Clock Project

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21 Jul 2007
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First of all appologies for such a long post. I have been making this clock for several weeks now at 2 hours work a day. It's probably the smallest but most complicated project I've attempted yet. The reason I didn't post it sooner is that there were several processes which if failed, would ruin the whole thing and if that happened I think I would have scrapped the project altogether so didn't want to post a real time commentry. I have been listing it in the bolgs section but now I'm past all the critical points and it's nearly done. Thanks to those of you that send me encouraging messages via the blog.

So we start unfortunately with a poor picture of the original plan. I like to draw plans full size on 12mm MDF. It’s rigid and will lean against a wall or a piece of machinery which makes reference easier. I can check each piece as it’s cut to spot any mistakes before I commit to a process like batch cutting which saves a lot of material in mistakes. Later I can use the actual plan as a jig when the measurements are no longer needed.


I have decided to make the clock out of White American Oak and buy enough stock for the project. Again having a full size plan assists in finalising a cutting list and prevents over ordering again this saves money in the long run.


The first thing to do is to surface plane one side.


Some stock have severe knots which can cause kickback especially when thicknessing so now is a good time to remove them.


With all boards with one surface side planed with a caliper, measure the thickest board.


When designing a piece of furniture I always try to have a standard thickness of stock. Usually this is 18mm mainly because it makes the stock compatible with 18mm MDF which makes jig making quicker and easier and this project will require a lot of jigs! The next stage is to run the stock through the thicknesser slowly decreasing the height down to 18mm.


I tend to have all the boards planed side up on the table saw and take the boards one at a time through the thicknesser and place them on my router table. Once I reach the last board I reduce the height by 1mm and run the boards back again. Every time I reduce the height I check the first board as it comes out the thicknesser for thickness with the callipers.


Close enough!

I’m lucky that with these boards the edges are straight enough to joint without ripping on the table saw first. This is typical with American stock but not so with European boards which usually have ‘waney’ edges. If you are lucky, you might get one straight and one waney.

During this process the chippings were building up on the floor at a rate of knots despite the extractor running full pelt. At the end of the process I found the reason.


The CamVac man at the last woodworking show I was at said 2.5 inch extraction would be fine for a 10 inch thicknesser. He’s wrong!


After the process I’m left with this.


After running one side of each board over the joiner it's time to rip the boards to the correct width. Again I try to design the piece so that most of the stock require is a standard size, in this case 85mm for the face and 55mm for everything else. This means I can rip all in one go without moving the fence. All the stock ends up identical in width and thickness. The only variable will be differing lengths.



Now I can set the saw to batch cut the clock face components to the same length. The split fence supplied with my table saw is excellent for this and most of all it’s safe.


The clock face stock now looks like this.


The design calls for four rings to be glued together each ring having 4 mitred sections per ring. 16 pieces to cut then. I decided to cut them on the table saw but in retrospect the mitre saw would have been easier. Just love the engineering in the sliding table.


One problem was that the hold down on the mitre fence when set at 45 degrees was over the main saw table top. This would prevent the sliding table from sliding so I made a little block and mounted it to the top of the fence to give me a place to secure a toggle clamp. This worked really well.


Using the flip over stop on the mitre fence, cutting all the pieces the same is easy. After 20 minutes I’m left with this.


All these pieces I have cut slightly over length to account for the method of joining the pieces together. I’m using a glue joint cutter in the router table mainly because I like the look of the joint on the finished piece and besides that I bought this cutter in the Rutlands sale and haven’t found a project to use it on yet. You may notice that I have reassembled the cutter in an unusual fashion but I needed the bearing higher up than at the bottom to account for the thickness of the jig.


Again I’m lucky enough to have a good router table which I made some years ago. A hinged top with a gas strut off a Fiat Punto makes installing the cutter much easier.


Time for another jig in the form of a routing sled.


Only one side of each triangular section for this pass then an adjustment in height, a set cut and the other sides are routed face down. My Trend T11 makes height adjustment easy and fast especially with this fast winder.


One other point worthy of mention is dust extraction. I have a 2.5 inch kit from Axminster, well to be more accurate I have two kits joined together and they make an excellent job of removing the dust. The only thing lacking is an auto start function. These are incredibly expensive and I have got around this with a universal remote kit from Maplin which only cost £15.


