In this month’s presentation Bruce Bogust talked about building a 1750’s period Newport Grandfather Clock. This is the same clock design, with some modifications, that is offered in the November/December 1985 edition of Fine Woodworking Magazine. The plans are available online at Fine Woodworking Magazine.
Before discussing the clock build, Bruce brought in a Tea Table that has some of the same period production characteristics as the clock to demonstrate some of the skills that are useful to know in building the clock and period pieces.
The Tea Table shown here is from the same period and is unique in that it has a space under the talons on the legs. This is often referred to as an open claw. Also, there is no webbing over the claw. Similar to the Newport style, there is also a Philadelphia style from the same period. In making a claw, it’s generally a good idea to practice on some inexpensive woods before using up your good stock. Once you’ve figured out the pattern, you should be able to readily duplicate it.
The Tea Table pictured here is made from African Mahogany. It’s unique in that it has carvings on the knees of the legs. There is also the same pattern on each side of the leg. There are several ways you can do this. One way is to use carbon paper, but it doesn’t show up well. Another way is to use a ponce pad, i.e. a cheese cloth with chalk in it. You begin by cutting out your pattern and tap the pattern over the wood. The chalk comes through the pattern and sticks to the wood and provides the lines needed to do the carving. You may also use shim brass (2 thousandths thick) to transfer the pattern onto the legs.
The table top shown here is made from one single piece of wood including the trim on the edges. It is not a glue up. To do this, you start with a roughly 1” think piece of wood, make a pattern and screw it to the top of the wood. Then use a router to cut it out using this special jig . You can screw the jig to the bottom of the router. There are multiple stages of this process so when you get to the end, you just route the bottom and level it out in the center.
The clock design was developed by the same people who developed the designs for this table.
Once you figure out what clock you want to make, the first thing you should do is buy the mechanism, or at least have a detailed set of dimensions including clearances, etc. As Bruce did, you will probably have to change the dimensions of your clock to fit the mechanism. The length of the pendulum swing, size of the mechanism, clock face, weights and chimes can change the entire plan.
Bruce didn’t like the face that was included in his plan so he went to Colonial Williamsburg and took some pictures of the faces on some of the clocks and had a custom face painted with the image that he wanted.
One crucial step in the build is to create a mockup of the clock to get the swing length and size the movements.
In this clock design, there are four columns on the top of the clock. They are turned first into round stock. You will need an index wheel on the lathe so you know where to place the columns. The flutes are hand cut with a gouge. Keeping them straight is very difficult and even small fluctuations are readily noticeable in the final product so this part of the build will require an extra steady hand and careful precision if you want to produce something that’s aesthetically pleasing.
Similar to the table, the moulding on the top of clock is cut upside down if you’re using a router. This is not something where you can just draw the pattern.
After routing, there are some places you simply can’t get into. Bruce used an old hand saw blade and file scribed and snapped the metal to form the shape. Then dremel/hand filed to get the exact pattern, essentially making a scraping tool with the perfect profile to make these mouldings.
As seen in the picture below, this clock design has several quarter columns. These can be difficult to make. These columns are ¼ of the actual column inserted into a recess. These were turned by using some paper to glue four pieces together. This larger piece was then turned as a single unit on the lathe. It’s important not to over pressure the lathe at this point because it will split the wood. Turn it round. Then flute it.
The jig above was used to index the column and act as a guide to route the flutes. Once the column was mounted and indexed, simply side it on the router, turn and repeat.
Then use chisels to separate the 4 pieces where they were glued to the paper. This method was taken from Fine Furniture for the Cabinet Maker – by Marlow. You could also create a box and use a scratch stock to do the same thing.
The shells are made by design using the steps outlined in the same book.
This particular clock has a pine backing and old “aged” cherry was used everywhere else except the top moulding which was newer cherry. This explains some of the coloring differences in the pictures above.
Bruce’s clock mechanism is about 14 inches deep and came with a plan for mounting points. Once that’s built, you’ll have to identify the mounting points for the assembly.
The basic body of the clock, base, center, and top is show above. There are some half blind dovetails used to assemble the base. The legs/feet are cut on the bandsaw. The top box of the clock have hand cut dovetails on all sides.
The rosettes on this clock are not the original ones from the plan. Those were a simple daisy style. Instead, Bruce used a Philadelphia style which was more to his liking. The finials were built by turning the shape and then hand gouged to get the curved flutes.
This clock was started in early 2015 and finished in early 2017 working on different parts off and on in the workshop. Bruce’s next planned project is the Amateur’s Masterpiece desk.