Penmaking articles Penmaking Tips
Mantle Clock Building

Americana Mantle Clock

by Joseph M. Herrmann of Timber Treasures
Reprinted by permission from Creative Woodworks and Crafts Magazine

Patriotism is back in style! Just look around, everywhere you go, you see the flag or its colors of red, white, and blue being proudly displayed.

Make the dentil molding

Square up a piece of poplar to 5/8” x 1-1/2” x 24”. This stock is wider and longer than necessary but it will be cut to the final dimensions after the molding has been manufactured. The details of the molding are made using a series of cuts 1/4” wide, 3/16” deep, spaced 1/2” apart.
Equal spacing is extremely important. To get this critical detail correct, proceed as follows: make the initial cut, measure over 1/2” and make a second cut. Then without moving the stock, make a pencil mark on a piece of masking tape (applied earlier to the throat plate of the table saw, see Fig. 1) exactly where the first cut was located. Continue in this manner, making the series of cuts needed to complete the molding.
The bottom edge of the molding has a cove detail. This is made on a router table using a 1/2” cove bit. Set up the router table so approximately 1/4” of stock remains on the bottom edge of the wood.
Rip the dentil molding to the correct width of 1-1/8” by removing any excess material from the top edge of the molding on the table saw. Joint the edge when finished. The miter joints on the ends of the dentil molding must be cut next. What I usually do is find the center of the stock and measure halfway in both directions. In this case it would be 4-1/2” since the final inside dimension will be 9”. Use a miter square to layout the miters from the back of the stock, adjusting their position to get a full block on the ends. Depending on how accurately your molding was cut, this dimension may be a little more or a little less than the required 9”. Cut the miters on both ends of the long piece on the chop saw.
Once the miters have been cut on both ends of the long piece, you can cut the corresponding joints on the short pieces. Do not cut the short pieces to the final length however, they will be trimmed later after the case is completed.


Size the case pieces
Start by roughing out the stock for the two vertical and horizontal members (my article on dimensioning lumber in the March 2000 Millennium Issue of Creative Woodworks & Crafts is a great resource of information regarding this process). My dimensions for these pieces at this point in the construction process were 3/4” x 2-3/4” x 10” and 3/4” x 2-3/4” x 8-1/2”. Keep in mind, however, that your dimensions could differ depending on how accurate your dentil molding was cut.

Make the rabbet joints
The box is assembled using rabbet joints cut on the ends of the vertical members. While this joint can be made using the dado head blade, I chose to make the joint using two separate passes on the table saw.
The joints are first laid out on one end of one of the vertical parts as shown in Fig. 2. Position the stock so it is flat on the table saw and raise the blade so it just touches the layout line on the end of the stock. Adjust the fence so the cut will be to the right of the line. In this case it is permissible to use the fence to guide the cut because you are not cutting all the way through the stock. Make the required cut on all four ends of the vertical members, using a push stick to guide the cut. If you have some extra stock, cut one more piece to use as a test piece for the next operation.
Stand the previously marked piece of stock vertically on the table of the saw next to the blade and raise the blade so it just touches the top of the previous cut. Be careful when setting up this cut because you don’t want to cut too deep. Rotating the blade by hand with the saw unplugged will help you set it properly. Adjust the fence to remove the scrap. When doing so you MUST position the scrap stock to the left of the blade where it can fall off and not be trapped between the blade and the fence, which would result in a kickback (see Fig. 3). The rule is: “The part you wish to keep always goes between the blade and the fence.” Test the cut on the piece of scrap that you saved earlier. Once you are satisfied with the set up, cut all the remaining pieces.
Cut the horizontal members to length as dictated by the length of your dentil molding. I cut mine to 8-1/4”.
A rabbet joint is used to recess the back into the clock case and this joint must be cut next. I simply used two side-by-side passes of the saw blade to make the required 3/16” joint. The depth should be the same as the rabbets on the ends of the stock.
Trim the width of the two horizontal members to correspond to these rabbets. This allows you to attach the back directly to the box.
Assemble the box using glue and No. 18 x 1” brads as shown in Fig. 4. Be sure that the resulting assembly is square to prevent problems later on.

Make the clock front
Dimension the piece to fit your box. My face was 5/8” x 9-1/8” x 10”. I like to make the stock 1/8” wider than necessary and then trim it down with a flush trimming bit in my router after it has been fastened to the box assembly.
A 5-3/4”-Dia. hole must be cut into the front piece to frame the actual clock face. A scroll saw could be used to cut this hole but I used a more accurate circle cutter on my drill press instead (see Fig. 5). Note that the hole is not cut dead center in the front piece, it is actually just slightly above the center of the stock. Layout the centerlines as indicated in the plans.
After the hole is cut with the circle cutter, sand the edges with an oscillating spindle sander to remove any torn grain. Be careful not to over sand and either make the hole out-of-round and/or make it larger than required.
Attach the front piece to the box with glue and No. 18 x 1-1/4” brads. Do not put any brads on the edges, just put them in the top and bottom. Clamp the edges with wooden hand screws until glue dries (see Fig. 6). With a router and flush trimming bit, remove any excess stock that may be overhanging on the edge of the box. I like to sand each portion of the assembly prior to moving on to the next step because I think that it is easier and more efficient to do so. After trimming the edges of the clock face flush with my router, I sanded the completed box assembly with 120 grit paper.

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