No angels singing here

No I haven’t forgotten to write.  No I didn’t quit the project.  Christmas came.  Then some travel.  And I was making little bits of progress but nothing I was ready to show.  I got to the point of the project where I kept thinking that I would show the next little bit of progress.  I sort of wanted to do the “big reveal”.

I have this misguided ideal about finishing a project and bringing it out of the shop.  I sort of imagine putting on the last touch – installing a piece of hardware or doing some finishing step – at which point the angels will sing and I know that it is good.  It never happens.

What really happens is that I become frustrated.  I think I have completion anxiety.  I’m eager to finish the project but at the same time I don’t really want to.  I also start to see all the things that I wish I had done differently and I begin to have regrets.  It’s really too late to do anything about most of it, so I brood on these mistakes.  Of course a lot of it fades over time.  You can always see those mistakes clearly when you make them or first realize them; only time will cause them to be forgotten.

About 2-3 weeks ago I assembled the clock and brought it upstairs.  I harassed the dial painter and had that piece in hand about a week later.  I’m sort of happy with the work – the moon dial looks pretty good.  He didn’t complete the main face decorative painting as I had hoped so I’m going to try to fix that next.  I was hoping to avoid any decorative painting but alas that won’t happen.  But I think it’s within my capacity (just)

The finishing went almost according to plan.  I started with a weak solution of potassium dichromate to even out and darken the wood a bit.  I did have some trouble with a bit of the inlay that took the solution a bit more than expected – the holly looked good but some of the other light woods really darkened more than I planned or than the test suggested.  I had even taken the precaution of a bit of shellac over the fans but that didn’t help as I hoped.  Anyway I did a little light sanding to resolve the raised grain, then commenced with shellac.  I used a brushing technique I learned from Don Williams and I think it worked pretty well.  The shellac built in a controlled manner and I was able to avoid brush marks.  Finally I used beeswax (I had to purify it first as it was pretty raw) to fill in and enhance the sheen.  It mostly worked though I found that it was a bit white in the pores.  So I refined some more beeswax and modified it with artist colors to a more neutral brown color.  That worked pretty well.  Some buffing and rubbing and all looked pretty ok.

I had to modify some of the hardware, especially all that I had to make from scratch.  I slightly roughed up the surface and fumed them with ammonia for an hour or two.  The end result was quite similar to the hardware I had bought.  A somewhat aged patina but not like it was centuries old.  I then applied spray lacquer to try to freeze the finish in time.  Generally all the hardware looks about the same now, or at least consistent.

I put the works in and fussed around with them for a while.   Ok it was a few days on and off.  I immediately found theclock is running slow by a few minutes a day.  I still haven’t resolved that and think I will need to call for some tech support from Merritt’s.  Worse yet was that the moon phase dial and the calendar ring were moving at 2 to 3 times correct speed.  That one had me puzzled for a while as it seemed unlikely that the ratio was built wrong but that seemed to be the effect.  With some observation and tinkering I realized the pin that engaged the teeth to rotate each wheel was so deeply into the teeth that instead of clicking the wheel forward one notch at 12 o’clock it was moving the wheels 2 or three notches.  A little bending of the pins for each wheel set that right and it seemed to work.

I have a short list of things I want to adjust aside from the painting issue.  I hope that in a week or so I’ll call it “done”.  Stay tuned for some photos.  I think my daughter is eager for me to finish.  She’s already decided I need to make her a bedside table.  Sounds like a fun and simple project before the spring house remodel season begins.

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2 Responses to No angels singing here

  1. mark davis says:

    Hello Paul,

    Love the clock! You have inspired me to build one. It’s probably been a year since you finished. Is there anything you would’ve done different. That crown molding around the hood looks pretty difficult.

  2. psanow says:


    Thank you. Glad to hear you like it. I can’t say that there’s a lot I would change. Maybe a dimension here or better execution there. But all in all happy. The process was fun or at least my definition of fun. The hood crown is a real challenge and I think the hardest part. There are lots of ways to do it: the way I did it, others make it in more pieces on a lathe and others use pattern routing. Pick your poison. Good luck.

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