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Fretwork Shelf Clock

After completing the round fretwork clock as a scroll sawing project, I decided to make this clock from the book Wooden Clocks.

 The book said this clock design was copied from a pattern in an 1895 catalog by Bowman and Russell. At the turn of the century, scroll sawing became very popular with many women making scroll saw items at home and selling them (analogous to buying a sewing machine and selling sewing goods made at home). Both Bowman and Russell companies sold patterns and supplies.

Here is how the finished clock looks in the book:

I decided to make 2 clocks.

Making Wood Blanks from 3/4" Thick Stock 

The first step was to get the wood blanks ready. I chose to make the 3 darker pieces from red oak and the main clock from maple. The clock plan calls for mostly 3/16" thick wood. The plan calls for 1/8" wood on the main clock front and back.

I used the table saw to split standard 3/4" thick oak down into 1/4" thickness. I sawed it half-way through then ran it back through the saw to finish the cut. I then took these boards to the Sears 12" planer and planed them down to 3/16" thick. My old planer did not want to seem to adjust down to any thinner than 3/16". To minimize planer snipe, I fed each board directly after the earlier board.

I had 2 oak boards about 24 inches long and many shorter maple boards. I reached the point in planing  where I almost was down to the finished 3/16" thickness. The oak board was going through the planer and I was feeding a short maple piece behind it. The planer suddenly ripped out a chuck of the oak board. This pushed the oak piece back against my maple piece and my hand. This kickback noise and shock to my hand surprised me.  Fortunately, the oak piece was larger size than needed so I had enough good stock left without the blown out chunk. 

The front face and back face almost require 12x12 inch blanks. I would have to glue together some of my 3 inch wide maple boards to make a 12 inch width. I decided to purchase the 12x12 blanks versus gluing them up myself. The purchased blanks should have the same color versus the different colors of glued up blanks.

Purchased Maple Blanks 

I bought the maple blanks from  Ocooch Hardwoods:

The 2 pieces I received were beautiful with regards to grain pattern. They were slightly cupped, but I expected this with any 12 inch wide boards. 


Planing the Purchased Maple Blanks

I could not order 3/16" thickness from their web site, the thinnest maple they had was 1/4" thickness. I had to think a while whether it was worth it or not to try planing these 12" wide boards down to 3/16". I was worried the planer might knock out a chuck like the oak piece described above. I finally decided it was worth trying to plane it down because the clock faces might look to thick at 1/4" compared to the rest of the 3/16" thick pieces.

Sure enough, the planer ripped out a small chunk on one of my 2 purchased blanks.


 Fortunately, I had enough extra material so the missing chunk did not bother me with regards to enough material for the clock.

Clock Movement

 I selected a movement from Klock-It. The closest movement in size to the one specified in the plan was with a 3 inch hole OD. It was Klock-It #15546: 3 12" Gold Insert  (1)  $8.99.

Stain Color Selection for 3 Decorative Pieces

The pattern showed the 3 decorative pieces stained darker than the rest of the clock. I experimented with my old stain colors on a scrap piece of oak, and selected Spanish Oak.


Top Decorative Pieces

I scroll sawed the top decorative pieces first in oak. I used a number 3 blade in the scroll saw.

 Clock Decorative Ring

I next made the 2 clock decorative rings. Before I scroll sawed them, I checked the design against the actual clock movement I was going to use. I decided to increase the diameter of the lower scroll saw cutouts by about 1/8" so you can see a wood ring around the clock movement. My actual clock movement is slightly bigger than called for in the plan.


 You can see the solid wood ring just outside the gold of the clock movement.

 Assembly of the Box Frame

In the book plan, the author says to use CA glue which only takes a couple minutes to set. I think CA glue is SuperGlue. I bought a tube of SuperGlue at Ace Hardware and tried gluing 2 pieces of pine together. I got no bonding at all even after clamping them together a couple minutes.  Yellow carpenter's glue has always worked fine for me (Titebond II), so I used my tried and true Titebond on this project also.

To assemble the box frame, I first glued and clamped the face 90 degrees from the horizontal bottom frame piece.


 I used a scrap piece of pine as my 90 degree alignment piece. I wrapped the pine in plastic so it would not become glued to the 2 clock pieces.

I then used 3 rubber bands to clamp the two vertical sides of the box to the frame:


 Then I assembled the angled roof pieces to the box. Again, rubber bands were the best option for this gluing and clamping operation.


Since the front and back piece can be scroll sawed at the same time, I put two of the maple blanks together with blue masking tape. I then glued the pattern to the blue masking tape with plain white Elmer's glue.


Since I am making 2 clocks, I could have put 4 boards together.....and scroll sawed them all the same time. I decided against this.  If I made a mistake, I would ruin the wood for both I have never scroll sawed a 3/4" high stack of wood........with intricate cuts. 

Here are the pieces of the first clock just dry assembled:


Gluing Decorative Ring

I elected to finish each piece separately (4 cycles of 220 grit sanding and coat of polyurethane). I did not varnish the back of the decorative ring that goes around the clock glue would adhere better. I did varnish the face piece the decorative ring attaches to. I glued the 2 pieces together with yellow Titebond II....but the joint failed.

