Arts & Crafts Shelf Clock

Project designed and built by Ben Svec

If you enjoy adding to your bag of woodworking tricks, you’ll have a great time building this project. In store for you are lots of tips and techniques that take the mystery out of making perfectly square columns, producing precision chamfers, crafting crisp miters, and much more. You’ll build and employ a simple jig that produces a perfectly square column assembly. But this project isn’t just about techniques and jigs. After completing the steps, you’ll find yourself with a handsome clock for a shelf, or a sofa or hall table, that showcases the Arts and Crafts style as well a your craftsmanship.

Start with the column parts

Note: For safer cutting of thin stock put a zero-clearance throat insert into your table saw. (See Photo A and the Convenience-Plus Buying Guide.)

1 Rip stock for the columns (A), and thickness-plane the blanks so they measure ¾" in both thickness and width. Crosscut the blanks ½" longer than shown in the Cut List, and set these parts aside.

2 Make a blank ¾ x 2½ x 24", and then resaw it through the center of its thickness to make two strips. Use a featherboard to press the stock to the fence before it reaches the blade, and a pushstick to move the blank past the blade to prevent kickback.

3 THICKNESS-PLANE 1¾" STRIPS to ¼" thick. Referring to the Cut List, crosscut the long spacers (B), arch (C), and short spacers (D) to size. Consider using a carrier board to safely plan thin stock. Referring to Figure 1, lay out the curve on the arch. To do this, mark the two endpoints and height of the arch on your wood. Spring a thin metal rule or wood strip into a smooth curve to connect the three points, and draw the shape with a pencil. Now, with a bandsaw or scrollsaw, cut just to the waste side of the line, then sand to the line.

4 BUILD THE CHAMFER-SANDING JIG in Figure 2. It works well with both belt and disk sanders. As needed, customize the dimensions of the base to suit your sander and add the 45º angled fence and miter slot guide strip. With the jig clamped to the table, the fence enables you to ease the workpiece into the sanding surface, but you’ll need to calibrate the jig to chamfer the project parts. Do this by marking a 1/8" chamfer on one corner of a test piece for long spacer B. Now, slide a test piece along the fence until you’ve cut a 1/8" chamfer. Shut off the sander, and custom-cut and attach a triangular stopblock where shown. When sanding, use a light touch and a 150-grit belt or disc. Slide the piece along the fence until it hits the stopblock, then pull back promptly to avoid burning.

5 NEXT, SAND THE CHAMFERS at two corners of the long spacers (B), referring to Figure 1. You also sand chamfers at the two lower corners of the arch (C). Note that the short spacers (D) are chamfered at only one corner.

6 CROSSCUT THE COLUMN BOTTOMS (E) AND COLUMN TOP (F) to size. Set aside any leftover ¼"-thick material to use later for cleats (L).

7 SAND THE PARTS to final smoothness through 220 grit.

Make the back and trim the columns

1 Rip and crosscut the back (G) from ¾" stock to the size shown in the Cut List. (If you need to edge-join two pieces to form part G, make sure the joint is centered for the best look.) Put a ¼" dado set into your table saw, and adjust the height to cut 1/8" deep. Lock the rip fence ¾" from the inside edge of the blade, and slice the grooves where shown on Figure 3.

2 ATTACH A SACRIFICIAL PLYWOOD FACE TO YOUR RIP FENCE, and lock your fence when the edge of the dado cutter just “kisses” the face. Set the depth of cut to just below 1/4" as explained in the Tip Alert. Use this setup to cut the tenons at the ends of the back (G) as shown in Photo B.

3 TRIM THE ENDS OF THE TENONS using the setup shown in Photo C.  To do this, raise the dado set 3/8" and make the cut at all four corners of the back (G).

4 CUT THE COLUMNS (A) TO THE EXACT LENGTH OF THE BACK (G) MINUS THE TENONS. To do this, lay a column on the back as shown in Photo D. Use a stopblock with your mitersaw to ensure that all of the columns are identical in length. Finish-sand the columns and back.

