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How to Make an Irish Parlor Clock
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How To Make An Irish Parlor Clock

A new case for an old movement charms a second century of woodworkers. By John English




How to Make an Irish Parlor Clock

A Wall Mounting Irish Parlor Clock

A couple years ago, in the ancient Irish market town of Arklow, an uncle of mine had a client who decided to retire. Uncle Joe, who supplied bottled propane to hardware stores, drove to Arklow and began helping his customer clear out some stock so the store could be listed with a Realtor. He was out back, counting gas cylinders, when he spotted the original version of this project. Its veneer was peeling off, and the carcass was riddled with woodworm. Despite all of that, Joe knew immediately he had discovered something special. Though the carcass was decrepit, the clock's solid brass movement had been exceptionally well built with thick, hardened gears and a great deal of hand fitting. Knowing that, and being aware of my love of clocks, Joe asked me to build a new home for the wonderful Westminster movement. I enjoyed the task so much that, as soon as I finished, I ordered a brand new movement and built a second clock (shown here) that will tell the time at my sister's home in Dublin.

Materials Needed:

1 Case Sides (2) 3/4'' x 4 1/8'' x 23 3/4''
2 Case Back (1) 1/4'' x 11 3/16'' x 22 11/16''
3 Case Top & Bottom (2) 3/4'' x 4 1/8'' x 11 1/4''
4 Upper Plate (1) 1'' x 5 13/16'' x 14 1/4''
5 Crown Front (1) 1'' x 3 1/2'' x 14 1/4''
6 Crown Sides (2) 1'' x 1 3/4'' x 5 1/2''
7 Side Cove Moldings (2) 3/4'' x 4 1/8'' x 4 7/8''
8 Front Cove Molding (1) 3/4'' x 4 1/8'' x 12 3/16''
9 Lower Plate (1) 1'' x 5 9/16'' x 13 9/16''
10 Cove Molding Plug (1) 1/2'' x 2 5/16'' x 7 1/8''
11 Door Stiles (2) 3/4'' x 1 5/16'' x 23 5/8''
12 Center Door Rail (1) 3/4'' x 1 7/16'' x 9 3/8''
13 Top Door Rail (1) 3/4'' x 1 7/16'' x 9 3/8''
14 Bottom Door Rail (1) 3/4'' x 1 7/16'' x 9 3/8''
15 Biscuits (8) Ryobi style R3
16 Door Molding (2) 3/4'' x 1'' x 23 5/8''
17 Door Stile, Small 1/4 Round (2) 1/4'' x 1/4'' x 23 5/8''
18 Door Muntins (2) 3/4'' x 5/8'' x 12 13/16''
19 Bottom Side Panes (2) Glass, cut to fit
20 Bottom Center Pane (1) Glass, cut to fit
21 Stop Molding (1) 1/4'' x 7/16'' x 90''
22 Top Pane (1) Glass, cut to fit
23 Dial Frame Segments (4) 3/4'' x 2 1/4'' x 9 3/8''
24 Door Hinges (2) Brass, 1 1/2''
25 Dial Frame Turnbuckles (4) Brass
26 Door Catch (1) Brass hook and eye

The Carcass Assembly

The measurements in the Material List can be used both to purchase stock and to cut all the pieces to rough size.

  • Cut 1/4" square dadoes across the case sides (pieces 1) at the locations shown on the Pinup Shop Drawings (these dadoes are small, so this operation can be completed in two passes with a standard blade)
  • Cut a rabbet in each side for the back (piece 2), as shown on the Pinup Shop Drawings (the back is set in 1/4": the reason will become obvious when you mount the movement)



  • Cut 1/4 square dadoes across the case sides (pieces 1) at the locations shown on the Pinup Shop Drawings The ends of the carcass top and bottom (pieces 3) are also rabbeted, creating tongues to fit in the dadoes you just milled. Take your time making these cuts, dry fitting them several times to ensure a perfect fit.

    The ends of the carcass top and bottom (pieces 3) are also rabbeted, creating tongues to fit in the dadoes you just milled. Take your time making these cuts, dry fitting them several times to ensure a perfect fit.
  • Glue and clamp the sides to the top and bottom, making sure everything is both square and flat
  • Attach the back with 3/4" pin nails every six inches along the perimeter
  • Set the carcass aside to dry


  • Bill of Materials for Making Your Own Parlor Clock<br />

    Irish Parlor Clock Bill of Materials - Click to enlarge in a new tab

    The Crown Subassembly

    The crown of the clock rests on a plate (piece 4) that will eventually be screwed to the carcass. The radii on its front corners and the profile of the crown front (piece 5) can be found on the Full-size Pattern.

