Sometimes you find a project that just calls out to you. When Bob Van Dyke of the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking asked if I’d be willing to travel to his school and teach a tall case clock class, I knew exactly which clock I wanted the class to make.
On my last visit to Monticello I noticed a great Pennsylvania tall case clock. The clock was made in 1803 by Benjamin Ferris, a Philadelphia clock maker. The clock also has an association with Thomas Dring of West Chester, PA. Ferris was commissioned to make the clock for Jefferson but Dring’s signature is on the dial. This leaves a bit of mystery surrounding the clock.
So this week, I’m in Manchester, Connecticut teaching a great group of woodworkers how to build this intriguing piece. On Monday we kicked off the class with a brief overview of the project and the anticipated timetable for completing the clock. We then dived into clock case construction.
First off was milling and cutting the case parts to size. Then everyone jumped into dovetailing the base sides and bottoms. Everyone in the class did a tremendous job cutting the case dovetails by hand.
Next up was face frame construction. While the dovetails were cut by hand, a mortiser and tablesaw were enlisted to aid in making the frames. By the end of the first day the clock cases and face frames were well underway.
Tuesday found us working on cleaning up the surfaces of the clock cases, assembling face frames and, eventually, assembling clock bases. Most of the folks in the class had never used a #80 cabinet scraper before (at least not one that was properly tuned). It’s been a huge hit for surface prep.
Wednesday kicked off with cleaning up the bases and waist face frames. Waists and bases were assembled by lunch. The afternoon was spent making all the moldings for the base of the clock. By the end of the day all the moldings were made, prepped and the base moldings and feet were attached to the clocks.
Today’s agenda includes wrapping the waist and shoulder moldings and beginning work on the hoods. All in all this is a great group of woodworkers who are building some extremely fine tall case clocks. Check back later to see how the second half of this class goes. I can guarantee the next installment from these guys is going to be astounding.
Thanks to Bob Van Dyke for inviting me to teach at the school and to Freddy Roman for being such a great assistant so far this week.