Protect your saw fence by adding a sacrificial face with screws, clamps, or double-sided tape when cutting the tenons (Photo B). Clamping a scrap block behind the back (G) makes it easier to hold the part upright and square to the fence (Photo C).

Make the base and top

1 Thickness-plane stock to 1/2 " thick for the base/top (H). Rip and crosscut these identical parts to size, referring to the Cut List and Figure 3.

2 ROUT STOPPED GROOVES IN THE BASE/TOP (H) PARTS using 1/4" straight bit mounted in your router table. Clamp a fence 5/8" behind the bit, then clamp stopblocks to the fence 103/8" from each edge of the router bit. Now rout the grooves by placing one end of a base/top (H) against the fence and right-hand stopblock. Lower the left end onto the running bit, as shown in Photo E. When you reach the other stopblock, lift the right end of the wood to end the cut. Make the stopped groove in the remaining base/top (H).

3 DRILL THE SHANK HOLES through the base/top (H) where shown on Figure 3, including the one centered in the groove. Countersink these holes in the face opposite the groove.

4 NOW CHUCK A 45º CHAMFERING BIT INTO YOUR TABLE-MOUNTED ROUTER, and rout 1/8" chamfers along the ends and edges of the base/top (H). Refer to the Tip Alert for a sequence that helps eliminate chipout. Finish-sand these parts. Rout the end grain then the long grain. This routing sequence doesn't prevent tear-out, but will remove any that has already occurred.

Make the sub-base and cap

1 RIP AND CROSSCUT THE SUB-BASE (I) AND CAP (J) to size, referring to the Cut List and Figure 1.

2 ROUT A 1/8" CHAMFER along the perimeter of the sub-base (I). Referring to Figure 1, drill the screw shank holes through the sub-base, and countersink the holes on the face opposite the chamfer.

3 ROUT A 5/8" CHAMFER along the perimeter of the Cap (J). Do this in steps, raising the bit between cuts. Make the final cut a very light one. Finish sand the subbase and cap up to 220 grit.

Make the clock movement housing

1 CUT A BLANK 3/4 X 13/4 X 30" FOR THE FRAME SIDES (K). Referring to Figure 4, set up your table saw to cut a rabbet in the blank.

2 MITER THE FRAME SIDES (K) TO IDENTICAL LENGTH, using a stopblock setup at your miter saw. Cutting miters produces crisp outer corners with no tear-out. If any does occur, most of it will be hidden inside the box.

3 CUT A NOTCH FOR THE PENDULUM where shown on Figure 1. Using a scrollsaw is a fast and easy method. 

4 USE MASKING TAPE TO HINGE THE FRAME SIDES (K) INTO A STRIP. Fold up the strip as shown in Photo F to check the fit of the corners. (See the Buying Guide to find Ben's favorite fast-grabbing glue.)

5 MAKE THE CLEATS (L) by cutting a 5/8" x 12" blank from 1/4"-thick stock. Bevel one edge with a chamfering bit at your router table, using a push block.

6 GLUE ONE CLEAT (L) TO THE FRAME, positioning it under the upper frame side (K), the one opposite the notch. Carefully note the slope of the bevel in Figure 1.

7 FASTEN THE OTHER CLEAT (L) TO THE BACK (G) at the location shown in Figure 3. In this case, the bevel slopes toward the back. Carefully square and center the cleat, fastening it with glue and a pair of 5/8" brads.

Apply the stain to selected parts and finish them now

1 CAREFULLY INSPECT ALL OF THE PARTS, and do any touch-up sanding necessary.

2 MASK GLUE SURFACES on the bottom face of the base (H), top face of the top (H), top face of the sub-base (I) and the bottom face of cap (J). Apply dye or stain to those parts and let dry.

3 Apply one coat of sanding sealer, let dry, and smooth with 320-grit sandpaper. Remove the dust, and apply one coat of satin polyurethane. (You can apply a second coat of finish, if desired, after the clock is assembled.) You'll stain the column parts after assembly.

Make the column assemblies

1 BUILD THE COLUMN-ASSEMBLY JIG by referring to Figure 5. Use screws instead of nails. That way, if the assembly is too tight to lift out easily, you can unscrew the jig parts to free it. Carefully ensure that the blocks and strips are square to each other to breeze through the assembly. 

