Our youngest daughter married last year and moved halfway across the province. As a father and a woodworker, I wanted to build the newlyweds a special gift that would remind them of us.
I asked my daughter what she would like to have and her answer was a clock – a simple clock that she could use on a daily basis. With that in mind I set out to build Mike and Jessica a simple, yet stylish floor clock.
The clock is made from zebrawood, ebonized red oak, and obeche, with wenge plugs for the primary numbers on the clock face. Don’t be afraid to substitute other woods that are available in your area, as this clock design lends itself to many different wood combinations. It is best to purchase the clock movement before you begin construction.
Cut the notch on the bottom edge of the upright with a crosscut sled on a table saw, and clean up the kerf marks with a chisel. The upright is rather large and heavy, so to provide extra support to keep it from tipping, join two shop-made mitre gauges together using a tall, wide piece of scrap plywood. If you lack a second mitre gauge screw the plywood to a crosscut sled fence. A dozen or so passes across the saw blade will remove the waste. Then cut the tapered sides with a circular saw and a straight edge and clean the cuts on the jointer or with a hand plane.
Next cut the matching notch on the foot (B) using the table saw and a single mitre gauge. Sand everything to 180 grit, and then glue the upright to the foot and secure it in a countersunk pre-drilled hole with one #8 – 3″ wood screw driven through the underside of the base in the notch joint. On a tight joint the single screw acts as a clamp until the glue cures. Don’t remove the reference lines from the base yet, as they will come in handy when assembling the clock.
Upright laminated from three pieces
Mitre gauges and ply hold upright ridgid
Upright and foot
Clock face with layout lines
Face attached to clock body
Plug holes drilled
Plugs milled with tenon cutter
Lower and upper support blocks
Positioning lower support
The Base Provides Stability
The base of the clock consists of two components: an upright (A), which is in the form of an isosceles triangle, and a foot (B). Both pieces are milled to a final thickness of 1 ¾”. If you don’t have access to 8/4 stock you can laminate thinner pieces.
Biscuits or dowels can be helpful when gluing up the three pieces for the upright (A). Once the glue has set, sand the blank smooth and then lay out the cut lines. Also draw a reference line that runs from the center of the notch perpendicular to the top of the upright. This line will aid in locating the top round support. Cut the angled sides of the upright with a circular saw and a straight edge, and then clean up the cuts on the jointer or with a hand plane.
Contrasting Woods Add Visual Appeal
The clock body (C) consists of a scalene triangle (one with three unequal sides), while the face (D) is a round disc. The use of contrasting woods for the body and face adds visual appeal. Mill the stock for both pieces to exactly ¾”. This is important if you want to get a seamless, even joint when the pieces are joined together. To facilitate this, thickness plane both materials at the same time and check their dimensions with a pair of dial calipers. After gluing up the pieces for the clock body (C), lay out the cut lines, and then cut the body on the bandsaw staying just outside the layout lines. This leaves enough material to run the body over the jointer for a crisp edge that will accept the clock face.
On the clock face (D) locate the center point, and use a compass to draw a 13″ diameter circle. Be careful to align the wood grain on the clock face so it is running north to south as this will result in the grain on the clock body and the grain of the clock face running in the same direction. Mark a 25º cut line on the outside edge of the circle, and using a bandsaw, cut the angled waste piece off the face, and then clean the edge on a jointer. Back at the bandsaw, cut out the clock face, and smooth the band-sawn edge by hand, using a sanding block or on an oscillating spindle or disc sander.
To locate the clock face on the body, place a framing square 8 ¾” from the top of the body and draw a horizontal line across the body. Match this line with the center point on the clock face. To prevent the two pieces from shifting out of position during glue-up, drill a ¼” dowel into the edges of both pieces before gluing and clamping them together.