I sanded all of the back of the decorative ring. I then marked out a crude circle on the face and carefully sanded it using an oscillating sander with a triangle shaped sanding disc:

I then clamped it up using Titebond II. I used spacer blocks on the clamps so I would not mark the face of the decorative ring with the round clamp marks:

 Assembly of Clock #1

I elected to use brass brads to assemble the clock and no glue. I thought the glue was not necessary since brads were being used. These are the brass brads I selected at Ace Hardware:


Note that these brass brads are 1.6 mm diameter by 19 mm long. A diameter of 1.6 mm is close to 1/16".

The box frame pieces are only 3/16" wide. If the brad is placed exactly in the center of each frame piece, it only leaves 1/16" wall thickness in the board on each side!

Although the book pattern includes where to put the brass brads, I purposely elected not to drill them where the pattern showed them. I have been burned too many times by errors in patterns.

There is no way to positively locate the front face, back face, and top decorative piece with respect to the box frame. I decided to use a paper gauge to try to locate where to drill the starter holes for the brads. I did ok on placement of the brad holes except in 2 places. I ended up splitting the wood under the roof piece of the frame box:



 Hopefully nobody will notice the split except for me!

On clock #2, I will try a new method of nailing the box together. I will first drill the 1/16" holes in the box, then I will cut the head off the brad and insert it into the hole with the pointed end up. I will locate the faces by eye, then push down on the face which will cause the brad point to mark the spot(s) to drill.

 Assembly of top Decorative Piece

 I used the belt sander to chamfer the 2 bottom edges of the top decorative piece to math the roof peak angle.


I then glued the top piece to the box frame and used rubber bands for clamping force.



I always sign and date all of my woodworking projects. I elected to type a label, glue it to the back of the clock, then varnish over the label. I also included instructions for pushing out the movement to change batteries since I can't get my hand into the small hole in back.


 Finished Clock #1

Below are photos of finished clock #1. I always include a coffee mug to show the scale size of the item being photographed:



 Finishing Clock #2

To avoid the problem I had on clock #1 of the brass brads not staying in the center of the 3/16" thick frame of the clock, I decided to try a different approach.

1. Drill 3/16" holes in clock frame piece first

2. Cut off heads of brads

3. Insert brads into frame piece with pointed ends up


4. Place front or back piece onto frame with pointed brads, push down on face, and mark where holes need to be drilled on face


5. Drill holes in face

6. Nail face onto frame

 Attaching rear face using new assembly method

The new method worked fine for the rear face. The only challenge is getting the rear face in the right position. Because there are no physical locators, you must position the rear face by eye. I was able to nail all brass brads with zero breaking out of the 3/16" frame.

 Attaching front face using new assembly method

The new method did not work fine for the rear face. 

The front face needs to be positioned so all 4 feet of the clock sit evenly on the table, or else the clock will wobble. I got my wife to hold the front frame on while the clock was setting on a flat surface. While she held it, I clamped the top of the front face to the frame in 2 places. We then pulled up the bottom of the front face so I could insert 2 brads with heads cut-off into the bottom of the frame. I had to cut these 2 brads shorter than the rest because the face would not flex enough for the regular brad length after cutting off the head. This marked where the 2 holes on the bottom needed to be drilled. I then replaced the 2 short brads with normal length cut-off brads. Using the 2 bottom  holes for locators, I pushed down and marked the rest of the holes.

I drilled all the holes in the front face. Then I manually positioned the dark upper trim piece onto the top face and clamped it.

 I then drilled the holes in the trip piece using a portable drill. I pushed the brad nails through both the trim piece and front face so they were ready to install.

Unfortunately, at 3 places, the brads broke out of the 3/16" wall thickness. One broke out in top, side, and bottom. My theory is that I should have drilled the holes to full depth for the brads. I did not drill them very deep and apparently the brads went off the center of the drilled holes when I nailed them.

I also broke off a small piece of the top decorative trim piece. I don't know how I did it.  It was ok in the photo above when I clamped it to the front face. I will need to repair this break.

I first took a file and made a flat section at the break. I needed this flat section so the new piece would mate correctly.

I used a scrap wood block to trace the broken section of the top decorative piece. I then used the original pattern with it to identify the small piece I had to cut from a left over oak piece.  I glued the the replacement piece into place. 


 Both Completed Fretwork Clocks


 Closing Thoughts:

I am still not sure about the cost and quality trade-off of spending $20 per clock for the 12 wide purchased blanks versus the cost and time of making my own multi-piece blanks. My multi-piece blanks would show at least 2 glue joints and the difference in grain patters of 3 pieces glued together to make the front face.

Gluing up 3 pieces to form the back face is probably ok since only the outside edges of the rear face show in a front view of the clock. 

It is extremely difficult to final assemble these clocks in terms of locating the faces and brads breaking out of the wood. Maybe drilling the 3/16" holes to full depth as the last step will solve the break-out problem. 

My son commented that this clock design would also look just fine if it was all made of oak. That is true. 



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