The Dale Maley Family Web Site


Glass Clock Design with Vertical Columns

I like using Kokomo glass in woodworking projects.  Every piece is unique, and the color combinations can be beautiful.

I searched the Internet, and there are very few designs available which combine glass and wood into clock designs.  I came up with my own design a few months ago, and made several different glass color variations in a red oak frame:




Ink Pens

 In 2014, I also learned how to make ink pens by turning wood or plastic blanks on the lathe for the main pen body.

One of the most amazing things I found was the Penn Industries make a type of pen blank where the wood is injected to stabilize it.  I saw a picture in their catalog for their Great Gatsby pen, which had a finished and sanded stabilized green box elder wood blank.  I ordered the Gatsby pen kit and the stabilized blank.

When I got the kit and the stabilized green blank, I thought that something must be wrong.  The green blank was the ugliest looking piece of material I had ever seen.

I went ahead and started turning the stabilized blank on the wood lathe, and was totally amazed with the results as you can see in this picture:

This is one of the most unique wood finished I have ever seen!  Like the Kokomo glass, each blank is its own unique color pattern.


I then had the idea, is there any way to combine the unique color patters of Kokomo glass and the stabilized Penn Industries wood pen blanks into a clock design?

The pen blanks come in 3/4 x 3/4 x 5 inch long pieces.  To get the beautiful finish, it probably needs to be turned round on the lathe, versus trying to sand rectangular pieces of the material.  The biggest diameter you can reasonably make on the lathe is about 1/2" with a 3/4" blank.

Penn Industries offer several different colors of stabilized pen blanks, including red, blue, green, and yellow:

So, the pen blanks could become 1/2" round columns on a clock design.

I searched the internet and found a clock design that could be modified to fit my idea of combining Kokomo glass and Penn Industries stabilized pen blanks:


I then went to Google Sketchup and came up with a design that uses both Kokomo glass and Penn Industries stabilized pen blanks:

In this design, the wood frame can be finish sanded, stained and varnished, before the pen blank columns and glass are installed.  The last step will be installing the front and top pieces, which will be screwed on.

I made an animated gif to show this assembly process.  I left out the fact that I would flip the main case upside down to drop in the 4 columns and screw on the bottom piece:

I selected a small 4.5 inch diameter clock dial, so the Kokomo glass would be highlighted, or not hidden by the clock dial.

Since I want to maximize the amount of stock left between the brass tube and the OD of the wood blank, I will use 6mm brass tubes on the columns. This is the smallest diameter tube blank that Penn Industries make, and also fit on their standard mandrel for the lathe.

Since the bottom of the back wall shows, it will be red oak and fixed in place.  I designed a vertical sliding door to give access for changing the time or changing batteries on the clock movement.

I designed the top and bottom base pieces to be 5.5" wide, which is the standard width that I buy red oak in from Menard's.

 Making the Front Frame Pieces

Because these pieces are small, I used a special jig I bought a while back to hold the short pieces while I route them on the router table:


I used a special miter guide to make sure I sawed the top horizontals the same length:

Here is the front frame glued up and clamped.  I used the special Nexbond fast glue on this project:

The 2 short spacer boards help keep the 1/4" gap where the glass will slide down into the clock eventually.

Top and Bottom Cap Pieces

The top and bottom caps require an angle cut on the table saw.  My standard throat plate would not work because the finished 1/4" thick edge would slip down between the plate and the blade.

I tried using hot melt glue to temporarily hold the board while sawing:

Although this method worked ok on my pine sample boards, it did not work on the project red oak boards.  When I went to scrape off the hot melt glue with a chisel, it pulled oak grain pieces from the wood.  It was also very labor intensive.

I then tried clamping the board to be sawed on 2 of my big black plastic right angle guides:

This did not work well either.  The arrangement would not slide easily, and one of the black angles slipped on a test cut.

So I made a special wood jig, which is just a square block, wide enough and tall enough to be stable.  It worked very well:

Here are finished pieces:

I had saw burn on one cross-grain edge, which I sanded out with 80 grit sandpaper.

Sanding and Staining

I decided to glue up the front face assembly, but not the rest of the pieces.  This allows me to hand rub stain the difficult to reach places in side the clock, before I glue up the main clock assembly.

I decided to use Cherry stain on this project:

I sanded the pieces on my work bench, with an old towel  underneath. The towel keeps white paint from the work bench from getting on the bottom side of the piece being sanded, and helps keep the piece from slipping while orbital sanding:

I checked the rough fit of the assembly before I started finish sanding:

Here are the parts of 1 clock (I built 2 clocks) after sanding with 220 grit:

And here are the parts for 1 clock stained and drying:


Behlen's Wood Grain Filler

I decided to fill the red oak grain on the clock front face frame and the top and bottom caps. I did not do the sides and the back, because they do not show  to the observer like the sides and caps do.

I stirred up the can of Behlen's grain filler, because it settles out in only a day or two.


After the stain dried, I rubbed the grain filler into the pieces using my fingers. I let it dry 10 minutes, then removed the excess with burlap. The next day, I sanded the pieces with 220 grit to remove the last of the grain filler.  I then re-stained the pieces again. Then I did the final assembly work.

I am using Nexabond glue on this project as you can see the bottle in the picture above.

