Desk Clock


Desk Clock
Ian Woodford recreates an antique desk clock in his own design

Ian Woodford recreates an antique desk clock in his own design

I’ve had a fascination for clocks for many years and this project is my interpretation of an old desk clock I saw in a local antique shop. The turning involves straightforward faceplate and spindle work. Care in marking out and accurate copying for the two pillars, will result in a clock that will find pride of place on any desk or shelf within your home. I prefer a close-grained wood for projects like this, with a pleasant but not too pronounced grain pattern. For me, bubinga (Guibourtia demeusei) meets these criteria, but you can
use whatever you choose.
The project is based around a clock insert with a bezel diameter of 60mm and these can be found quite easily on the internet. For this project I start with the base and work my way up to the pillars, the clock barrel and then the two supporting pins that fix the barrel to the pillars. Only basic turning tools are required.
I realize that projects like this take time and accuracy but when finished, this one should give you immense satisfaction. Let’s get into the workshop and have some fun!

Bubinga blanks (or wood of your choice)
Base – 130 x 30mm
Barrel – 80 x 30mm
Pillars – 180 x 20 x 20mm
Pins  – 90 x 12 x 12mm
Four jaw chuck
Spindle roughing gouge
10mm fingernail gouge
6mm and 10mm bowl gouges
Thin parting tool
Jacobs chuck
5mm and 8mm drill bits
Vernier callipers
Steel rule
Abrasive papers in grits to 400
Sanding sealer
Carnauba wax
Buffing wheel
White wood glue
Paper towel
60mm clock insert

Handy Hints
1. It is important and logical to do all the turning work from the base upwards
2. Make the insert recess slightly loose (but not sloppy) as the wood is likely to move a fraction and tighten on the insert
3. When gluing together, start with the pillars and let them set before gluing the clock barrel in place

1. Having cut the blanks and sharpened your tools, fix the base blank to your chuck. Mount the base blank to a waste block with hot melt glue on the flat surfaces and then make it perfectly secure by adding a bead of glue around this joint

2. True the outside edge with your bowl gouge and then true up the front face so it is perfectly flat. This surface is going to be the underside of the base and I’ve chosen to form a recess to suit my chuck jaws. Mark a ring within which this recess will be positioned

3. Turn the recess with either your small bowl gouge or using your 10mm spindle gouge. You can also ‘decorate’ this recess by inscribing rings cut with the point of a skew

4. Follow the plans and mark the diameter of the base. From this, start to form the OG curve and when complete, finish with a small step. I used my 6mm bowl gouge for the whole process

5. Complete the underside by sanding to 400 grit and apply sanding sealer

6. Reverse the base onto your chuck and turn away the glued waste block. True this side and mark the centre. Move the toolrest up close to the face and level with the centre mark. Scribe a ring 80mm in diameter with either a pencil or the point of a divider. On this ring you will drill two holes exactly 180° apart into which the tenons on the pillars will be inserted. I chose to have the grain orientation running from left to right on the base. Position the face and mark your drill points on the circumference, as shown. Use a centre punch on these points so the drill bit will locate accurately. Take the base to a pillar drill and make two 8mm holes approximately 13mm deep

7. Remount the base in the chuck and finish according to the plans. The central concave shape is outlined by a small bead turned with a fingernail spindle gouge. Use a flat surface like a steel rule, to make sure the finished top surface is perfectly level (otherwise the two pillars won’t sit flat). Sand to 400 grit and seal

8. Mount the pillar blank between centres and rough to round. Mark a line 65mm in from the tailstock end. A 5mm hole needs to be drilled through the blank at this point: aesthetically it looks better if the grain is running from left to right across the pillar. To find the drill point, position the tool rest up close to the blank and lock the headstock with the indexing system. Mark a point on the line and then turn the blank 180°, lock again and mark this point

9. From this drill point, mark the blank with all the dimensions for the various pillar elements. The shaded area on the left will be the tenon to locate in the hole drilled in the base

