Over the Thanksgiving holiday I, as many of you did, had friends in town. My visitor, John, didn’t come in for the food though; he came for woodworking. F&W Publications graciously gave employees a half-day off on Wednesday, and a full day off on Thursday and Friday. So, I used a half-day of vacation and gained five days in the shop (count the weekend) , four-and-a-half days if you take out the holiday dinnertime.
We started our reproduction tall case clock based on a New Jersey design nearly two years back, and this has been our first opportunity to get back to work on it since then. John doesn’t get a chance to get into Cincinnati too often because his schedule has been more-than-hectic for some time. The last session began with rough mahogany and we built the waist, base and got started on the hood before our time ran out.
As I moved the clock case from my garage to the shop in preparation for the upcoming session, I didn’t think much about patina — until, that is, we milled the stock for the waist door. The new mahogany looked extremely pink, especially next to the two-year old, unfinished structure standing in front of us. John couldn’t get over the difference and it surprised me as well. Wood sure does change over time. We forged ahead.
I’ve always say the best way to gain woodworking experience is to challenge yourself with projects that force you to learn or try new techniques. This clock, and its inlay, fit the bill for John and me. I’ve done inlay many times but I’ve done so with a power tool mentality — fabricate a jig to trim store-bought medallions to size then cut appropriately sized recesses to install the inlay (my Baltimore Card Table article in Popular Woodworking magazine comes to mind).
This time I planned a different attack. We trimmed the inlay at the band saw, straightened the edges with files and created the recess by positioning the inlay, pinning it to the door then tracing the outside edges. The recess was routed close to the layout lines with a straight bit (you know I couldn’t give up the power tools completely) and finished using carving gouges with appropriately sized sweeps to trim to the lines. A little handwork and the inlay slipped right in place. Nothing is more fun than sanding the tape off the back of the inlay and watching the pattern coming to life. (The widebelt sander — another power tool — made it quick work.)
Later came the small pinwheels on the rosettes of the gooseneck mouldings. This is a new process for me, too. I was inspired by watching Rob Millard (watch for an upcoming article in the February 2008 issue) make simple inlay from shop scraps instead of purchasing a ready-to-use product. The pinwheels are eight sections of alternating mahogany and maple, all positioned into a 1-1/4″ circle.
We used a plane blade to cut the pieces to size based off a full-scale drawing of the pinwheels, affixed them to painter’s tape and glued the assembly in place after trimming to the circle shape. Once the glue dried we filed the pieces to match the profile of the rosette. An easy process and one I’ll surely use again.
We felt we accomplished a major amount of woodworking for the time we had available. The clock, except for finishing and few other odds and ends, is complete. Not bad for just over nine days spread over two years. All we can do now is wait for the new additions to gain a bit of patina. I plan to move the clock to New Jersey where John can apply the finish before he places it in his home.