This is the remote. I have a twin motor extractor which is switched inside the machine. I have rewired this so that each motor has it’s own socket. That way I can press the ‘All On’ button for say the table saw or only one motor for power tools with smaller diameter hoses.

Time for some glue up. These Bessey cramps are the cheaper smaller ones and are a little disappointing at first but you soon get used to them and they work quite well.


While these are drying the main circle of the clock has three different sized holes in the centre to accommodate the movement mechanism. This means that it’s easier to cut the internal holes before all the pieces are glued together. To cut the holes I have made three more jigs to use freehand on the router table. This picture shows the circles being cut out with a simple home made trammel on a Trend T5.


To keep the pieces on the workmate I have actually screwed straight through the MDF and into the laminated top of the workbench. My workmate often takes a beating like this so it’s a good job I got this one at half RRP.


This is what I’m left with. Three templates of 12mm MDF. To save over stressing the router table I lay the templates over the oak squares and draw the inner circle on each piece. Then…


cut to within 3 mm of the line on the fret saw. However the fret saw was struggling to get through the 18mm oak and going was slow so this approach worked better.


I was trying to avoid screwing into the wooden squares but to avoid this I would need a flush trim cutter with the bearing on the shank side of the cutter which I don't have. Thanks to those who responded to my forum post for help to find a cutter but at £28 it's just too much to justify for this project alone so reluctantly I screw the squares to the template to route them on the table without the fence.


Again the workmate is invaluable and flip drive? Not here! Just two of the same drills one for screwing, one for drilling (spoilt or what?). Another problem I realised is that the jig is so big that it covers the pin routing hole so this cannot be used. Trying to think of a way to get as much leverage as possible without the pin while keeping my hands well away from the cutter, I have temporarily attached the handles from the mitre gauge of the sliding table of my saw with T nuts from behind. Hope it works!


Without the fence on the router table the extraction is pretty useless so it's time to dress up like Darth Vader and scare the kids. The Trend Air Ace makes you look like an buttocks but it's comfortable and it works.


The jigs work well fortunately. The handles are grippy and far enough apart to give plenty of control. As expected it's messy but the results are pleasing.


I had hoped to glue the back three rings/squares together in one go but a quick clamp trial showed that it was going to be impossible to get them all lined up so I've glued two up and will glue the third one on tomorrow.

With all three sqaures now glued up at 45 degrees to each other the next step it to create two 170mm flat spots to receive the top and bottom of the case. The problem is that the piece now is an irregular shape so I can't run it directly against the fence of the saw.

Fortunately I have a small straight cutting jig I made ages ago for cutting the waney edge of European sourced boards which I havn't used for a while since I started buying US stock which generally has two straight edges.

The second cut is easier making the flats parallel to each other.

I have decided to attach the top and bottom sections of the clock to the main face with a sliding dovetail joint. This has pitfalls in making it and I had discounted this idea before because one slip and it's all over. I decide to make the jig first and then see how it looks.

The first thing I need to remember to do is to set and then index the fence on the router table. Just a pencil mark on the table top once the fence is set for the first slot. This will give me a reference mark to measure from for the second slot.


The first cut using a 1/2 inch bit so a 1/2 collar on my small router will run in it.


Then I measure back from my reference lines 152mm. The further apart the reference lines are when you mark them, the more accurate and easier it will be to set this stage up.


Typically my fence won't go back that far but all is not lost, a cheap Axminster straight edge clamp makes a useful temporary fence.


I'm using my Kreg pocket hole jig to join my jig bits together. Strangely I've just left a post yesterday praising this R3 kit.


All set up and ready to go. The piece is clamped in a work vice and the jig held on top with Bessey cramps. It's a real bravery test as if the jig moves it will ruin the piece and I really don't want to start again. I make 3 passes with a straight bit to remove most of the material and then finish with a single pass with the dovetail cutter.


Phew it worked! It did dig in half way along the last cut and the router stalled but I held on as tight as I could and if it has made a chip, it should be right in the middle and you'll never see it.


