Making a grandfather clock case is probably one of the easiest pieces of furniture to make as there is no complicated jointing to contend with, but there is one or two point many people that are new to clock case making are not aware of. 1. Buying Timber So you're going to need timber, but before you go out and buy any let me just say this. We must remember that one of the most important factors on building a case for a longcase clock is the timber, and we must remember when these clocks were made in the late seventeenth early eighteenth century the timbers that were used would have been air dried.
Meaning the tree was cut down and left to rest for a period of time before being converted into planks, this allowed for water to escape from the cells. The planks were then put in stick and left to air dry until the moisture content came down to 16%, which took approximately one inch per year. The timber could then be used without the fear of the timber cupping, twisting or moving. Unfortunately today with our centrally heated houses and double-glazed windows, furniture made with 16 % moisture content would cup, split and bend. Therefore timber to be used in furniture in todays world should be kiln dried to 10 or 11% moisture content.
To find kiln dried timbers at a reasonable price is becoming more difficult as most of our furniture industry has disappeared, and the furniture is of the mass produce pine type, or manufactured with man made boards and coming in flat pack. There are very few furniture makers making hard wood quality furniture in this country today, therefore the demand for kiln dried hardwoods is very low and is not financially viable to the big timber merchants whose main market is in the building industries and mainly concentrate on construction timber. (Soft woods). 2.
So I always convert my timber as follows 1. Buy the timber kiln dried at 12% moisture content, and 1-inch thick planks were possible. 2. Cut the planks to the required lengths allowing an inch or two at each end allowing for any dipping on the planer. 3. Put the timber through the planer, to clean and square.
(If you don't have circular saw and planer / thicknesser your local joiner will be able to convert the timber for you). 4. Then stack in the house best place I've found is under the bed.
(Preferably when the lady of the house is shopping) This will allow the timber to move, and any twisting or cupping can be corrected later. I know this may seem a lot of messing about and time wasting but believe me this will save you a lot of work and heart ache and embarrassment, especially if the clock is for somebody else, you don't want a member of your family or God forbid a customer to ring you up to tell you the door on the hood or trunk of there beloved clock won't close because its bent. Trust me this can be a nightmare, I've had to bring clocks back and had to build new doors.
It's very hard on the pocket and pride, so do the job correctly from the start and as in all crafts, if the foundations are done correctly the top will shine. 3. Movement and Dial. The one big mistake I have seen people make is they will try to make the clock case before they have bought the movement and dial.
I think this is because the emphasis is on the case as a piece of furniture and not as a piece to tell the time. Cost is also a factor. There is a tendency to think I will make the case first and then buy the movement and dial.
An example I can think of is when a tutor at a local furniture college rang me to ask if I could help him out, as a number of students had chosen to make longcase clocks for there yearly project. They spent many labours hours making extremely beautiful cases and incorporating intricate stringing and veneering, which must have cost them an extremely large amount of money. They then found they could not make the movement and dial fit the case.
Unfortunately this usually means major readjustment as it did in this particular case.So always have your dial and movement before you start building your case. I know this should be common sense but you would be surprised how many people try it. The process is always the same when we make a clock case, we draw the clock case projecting out from the dial measurements, through the mask and through the hood door and to the hood, which gives us the correct width for the clock. Then the measurement is taken from the front of the dial to the back-cock on the movement to give use the correct depth and proportions for the clock. Making a longcase clock is probably one of the most gratifying project you can ever take on and once in place will be a source of satisfaction and pride for you for many years to come as every one who see it will view it with grate admiration and the clock it's self will become a much loved and cherished part of the family for generations to come as grandfather clocks do.
Barry Share is the proprietor of Riversdale Clocks.http://riversdaleclocks.com where he and his son Matthew have been making bespoke cases for longcase clocks since 1986 and are both holders of advanced furniture qualifications. Barry and Matt are co-authors in the new case making manual... "Making A Case For A Longcase Clock, " a must read for any one making a case to house an antique movement and dial. http://www.casemaking.riversdaleclocks.com