed all of us to instantly ask for suggestions or help each other out as needed.
At this point I took the clock face off the lathe and decided to add splines for the 3, 6, 9, and 12 markers.
To do so I marked out the exact points where these would go and used Nick’s crosscut sled to make two kerf cuts along the center of the clock and at 90 degrees from each other. I clamped a speed square to the sled to locate the left and right placement and just held it firmly in place to make the cuts.
Nick already had some walnut stock on hand that was the same thickness as his saw blade so I used it for the contrasting spline material. To prevent any yellow glue lines I used Mod Podge to glue the splines in place. Mod Podge dries clear.
To clean up the splines it was remounted it in the lathe and carefully cleaned up. I also did my finish sanding and added a couple of coats of spray lacquer while it was on the lathe.
At this point I completely abandoned the first two design ideas I came up with for the rest of the clock. Because I previously mentioned making a live edge clock for Nick’s shop April suggested I used a piece of my live edge spalted maple for this clock and that was the light bulb moment for how I wanted this clock to look. While it looks like I’m chopping my leg off at this angle it’s just the perspective of the camera. It was a completely controlled cut, I was bracing the material against my body, and I purposefully didn’t complete the cut so that it wouldn’t drop with the saw running.
My plan was to have a completely organic and natural backdrop to contrast the modern form of the clock. And with a more manageable sized piece I cut off exactly what I wanted at the miter saw. It’s hard to see but I used a piece of dowel stock to shim the material away from the fence to get the angled bottom that I wanted.
I wanted the clock to lean back similar to a picture frame when it was sitting on a table so I determined what angle looked good and cut that same angle on the bottom.
To make sure the clock stood up I needed to make a “kick stand.” I also wanted this piece to have a live edge exposed on the back side so I rotated the miter gauge to that same angle and cut off a piece of the same spalted maple I used for the back.
After cleaning up the surface with a block plane the stand was glued in place.
For a finish I used spray lacquer. Quick and easy. It really made the maple look great.
The clock movement was installed next.
To mount the clock to the back I drilled a hole and glued in a piece of brass dowel stock.
And the clock just hangs from the brass piece. This still allows easy access to change the battery without any tools. Just lift the clock off the piece of brass.
Here’s a shot of the final back side of the clock. I didn’t do much work to the back piece as I wanted to leave it as untouched as possible.
The final appearance of the clock turned out better than I expected especially considering this was the third design I came up with while making it. As I said earlier this was a collaboration project with April Wilkerson and Nick Ferry. They both made clocks that day and each one of them turned out very unique. Be sure to stop by their channels and see what they came up with. Here’s April’s video. And here’s Nick’s video.