Building a "Vienna German Wall Clock" style case

Discussion in 'Clock Construction' started by Douglas Ballard, Dec 21, 2012.

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  1. Douglas Ballard

    Douglas Ballard Registered User

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    I am going to endeavor to build a case for a weight driven wall clock movement. I don't have access to a lot of different types of wood. Any suggestions on what type of wood might be the best to use? Looking for any other suggestions also.
    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. Allan Wolff

    Allan Wolff Moderator
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    Hi Douglas,
    My preference would be walnut, mahogany, rosewood or other dark hardwoods. But that is my preference and you may like something lighter. You should pick a wood that you like as long as it is stable. There are some amazing looking cases out there that use plywood as a base with exotic veneer coverings. I would not worry about what is available at hand because you can get almost any type of wood online. Yes shipping could get expensive, but you want something that looks good and will last for many years. Don't regret your choice for years to come because you settled for what was available at the local lumber yard.

    Are you going for authenticity? If so, research similar style clocks and use what the old masters used.

    How about posting progress of your case project on this forum? There are many members of this message board with similar interests and would enjoy learning from you and sharing their knowledge as well.
    Allan
     
  3. Douglas Ballard

    Douglas Ballard Registered User

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    Thank you for the reply, Allan. I'm waiting for the movement to arrive so I can get the correct length pendulum. Once that is done I will have the measurements I need to begin building the case. I appreciate your suggestions for types of wood. I particularly like the wood the original cases were made from as small finishing nails press easily into them (for fitting the long pieces that hold door glass, etc.). I will do some research as you are correct, I want something I will be happy with for years and not something that was slapped together in a hurry. I will plan on posting progress.
     
  4. Rob P.

    Rob P. Registered User

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    I build custom kitchen cabinets and custom furniture for another(!) hobby of mine. From my experience most people don't know how heavy hardwoods are and they make things that fall apart because of poor joinery techniques.

    For a wall clock I would select either walnut, oak, birch or maple for the case sides. I would have this material thickness-planed to 1/2" to reduce the weight. I would use either pine or plywood for the case back with a pretty matching veneer on the visible side. If using ply, go with VENEER CORE plywood. (The particle core stuff has zero holding power for screws.) For myself I'd use the solid wood at 3/8" and rabbet it so that the case back is thicker and stronger - but that's just me.

    I would use box joints or dovetail joints at the case corners for good joinery strength. I would use a panel groove on the back edges of the case sides for the case back to fit into. I would make these pieces fit tightly together for strength and rigidity and I would glue everything together with a quality wood glue.

    I would use frame & panel bits to create the joinery for the face frame. I would either buy or make the decorative moldings (I can make them because I know how and have the tooling but buying commercial stuff is fine).

    Things I would not do: I would never use biscuit joinery or dowels. I would never glue 2 pieces of wood together end-to-end without interlocking them in some manner (called a "butt joint"). There would be NO nails or screws to hold the pieces together. Supports would be made to spread the hanging load to the side panels instead of transmitting it to the top and causing the corner joints to hold the rest of the case up.

    All of this takes some careful thinking and planning.
     
  5. Rob P.

    Rob P. Registered User

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    I'm going to add here that clock case makers in the past used pine for the cases and just veneered them with hardwood veneers.

    You can do it this way but it's a lot of work to do after you do all the other things that I feel are necessary for a quality clock case. The case makers made their cases the way they did because it was fast and cheap but not necessarily the best way to do it.

    We know this because door frames sag, hinge screws fall out, and the cases get floppy and loose at the corners. We also know that wood panels cracked because of shrinkage and poor engineering design wouldn't let the wood move as humidity changed. So it cracked at the weakest point.

    Even if I didn't have the skills and knowledge I do, I would still want to make the best case I could so that it would last beyond my lifetime. That means I won't necessarily be doing it the way the "master" did it in the past.
     
  6. Douglas Ballard

    Douglas Ballard Registered User

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    Rob, thanks for your input. I have planned on using the joining techniques you listed. I have the tools to do those joining applications and agree this is the way to go. The old cases were mortise and tenion, those held ok. What did not work out so well was the then wood embellishments at the top and bottom of the door. Three of the four wall clocks, German, I have are cracked in those locations. They also have some veneer lose or lifting. I think I'm going to go with solid wood. I need to look around and see if there is a mill in the area though. My planner will only accept wood that is 8 inches wide, and while this would work for the framing it would be much easier to work with a wider piece that was planed at once, allowing for a uniform thickness.

    I would just as soon not use oak because of the grain. I would like something with a tighter grain, maybe mahogany? I have very limited experience with veneer, although I might be able to manage that for the back alone. I would never try in on the framing though.