2 LAY FOUR COLUMNS (A) INTO THE JIG, a pair at each side. Referring to Photo G, temporarily insert a pair of short spacers (D) between each pair of columns.

3 Glue and clamp the long spacers (B) at the bottom of the columns (A) as shown in Photo G, aligning the end of each spacer with the ends of the corner blocks of the jig. Make sure that the chamfered corners are oriented correctly, as shown in Figure 1. Next, glue and clamp the arch (C) at the top of the column assembly, flushing the ends of this part with the ends of the jig’s corner blocks.

4 GLUE AND CLAMP THE FRONT COLUMNS (A) to the assembly. As you can see in Photo H, the spacers help align the edges of the columns. Once the glue has dried, remove the assembly from the jig.

5 STAND UP THE COLUMN ASSEMBLY, and glue the short spacers (D) into the remaining slot between the columns as shown in Photo I. Apply a tiny dab of glue between the columns to secure this piece. (If you put glue onto the spacer itself, the columns would wipe off the adhesive as you slide it in place, creating a mess.) Stain and finish the assembly.

Fit the columns in the jig in Figure 5, separating the columns with short spacers in part D (no glue). Glue and clamp in long spacers (B) as shown in Photo G. Add arch (C), and then front columns (A) as in Photo H. Stand up the assembly and glue in short spacers (D) to complete the column assembly (Photo I). Once dry, stain and finish the subassembly. Do not apply finish to surfaces receiving glue later.

You’re ready for final assembly

1 ELEVATE THE COLUMN ASSEMBLY on a pair of 3/8 x 11/2 x 12" spacers as shown in Photo J. Glue and clamp the column bottoms (E) and column top (F) to the assembly, carefully centering these parts. See the Tip Alert for a caution about this procedure.

2 Position and clamp the base (H), carefully centering it side-to-side, then clamp it in place. As shown in Photo K, use the countersunk holes in the base as guides to drill pilot holes into the column assembly. Drive the screws, then unclamp.

3 POSITION THE TOP (H), and drill the pilot holes as you did before, using the shank holes as guides. Do not drive the screws yet. Stand the assembly upright on your workbench, and center the back (G) side-to-side in the groove in the base (H). Make sure the cleat faces the inside of the assembly and is at the top. Fit the top (H) into position, as shown in Photo L, guiding the tenon on the back (G) into the groove in the top. Drive the screws through the top into the column assembly. Using the remaining shank hole as a guide, drill a pilot hole into the back and drive a screw. Invert the assembly to repeat at the other end. 

Apply glue on the contact surfaces of the ends of the column assembly and add the bottoms (E) and top (F), clamping these pieces in place (Photo J). Later, center and clamp the base (H) in place, drill pilot holes into the column assembly, and attach with screws (Photo K ).

4 LAY THE ASSEMBLY ONTO ITS BACK with 3/8" spacers under the base (H). Position the sub-base (I), centering it side to side as shown in Photo M. Using the countersunk shank holes as guides, drill pilot holes. Then glue and screw this part to the assembly. Repeat this process with the top (H).

5 GLUE AND CLAMP THE CAP onto the assembly, carefully centering it. Set the assembly aside to dry.

6 Fit THE FACE (M) into the clock case. (This mail-order part comes with a paper clock face and a centered hole sized to the movement; see the Buying Guide.) Attach the face to the clock movement housing through pilot holes with #2 x 5/8" brass roundhead screws.

7 INSTALL THE MOVEMENT into its housing, and add the battery and hands. Use wire cutters to cut the pendulum rod to 8", bend over the hook end, and snip off any excess that shows. Slip on the bob, set the time, and hang the pendulum. Now, hang the housing onto the cleat on the back (G).

Stand the base/column assembly upright, center the back (G) in the base groove, and center and screw on the top (H) as you did the base. Similary, using pilot holes, attach top and bottom to the back.
Center sub-base (I) on the base (H) using 3/8" spacers. Drill pilot holes, then glue and screw the two parts together. 
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