  • Cut both to shape on your band saw
  • Miter both ends of the crown front and one end of each crown side (pieces 6)
  • Dry fit these parts to the plate
  • Locate biscuits on the mitered joints
  • Keep the biscuits toward the insides of the miters, as shown on the Pinup Shop Drawings
  • Glue and clamp them together when everything lines up
  • Glue the entire subassembly to the plate
  • Let glue cure
  • Use a belt or disk sander to reduce the glued-up mitered corners on the radii on the plate

  • **Start with a coarse grit belt to remove most of the waste, then refine the corners with less aggressive belts, finishing with 220 grit. Move to a drum sander chucked in your drill press to clean up the top edges


    Cutting on the table saw.

    Milling Your Crown

    Use a push-stick: never pass your hands over a spinning blade

    Use a push-stick: never pass your hands over a spinning blade

  • Mill the ogee at the bottom of the upper plate's edge with a guided bit in your table router
  • Attach the crown to the carcass with screws driven up from the inside of the top, through predrilled and countersunk pilot holes (see Pinup Shop Drawings)

  • A Mitered Compound Cove

    In a technique common among nineteenth century clock case builders, the bottom of the clock is dressed up with three pieces of wide molding. These moldings (pieces 7 and 8) are mitered and glued together before they're attached to the lower plate (piece 9). Their profile is shown on the Full-size Pattern.

    Cove Molding

  • Clamp two scrap auxiliary fences to your table saw 4 1/8'' apart and at 45° to the blade
  • Center them on the blade (front to back). Set the blade height to 1/16"
  • Test your setup on scrap
  • Raise the blade 1/16" on each pass until the cove shown on the Full-size Pattern is formed
  • Cut the molding's main cove on your table saw (see sidebar below)
  • Reset the saw and rip the edges to the correct angles (also on the Full-size Pattern)
  • Mill the decorative groove with a core box bit in your router table
  • Sand the entire molding (a drum sander works great as a manual sanding block to clean up the main cove, as shown in the inset)
  • Round the front corners of the lower plate and sand
  • Miter the cove molding (see Pinup Shop Drawings)
  • Pin nail and glue the molding segments to the plate
  • Attach this subassembly to the carcass with screws
  • Rabbet the edges of the cove molding plug (piece 10) before gluing and clamping it in place (see Elevation drawing below left)
  • Glue and clamp in place

  • Door Stiles Diagram and Cut List

    Irish Parlor Clock Door Stiles Diagram and Cut List - Click to enlarge in a new tab

    Use a push-stick: never pass This molding is first shaped on the router table with a 3/8" radius roundover bit.

    This molding is first shaped on the router table with a 3/8" radius round-over bit.

    Built-up Door Stiles

    Begin building the door by...

  • Rabbet one edge of each door stile (pieces 11) and both edges of the center rail (piece 12), following the dimensions shown on the Pinup Shop Drawings

  • This saw setup can also be used to cut rabbets on the inside bottom edge of the top rail (piece 13) and the inside top edge of the bottom rail (piece 14)

  • Use the saw's miter gauge to create tongues on both ends of each rail referring to the Pinup Shop Drawings
  • Dry fit stiles and rails together
  • Glue and clamp the stiles and rails together (make sure to check for squareness and flatness)
  • Use biscuits (pieces 15) to attach the door molding (pieces 16) to the outside edge of each stile when glue is dry

  • Attach the small quarter rounds (pieces 17) to their inside edges, after things are secure
  • The Door Muntins

    A pair of thin muntins (pieces 18) divide the bottom half of the clock door into three glazed segments.

    The safest way to make the muntins is to...