    The methods you discussed are time consuming but, as you also mentioned, they will let the case last past my lifetime. Not sure who will enjoy it after I'm gone because none of my children or the Mrs. have any interest in clocks! :confused:
     
  7. Rob P.

    Rob P. Registered User

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  8. Douglas Ballard

    Douglas Ballard Registered User

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    I checked with my son about a mill nearby, turns out there is one about 20 miles from me. They have all sorts of lumber and also a mill! Small world. Need to get a pendulum for the clock so I have an idea how long the case needs to be. Yippee!
     
  9. tok-tokkie

    tok-tokkie Registered User

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    You can download the pdf instructions for assembing the Erwin Sattler Vienna style clock from this link:
    http://www.izone1.com/sattlerclocks/ck.php
    It has nice step by step illustrations of how to assemble the case which may give you some ideas for what you are wanting to do.
     
  10. leeinv66

    leeinv66 Moderator
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    Well, I don't believe you can get a plain wooden case to look as impressive as an original built traditionally with veneer overlay. Yes, you can make a nice case, but it won't have the same character as those built by the masters. Old cases fall apart because of the glue used in their construction and the environment in which they have been kept. Not because of poor joinery techniques or fast and cheap building methods. There is nothing fast or cheap about masterfully applying veneer. But that's just my opinion.
     
  11. Douglas Ballard

    Douglas Ballard Registered User

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    I have no intention of building a plain case. It will be a duplicate of a large Mauthe case that I have. I may do a veneer for the inside of the backboard but the rest of the case will be solid hardwood. I have a supplier about 20 miles from my home, doesn't look like they have mahogany which I would prefer, but they do have walnut. I will be going over to their shop in a couple of weeks to look over their selection as well as doing some "consultation" on building the case. Most of these old cases were glued with hide glue, which did not hold up, but considering most of the cases I have are 100 years old or more, not too bad. I have reglued many a case!

    The reason they used veneer on the cases was because of cost. I want a thick backboard to support the mechanism and weights so will probably do as suggested and use a plywood backer to prevent warping and cover that with a veneer.
     
  12. leeinv66

    leeinv66 Moderator
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    Plain was the wrong word. I meant plain as in solid wood, not plain in design. Cost would have been a factor, but it is not the only reason they used veneer. The aesthetic appeal of their cases were enhanced by the way the veneer was applied. As well as having book matched veneer on the backboard, many Vienna cases also had book matched veneer on the base, the door and the crown. And those that didn't have book matched veneer had the veneer applied in a cross grain fashion. The only way to reproduce a book matched effect with solid timber would be to use butt joints and construct sections out of multiple pieces of solid timber. I am currently building my third Vienna case. The first two were constructed from solid timber and the latest will be veneer overlaid. While I like the solid timber cases I built, they are not as aesthetically pleasing to look at as any of the original Vienna cases I have restored. But again, that is just my opinion. Good luck with your project!
     
  13. Scottie-TX

    Scottie-TX Registered User
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    Pretty much covers it. Can't add much more. Never made a case but have seen many. Without veneer you have choices - using a specie that pleases you without veneer - walnut perhaps. I'd think rosewoods, cocobolo, etc. may be a bit more difficult to cut, finish, etc. but very rewarding. Many cases that were not veneered were ebonized. You might consider that too. Some type of plywood for backboard as warpage is always an issue there.
     
  14. Douglas Ballard

    Douglas Ballard Registered User

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    Peter,
    I have heard the term "book matched" before but do not know what it means?

    Please explain why veneer would be a more aesthetic choice? Since veneer is cut from wood, wouldn't it have the same appearance as the wood it was cut from. I need to be educated on this and appreciate your time. I have only applied veneer once, that was on a fairly large surface, the side of a cabinet with plywood underneath. It seems like it would be quite a challenge to apply it to the edges of a base or the frame of a door.
     
  15. Scottie-TX

    Scottie-TX Registered User
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    #15 Scottie-TX, Dec 27, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2012
    Bookmatch: Let's see if I can do this without botching. Two pieces of wood are cut from the same piece. Now these two pieces are laid next to each other as you would open a book. Now, because they were next to each other when laid side by side like a book, one is a mirror match of the other and their grains converge on the seam making a very pleasant pattern.
    Why then, veneer: Veneer because first obviously it costs less than solid wood of that specie but more relevantly, grain patterns are possible with veneer that would not be structurally sound for solid wood. For example often Vienna doors are veneered with crossgrain on the verticals and vertical grain bottom and top. So veneer is used to create a more appealing grain pattern not possible with solid wood.
     
  16. leeinv66

    leeinv66 Moderator
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    That explains it! Here is a picture of some quarter bookmatched veneer (four pieces) that you could use on a back board. and some two piece bookmatched that you could use to say a bottom pediment of a door. Often these are cut from burls and you just can't get the same effect from most truck or limb wood.

    Bookmatched.jpg
     

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  17. leeinv66

    leeinv66 Moderator
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    Here's a little case I restored that has some nice veneer work. Quarter bookmatch on the backboard and it has two piece bookmatch on the arched top, the top of the door and the base.

