With the moulding installed around the arched opening for the dial, there’s one last detail on the hood before moving on to the goose-neck mouldings of the broken-arch pediment. The Egerton tall clock has a small keystone that separates the two pieces of the arched moulding. The keystone is made from solid mahogany, but the face of the piece is a small assembly of veneer. And by small I mean 5/8″ wide at the bottom, 1-1/4″ wide at the top and about 1-1/4″ from top to bottom. That’s not a lot of inlay, so I can easily get that from scrap pieces already on hand. (Check out the photo. You can see a picture of the original clock between the hoods of the two clocks I’m building.)
To get things started, I thought it best to lay out the design to better get a feel for the pieces and steps. That also made it easy to get the sizes of the maple veneer just right, and that made the work go much quicker. After I had the design, I snapped off pieces of the ebony stringing and cut the small pieces of maple from a leftover sheet of shop-made veneer – I’m tired of sanding through the 1/40″- or 1/64″-thick commercial veneer and vow to never purchase it again. To make sure things went as planned, I stuck the pieces to a piece of tape, then checked the size against the actual keystone.
I was now ready to stick the pieces to the keystone. With a thin layer of glue on the keystone, I positioned the veneer and stringing. (Again, I really like the Titebond No-Run, No-Drip Wood Glue.) A neat technique was to lock one leg of my spring clamp into my bench vise, leaving the other leg operable. This allowed me to easily move or reposition the keystone in any way necessary. At this time, I wasn’t concerned about the length of the pieces applied to the workpiece. I didn’t want them to run past the top and bottom, but I also didn’t need them to be perfectly aligned. After everything was placed and slide to its final position (moving the veneer pieces up or down influenced the overall width of the assembly so I could easily match the keystone face), I set the piece aside to allow the glue to dry.
The next step after the glue dried – about 10 minutes – was to saw the top and bottom edges to add the last pieces of ebony stringing. A marking gauge is perfect to scribe lines to which to saw, and I particularly like a Japanese saw for these types of cuts. With the assembly locked in the spring-clamp vise, I sawed the two lines then peeled the waste parts easily off the keystone. A little more glue was added before I position the two last parts to the face of the workpiece. After the glue dried I used a rasp to level and smooth the inlay, then sanded everything smooth with #180-grit Abranet.
The finished keystone is shown in the opening photo. It’s a small piece that adds significantly to the overall look of the clock. And that’s what inlay does, at least to my eye. Also, if you look at the opening photo you can see the first carved rosette that fits at the end of the goose-neck moulding. I ran through three alliterations before arriving at what I think will work. To get a quick look, I stuck the half-finished rosette in place, then stood back to make a decision. So far, so good. But there is more work to be done.
Build Something Great!
I’ve been leery of the Egerton tall clock punched scroll-board veneer from the git-go. Until this weekend my concerns were in how to attach the veneer – backed by what appears to be speaker cloth – over the scroll-board. If I glue the speaker cloth over the holes drilled into the scroll – holes that are to allow more bell sound to emit as the movement strikes on the hour – I’m sure to get glue on the cloth. That’s not going to work. Also, as I then glue the veneered face to the assembly, once again glue seeps into the cloth and the mess continues.
This weekend I found a new concern. How would I finish the clock if I worked out all the attachment issues? There will be no dye or stain, but I will add a layer of boiled linseed oil to highlight the grain in my mahogany. And with shellac as my topcoat, how the hell would I brush, wipe or spray shellac without filling the open weave of the speaker cloth? I’m at a loss and turning to plan B. Or is that E? Not sure.
The next plan was to attach my punched veneer directly over the scroll-board without using a cloth between. To glue the face veneer to the scroll would be easy, but the holes would be a problem. Some of the holes do not go all the way through the scroll and the look in a mocked-up sample was less than stellar. I used a brad-point bit to cut my holes. The center point of the bit left a nasty look in any holes not drilled completely through. Maybe a spoon bit and a brace? Too much work. A round-nose router bit plunged into the scroll? Too much rigging, With another quick look at that arrangement, I knew it was out. Next idea, please.
My mind scrambled for an answer. How about black veneer behind the punched-out face veneer? Finishing would be OK. Oil and shellac would work fine on top of the veneer. The look would be similar. Where was the problem? (There had to be one, right.) Sound. That’s it. The idea of the cloth and holes was to elevate the sound of the bell ring. No holes equals less sound. It’s OK to not have holes in the scroll-board. Most clocks don’t and the sound of the chime is still heard. I moved forward.
Black-dyed veneer was cut and fit to the punched face veneer. A thin layer of glue was spread and the two veneers were sandwiched between wax paper and two make-shift platens. Clamps held everything flat as I waited to see my results.
As the glue dried and I worked on other areas of the clocks, Dave Griessmann, a friend who spends time in my shop on Saturdays – he also forces me to have doughnuts in the morning and lunch at BW3 – suggested that I still place a few holes through the scroll-board to help with the sound. Good idea. I think sound would increase if it only had to pierce two thin layers of veneer. A few well-placed holes are being considered, but that decision can wait until later.
Being the visual woodworker that I am, I thumb-tacked the veneer sandwiches to the hood and stood back to take a look. That’s what you see in the opening photo (click on it to make it larger). The contrast is more now than it will be when the mahogany is colored and finished. I like it, but I need some time to decide. You have any ideas?
Build Something Great!
After fooling around with shop-made veneer for the pierced hood on the Egerton clock and not being satisfied, I decided to purchase a wood-backed veneer. I went to joewoodworker.com and bought a 4′ x 8′ sheet of ribbon-stripe mahogany. I opted for the backer veneer to run across the grain for added stability – I am punching through most of the veneered front. I placed my order on July 15th. Friday the 19th my veneer arrived. (Joe has great service. I was notified at every step.)