Glad thats over and this is the result!


Time to glue the final square onto the rest. Only the front one will be fully circular so the next job will be to cut the whole thing into a circle. That'll be another jig and another day. Time for a cup of tea!

It feels like its taken ages to get tho this point and I'm both childishly exited but apprehensive. Again the next operation is a one slip and its all over job but after this it should be plain sailing.


The first thing to do is to cut a rough circle on the band saw out of MDF. This I'll attach to the squares from the back with two screws. This will give me somewhere to drill a hole as a central pivot point.


Next, after I attached the MDF circle I mark with a pencil the final size of the circle and rough cut the whole piece on the band saw. The MDF back prevent me from accidentally marking the back of the piece throughout these processes.


Now the fun bit. I G clamp a piece of MDF to the table of my vertical belt sander and check that its square. Then with a screw already half in the central hole I gently push the piece against the belt until it meets the pencil circle line and quickly drive the pivot screw into the base with a cordless drill/ driver. Its not the best practice to do this while its all running but I have found on previous projects that if you don't, its virtually impossible not to leave a slight flat spot when the machine powers down and then powers back up again in the same place. I would advise anyone NOT to do this with a disc sander especially if the piece is quite large like this. If its too large it will meet the central part of the disc which will be spinning left. This can grab and spin the piece taking your hand with it. With the belt sander, the movement is always down so its safer. I rotate the piece several times and voila, a perfect circle!


Next my workmate comes to the rescue again holding the face without the need for drilling into it. I've taken the T11 from the router table for this operation as it has a bigger foot print and is easier to control. Also I only have the radius I want in a 1/2 inch bit.


One finished clock face.

Now for the upper and lower sides so its back to the saw.

I've cut the longer bottom sides individually but left the short top sides as one piece for now. This will make it easier and safer when routing the dovetails on the ends and I'll split this piece after that operation.

Now I have ran into a little problem. The dovetail cutter I used to cut the slots was a 1/4 inch bit and I don't have a corresponding cutter with a 1/2 inch shank to use in the router table. I had presumed that the Trend T11 would have come as standard with 1/2 and 1/4 inch collets but that doesn't appear to be the case so I've had to order one. With the current postal strike I guess this will take several days. While I'm waiting for the part about the only thing I can do is to route the top and bottom mouldings.


I do have suitable off cuts from the 18mm stock that I ran through the thicknesser at the beginning. This piece is approxinatley 18mm square. I use an engineers square to gauge the most square faces and mark them with an X.


These marked sides will alternate when going through the thicknesser, always an X side down on the table until the calipers read 10mm square.

Its obviously important that the stock is held in and down against the router fence and table top and I don't have long enough feather boards to do this so it's off to the band saw to make a pair up.


These are sections of old Meranti skirting boards from my conservatory build. They still have paint on one side but they'll work just fine.


The picture above shows the router table set up for the cut. I had cut some extra stock to use as test pieces and originally had both feather boards directly over the cutter. However the combination of inward and downward force at the same point meant that as the stock was run through it was either pushed back into the extraction gap in the fence or down into the aperture around the cutter. Either way it kept jamming and on attempt 3 the (cheap) cutter sheared off. Fortunately the fact that the bit was completely enclosed by the feather boards meant the top of the bit didn't come shooting out. After contemplating it for a while I decided that this was the reason for the shear in the first place. I found that by staggering the feather boards, there wasn't sufficient pressure to force the stock into a jamming situation but enough to hold the stock in the correct position. All I had to do was push the stock with a push stick infeed side while holding another push stick on the stock on the outfeed side as it exited the cutter. I suppose I could have used a third feather board but I was already running out of space to actually push the stock through.


The finished moulding. That took less time than expected so I'm left twiddling my thumbs for now. I always look at a plan as more of a guide than a rigid rule because if you're a millimetre out at any stage then this has a knock on effect for each subsequent process. Hence I'm reluctant to cut more of the bits from the plan. I really need to wait until I have the sides machined and dry fitted. Then I can take exact measurements from the actual piece and adjust accordingly. I need to be careful if I'm to finish the clock from the stock I have left.