    5.jpg

    This is a mini Vienna style clock I made out of scrap bits and pieces, While I like him very much, his solid wood construction doesn't have the same visual appeal as the veneered case about.

    39.jpg
     
  18. Douglas Ballard

    Douglas Ballard Registered User

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    Peter, as the saying goes; "a picture is worth a thousand words." Your photos clearly demonstrate the dramatic effect of using veneer, what a difference. It really makes a case come alive. Now, since I have never done this type of veneer work, am I safe in giving it a shot on my case? I had planned on a plywood backboard to prevent warping. Is there a primer on veneer work her on the board?
     
  19. Douglas Ballard

    Douglas Ballard Registered User

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    Now that I have a better understand of veneer in general, and book matching: where is a good place to look for veneer? I see VanDykes is an advertiser here on the board and I looked at their wares. Some of it is kind of pricey, i.e.; the burl. Can you buy a sheet and then cut it and book match it for the backboard? Any advise on the pre-applied adhesive backing vs doing your own adhesive?
     
  20. leeinv66

    leeinv66 Moderator
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    I am a novice at applying veneer, but I have successively applied it to a few backboards and a couple of Vienna bases. Doing flat pieces is not that difficult. However, applying veneer to pieces that have tight curves can test your resolve:) Scottie will be along and provide better hints and tips than I can. In the mean time, this thread links to several others on the topic. Have a look on Ebay for some veneer. Often you can purchase bookmatched sets that are not too expensive.

    https://mb.nawcc.org/showthread.php?36768-Threads-on-Veneer-Replacement-and-Hide-Glue&highlight=veneer+101
     
  21. Scottie-TX

    Scottie-TX Registered User
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    Where to buy: Two I know, Rocklers and Bob Morgan (morganwood.com)
    You cannot bookmatch with a single piece. You must have two pieces and they must have been sequentially cut.
    Pre-applied adhesive - PSA - Pressure Sensitive Adhesive. NO! No bueno. Glue sheets with a protective backing that you iron on with heat - "NO" again.
    There are many types of veneers. Thin veneer, thick veneer, backed veneers, to name a few. I use both thick and thin. For flat surfaces I use contact cement applied to both pieces - base and veneer.
    For curved surfaces I use a common wood glue like Elmer's. Hide glue is not strong enough.
    Can you do it? Yep. Learn with flat surfaces first. Curved surfaces require clamping and cauls. To veneer flat surfaces all that is needed is a veneer saw and some rollers. Even a common rolling pin will suffice. Do not cut veneer to exact size. It will change shape and size with app. of glue.
     
  22. Douglas Ballard

    Douglas Ballard Registered User

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    Scottie, you answered the question I was going to ask about PSA, So, no backing, got it.

    Peter, thanks for the tip about Ebay, I checked it out and the prices are much lower. Looks like one would have to be careful about what you bought and read the descriptions pretty closely as some advertised "may have holes, rips, tears."

    Scottie, thanks for the tip on book matching, I now know what to look for. Question: if I buy four pieces, sequentially cut, that are say 12" X 8" can I use four of them to do my backboard? I'm assuming if I'm going to book match it won't be one solid piece anyway. I plan to do the backboard first.

    Thanks for the tips and the merchant info!
     
  23. Scottie-TX

    Scottie-TX Registered User
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    #23 Scottie-TX, Dec 28, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2012
    Well 12 X 8 maximally would be 24 X 16 so your backboard could be no longer than 24 and I suspect it will be longer than 24. I'd guess mebbe 26 - 28.
    woodworldtx.com ten minutes from me is also an EXCELLENT source. They had in stock the quilted sapele I needed for my Vienna project case.
     
  24. leeinv66

    leeinv66 Moderator
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    Yep, you need to look closely when you are buying online. Small rips & tears can normally be glued down and made invisible. It is not uncommon to find the odd hole in burl veneer, but they can be hidden with the creative use of matching filler. Big holes are a different story!
     
  25. Scottie-TX

    Scottie-TX Registered User
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    DITTO! Pee-Tah. Especially in crotch and burls because of their nature, rips, missing pieces are not uncommon. Don't be deterred by that. Seller is simply coverin' 'is butt.
    Now:
    Please understand. I only reject PSA veneers. Backed veneers work just fine and are very common to thin veneers and work just fine. The backing not only protects the veneer from ripping and missing pieces, it also serves as a barrier. Your glue will not penetrate the thin veneer and cause problems in finishing. So; backed veneer - no problem. PSA; No way!
     
  26. binman

    binman Registered User

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    This case making has got me very interested, have you ever thought of sourcing some of the wood or all of the wood from the local tip, people throw out all kinds of furniture, big items like veneered wardrobes cupboards etc, just a thought.
     
  27. Scottie-TX

    Scottie-TX Registered User
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    Oh not new to me. I've been dumpster diving for years. So far best I rescued was a beautiful lyre shaped, quartersawn oak mirror frame for a bedroom piece.
     

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