make a simple clockWith all the modern clock movements that are available, building a functioning clock it much easier that it was a couple of decades ago. In the past you had to purchase mechanical time keeping movements, and keep them running. Now, with the highly accurate quartz, battery operated mechanisms, anyone can build clocks.

For me, the first thing a clock needs to be is to be able to tell accurate time, and to be clearly visible in displaying the time. I don't want to have to stop and have to try and calculate the time every time I look at the clock. The second thing I wang the clock to be is at least, somewhat attractive. To help match these criteria, I chose a blank white face, applied numbers at the appropriate locations, then surrounded it all with figured wood.  What I ended up with is a clock that I love, is quick and easy to tell the time from and is a nice looking clock.

Collecting all the parts is the first step with a project like this as there are a number of components, the clock mechanism, the face, the carcass, the numbers for the face, the hands (hour, minute and second) hinges and clasps if you need them and perhaps even some way of hanging or sitting the clock.

For the face, I selected som pre-finished white hardboard material I use for pattern making. It's 1/8 inch thickness and has some sort of a hard, durable coating on it, possibly melamine. All the clock parts are widely available from a many different suppliers and the only thing to be aware of is the "stand off" of the mechanism. This means, you need to know ahead of time whether you will be using a face that is 3/4" thick, 1/2", 1/8" etc because the way the hand attach, it is critical that core of the clock is long enough to fit through the face. In most cases you will need to purchase the clock hands and numbers seperately.

The first thing you need to figure out is how large the face of the clock will be. You do this by looking at the length of the hands. Short hands means a smaller clock such as desck or table clock, larger hands for a larger clock face, such as a wall hanging clock that can be seen from a distance. Once you know the size of your clock face, you can start working on carcass of the clock. In my case I decided to use some spalted alder I picked up in the forest, brought home, dried and sawed into boards.

I decided early in that this was going to be a SIMPLE clock build. For fastening the sides there are a variety of methods could be used like 45 degree corners like picture frames, dovetailing the corners, box jointing the corners, rebbeting the corners or simply but joints, which is what I selected, then holding them together with dowels. A quick and easy solution for me.

After the carcass was cut and glued, while the glue hardened I went about cutting the clock face to size and installing the numbers. Installing numbers is pretty easy if you have 30/60 engineering  or drafting square. The 30 degrees, X 12 = 360 degrees - simple.

By time I had the clock face finished, the glue on the carcass of the clock  was hard enough that I could run it through the table saw to cut front off for the door. Now the purpose of the door is not to set the time, that is done from the back of the clock, being able to get at the hands is only really necessary for cleaning or in the unlikely event the hands need to be adjusted for some reason. It's just good to be able to have access to both sides of the clock.

After cuting the front of the carcass off, I now know I have a door that will fit exactly the cacass, and I can even align the grain. I cut a rebbet around the inside of the door frame then cut some glass to fit and secured it with a few tiny finishing nails.

The final step is to secure the clock face into the carcass and attach the front door. My clock face was quite snug in it's fit into the carcass but I still wanted to make sure the face would be secured to the carcass and so I used some small spacer  blocks and glued them to the inside of the clock carcass and the back of the clock face. Not only does this firmly secure the face, it also ensures that the face is evenly positioned inside the carcass.

For a finish, I selected my favorite product Osmo, and gave the clock 3 coats. In Europe, Osmo is widely availble but not as much in Canada and the US. For Canadians interested in the product, one place to check out is  in the US, Osmo is available from

There are many different ways of making this clock, this is only one way, and there are many, many different ways of making clocks both simple and complex ... I think my next clock will be a floor standing unit, maybe not a Grandfather, but something like it ...

Copyright Colin Knecht