Nightmare! I've done no work on the clock for two days awaiting the 1/4 inch collet. So I decided to pre-empt it's arrival by sorting out a way to safely cut the dovetails on the ends of the sides. It suddenly dawned on me that my tennoning jig would be perfect for this. Unfortunately the mitre track on the router table was just too far away from the cutter so I would have to make a sub base for the jig. I already had a failed perspex jig with a dado milled into it for the mitre track bar from a previous project. All I would have to do is to drill it and attach it to the tennoning jig. While rifling throught my drill bits I came across a collet from an old Hitachi router I owned years ago. A 1/4 inch collet in a holder for a 1/2 inch router. To my annoyance it fits the T11 so I've wasted a day or two and I've ordered a new one. I'll try and cancel it but to keep up relations with my local dealer, I may have to buy it and put it straight on Ebay. Anyway, the sub-base goes well and here's the set up.

This is superb. I love this jig despite the fact that I've read many a comment from people who seem to think that it's useless or unnecessary. This gives me a safe way to machine this stock with hands well away from the cutter and I have macro adjustment. Some may notice the replacement of the naff plastic handle on the tennoning jig with a more substantial and heavier metal one. Now you just give it a flick and it spins to loosen or tighten, then just a little nip up before the cut.

Six passes later I have this.

The two holes you can see on the back of the circular face are off the MDF back I temporarily fitted to enable me to sand the piece round. I carefully measured these holes so they are 8 inches apart and perfectly horizontal. These will disappear when I use a keyhole/hanging router bit cutter later on as a way to attach the clock to a wall.

The same process above is used to make the top sides as one piece.

Now I have to spilt them but this is a little challenging than it first appears. The mitre fence on the sliding table of my saw won't reach and the piece is too short to cut safely on the mitre saw. I need another jig!


I start with a piece of scrap timber and with a set square, brad a piece of ply at 90 degrees. Four screws later and I've attached a toggle clamp. I'll use the jig to cut the pieces on the mitre saw. The set up looks like this.

Now I need a rebate in the sides to receive the sub top and bottoms. Again another quick jig built in the same way as the last but this time for the router table.

Nothing on this build is as easy as I thought it would be. I've realised that I've made an omission on the plan. The sub top and bottom pieces need to over hang the sides by 13mm which will be the thickness of the door. Typically I've already cut these pieces to length and their size again makes them difficult to machine safely. These are the pieces in question....

with a close up of the material to be removed.

Again the tennoning jig comes to the rescue this time on the table saw. This way of cutting it is slow but accurate.

Now both of these pieces need a rebate at the front to account for the difference in the thickness of this stock which is 18mm and the decorative moulding I will be adding to them which is 10mm square. This is a simple process on the router table and results in this.

I've planed a board down to 5mm for the back. The colour of this board was a little off so it's good for this purpose. A quick run over a small bit in the router table gives me a groove. Flip the piece and run it again and this centralises the groove. I used one of the feather boards I made earlier to keep the thin stock against the fence. The same process is used to give a tongue on the opposite edge.

A dry fit of the pieces of the clock allow me to measure the aperture at the rear plus 10mm top, bottom and sides to account for a rebate.

Now I can cut the back boards to length and cut off the unused tongue and groove from the sides.

Time to route out the rebate at the rear so I've cramped it all together as shown...

and use a rebate bit in my small router. The router mat between the cramps stops the face from being marked.


The rebate bit obviously leaves rounded corners so the question was whether to round the corners of the back panel or square up the rebated corners with a sharp chisel. Personally I think the rounded corners would have looked good but you will never see it and that would have required another jig to make sure I didn't ruin the back piece. So far I've already had to make 10 jigs for this project with more needed for the door. So the chisel won.

With the piece dismantled, I sand all the bits with 80 and 120 grit paper with my random orbit sander and finally 180 grit by hand with the grain.

My camera skills as you may have noticed are pretty poor and a rubbish camera doesn't help. I've taken 5 pictures of the carcass at this stage and they're all blurred so I'll take another picture tommorrow. Currently it's all glued up and drying so I'll leave it at that for today.

Time to make the door and straight away I'm in trouble. All the stock I have left is too short to run through the thicknesser so yes you've guessed it I need another jig.

