Introduction: Pocket Watch Display Stand

About: I like trying small woodworking and watercolor projects.

My kids and my dad share an enjoyment of pocket watches, so I set about making a small display with chain holder for them. I originally routed the space to put them but decided a front piece with a hole cut through glued to a backing was easier and looked better (as my skills routing a perfect circle are apparently lacking). I like poplar, which is carried by Home Depot near to my home and comes in convenient lengths but does tend to chip. You should choose the wood, stain, cloth and hole size based on the watch. The resulting stand is about 4” high, 2 ½” wide and 2 ½” deep. It's cheap (< $10), easy and quick to make.


Materials: While you should start with bigger pieces, which are easier to work with, you will end up using about

  • 5" of 1/4" x 2 1/2" wood.
  • 8" of 1/2" x 2 1/2" wood (try to match tone and grain).
  • 7" of 1/4" x 1/4" wood.
  • Cloth (such as craft felt)


  • Compound Miter Saw with fine wood blade.
  • Ruler or square.
  • Sandpaper and block or sanding sponges, grits: 100, 150, 220 or finer (while the foam-like blocks are convenient, it is easy to round the wood).
  • Wood glue and white or other glue.
  • Wood stain, considering the wood, watch color and cloth lining.
  • Drill with hole saw attachment (resulting hole should be larger than pocket watch diameter but not too much larger so it doesn't look sloppy).
  • Scissors (cloth if you have them).
  • Cloth, Q-tips & water.
  • Optional: hand miter saw (see 9.e. Below)
  • Optional: scrap block of wood at least 2" thick (see 6.b. Below)

    Step 1: Cut List

    Step 2: ​Cut Front, Back and Base Pieces.

    1. Front: Cut both ends of 1/2" x 2 1/2" wood at matching 15 degree angles and 4 1/4" in length (to make a long parallelogram with a slight tilt when stood on end). Put the back down so if it chips it will be somewhat hidden.
    2. Back: Cut both ends of the 1/4" x 2 1/2" wood at matching 15 degree angles to 4" in length (another parallelogram but slightly shorter and skinnier). Its helpful to make sure the Back is slightly more than 1/4" shorter (e.g., ~5/16").
    3. Base: Then cut another from the same wood but at 90 degree and 2 1/2" long on the short side (the long side will be about 2 5/8" because of the 15 degree angle). One end should be at 15 degree and the other at a right angle.
    4. It's best to cut all the 15 degree angles at once to make sure they fit together.
    5. If your miter saw is not quite square to the table and wood, then the resulting pieces will be somewhat off. If the front and back pieces end up slightly off in length once the base is fitted, then you might be able to sand them even once it is glued and the glue dries. (Don't glue yet.)

    Step 3: Drill Watch Hole.

    1. On the Front piece, at 1/8" from top and centered from each side, cut a hole using a hole-saw attachment with your drill (image #1). I use a 2” hole attachment (#2). Or, if you have a drill press, use that. Do not drill the Back piece, so the watch hole has a back. You'll need to put it on blocks to allow the central drill through but support the sides where the attachment is cutting the hole to prevent the wood ripping (#3). I drilled a 1" hole in a larger scrap block of wood as my support (see image).
    2. I've found it's hard to make sure the 2 1/8" hole ends up in the right place because it shifts with the spin of the drill. So, use a nail to indent the spot, then drill a pilot hole with a 1/8" bit (or so)(#4-5). You can also use a larger bit before using the hole attachment. Then put the drill piece to the hole saw on the pilot hole, make sure it is straight up and down and drill your watch hole. Do not use much force but let the drill do its work or you may rip some of the wood off the back.
    3. Rough sand ( at least 100 grit) the inside of the hole. It doesn't need to be fine sanded because it will be covered by cloth.
    4. Cut a gap in the top of the hole to hang the watch by its holder. Sand the gap (#6-7). The watch hangs with its chain attachment ring through this gap.

    Step 4: Sand.

    1. Sand the rear of the Front, the front of the Back and the bottom of the Bottom with at least 100 grit. The first two will be glued so they won’t be seen but you want them to fit well. Be careful not to round corners or it will leave gaps. You can also sand after gluing the Front and Back but before gluing the Base (or you won't have a lot of room to work in).
    2. Sand the front of the Front, the rear of the Back and the top of the Base to at least 220 grit so it’s fairly smooth.

    Step 5: Assemble.

    1. Glue the Front (1/2" with hole) to Back (1/4"). There will need to be a 1/4" offset at the bottom where the Base piece will go next. Use enough glue to fill any gap between the pieces of wood. If there's additional excess length, line the top even and cut and sand the bottom closer later. Clamp and let dry at least 30 minutes (or according to glue directions). Wipe excess glue from sides and hole with damp (not wet) cloth or q-tip - glue will stain a different color than the wood.
    2. Glue the Base into the excess behind the bottom of the Front and bottom of the Back created by mismatch in length of front and back. Apply glue to the back of the Front and bottom of the Back. I couldn’t figure out how to clamp it so just held it for a bit. Use a damp q-tip to clean up glue that squeezes out.

    Step 6: Make and Assemble Chainholder Pieces.

    1. Use 1/4" square lengths to make holder for chain. Cut end to 15 degree angle (image #1).
    2. Hold to base, mark length and cut at 90 degree angle to make Chain Left; repeat to make Chain Right (#2). Cut longer and sand rather than shorter once assembled.
    3. Cut length to fit between them to make Chain Rear (#3).
      1. If you want to get fancy, cut interior sides at 45 degree angles (#4). I'd recommend an unpowered hand saw, since with a powered miter your hands will be close to the blade. This cut will be rotated one side to the side with the 15 degree angles you cut in the first step (9.a).
    4. Glue to the base and clamp (if needed)(#5). Wipe excess glue with a damp q-tip, which can fit into small places and awkward angles.

    Step 7: Sand, Again.

    Once dry, sand away any excess length of Front below Base piece (image #1). Sand sides and top front, if needed, once dry, working from 100 grit to at least 220 grit; again, finer is better (#2).

    Step 8: Stain

    There are some fine Instructables on staining so I'm not going to expand on this, excepting to say to soak up (with a q-tip*) any pooling in the chain holding area which will be gooey if left.

    * No, I didn't get paid for mentioning them but should (I'm sure).

    Step 9: Line Watchholder Hole

    1. Cut a strip at slightly less than 1/2" wide and 7" long. If your watch circle is other than 2" diameter, the formula for circumference is 2(pi)r or you can overestimate and cut the remainder off once it's in the hole. Starting at the gap, use wood, white or other permanent glue to stick it in.
    2. Cut a circle from the fabric to fit your watch hole (2 1/8" diameter). Glue, being careful to not get glue on previous cloth.
    3. You can line the bottom of the Base with cloth as desired to hide slight mistakes or make it look better.

    Step 10: Optional: Carve Monogram

    I carved monograms (~100 pt or 1 1/4" tall) into the front portion below the hole to make gifts. You can do this before or after gluing (#8), but before staining.

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