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How to make a mid-century modern wall clock

I am a fan of mid-century modern and while browsing some designs the other day I came across this wall clock. I really liked it’s mix of mediums and the shape was kind of an homage to Star Trek. I found you could buy the clock for around $250 on eBay. At that price I decided it would be a could do-it-yourself project.

To get started I took a picture of the clock and loaded it into Adobe Illustrator so I could trace the main boomerang shape. I ran a trace operation and then went through and cleaned it up by removing unneeded extra points. It took me about 10 minutes to get the shape how I wanted it and then I printed it out. This is the pattern I will use to cut the shape out of wood later.

I’ve had a piece of Monkey Pod, which is a tropical hard wood, that I decided to use for the main shape. When Monkey Pod is finished it has a color that works really well for mid-century modern design. The first thing I had to do was to re-saw the rough stock to get a piece about three quarters of an inch thick. Then I moved to the planer to make sure the wood was a consistent thickness and then remove the rough sawn faces. This piece Monkey Pod was about 36 inches long and 4 inches wide. My plan was to cut it in half and then glue the two halves together so I would have an 18 inch by 8 inch panel to cut the boomerang shape out of. In order to glue the halves together I needed to joint one side. I did that on the table-saw with my jointer jig.

After glue-up I was ready to cut the shape out on the bandsaw. One word of caution, if you are ever working with Monkey Pod, be sure to wear some kind of respirator. The sawdust from this wood is very irritating. My wife walked out into the shop while I was working and almost immediately started coughing.

Now that the shape was cut and sanded it was time to add the brass rods. To attach them I marked their location and then used the router to cut out a pocket for them to sit in. I marked the length of each rod and cut them down to size with a cut-off wheel in my angle grinder. A little two part epoxy permanently cemented the rods in place. After that I finished the wood with some lacquer to really bring out the beauty in this wood.

Next, it was time to make the clock face. I used a piece of maple for this. I thought the contrast of the lighter maple against the darker Monkey Pod would work really well together. To mount the clock mechanism I found the center of the wood and used a forstner bit to cut the right size hole. I used a round lid the size I needed to trace a circle and then cut that out on the bandsaw. The wood was a little too thick so I used the router to cut a pocket out of the back that the clock mechanism could sit in. Again I used lacquer to finish the clock face.

For the markings on the clock face I used my vinyl cutter to cut a stencil. I placed the stencil on the face and spray painted on the markings. Once the paint was dry I was ready for final assembly.

Attaching the clock to the brass bars was a challenge. I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it and ran through many different options. I needed to be able to adjust the time and change the battery so with that in mind I decided to make the clock face removable. I have a 3d printer so I went to my computer and designed a bracket that would snap onto the brass rods to hold the clock face in place. This worked really well.

I know not everyone has a 3d printer and if you want to make a clock like this you don’t need one. You could easily adjust the spacing of the brass rods so that the clock mechanism fits between them. Then you could connect the rods to the back of the clock face directly with a bracket or epoxy and still access the battery and clock adjustment.

I am extremely happy with how this clock turned out. I originally planned on making it larger than what it turned out to be and if I were to do it again I would scale it up. That said, this thing looks awesome. I love the mix of mediums and woods. The Monkey Pod, maple, and brass all work really well together and I love the shape. I am a bit of a Treky at heart so the homage to Star Trek makes me smile.

If you want to build this yourself there are links below the parts I used. You can also download the template of the main boomerang shape. If you just want to purchase one like this there are links to where you can find them. If you want to purchase one I made send me an email through the website to let me know you are interested.

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