Voysey Mantel Clock
By Robert W. Lang
Charles Francis Annesley Voysey (1857-1941) was one of the eminent architects and designers of the British Arts & Crafts movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Voysey designed complete environments, including textile and wallpaper patterns. His work influenced American designers such as Harvey Ellis, who is also known for the use of architectural details in furniture designs.
The original drawings for this clock are dated 1895, and examples exist in various materials. The best-known of these clocks features a painted bucolic landscape, and a gilded dome and spire. There are also examples in wood, including ebony with ivory inlay and dark oak. There is even a version from 1903 made from aluminum.
For my version, I decided to use contrasting woods, with exotic materials for the inlay. The four legs, dome and spire are tiger maple and the panels and foot mouldings are ebonized walnut. The dots and ring on the face are mother-of-pearl, and the horizontal stripes on the legs are ebony.
Despite the sophisticated appearance of the clock, the case is simple construction: panels fit in stopped grooves in the legs. Where things get tricky is under the top, where the moulding steps in and out around the perimeter. The challenge is one of scale, and finding ways to make the process as simple as possible.
Thin Panels, Tapered Legs
I worked to the original 1895 drawing, and resawed the panels from 4/4 stock. I first made the panels 1⁄16″ thicker than finished size and let them sit for a few days. I piled some scrap lumber on top to help keep them flat, then milled the front, back and sides to 1⁄4″ thick and the top to 7⁄32″ thick. I made the back panel 1⁄4″ wider than the finished size to allow for two rips for the back door.
While the panels acclimated, I went to work on the legs, feet and moulding. The legs were milled to 11⁄4″ square, and after deciding which piece of wood looked best in which position, I marked the tops with a cabinetmaker’s triangle.
The sequence of tasks on the way from rough blank to finished leg isn’t critical. I milled the grooves and cut the stub tenons on the bottoms before cutting the tapers on the outside faces. That – along with the cabinetmaker’s triangle – made it easy for me to keep the parts properly oriented.
I set up a 1⁄4″ straight bit in the router table, then set the fence and stop-block to make the 1⁄4″-deep grooves that are 9⁄16″ from the inside faces and stop 135⁄16″ down from the top. That setting works for only one groove on the four legs, so I reset the fence to make the second set of grooves.
Blog: Read about an alternate method used to make the inlaid ring out of wood.
To Buy: “Classic Arts & Crafts Furniture” is a compilation of Robert W. Lang’s project articles from the pages of Popular Woodworking Magazine.
Web Site: See photos of the original Voysey clock at the Victoria & Albert Museum.
Download: Get full-size patterns of the panel bottoms, clock hands, dome and spire.
In Our Store: Buy the video and watch the author build this project step by step.
From the August 2013 issue #205
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