Plugs Mark the Primary Hours
Once the glued-up clock face and body assembly has cured, sand the pencil marks off the face and body. Using a compass, draw an 11″ diameter circle on the clock face and on the clock body, registering from the center point of the clock face that you made earlier. Bring a framing square along the back edge of the clock body and line it up with the centre point of the clock face. Strike a line across the entire piece, intersecting the circle on the clock face. You now have the locations where the plugs identifying the 9 and 3-hour numbers will be drilled. With the square still on the horizontal line, position a try square on the center point of the clock face, and at 90º to the horizontal line. Mark the intersection on the 11″ circle where the plug for the 12-hour number goes. Follow this same process to find the location of the 6-hour number. On the drill press use a 1″ Forstner bit to drill holes to a depth of ⅜” at the four hour locations. To make the plugs I used a tenon cutter (item # 06J20.16) from Lee Valley (leevalley.com), and epoxied them into the holes, trimming and sanding them flush after the epoxy cured.
Round Supports Attach Base to Body
Cut the two round supports (E) from stock left over after cutting the upright (A). They will hold the clock body (C) onto the base assembly. The supports are not the same size, so extra caution is required. Square up the blanks if required, and using a compass lay out a 6 ⅝” diameter circle on the block that will become the upper support, and a 5 ⅝” circle on the block for the lower support. On the table saw, cut a ¾” x 1 ½” dado centered on the bottom of the upper support block, and a ¾” x 1 ¼” dado on the lower block. You can use a standard saw blade and make multiple passes to cut the dado, or use a dado blade set. On the table saw, cut the top off the upper support block, leaving a flat spot that is 2 ½” wide (you will cut a flat on the lower support block later). You can now proceed to the bandsaw and cut out the supports. An oscillating or spindle sander will make quick work of smoothing the edges.
Join the Pieces
To prevent the assembly from tipping over you may find it helpful to clamp the base to your workbench. You will also need to cut a 1″ x 3″ x 5 ⅛” spacer and a ¾” x 3 ½” x 5″ piece of scrap ply from shop leftovers.
The line drawn up the middle of the upright (A) represents the exact center of the base and the exact center of the notch. It tells you where on the base to mount the upper round support. Measure 36 ½” up from the bottom of the base and drill a ⅜” x 1″ hole into the line. Also drill a ⅜” x 1″ hole centered on the flat spot on the upper support (E), and then join the two pieces with a ⅜” x 2″ dowel. Carefully slide the clock body into the upper support, insert the spacer between the clock body and the upright, and clamp the clock body temporarily to the support. This ensures that the back (long side) of the clock body will be parallel with the clock base.
Place the lower support onto the clock body and slide it down the body until it touches the foot of the base. Slide the scrap ply up against the lower support and draw a line across the support using the top of the plywood as a straightedge. You now have a line that, when cut, will fit perfectly flat on the base foot. Cut the lower support on the bandsaw and then sand it flat, square and smooth on a disc sander. Glue and clamp the lower support onto the base with a #8 – 3″ wood screw fastened from the bottom of the base’s foot through a countersunk screw hole.
The upper support is now aligned so that the clock body sits perfectly in line with the lower support. Drill and countersink two ⅜” holes through the back of the upright into the upper support, on either side of the ⅜” dowel. Glue the upper support to the upright, and secure with #8 – 3″ screws. Cover the screw holes with tapered plugs made from scrap oak and then sand the plugs flush. Drill 3/8″ holes through the upper and lower supports for the shoulder bolts.
Remove the clock body from the supports and drill a 3″ diameter hole into the back of the clock face to house the clock movement. The depth for the hole will be supplied by the clock movement manufacturer. Install the movement and the 6″ clock hands, ensuring that everything fits the way it should.
The clock movement cover is made from a leftover piece of wood that is 5″ in diameter and has a 3″ hole drilled into its center to a depth of ½”. The cover is then placed over the back of the clock movement and attached to the clock with a #8 – 1 ¼” wood screw.
Applying the Finish
It is easier to finish the clock body and face when removed from the base assembly. On the body and face I applied a coat of de-waxed shellac followed by four coats of water based polyurethane. For the base assembly I ebonized the red oak with two coats of India ink from a local craft store and then top coated with four coats of water-based polyurethane.