The Dale C. Maley Family Web Site

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Mini Grandfather Clock 2020

I made 2 batches of these clocks and I documented them on my web page............but my photo hoster went out of business and I lost all the photos.   So, I am redoing the posting here in the event others want to build this same neat clock.

1st Batch of Clocks in October of 2015

I saw this neat pattern in the catalog from

I thought this was a neat looking clock, and would make great Christmas gifts for family members.  I ordered the materials from ScrollerOnline, enough to make 2 of these clocks........ The walnut was expensive, but I don't have a lower cost source, so I bought it from ScrollerOnline.


Google Sketchup

I always enter patterns into understand the design..............and to look for errors.  Most plans have at least one error in them, I have found.

As-Received Parts for this Project

Photo below shows all the items needed to build 2 mini grandfather clocks, received from ScrollerOnline.....

Stain color selection

This project needs the sharpest contrast possible between the dark walnut and the light colored scroll work and spindles.  I usually don't use walnut stain, because it finishes the walnut so dark, but I'm going to try it on this project. The other option is to use Spanish Oak, which I may try on the 2nd clock.

1st Clock Pieces Stained with Walnut Stain

Here is all of the pieces for the first clock stained with the dark walnut stain.  I wanted to stain these before I attach the spindles or scroll work.  It would be about impossible to stain the walnut on the assembled clock, because you will get some of the stain on the light colored parts.

Problem with Top Finial

The plans say to drill a 3/8" diameter hole in the top trim piece to accept the top finial. The top trim piece is 1/2" thick, so this would seem to be about right.

The finial that ScrollerOnline sent as part of this project, has a 1/2" diameter dowel on the bottom.  I put the finial into the wood lathe using a 3 jaw chuck, and turned it down from 1/2" to 3/8" diameter.

How to Line up Pieces for Glue-Up

I marked the center of front and RH side of mating pieces, then used Nexabond glue to join them.  I erased the pencil marks after the piece was glued up.

Scroll Sawing

I taped up 2 thicknesses of the maple, so I could saw 2 at a time........for 2 clocks.

I was surprised that I broke the curly cues several times while scroll sawing.  The cross section is so small that they broke. I repaired some pieces, but had to re-saw some others.  This was much more trouble than I anticipated!  I have scroll-sawed many items, and never had breakage problems like this before.

Assembly Check Using Rubber Bands

Everything looking good at this point.

Houston.........We have a problem !

 I assembled and glued up the clock from the bottom up, on a flat piece of particle board. After I got it assembled, I noticed it is not vertical from a front to back perspective .

 For the long skinny middle section, I did not use a stop to make sure I sawed each piece exactly the same length. I also did not use a square when I glued up this section. It appears this section does not have horizontal and parallel bottom and top planes.  Darn!

Repairing 1st Clock

I had to saw with the hand jig saw a little bit, but then using a screwdriver, I was able to break the glue joint between the tall skinny center section and the next base plate up.  Thank goodness I did not glue in the 4 spindles :)

I used my Wagner Saf-t-Planer attachment on the drill press to plane the top of the clock parallel to the base:

The 1st clock is ready for its first coat of polyurethane.

On the 2nd clock, I will build it a little differently and make sure everything is square as I build it!!

2nd Clock

I used a temporary stop on the radial arm saw, and made sure each piece was cut exactly the same length for each box on the clock.

I also used the big plastic square and clamp to make sure I glued up the box at 90 degree angles........

1st Clock Finished

I applied 2 coats of polyurethane using a brush.

2nd Clock Finished

Lessons Learned on this Project

The biggest lesson I learned was the importance of making sure all the sub-elements are square as you assemble and glue up the clock. Use an angle guide as you glue up the 3 boxes that make up this clock. If necessary, use the Wagner saf-t-planer in the drill press to make the tops parallel to the bottoms.

Another lesson learned is how to scroll saw these patterns. I broke two of them which is unusual. I had more success drilling the small hole in the center of the curly-cues.  This leaves less time where these small curly-cues are under bending stress.


January 2018 Update

I made several of these clocks in 2015 as family xmas gifts.

Each time I visited my son's house, I thought how nice his clock in Jan of 2018 I decided to make one for myself to keep.

When I built the first two, on 1 of them, the clock turned out to be crooked when it was fully assembled, and I had to rework it.  See this story above.

I decided to be extra careful in the assembly of the 3 boxes, to avoid the crooked clock syndrome.  I ordered the parts to build 1 clock.  It was $80, most of the cost was the wood.  I have a little walnut in inventory, but not enough to build a complete I decided to buy all the wood needed.  

On the ScrollerOnline web site, they did not list the clock movement as being available for purchase.  I called them, and they had over 20 in stock, but for some reason it was not showing up on their web site.  She took my complete order on the phone.

