Line & Berry Shelf Clock

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For years I built furniture for customers. Along with those pieces, I occasionally built something from my bucket list – we call that speculative because you hope you can sell it somewhere in the future. But in business, even when you’re choosing what pieces to build on speculation, you need to be mindful of your customer base and select furniture you think you can sell. There’s no sense building a piece that your customers won’t appreciate, or would deem the cost too high. As a result, I passed on building a shelf clock.

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(Fig. 1) Shelf clocks, such as this one built by David Wood in Massachusetts, are a bit too fancy. I needed something more “blue collar.” (Photo courtesy of the Chipstone Collection)

There’s been more than a few non-tall-case clocks that garnered my attention, especially those built by David Wood in Massachusetts at the beginning of the 19th century (Fig. 1). Something about those shelf clocks that left me wanting more. I couldn’t put my finger on it until one day when I imagined a shelf clock built by Pennsylvania Quakers with line-and-berry designs – a piece that never existed, to the best of my knowledge, or has yet to be discovered. That’s when the shelf-clock bug bit me – and it bit hard.

It was with that image in mind that I sat down and drew up plans for my shelf clock. I began with the overall dimensions of a known clock, dropped the arched top but kept the tombstone door and eliminated some of the physical gingerbread only to pump-up the decoration with scratched-in designs of tiger maple stringing and red and white berries. The construction techniques, and the methods employed to add in the decoration are not difficult, but the time spent adorning the exterior surfaces is lengthy.

Also, most of the period clocks were built using a mechanical movement. Today, it’s my opinion that most of these clocks would never include such a movement. Therefore, I’m building this without a few important parts that would need to be added if one chose to use a more costly movement. Those parts primarily focus around the now-absent seat board and its support structure. Additionally, if you are sure you will never install anything but a quartz movement, you could eliminate the base face frame and door in favor of a solid panel because you would not need access to weights used to drive the movement. My project, however, may at a future date have a mechanical movement in place.

Quick Step of Prep

From the cut list prepare the base and hood sides and the base bottom. Milling the parts that get much of the inlay work, the door excluded, is completed in short order. It’s probably best to include the four pieces that make up the door frame and the two rails that connect the hood sides. But remember that the hood rails are 7/8″ thick.

With these select parts milled to thickness, width and length, grab the base sides and base bottom for dovetailing. Make the bottom the pin board. Layout and cut your pins. The bottom fits a 1/2″ behind the front edge of the base sides – that area, found only on the base sides, is rabbeted to extend into the edge of the face-frame assembly that is the front of the clock base. In addition, the base sides are rabbeted along the top edge to house a support structure, and there are rabbets for the back. Layout the locations for the rabbets, but don’t make them as of yet.

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(Fig. 2) These dovetails are a great place to try different techniques from your regular process. There are only a few pins and tails, and the end results are covered by molding.

Align your pin board to the base sides to transfer and cut the matching tails in the base sides (Fig. 2). With only three pin-waste areas to remove, I do the work at my bandsaw by nibbling away the waste. It’s easy and the completed joinery is covered by a molding, so looks are not the main focus. When you’ve knocked out the dovetails, turn your attention to the line-and-berry work on the four sides.

Inlay work of the base and hood sides is not a pattern you’ll find on period clocks, or on any line-and-berry furniture for that matter. It’s my design, but you are welcome to use it. If develop a design of your own, be creative. Each of the four panels is surrounded by tiger maple stringing. Inside the frames is a curvy stem that runs diagonally from top to bottom, topped with a three-berry set. Each stem also has three offshoots, each with a set of berries at the end. Patterns are found elsewhere in this presentation.

Side Decoration

A mix of power-tool and hand-tool woodworking is used to cut the recesses to demonstrate both techniques. Choose whichever method you want based on the tools you have available. To go power, you’ll need a router with a plunge base, 1/16″-diameter router bit with a long enough cutting length to reach beyond a pattern, a small-diameter guide bushing and a plywood template to guide your router setup.

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10 thoughts on “Line & Berry Shelf Clock

  1. Where did you get the clock dial, is it hand painted

    1. Greg,
      I took a photo of one of the hand-painted dials I’ve had throughout the years, sized it to fit my clock and printed it on glossy paper. I then glued to a piece of plywood and mounted the unit in the clock. Easy, peasy.

      1. Thanks Glenn, I am planning to build a Chester Co tall case clock like the clock Chuck Bender used to teach a class on. I had the opportunity to visit Chuck’s workshop in Cincinnati last summer, he was very helpful on the clock structure and clockworks. Also visited Mike Siemsen’s shop in Minnesota and looked at some time pieces. Mike told me about the Fine Woodworking magazine articles and plans that were in the magazine in 2004. It has all been very helpful
        Greg Sweeney
        Madison Wi

  2. Another WOW!! project from 360 Woodworking.

    1. Just have to make another comment…Glen,a great Line and Berry demo .

  3. Hi Glen hope all is well.

    Great “twofer” project! You get to make a partial spice box with a clock!

    Timely, too on the line and berry because I just recently saw a repeat of your debut show on Tommy Mac making the Chester Spice Box. Just recently purchased some inlay tools so looking forward to getting started.

    Thanks for this one!
    bob
    Say hello from me to your buddy!

  4. This is a stunning project, Glen. I’ll have to fit it into my schedule. Another major plus is that I won’t need any assistance to move it around the house!

    I can have my grandkids design clock faces for it, and change them periodically.

    Charles

    1. That’s a great idea, Charles. Please keep us posted of your progress when you get started.

  5. Beautiful design. Perfect for sitting on the huntboard in my living room. I don’t have any grandkids, so would you consider selling a copy of your clock face in the Swag Section of the Store? Or, perhaps just including a PDF of the clock face as part of the project file.

    BTW, students at Marc Adams don’t know what they missed.

    Ken

    1. Thanks, Ken. I agree. It would have been a great class @MASW. The clock face that I used is not a perfect match. Plus it’s a face that a customer had painted for a full-size clock, so I don’t feel comfortable sending it out to everyone. And, depending on how you build your version, your face may be different. I. however, will load a potential clock face with a simple dial on a white background into the member’s blog. You and others interested can use it as is, or add decorations if you choose.

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