In the shop I cut off a 24″ section from the sheet. The opening photo shows how I went about establishing the angle of the grain, and it shows that I made a mistake as I rushed to get started – I laid out four sections (two pieces for each clock) angled the same direction. I needed two sets with the grain at opposing angles.
What I am particularly fond of is how easy it is to work with backed veneer. I cut the pieces to size using a pair of scissors. How easy is that? To get setup to do the punch work, I cut a piece of plywood a bit over-sized to act as a backer, then tacked and clamped my patten (slightly adjusted to show areas covered by moldings in the finished piece) to the plywood. I clamped one end so I could easily check my progress as I completed some of the work.
I began by using an 1/8″-wide chisel to cut at each of the four corners of the small patterns in my design. Work was just as with a machine in that I grabbed the chisel, oriented it for one corner then cut that corner in every contorted square. In the left-hand photo you can see the completed run of the first stage of work. I have to say that my hand was cramping as I worked the corners while holding the chisel between my thumb and index finger. I used a light mallet tap to punch the corners.
As I began step two using the small gouge, I decided that my mallet was unnecessary. Mere pressure could cut the veneer. I worked the small squares one at a time, removing the waste as I worked. A couple times the waste would slide under the veneer before I could grab it, so I had to remove the clamp in order to clear the way for the next square. And I could check my progress.
After nearly four hours I finished with the first half of one pierced piece of veneer. When I held it up to the hood, it looked good. What wasn’t good was the temperature. My shop has no air-conditioning, so I loaded up the necessary tools and veneer and took off for home. I could punch the remaining pieces at my kitchen counter.
Next week I’ll give you a look at the two finished pieces. Not bad so far.
Build Something Great!
In April this past year I first wrote about the perforated or punched scroll-board on the Egerton tall clock (read about here). Since then I’ve been working on the details, trying to get patterns complete and finally decide how I plan to go about the work.
This weekend I began experimenting with a couple of different materials to see if one would be better than the other – I have yet to decide if this is the actual process I plan to use to punch my scroll. The first material was a scrap of the backed veneer I used for the clock’s door and base front (click here if you want to take another look).
I placed half of a paper pattern of the scroll onto my scrap and went to work. Each small cutout requires eight stabs, four using a carving gouge and four with my 1/8″ chisel. In the backed veneer, I needed a bit of force to push through. After a number of holes were punched, I took a look at the cutout area and decided this would work. The problem I have withthis material is that the veneer is crotch mahogany. Being crotch, the grain pattern is somewhat wrong for the scroll-board. In the original, the grain pattern is more straight, and it runs at an angle that directs your eye toward the top of the clock – one of the woodworking rules to which I like to adhere.
In order to use a piece of straighter-grained veneer, I had to turn to a paper-back veneer. First I had to see if it works; my primary concern is that the veneer, along the thin connector lines between the cutouts, splits and cracks. My second concern is using a paper-back veneer. I cut a piece of of material, laid the paper pattern on top and again went to work.
After working for about 30 minutes – yes, the work went quicker than I expected due to the material being thinner and because I developed a better routine – I peeled off the tape to take a look. You can see the results below.
I like the look and either material seems to work out, but I think I’ll pass on the paper-back veneer. This week I’ll make some pieces of shop-cut veneer just so I can get the grain right. And to provide support for those small connectors, I’ll add a cross-grain backer. I expect that the work will be more difficult due to the thicker veneer, but I’ll stay more true to the original and the look should be right-on.
Build Something Great!
Scroll pediments are the front panels found at the top of some of the most impressive pieces built in the 18th- and early 19th-centuries. Furniture such as Bonnet-top high chests of drawer or highboys (as shown in the left-hand photo), bonnet-top chest on chests and many period clocks have scroll pediments. It’s on these panels that gooseneck mouldings are applied. Scroll pediments, at least on the highboys and other chests that I have seen in books and museums, have the grain running from side to side. (Most scroll pediments attach to the pediment returns with dovetails.) The same holds true for many clocks. But that is not always the case.
Tall case clocks are different when it comes to how they were built in the late 1700s and early 1800s. On tall case clocks, you can find many construction techniques that leave a 21st-century woodworker scratching heads. Some period clocks – some very expensive period clocks – appear to be held together with little more than chewing gum and grime collected throughout the years.
I have pointed out a few of the let’s say questionable construction techniques I’ve found on the Egerton clock that I’m working on. The scroll pediment is just another example. On the original clock, which at one time was for sale at $120,000, the grain of the pediment runs vertically. I know this because I have a photo of the back of the hood.
As I work on my tall clock, I am changing many of the oddities I found with the original, but as always the case, a few of those questionable construction techniques are being repeated. Case in point is the scroll pediment. I decided to keep the grain direction vertical. How this changes the building of my clock is most apparent as you work on the pediment returns. Dovetails, which are found on many of the period clocks that have broken-arch pediments, are not an option because the grain on the returns runs perpendicular to the scroll pediment. As a result, I attached the pediment and the returns with screws. I expect that nails were used on the original, but I went with screws (tightly fitted at the bottom and in over-sized holes at the middle and top for seasonal movement) for a more secure hold.
What is extremely interesting to me is that if you look at the front of the original Egerton clock you could not know that the scroll pediment grain runs vertically. You would, in fact, guess that the grain runs at a 45-degree angle because that’s the look presented at the front. A veneered face with fancy cutouts fronts the pediment. The veneer grain is angled. (That’s a detail that I will add to my build.)
Build Something Great!