Introduction: Sculptural Wall Clock | Shou-Sugi-Ban Technique

About: I am an industrial designer and a maker. I like to make prototypes, unique pieces, equipment and other stuff. In this channel I will show you what I do, and in particular the making of design pieces, with var…

This is a wooden wall clock that I designed almost a year ago during the Inktober 2016 challenge.

It is made from an old spruce board with the Shou-Sugi-Ban technique. It is a very ancient Japanese technique which consists in charring the wood surface, then washing it, brushing and finishing it with oil.

The wood traditionally used is the Japanese Cedar, but good results can be achieved with many other kinds of wood, including fir, larch, and cypress.

The wood treated this way becomes harder and more resistant to weather and fire. It also acquires a very nice and characteristic finish, which is what I was most interested in.

Step 1: The Sketch

Everything started from here.

I made this sketch using markers and ink on a sketch pad.

It wasn't yet a clock at that time...

Step 2: Choosing the Right Wood

I looked for the wood to use in a woodshed where I keep very old planks and beams.

I chose an old spruce board to work easily and for the good contrast between the light wood color and the black finish.

Being unable to pull it out of the woodshed on my own I decided to cut the piece I needed directly where it was with a circular saw.

Step 3: Charring the Wood

I laid the board over two sawhorses protected by a sheet metal. So I started burning it with a propane torch.

The charring should be pretty deep and not just a superficial coloring, otherwise, when you brush it, it comes off.

The piece after the charring can stay hot for a long time, so you have to be sure to cool it with water before handling it.

Step 4: Washing and Brushing

To wash the piece I used a rigid bristle nylon brush and not a metal brush that would have certainly leaved marks on the wood. It is basically to remove the carbonized part that has become friable.

Despite this operation, the wood will continue to stain in black until it is oiled and the oil has dried.

Step 5: Starting the Carving

After the washing, I waited a couple of days for the wood to dry again and then went to the carving operations.

I marked the position of the holes and the channels with a compass and a square.

I decided the position of these holes by eye, using the longest clock hand to be sure there was enough space. I also used a light reflector to help me marking curves (the first thing of the right size I found).

I then started the carving by carefully working the contours of the design with a gouge.

It was important to be sure that not a single cut ended outside of the marked lines.

Step 6: The Holes

I then made the holes with a cup drill bit, but without removing the core at the moment. In this way, it was possible to dig the recess by forcing the cut more strongly, without the risk of ruining the piece.

I made this carving as if I was making a small bowl.

After finishing that part, I completed the hole and accurately filleted it with a good rasp.

Step 7: Smoothing Out

To smooth out the carving I used a Dremel with a small grinding wheel and this has greatly speeded up this operation.

I then finished by sanding it using 120, 180 and 240 grit sandpaper until it was perfectly smooth.

Step 8: Carving the Clock Mechanism Recess

I then realized the hole and the recess for the clock mechanism.

I first marked the size of the recess with a pencil, using the mechanism as a reference.

To make the recess I used a Forstner bit mounted on my cordless drill and a chisel to help me square the holes.

I paid attention to be sure that the recess was of the right depth to make the clock pin protrude as much as it needed to fasten the nut.

Step 9: Finishing

After the hard work was done, it was time to finish the wood with oil.

I first oiled the inside of the carving, to be sure not to dirty it with soot.

Then I oiled all the rest of the board with generous boiled linseed oil. In the end, I removed the excess with a canvas.

Step 10: Assembling the Clock

After the oil had dried, it was time to assemble the hanging fixtures and the clock mechanism and to hang the clock on the wall.

I screwed some brass fixtures to the board. They are something that I had in my workshop and I don't know exactly where they come from.

Then I fixed in place the clock mechanism.

After hanging the clock on the wall I could mount the hands without risking ruining them.

Step 11: FInal Shots!

The clock is now complete. Here are some shots of the final product.

Thanks for checking this Instructable. There is also a video of the realization of this wall clock on my YouTube Channel .
It doesn't simply have a didactic function, but I tried to give it an "artistic" value so you should look at it just for the pleasure of doing so.