Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Custom Shelf For My Wag-on-the-Wall Clock

A few days ago I made a custom shelf for my Wag-on-the-Wall clock. The design on this one was a bit challenging since the clock projects so far from the wall (counting the glass in the bezel, the clock is close to 9" deep). I didn't want to make the support brackets too large, or too stretched, so that's why they stop about an inch short of the shelf's front edge.

The shelf is made from pine, with the main shelf slotted into the backboard for extra strength, and the other parts glued and tacked in place with square nails. The top of the shelf matches the clock's upper crest, and you can just barely see that the small corner curves have a routed detail, which I matched on the lower brackets as well.

I also attempted to paint the shelf in a matching wood-grained rosewood, but because I just winged-it (without making several samples), my colours didn't end up matching as well as I had hoped. The final colour is much more red and darker than I expected. The base coat is a bright peachy pumpkin, with the graining done in a semi-translucent dark brown. I think the main problem with the colours was that I used a top glaze that was too dark, and too reddish.

I still like it, and the colour falls in between the clock's front surround, and its dark brown sides. Better luck next time, I suppose.

Monday, June 15, 2015

A Custom Shelf For The Comtoise

I have built a simple shelf for my first comtoise clock. The shelf was made to fit this particular clock exactly. I built it from pine, and finished it in flat black with light distressing.

I have the clock currently hung in the dining room, but I'm not too sure if it will stay here (I will probably move it later).

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Mirror Clock Project Part 7 - Custom Cut Hands

In the same way that incorrect hardware can spoil the look of a cabinet or dresser, the same can apply to the hands of a clock. When it comes to clock dials and hands, many people have their own preferences, or sometimes none at all. I have often seen highly skilled clockmakers who will make their own beautiful brass movements, but then fit a cheap dial and mass produced hands onto it.

Whenever I build furniture or cabinetry, I will often agonize over the choice of hardware, since it can really make a big impact, and even change the entire style of the piece. Even something as simple as a knob can make a difference. A small wood knob looks charming, a large wood knob looks very old fashioned (1800s), while a glass knob can give a 1920s feel.

When it came to picking out the hands for my mirror clock, I had several options to choose from. Most hands in this period were fairly simple, and even crude. The main styles include shapes such as arrows or pointers, with several other variations. Below are just a few of the popular shapes that can be found on New Hampshire Mirror Clocks. Some are easily recognizable (such as the Banjo style arrows, and the Moon hands) while the others have no specific names, and were not used or seen again after the 1840s. I have given names to some of them, but they are definitely not official names.

Starting from the upper left: "Willard Swords", Half Moon, Moon. Bottom row: Banjo (Arrows), Crosses, and "Cross and Pointer" (I suspect that the minute hand on this one is a later replacement).

Within those styles are also several different proportions. The cross hands are very popular on mirror clocks, and they range from wide with 3 square tips, to narrow with pointed tips, etc.

I was originally going to choose the "Cross and Pointer" hands but I only found one or two examples of these, and I decided to go with two crosses instead. The hand shapes were hand-drawn to exact size on paper, then transferred (spray-glued) to some steel stock. The hands were cut to rough shape using a jeweler's saw, and then cleaned-up with files.

Here you can see the cut and roughly filed hands (rough edges on the top and bottom).

Smoothed out, cleaned, and ready for heat treating and finishing.

The hour hand was fitted with a pipe, the hands were heat-treated (for strength), and then a light coat of flat black paint was applied. I could have blued the hands, but I preferred a black painted finish for this clock.

Here are the completed hands fitted and mounted to the clock. I am exceptionally happy with my decision to choose the Crosses, and with how the hands turned out. All that is left now is the mirror.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Mirror Clock Project - The Completed Dial

Here is the completed dial after small touch-ups, antiquing, and a clear topcoat.

I went fairly light with the antiquing, and the main areas that were darkened were: around the edges, and around the winding hole and centre hole. Also note how far from "white" the dial was painted. The dial is photographed over a sheet of white paper for comparison. It is much closer to grey. Also visible in these photos are the 3 filed reference notches on the dial edges.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Mirror Clock Project Part 6 - Painting the Dial

Unfortunately I didn't take many photos of the dial-painting process. For the most part few clockmakers seem to have the talent nor the desire to paint their own dials, which is a shame. The process is not overly complicated. Start with a drawing (you can cheat and print a stock image to actual size), transfer the drawing (you can use carbon paper, or simply rub pencil graphite on the back of the drawing), then ink it in with your choice of drawing tools. You can use ink pens, a fine drafting set and India ink, thinned black paint, or whatever combination suits your fancy.

The dial painting process started with deciding on the size, style, and layout of the numerals. Depending on the age and style of the clock, different numerals were used. Some 1850s clock dials had incredibly thin and tall Roman numerals, while others had small thicker ones. Others used Arabic numerals.

I started with life sized drawings to get a good preview of how each dial design might look. These are two of the designs I didn't use (I used the third).

For my dial, I simply used an inking pen, and painted the numerals with gloss black enamel. It's important to use a CORK BACKED RULER.

The design is transferred to the dial surface with graphite on the back as described above.

The dial in progress above (painted at the same time) was for this Gilbert clock:

Once everything is dry (and if you're using a waterproof ink and paint) the excess pencil can be washed off. You can NOT do this with India Ink. Water instantly dissolves India Ink (which is also why it needs a topcoat).

While the dial is now painted, it's not finished yet. It needs a clear coat, and possibly some antiquing (I'll experiment and see what I can do).