I start with a piece a perspex for the base mainly because I can't fix the pieces onto the base with brads or screws or I'll ruin my planer blades. I'll have to double sided tape them on and the shiny flat surface of the perspex will give me maximum stick.

Here's all the pieces in place. I've ripped two thin strips on the band saw and stuck them down each side. These will make first contact with the infeed roller so the whole jig will be pulled through.

The moment of truth so better stand back fot this one.

I needn't have worried. The tape had more than enough hold. In fact I had to prise the pieces off with a chisel. I'll be less aprehensive next time.

All this stock is now 13mm so I rip them down to 1mm off final dimensions, joint the edge and it's off to the router table for a groove down each side...

and then a tongue on the cross pieces. Fortunatley the quick sled I made before works well for this as well so I don't have to make another jig.

The same jig again for the central panel. I don't have a panel raising bit small enough so I've sort of mini raised it with a V groove bit.


Glue, cramps, done for today.

With the door out of the clamps and rough sanded with 60 grit to make sure it's all flat I now need a jig to cut the curve at the top of the door to fit around the circular face.

I start with a piece of 12mm MDF, place the carcass on it and draw right round with a pencil.

This is the MDF back from when I sanded the face round and hence it's exactly the same shape. All I need to do is to make a top and bottom flat 170mm or so across so the door will butt right up against it. When it's screwed to the jig it will gave me a pivot point in exactly the right place.

Now I need to route a recess for the raised panel so the whole door will sit flat.

Next I position the door on my pencil marks and brad gun some scrap around the sides to keep it in situ. Then screw on some toggle clamps and this is the final set up.

Now it's just a case of rotating the router through several passes, lowering the bit each time until it breaks through the bottom.

That's the result.


The top panel I will do exactly the same way and would have cut at the same time but I wasn't happy with the way it glued up so I've made it again and it's still drying so I'll cut it tommorrow.
Dom - excellent write up, many do you rate the Jet circular saw? F&C gave it an excellent write up recently and it's the one I'm leaning towards in a couple of years - Rob
Generally speaking the saw is great. I did look at the SIP Axminster and fox clones but you really do get what you pay for. The Jet is all together a better engineered machine but the others win out on capacity. The sliding table is the saws best feature. Jet do a non sliding table version but you'd be mad to get one without it. It's very compact but very heavy. The table top is precession ground unlike the clones mentioned before. Totally flat in all directions. The rise/fall/tilt is silky smooth with the only drawback being in the way the rise and fall mechanism is designed. It uses a toothed rubber (or some sort of polyproplelne) belt which if snaps disconnects the handle from the blade carriage in side the machine. Its a stupid design in that respect but on the upside theres no play like you get with worm gear. This is the older model with legs which went through several design modification from country to country and over time. Mine is one of the last which has better extraction. The origional one was just a box with a 4 inch pipe on the rear panel at the bottom. This was replaced with a hopper and the extraction port moved to the bottom underside. The 2.5 ich hose for the crown guard is a little OTT mainly because it's heavy but I guess that's why is does a significantly better job than the clones. The fence is good and ridgid despite only being held at the front but the EU aluminium sub fence is annoying. When you slacken it, it drops down and rubs on the table ruining the smoothness of the fence. I intend to add another bristol handle on the fence to eliminate this. It's much louder than my previous Kity 419 but then it does have a bigger more powerful motor. The Scale is superb and the height/tilt locks are brilliant being in the centre of the handles. The blade it comes with is a bit naff and I'm ashamed to say that I'm still using it. All in all I very happy with is especially as I got it as an end of line for £500 plus £82 delivery which is under the price of the others. :D
Excellent write up and WIP photos - I find that small-sized projects are a lot more challenging than large ones because everything has to be far more accurate.

Clock is looking fantastic already and I'm sure it'll look even better as you add the finishing touches. Nice work p111dom
Brilliant =D> Did you design it yourself? Such a lot of work for something so small, well not that small, but you know what I mean. Have you got a face and movement yet? :lol:
Very well documented, if only every woodwork project was documented like this.

