Shaker Tall Clock
The black and white pictures you see right and left are not photographs but rather 3D rendered drawings. I design all my furniture using TurboCADTM Professional, a 3D design and drafting tool. This enables me to see how the final milled parts will go together without actually building a prototype. In addition to saving time and material it provides me detailed drawings and renderings which I can discuss with my client. Changes during this stage are also easy and inexpensive. Once the client signs off on the drawings I begin work in the shop.
As I progress through the build of a project I take pictures and display them so that you can see what goes into a piece. These are views you can't get, and hence can't appreciate, when you view the finished piece. It is these details that separate custom built furniture from commercial furniture.
One advantage of using a 3D drawing system such as TurboCADTM Professional is that I can print out life size (1:1) drawings and use them as templates as I did for the feet shown in the picture at left.
In the picture on the right you see a nearly assembled dust panel which sits at the bottom of the clock base. As you might guess it functions to keep dust out of the clock movement. This panel is made using frame and panel construction much like frame and panel doors. Notice the use of traditional mortise and tenon joinery.
The assembled base, minus quarter round trim, is shown in the picture at left. Click on the picture to enlarge it and you will see that the grain is matched all around the base. This is achieved by starting with one long glue up and then cutting and "folding" the front and sides. Compare the shape of the base and its feet to the 3D rendering above. As I add photos in this "Progress Update" section continue to follow along comparing the sub-assemblies to the 3D rendering and you will get a feel for how valuable this tool is.
Inside the base is pretty busy. The picture at right shows how the waist (the middle section) is connected to the base with blocking. The blocking is glued to the base sides. This is permissible because the grain is flowing in the same direction for both pieces. However the waist sides are connected to the blocking using screws with oversized holes in the sides to allow for cross grain expansion. A similar techniques is used in the corners of the base face and sides. Notice the small corner blocks with two screws each. This allows the face and sides to expand without breaking the corner joint. Lastly you can see the dovetail joinery on the feet corners. These are half-blind hand cut dovetails. Half-blind means that the joint can be seen from only one side. In this case the back, leaving the feet sides clean.
The clock waist is the simplest sub-assembly of the three (base, waist and hood). It is essentially two sides, a face frame and door. The face frame is constructed using our old friend the mortise and tenon joint shown in the picture at right. Note the arch is already milled because it is much easier to do at this stage prior to glue up. Once the face frame is glued we add the waist sides. As you can see the face frame over hangs the sides by one eighth inch. Later they will be trimmed flush with a flush trimming router bit making the glue joint nearly invisible.
Getting the dimensions and placement of the sides correct, relative to the face frame, is critical. This will determine whether the clock movement is centered in the hood door and level with the base feet. The former will look strange while the latter would make it difficult to keep accurate time. Note the number of clamps used in the pictures at right and left proving the old adage you can never have enough clamps. Note also the metal angle braces that hold the sides square to the front while the glue dries.
The clock is growing up and getting tall. At left you can see the base and waist assembly. The sides extend past the face frame at the top to provide for mounting of the clock seat board on which the actual movement is mounted.
The hood, shown right, is the most difficult of the three assemblies. It consists of an arched pediment with half-blind dovetails, a top and sides connected by through dovetails the sides providing small arched windows into the clock mechanism, turned columns, an arched door and dial frame, door and base. I start by constructing the pediment. The pediment sides need to be milled with the tails of the dovetail joint. The tails are carefully marked up with a pencil. I always mark the waste area with Xs to be sure I cut away the correct material. Once marked up the tails are cut with a dovetail saw. The dovetail saw is a critical tool in achieving tight fitting dovetails. It needs to cut straight and leave a very narrow kerf. The Lie-Nielsen is my saw of choice. I have tried Japanese Dozuki saws but find I have more control with western style saws.
To complete the tails the waste area must be removed. The majority of the waste area is cut away using a fret saw (coping saw). Finally the tails are cleaned up with a mallet and chisel shown left. Now the tails can be copied onto the pediment front. Because these tails are hand cut I need to keep careful track of which pediment end is copied to which end of the pediment front to be sure they will fit together. You may be able to read the blue markings of "right" and "left" and arrow up to remind me of how they go together.
When the pins are marked I again use the dovetail saw to cut them, shown right. This time, because these are half-blind dovetails, I can't cut all the way through the pin. I have to make a compound cut - 7 degrees to form the pin but approximately 45 degrees with the grain so that I don't cut through the board to the front. This provides a small amount of pin wall to guide my chisel when cleaning out the waste. Notice again that I have marked the waste with Xs. It is very frustrating to get this far cutting dovetails only to realize you cut away the wrong material. So this is a step well worth completing to ensure you don't make that mistake. After cleanup the pins will look like the picture at left.
Next I glue up the pediment and let it dry over night. The clamps are used primarily to keep the sides square to the front while the glue sets. The dovetails are such a strong mechanical joint that clamps would not otherwise be needed.
When the pediment glue up is dry the backing board can be attached to increase the thickness of the front and then the arch is milled. You can see this in the picture at left. I have wet the surfaces with mineral spirits so the dovetails show similar to the way they will look after finishing.
Next I mill the windows in the sides of the hood. I use a patterning router bit to form the rectangular portion and the oscillating sander to form the small arches. The decorative roundover is milled with the router bit, but this operation leaves round corners, shown at right. The round corners must be cleaned up to form roundovers that intersect in a square corner. A sharp chisel and careful paring are the stars of this show.
At left you can see the assembled hood consisting of the sides, pediment, bottom, dial frame (just inside the door) and door. The dial frame dresses up the dial face when the door is open. A special hinge called a pivot hinge is required to allow the door to clear the overhanging arch when it is opened.
At right is the hood, in the state of completion shown at left, mounted on the base and waist assembly. The clock works are placed inside so that I can inspect the alignment of the face with the door openings and make any adjustments that may be necessary at this time.
The hood has traditionally been designed to be removed for cleaning, adjustment or repair of the clock works. At this point it is supported by temporary blocking nailed to the waist sides. However, the waist trim will support the hood in the completed clock.
Next I will turn the hood pillars on the lathe, and then construct the clock back. The back is one long piece connecting all three assemblies. The back will go on after the movement is installed in the hood.
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