10. To drill the hole through the blank, mount a Jacobs chuck (with a 5mm drill bit inserted) in the headstock. The drill points have been marked and centre punched, so position the blank as shown and locate the tailstock point in the opposing position. By advancing the tailstock, slowly drill the hole halfway through and then turn the blank and drill from the other side. This procedure will ensure the hole is drilled dead centre. Safety tip: an alternative way to secure the wood while drilling is to bring up the tool rest to give support and stop the blank from spinning. This will keep your fingers completely away from the drilling process and allay any safety concerns you may have

11. Remount the blank between centres and starting from the tailstock end, turn the various pillar elements. Take your time over this and frequently use your Vernier callipers to check diameters and lengths. At this point you can gently use a burning wire to burn lines between the various elements: I feel this adds crispness to the finished pillar. Whilst you still have tailstock support, sand to 400 grit and seal. Removing the waste area from the finial point needs the support of your hand on the pillar, so when you have turned away as much as possible, withdraw the tailstock and gently hold the pillar with your left hand. Finish this area with a skew or a detail gouge, then sand and seal the tip of the finial

12. Next, remove the tailstock support to finish the point…

13. … then get ready to part off the completed pillar. Now repeat this whole process for the second pillar. Take your time and keep using your vernier callipers and steel rule so you can make an exact duplicate

14. It’s now time to turn the clock barrel. Mount the blank onto a screw or glue chuck. True up the face and make a spigot to suit your chuck jaws. Remount onto your chuck and turn to round

15. The first job is to turn the recess for the clock insert. Do this carefully and keep offering the insert to the recess until the fit is comfortable but not too tight

16. Now follow the plans and turn the rest of the barrel rim using your small bowl and spindle gouge

17. Two holes are needed in the side of the barrel to allow attachment to the pillars. Mark a line 7mm in from the back of the main front bead. Bring up the tool rest level with the centre of the barrel and as close as possible. Rotate the barrel so that the grain orientation is horizontal and lock the headstock. Mark this point and then rotate the barrel 180° by using the indexing system and then mark again. In this photo, I’ve turned the barrel slightly to show the result of this process. Finally, mark the two points with a centre punch

18. This image shows the drilling process, using exactly the same process as for the pillar holes. Mount a Jacobs chuck with a 5mm drill bit in the headstock and let the tailstock point support the barrel. Drill slowly and to a depth of about 10mm. Turn the barrel and drill the other hole in the same way. See step 10 for another way to secure the wood

19. Turn a cove centred on the drilled holes. The profile of the cove needs to match the curve of the pillar that will be attached. Be very careful on the depth of this cove: the next stage will help with this. Fit the two pillars into the base (without glue) and measure the internal distance between the two points where the barrel will be attached. Use vernier callipers for this and transfer this measurement to the diameter at the base of the cove. You can also keep trial fitting the barrel to make sure you’ve got it right

20. Now reverse the barrel using your chuck jaws or a jam chuck. Once running true, finish turning the back
of the barrel, then sand and seal

21. All that remains now is to turn the two supporting pins that will pass through the pillars and into the barrel, using the remaining bubinga blank. The tenon pins should be long enough to pass through the pillars and into the holes of the barrel. Sand, seal and part off these two pins

22. At this point all of the turning is now complete. Loosely assemble all of the components and make sure they fit nicely. Any final adjustments can be done at this stage. Once satisfied, you may want to buff the various components with carnauba wax using a buffing wheel. However, you can use whatever finish you prefer. Once the final finish is applied, glue all parts together. Use a white wood glue sparingly as you don’t want any excess to seep out between the joints. Start by gluing the pillars to the base, making sure the holes in the pillars are positioned accurately. Let them dry for a while, before gluing the barrel into place

23. Once all joints are thoroughly dry, fit the clock insert, stand back and admire your work

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