Once the main frame was glued, clamped, and dried.  The last assembly step was to screw the bottom and top caps to the main frame.

The bottom cap is assembled by screwing (4) of the #8 by 1-1/4" brass screws from Ace Hardware.

I first located the bottom cap in the proper location, and temporarily marked the location using blue masking tape.  This allowed me to flip the assembly upside down so I could drill the 4 holes into the main frame at the right location:








To mark the drill hole locations for the bottom cap, I used an awl and hammer to get inside the main clock box:


I put temporary small finishing nails in the pieces to support them during the varnishing phase.  I hung the back door by wire from the ceiling. Here are the pieces after the 1st coat of varnish:

I was able to get my brush inside of the clock case to apply the varnish.  The inside only gets 1 coat of varnish.

On the exterior clock pieces, I went thru my usual 3 rounds of 220 grit sandpaper and a coat of varnish.

Turning the Pen Blanks

Here is what the green pen blanks looks like initially...........

The process used to turn these square blanks into round was:

1. Drill 7mm hole through the blank.  I chose to drill half-way thru one end, then
    drill from the other end.  I had to run the bit through the whole blank for the
brass tube to fit.

2. Super glue the brass tube in the 7mm hole.

3. square the ends on the drill press using a special carbide tool that fits inside
    the 7mm brass tube.

4. Turn on lathe to 1/2 diameter. The blank with its 7mm brass tube slides over
    a special pen turning mandrel on my 1939 Montgomery Wards lathe.

5. Sand with 150, 320, and 600 grit sandpaper

6. Super smooth with abrasive gel, then apply wax, all done on the lathe.

I had a surprise on 1 of the 4 green blanks.  An edge fell off when I was squaring up the end in the drill press.  I was able to super-glue it back in place:

Here is the super-glue I used..........

I wore nylon gloves while using the super-glue.  It seems that no matter how careful I am, I end up with super glue on my fingers.  It takes a lot of soaking in nail polish to get it off.  It is easier to just wear nylon gloves.

I had to order special extra long, 10 inch, 7mm brass tubes for this project from Penn Industries:

Drilling the 7mm hole in the green blanks on the drill press:


Here is the green blank finished on the lathe:



Here is the special abrasive paste and wax I use on pens, that I used on this project also.  You are supposed to get the same finish as using 2,000 grit sandpaper using this special abrasive!!!

And here is the first finished green column installed in the clock:

Cutting the Glass

I used a piece of Number 12 glass for this project. It is a mixture of green, white, and blue:

 Drilling the 3/8" Diameter Hole in the Glass for the Clock Movement

 I used a 3/8" Dewalt diamond bit to drill the hole:

 To drill the hole in the glass, I fill the kitchen sink with a couple inches of water. I then place a 12" long piece of pine 1x12 in the sink. I lay the glass on top of the pine. I push the glass and the floating pine down until it rests on the sink with one hand.

With the other hand, with minimal downwards pressure, I drill the hole with my cordless drill. It takes a couple of minutes to drill the hole.  Here is the glass and the wood from a previous project to illustrate the method:

And here is the finished drilled hole:

Clock Movement:

I used a small size Klock-it dial for this project. I wanted a smaller dial so it did not cover up all the pretty Kokomo glass.

This is the movement and pendulum I used:

You shorten the pendulum length by breaking off the pendulum brass rod.

Finished Clock:



 Closing Thoughts on 1st Clock

This clock really turned out to be a beautiful clock.  The green Kokomo glass compliments the green in the pen blanks. It should be interesting to try other color combinations (yellow, blue, or red).

Lessons Learned

I drilled the pen blanks from both ends. On the first 4 green blanks, it worked ok on 2 of the blanks.  On the other 2, I had a blow-out section where the hole mis-match left no wood.  I was able to rotate the "bad" side to the back and use it on the clock.

I should probably try drilling clear thru on the yellow blanks and see if that works better. UPDATE: I tried drilling clear thru and it worked ok.  I tipped the blank in the vise so it was exactly parallel to the drill bit.  To drill the last 1/2" of depth, I put the blank in the bench vise, and put the 7mm drill bit in the corded hand drill.  The hole was still well centered when it exited the blank.

On my original design, I had 2 thin pieces glued on top horizontals, to allow the glass to drop down into the clock. There is not much glue surface on the ends, so this is not a robust design.  I updated my Google Sketchup design to make a solid piece on top. The glass drops in at an angle into the bottom groove, then I tip the glass back vertical. I use 2 small oak blocks to retain the glass at the top. This should be a more robust design.

2nd Clock

I decided to use a brown and white Kokomo glass matched with yellow stabilized pen blanks.

Here are the pen blanks I ordered for the 2nd clock. They are currently out of stock on these blanks.........

Here are what the pen blanks looks like before turning:

Here is the Kokomo glass I used........

Here is a pen blank being turned down on my 1939 Montgomery Wards lathe:


Here is the 2nd clock with the yellow glass cut and installed, as well as the 1st pen blank turned column..........

And here is both clocks completed:


And here is the yellow-brown glass clock only:

Closing Thoughts on 2nd Clock

The 2nd clock is very attractive also.  Again the brown-white Kokomo glass number 11 compliments the yellow stabilized Penn State Industries pen blanks.  I think I like the green clock better, but this 2nd one is pretty nice also!



















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