Contemporary Clock


Contemporary Clock:
Ian Woodford takes on his woodturning club’s challenge and creates something with a hole in it…

Ian Woodford takes on his woodturning club’s challenge and creates something with a hole in it…

My local woodturning club issued a challenge to make something with a hole in it. Apart from the obvious, many thoughts went through my mind but this idea came to me while enjoying a glass of wine – I must drink more often!
Each numeral on the clock face was to be a hole, but increase in size from one through to 12 o’clock. I also wanted a contrasting backing to the holes to make them stand out. I experimented with different colours and also tried various wood veneer backings, but the final choice can be your own preference. The turning is not difficult and can be achieved with basic tools, however it does require a set of Forstner drill bits.
I leave the choice of wood entirely up to you, but my preference was to use a light coloured wood which would then enable the backing to the hour holes to stand out well. I chose a piece of ash (Fraxinus exlcesior), 305 x 38mm, which had a nice grain pattern but sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) or maple (Acer spp.) would have been equally suitable.
So, let’s get into the workshop and get all the necessary tools chosen and sharpened. Follow the diagrams and every stage is quite straightforward. The clock movement and hands are freely available from many websites and all my measurements were based around the length of the minute hand, which is 100mm long.
Sanding was taken from 120 grit through the various grades and finished at 400 grit. I prefer not to have a bright glossy finish on this type of project, so for the final finish I used a semi-gloss spray lacquer and applied at least four coats to the front, while the back had only two applications.

Tools and resources
• Quartz clock movement and 100mm hands
• 10mm and 6mm bowl gouges
• 10mm spindle gouge (fingernail grind)
• Shear scraper
• Thin parting tool
• Jacob’s chuck
• Forstner bits
• 10mm drill bit
• Pillar drill
• Four jaw chuck with appropriate sized jaws
• Centre punch
• Callipers
• Abrasives from 120–400 grit
• Revolving sanding pad and abrasives to fit
• Pencil
• Ruler
• Semi-gloss lacquer
• Any additional equipment like wood or colour stains
• A blank of ash, beech (Fagus sylvatica), maple or sycamore – 305 x 38mm
• Scrapwood as a glue chuck and jam chuck
• Backing ply or stiff board

1. Mount the clock blank to a waste block with hot melt glue. For the initial turning of the outer edge use the safety of tailstock support

2. Using a 10mm bowl gouge, turn the blank to slightly more than the clock’s final diameter and then roughly true up the face. This side will be the back of the clock

3. Draw pencil lines to outline the area that will house the clock movement this does not have to be precisely measured, but must be large enough to allow the clock movement to sit comfortably inside, but at the same time not encroach on the area where the holes will be drilled. Use a thin parting tool to define this area where the wood is to be removed

4. Remove the centre and then the rest of the inside to 25mm of the outer diameter. It is also important not to go to the final depth as this can be done after all the hour holes have been drilled. The drilling, from the front face, can cause some breakout and this can be rectified when the final depth is turned. You can see a slight recess in the face of the movement housing area; this enables the blank to be reversed onto the chuck to turn the front face. A jam chuck into the total depth of the movement housing would also work well

5. Now reverse the blank and remove the glue chuck. True the surface and using a 10mm drill bit, in a tailstock mounted Jacobs chuck, drill a hole all the way through the centre. This is for the clock movement shaft to pass through

6. Partially recess the clock face leaving a centre area as a spigot so the blank can be remounted to finish the back after drilling is completed. This spigot will also be shaped in the final turning of the clock face. Mark a circle with a radius of 100mm from the centre and mark the hour positions for drilling. Before marking the hour positions, determine the grain orientation you desire when hung. I used the headstock locking mechanism to mark the hour positions

7. Now with the positions marked and centre punched, drill the hour positions with Forstner drill bits using your drill press. For the smallest hole, in the one hour position, use a 6mm bit and progress up to 40mm, representing the 12 o’clock position. Don’t drill at a fast pace as this could burn the wood

Handy hints
• When sanding areas with an uneven or interrupted surface like holes, it is always best to have a supportive pad between the abrasive and your fingers. A foam pad is ideal for this.
• If you can speed up the lathe a little when turning areas with holes or natural edges, this will give you a more controlled and even cut. 

8. Return the blank to the lathe and re-chuck to finish the back. Follow the diagram and finish the recessed area to the final depth with a shear scraper. This process will clean up any breakout from drilling. Make sure this area is flat as the coloured card will have to sit snugly. Sand the sections that will remain visible and then spray with a couple of coats of semi-gloss lacquer. The back is now finished

9. Reverse chuck the blank so the clock face can be finalised. Use your 10mm bowl gouge to turn the rim to its final shape. Now reduce the face to its final depth, use a 6mm bowl gouge for most of this and a 10mm spindle gouge to get a clean and tight finish into the corners of the rim and centre spigot. Since you will be cutting through a lot of ‘fresh air’, speed up the lathe a bit and take very gentle cuts. Make sure this area is flat, which can be achieved by finishing with a shear scraper. Leave the thickness of the face at 6mm, which is easily seen and measured at the holes

10. Sanding this area can be very tricky and it’s far easier to use a revolving sanding pad as this will result in a much better finish and be safer for your fingers. Sand down to 400 grit

11. Turn the centre spigot to a gentle dome and turn a small recess in the centre hole to take the brass fitting which screws into the clock movement. It may be necessary to keep trial fitting the movement to make sure enough of the clock shaft projects through to fix the hands. When this is achieved, sand the dome to its final finish. When you are satisfied with the finish, spray with at least four coats of semi-gloss lacquer. The finished face should look something like this

12. You now need to decide about the backing colour, if there is any. You have three choices: firstly, no backing at all so you can see the wall colour behind. Secondly, cut a piece of contrasting wood veneer as a backing or finally, cut a stiff piece of board and colour it. I cut a piece of ply and fixed stiff card to it, then I used an airbrush to colour it. Make it a firm fit so the backing stays in place without glue. The advantage of this method is you can remove the backing whenever you please and change the colour. Here you can see the backing ply in place. Now all you have to do is attach the hands, insert a battery and the project is complete


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