What about writing a series of project books :D you never know, it could be the making of you.
Lord Nibbo":17iqwnup said:
Brilliant =D> Did you design it yourself? Such a lot of work for something so small, well not that small, but you know what I mean. Have you got a face and movement yet? :lol:

Thanks everyone. Yes I designed it out of my head although I don't think it's particulally original. This is a present for my Dad for Christmas. He's supposed to have been making a brass clock for 2 years now but never got past the first third of his project. He loves to take the mick saying that I don't make anything/enough so this was originally a cheeky dig. That being the case, yes I have bought the movement and designed the clock around it but it's just a very cheap one. Looks nice but had I known that it would take around 50-60 hours to make I wish I'd bought a propper one. This was supposed to be a tester for a future project which was a Grandmother clock. I was doing research into that when I found

Thought it looked pretty good and especially liked the round face hence the round one on mine. I tried to make this wall clock (especially the face) the same way. More of a practice really. Regardless the next project is a chest of drawers followed by childrens book shelves so the big clock will be next year at the earliest.
Cracking write up Dom, and cracking clock. I cant wait for the next installment. :)
Another waste of a day really. I just didn't have enough wood for the top and bottom pieces so drove to my supplier (1 hour round trip) only to find them shut. Not wanting to wait all weekend I've glued up some off cuts and see how that looks. Initially it looks ok but I'm out tonight so will see tommorrow.

If it's good enough it should be finished tommorrow barring the finish.
I've chiselled out the recesses and fitted the door and hinges.

and fitted most of the moulding.

The process is mark with a knife...

and rough cut to within 2mm of the knife mark with this little aluminium mitre block. Then I sand and check, sand and check till the fit is good.

The mitre fence on the disc sander means it's easy to make slight angle adjustments if required.

I forgot to mention it in the previous post but before I assembled the top sides I cut 2 pocket holes in them. Thats how I've attached the front top panel. I just need to buy a magnetic closer for the door and then finish it.

Speaking of which what does everyone suggest?

I was going to do 2 coats of sanding sealer with a clear wax finish on top but after seeing Lord Nibbo's build I am contemplating a few coats of danish oil in between.
Looking great!

p111dom":1ekegdgo said:
I just need to buy a magnetic closer for the door and then finish it.

Speaking of which what does everyone suggest?

I think by far the neatest method for a magnetic catch, is to drill 2 holes, one in the frame and one in the door about 1cm deep. place rare earth magnets in the bottom of the holes and the glue a plug over the top in the same wood you are working in. Make sure you orientate the magnets correctly other you will have a door that never closes because it repels the frame. This way you have no ugly mechanical fasteners on show.
Dom - if you apply a coat of Danish Oil onto the oak it will make it give it a yellow tinge. To keep to the more natural colour of the oak possibly a shellac or matt acrylic finish would be acceptable with a good wax over the top applied with a Webrax pad (not wire wool :wink:) - Rob
Started this morning at 9am. The glue up for the top and bottom is fine so a quick trim to get one side square and I placed the clock (now with completed mouldings) on the stock and drew around it. A quick cut on the mitre saw and clamped up.

And the other side too.

All thats left is to make a piece to fill the back at the top so again a quick cut to length on the mitre saw. A rip on the table saw and quickly route a rebate on all four sides.

Sand, sand and sand again and finally I can show you some pics with the movement fitted.




I just need to fit the magnetic door latch and decide on a finish so I'm off up to Perth today to Burhouse to ask their opinion. I'll also try and pick up the latch there and buy a keyhole router bit plus the finishing materials. If they have evrything the clock should be totally finished tommorrow.
Lord Nibbo":2w6bkcgg said:
Wow I love that movement, where did you get it from?

Axminster actually I think it was £17-18 pounds. Just a quartz movement but it looks pretty special and most people would guess it cost a lot more. Well I'm back from Perth with the finishing stuff. Looked at lots of samples and have decided on a single produce finish. It's unusual and I've never heard or used it before so hopefully the result will be just as the samples. The produce takes 10 hours to dry so I'll have the last of the woodworking and sanding done this afternoon and the first coat tonight. I'll post a progress report tommorrow.
well done mate, that clock is really smart! I love the design, and the craftmanship and speed of progress are top notch!