My First Mantel Clocks

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Project by novowood posted 08-30-2011 05:23 AM 2131 views 3 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

One of my previous projects was a wraparound mantel shelf. The mantel shelves just seemed unfinished without a mantel clock. So, I decided to give it a try. I ended up making two clocks at the same time—one for each main side of the fireplace. Both are about 9”W x 6”D x 8”H, and were made using mahogany from Construction is generally frame and panel—routing slots in the 1 1/4” square legs/posts to hold the tenons of the 3/4” upper and lower rails, as well as the 1/4” front, back, and side panels. My first try at clockcase-making also included another first—inlaying wood animal figures.

I got the clock prints for the dials at and the quartz movements from I would like to have had mechanical movements but they were quite expensive. I got anti-glare glass at Michaels. I wish that I had a good local source for colored glass. I was not as pleased with my painted elliptical painted glass pieces to semi-transparently show the pendulums. I had broken some glass doing my cutting of the ellipses on the first try, and being flexibly stupid, I tried to recover by using some glass paint from Michaels to color clear glass. I just could not get them to come out very smooth and, at the same time, have them be semi-transparent. I did discover that using my bench grinder to shape the glass ellipses to fit the “window frames” worked very well.

I wanted the mahogany to “look” different for the two clocks, so I followed the following steps:
1. Dyed the wood medium brown for one clock and the wood red mahogany for the other
2. Added a wash coat of garnet shellac to the wood for both clocks
3. Finished with 2 coats of Waterlox Original.

Doing the animal inlays was the most difficult, probably because I had no experience in this area. Since you are wondering what animals are represented in the inlays, I will give you a hint—both are Colorado natives—a bear and a Marten. I used a different species of wood—some exotic wood cutoffs for which I think was Shedua—I wanted a contrast of woods between clock face panel and the inlay. I made the patterns from some photos that I adjusted to enhance the appearance. I cut out the figures on the scroll saw and with some manual fret saw work. I originally tried to attach different wood cutouts (ebony, for example) to make the darker areas (nose and feet, for example) stand out. I found that too difficult to make fit properly. I then tried routing out holes and filling with pigments (Van Dyke Brown) and glue. This worked a little better. I did not dye the inlays or add the garnet shellac washcoat for fear that I would not have sufficient contrast between the woods. I used a spray shellac to seal the animal cutouts. The main difficulty with which I wrestled was to answer the question: In what order do I dye the clock case front panel, add the washcoat of garnet shellac, add the inlay, sand it down and add the finish without screwing it all up? The answer? I still don’t know! If I dyed the panel after adding the inlay then I run the risk of getting dye on the inlay. The same would happen if I added the washcoat of garnet shellac. Additionally, if I sanded the inlay after I glued it in place, then I ran the risk of sanding through the dyed wood. In the end, I dyed and added the shellac washcoat to the clock face panel first, then glued in the inlay, sanded the inlay flush, and the resprayed shellac on the inlay after taping off the panel from the inlay. Oh, there were some other difficulties with this process that would take me too long to describe, and I would hate to relive the experience. I am just “okay” with the results. But, I would appreciate it if someone would fill me in on the best method to add wood inlay that requires a different finish on it from the surrounding would.

Overall it was a satisfying experience learning what it took to make the clockcases as well as to experience some new areas that showed me my skill deficiencies. Even so, I want to try it all again.

-- Odus

4 comments so far

View Woodwrecker's profile


4149 posts in 3574 days

#1 posted 08-30-2011 06:59 AM

Those came out real nice Odus.
I bet they look great up on the mantle.

-- Eric, central Florida / Utor praemia operibus duris

View Ken90712's profile


17556 posts in 3188 days

#2 posted 08-30-2011 10:31 AM

Nice work on the clocks, Looks like a fun project.

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View helluvawreck's profile


31082 posts in 2865 days

#3 posted 08-30-2011 01:45 PM

These clocks are beautiful and I like the style. Nice work.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View ChrisN's profile


259 posts in 3772 days

#4 posted 08-30-2011 01:46 PM

These came out really nice!!!

Thanks for sharing!!!


-- Chris N, Westford, MA - "If you won't eat something from your fridge that turned green...why would you eat something that started out that way?"

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