Starting to Build the Clock

I used stop blocks on the radial arm saw, to make sure the pieces in each box were cut exactly the same length.  I used squares during clamping to make sure the boxes sides were in the right orientation.

I used my trusty yellow Titebond II glue on this project.  I did use the oven to cure the glued parts faster at about 115F.

Top Finial

The finial that ships with the kit has a 1/2" diameter dowel at the bottom..........which won't fit in the top decorative board that is 1/2" I turned the finial down to 3/8" diameter on the lathe.  I put some blue masking tape on the top of the finial, to prevent the steel chuck jaws from marking it. I used my smaller carbide lathe tool to do the turning work.

All Walnut Pieces Completed

Checking the Clock for Straightness

I placed the dry assembled clock on my table saw work surface, since it is very flat. The clock looked ok to the eye, from a leaning perspective.  I tried to use the digital angle finder on top of the clock, to assess how much it was leaning in front-to-back, and side-to-side directions.  I had to push down on the assembly, and I got readings from 0 to 0.35 degrees. I still did not like how the dry assembly rocked a little bit when I pushed down on it.

So, I took the 3 boxes to the electric miter saw, and "fuzz sawed" a little from each end of the 3 boxes.  When I got done, there was no more rocking of the dry assembly.

In retrospect, I could have made all 3 boxes about 1/4" longer in height than the plan, then miter sawed both ends of each box to insure perpendicularity of the assembled clock.

I did have to saw a little off the ends of the 4 spindles so they would fit loosely at assembly.

Stain Color

This is one of the rare projects where you do not apply stain after all the woodworking is done.  On this project, you stain the walnut pieces before you assemble the pieces........because if you waited until the maple parts were glued would get dark stain on the light colored maple parts.  I used the oven at 115F to help dry the stain faster.

I used Spanish Oak stain, since I liked that better when I built the 1st two clocks a couple years ago.

Glue Up and Clamp of Walnut parts

I basically sequentially worked my way up the clock in many clampings. The basic process was:

-position piece to be glued onto its mating lower piece

-by eyeball or measurements, get the piece in its proper place

-mark the correct position with temporary blue masking tape

-apply glue

-use masking tape to know where to place and clamp the part to be glued

-clamp using 1/4" scrap pieces as protectors, so as to not dent the wood with the clamp fingers

-place in oven at 115F for at least 15 minutes for glue to set

-start on glue and clamp-up of next piece.......etc

If I was building a bunch of these clocks, I would design a fixture that would allow all the pieces to fit at one time in the proper location, then 1 clamping would clamp them all..........versus about 6 different clampings like I did.

Scroll Sawing

While I was waiting for the glue to dry in the oven, I worked on scroll sawing out the parts from 1/8" thick maple.

Based upon Lessons Learned from the prior build of these clocks, I drilled my starter hole in the curly-cue, and sawed it first.  I still broke 1 curly-cue.

Discovered Neat time saving trick

I don't know why I did not think of this years ago!  On my steel bar clamps, I usually do not use any protective cover on the clamp jaws.  But on small projects where I am concerned I might mar the wood with the jaws, I keep a box of small 1/4" thick wood pieces, that I use as protective covers.  Many times the wood pieces fall off as you are trying to tighten the clamp........which is time consuming and frustrating.

So, to keep the wood pieces on during clamping, I simply rolled up a short piece of blue masking tape, which essentially makes it 2-sides tape.  They worked excellent on the clamp jaws!!!!!!

Gluing and Clamping the Maple Scroll Sawn Accent Pieces

It is about impossible to remove and glue squeeze-out on these scroll sawn pieces.  Therefore, I put a puddle of my Titebond II glue on a piece of scrap 2x4, then used an artist's brush to apply it.  I only got a small amount of squeeze-out, and I used a toothpick to remove it.

Excellent Plans on this Project

Most paper plans contain dimensional mistakes, and are hard to comprehend.   This paper plan from ScrollerOnline is one of the clearest, and best paper plans I have ever used.......and I have used 100's of them!!!!!

Finished Clock

Closing Thoughts on This Project

If I build another one, I think I would build the 3 boxes about 1/4" longer than plan, then use the electrical miter saw to trim each end until the final dimension is achieved. The 3 boxes did fit in my Makita miter saw ok.

I would also build a fixture to properly hold the parts for final glue up of the walnut pieces.  There is no easy way to use a square as you assemble to make sure each element is oriented correctly.

In Dec of 2020, looking at this clock, the long center spindles probably show too much of the 1/4" end lengths, both top and bottom. Probably nobody but me notices it, but on future clocks I might want to shorter the height of the middle column and even shrink the maple scroll saw piece height a smidgeon, to get a perfect fit on the 4 long spindes.