  • Form them on the edge of a wide board
  • Trim them to size (their dimensions are shown on the Pinup Shop Drawings. These muntins are set into dadoes cut in the door's center and bottom rails)
  • Locate these dadoes on the Pinup Shop Drawing
  • Cut them on the table saw
  • Keep in mind that the top rail isn't dadoed

    Trim them to size

    Trim them to size

  • Use your saw's miter gauge to trim the ends of the muntins to fit into these dadoes, following the dimensions shown in the detail drawing on the Pinup Shop Drawings
  • Glue and clamp the muntins in place when everything fits
  • Glass Retainers


    Cut them on the table saw

    Cut them on the table saw

    The three lower panes of glass in the door (pieces 19 and 20) are secured by a simple stop molding (piece 21) ripped off the edge of a wide board and mitered to fit the glass openings. The large pane of glass in front of the dial (piece 22) is kept in place by a separate, removable frame made up of four mitered segments of square stock (pieces 23) that are biscuited and glued together before being milled to accommodate the dial. Hold off on this assembly until you locate the dial in the door. Getting the dial to line up properly in the door is critical, so I strongly recommend creating a template from 1/4" plywood to help.

  • Rip and crosscut your template to fit the rabbets in the upper door opening
  • Center the clock dial on the template
  • Use it to draw an outline of the large circular hole
  • Cut the dial hole with a jig saw or saber saw
  • Clean up the edges with a drum sander chucked in the drill press (be very particular — the quality of this work will be quite obvious later on)

  • Use it to draw an outline of the large circular hole

    Be very particular — the quality of this work will be quite obvious later on

    Finishing and Hardware

    You're now ready to sand and finish the entire project. I used four coats of clear satin polyurethane to bring out the mahogany's luster.

  • Sand between coats with 400 grit paper
  • Use a tack cloth to clean up before the next coat
  • Let the finish dry
  • Set the clock on its back and position the door on the carcass
  • Locate and install the hinges (pieces 24) (Each hinge will require a single dado in the front edge of the carcass stile, as shown on the Pinup Shop Drawings: this eliminates the need to chop any mortises in the back of the door)
  • Screw the hinges in place
  • Temporarily tack the dial template into the rabbets in the back of the door

  • Milling the Dial Frame

    With the location of the dial established, you can now make the frame that fits around it...

  • Rip the four frame segments (pieces 23) to size
  • Miter them to the lengths shown on the Pinup Shop Drawings
  • Use biscuits (placing them at the locations shown on the Pinup Shop Drawings), glue and clamps to create a square form that looks like a picture frame (make sure this frame is flat and square as you tighten the clamps)
  • Let the glue dry
  • Trim the outside of the frame to fit in the door rabbet, leaving 1/16'' play all round (remember to shave a little off each side so the mitered joints don't look off center)
  • Center your plywood template on the frame, clamp it gently in place when the fit is perfect
  • Draw a line for the circular cutout
  • Make the cutout with a scroll or jig saw
  • Use a drum sander to clean up the edges
  • Use a bearing guided chamfering bit to relieve both the front and back edges of the cutout, following the chamfer dimensions shown on the Full-size Pattern when you're satisfied with the fit
  • Cut a 3/8'' wide rabbet on the back edges of the dial frame, making it flush with the door
  • Finish the dial frame
  • Secure both it and the glass with four brass turnbuckles (pieces 25)
  • Close the door and install the brass catch (piece 26) with a screw and a couple of pins, as shown on the Pinup Shop Drawings

  • One final piece of advice: mechanical movements are very sensitive, so make sure the wall where the clock will hang is absolutely plumb and level. If it is, you'll enjoy years of reliable service from this reproduction of an Irish parlor clock.


    Attach the dial to the movement according to the manufacturer's instructions

    Follow the manufacturer's Instructions

    Placing the Movement

  • Attach the dial to the movement according to the manufacturer's instructions
  • Remove the large square pane of glass from the door
  • Place the movement in the case (with the 12 at the top), then close the door
  • Gently reposition the movement until the dial is centered in the cutout (see photo, below)
  • Open the door and use a pencil to mark the movement's bolt locations on the plywood back
  • Remove the movement and drill the holes
  • Secure the movement to the back with the nuts and washers provided by the manufacturer
  • Install the chiming rods (see Pinup Shop Drawings), then attach the hands
  • Set the clock upright to install the pendulum
  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions to set the time and adjust the movement

  • Attach the dial to the movement according The finished Irish Parlor Clock

    Once finished it makes a wonderful family heirloom or gift

    posted on June 3, 2015 by Rockler
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    Comments

    One thought on “How to Make an Irish Parlor Clock”

    • Donal Bredin

      am I missing something ? I just dont see any information on
      dimensions etc for the clock.
      Donie Bredin
      Galway
      Ireland

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