Thursday, January 17, 2013

Clocking with plywood

Long ago now, while I was in Juneau, I bought a book by John Wilding, FBHI entitled The Construction of a Wooden Clock. You may google on it. It seems like an auspicious project for the new year. I really want to make a clock; I had the book. It seemed like a nice way to break into the business. It came with full-size templates for absolutely everything. You can, in fact, make the thing out of plywood. You do not even need power tools. You can cut everything out with a coping saw, even. But, after some experience, I would not advise it. There is awful lot of cutting to do, and for once power tools are indicated. Either a bandsaw or a scroll saw or even both,  and even then it is a bit of a via crucis.

So here goes. There are many useful videos on YouTube that will amplify my directions. Look under "wooden clock". The general order of work is this: first, you make copies of the plans that came with the book. Absolutely necessary. If you make a mistake you have not only ruined your piece, you cannot get back to it. Lots of places these days will make copies for you, even in Alaska.

So far I am following Mr Wilding's directions to the letter. He has made more clocks, as we used to say in the Air Force, than I have passed telephone poles. So you find a suitable sheet of plywood. Here I am limited to what I can find at Home Depot/Lowes. We will see how it works out. Then you glue the templates on to the plywood with contact spray. Then you cut the stuff out on the bandsaw. I have no scroll saw.

I began with the plates. These are the frame of the clock. Above, fresh off the bandsaw. This is the front plate. The back plate is identical, but has no holes cut in it. The purpose of the holes is to display the works. The clock would work just as well without them. But if you're building a clock, might as well watch all the gears go round. So we cut the holes in the front plate.

I  used a circle cuttter on the drill press and it was awful. We will either figure out how to fix it or re-make the front plate. Next we smooth
 things with our faithful Dremel.
 Now we have something resembling a front plate. Do the same thing for the back plate. Now we have the pillars to make. This is lathe work. I used dowels and the Taig lathe.
This is relatively simple work. The key points are that the plates have a separation of 135mm and that must be exact. Second, the ends of the pillars must fit through a half-inch (say 12mm) hole in the plates. I decorated the pillars a bit by turning a groove in them. I may get around to making them fancy later.

Next part, and by far the hardest, is to cut the gears. Now clockmakers call these things "wheels" and not gears. So let us use clockspeak. We cut these wheels out on the bandsaw.
This is mind-bending work. It is very finicky. If you did not know what a bandsaw can do, by the end of this clock you will be a bandsaw expert. Mr Wilding gives you very clear instructions on how to do it. Also see numerous YouTube videos. At the end of the day, we have a pile of wheels.
As you can see, I have a lot of wheels done and two to go. The hard part is the teeth, of course. One slip and you have lost the wheel. Or the pinion as the case may be. A "pinion" is a small-radius gear, and that is clockspeak too.

So at this point I have all done but two wheels. Then I have to "cross out" the main wheels. That is clockspeak again, meaning I have to saw out all but the spokes of the wheels. Then I have to sand them. And there is much more, but it will have to wait.

However I am quite pleased with progress so far. I find this bandsaw business quite tedious. But it works. Stay, as they say in the TV biz, tuned.

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