Introduction: Wooden Bird Clock

About: Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing.

I was searching the internet for Christmas gifts for my family when I came across a wooden clock shaped like a bird. It was so adorable I almost bought it when I suddenly realised that I could make one just like it. Home made gifts always have much more sentimental value, and I already had the wood and a CNC router, so why not give it a go!

The clock is made of two parts that are glued together to house a non-ticking clock movement. The wood was American Maple and started out as a blank for a guitar neck but ended up being used for a few different projects, including this one. I used a CNC router to cut the wood but with the right tools it can be done by hand, cnc is much faster and easier though.


Wood - I used part of an old guitar neck blank but anything will work. the minimum dimensions should be 100 x 350 x 20 mm. This will accommodate both pieces of the bird.

Wood Glue - Gorilla brand all the way :D

Clock movement - Can be bought on ebay and do not cost much. You often get a choice of spindle length and hand size. I think mine had a spindle length of about 13mm and the hands were 29mm (length of the minute hand).

Clamps - Lots of clamps, I used some ratchet type and some regular grip clamps.

Painters tape - To mask off the areas you don't want to paint

Paint - I used a blue "Rust-oleum" hobby paint for wood, metal and plastic.

Sand Paper - Lots! From 80 grit up to 320 grit.

Danish Oil - Optional - Gives a nice finish but you can use what ever you like or even nothing at all!

Step 1: Cutting the Body

The body is made from two parts; a front, and a back. The front part contains a large circular pocket with a hole in the centre. The back side has a large square hole that will accommodate the clock mechanism. The Zip file contains an SVG image of both front and back parts. They are arranged to fit on a piece of wood as thin as 100 mm. I used a free, browser based CAM package called makercam to make the tool paths. You will have to make a separate tool path for the pocket as it is highly recommended that you use a large diameter tool for this. Cutting the pocket can take a long time if you're using the same tool for the whole job. MakerCAM can easily do this by allowing you to save individual tool paths or selecting a few to export as a group.

You may want to take the time to surface your wood before cutting any shapes out. Getting the two parts to glue together without any gaps relies on having perfectly level surfaces. As I was using a pre-made blank, it had already been surfaced so I didn't surface it myself.


Step 2: Glue, Clamp and Sand

As mentioned earlier, the wood I was using had already been surfaced by the seller, so I didn't do it myself. However, due to changes in humidity the wood slightly warps and can cause a few gaps when glueing. It's recommended that you plane your work prior to cutting, but if like me, you started with a level blank that has slightly warped, it can be overcome with zealous application of clamps.

First clean the wood surfaces of any dust, dirt or oil. Then apply wood glue evenly and stick the two halves together. Line them up the best you can and begin clamping with ratchet type clamps, these are good for getting the wood in the right position before really putting the squeeze on! I used 4 ratchet clamps and then filled every available space with spring grip clamps. Leave this overnight to dry.

Once the glue is dry I sanded all the edges and joins. I started at 60 grit to smooth the joins and eventually worked up to 320 grit all over.

Step 3: Painting and Oiling

To paint the inside of the pocket, I covered the whole thing in masking tape to prevent paint getting where it shouldn't. I used a craft knife to cut the tape around the pocket, this gives good protection from unwanted paint but care should still be taken; it's not fool proof. Once the paint had dried, I removed the tape.

Once the paint is dry I decided to use Danish oil to bring out the grain. I kept the circle of tape I cut from the painting step and re used it (along with some new tape) to protect the painted surfaces from the oil. Oiling the wood is completely optional but you can see the effect it has in the photos. If you do decide to use oil, make sure the wood is clean and dust free before wiping a small amount of oil into the grain with a clean, lint-free cloth.

Step 4: Fitting the Clock Mechanism

I bought a non-ticking quartz clock movement from a seller on ebay. You get quite a lot of choice when buying one of these so it's important to choose the right one. The mechanism body must fit in the square hole on the back of the bird, most of these mechanisms are a standard size of 55 x 55 mm which will fit only if you remove the triangle shaped hook on the top. I did this in a couple of seconds with the dremel but it's only plastic and can easily be removed many ways. Sanding down the stumps helps to keep it looking nice and fit snug.

Next you'll need to consider the spindle length, this is the length of the threaded brass section that will clamp the mechanism to the clock. I think the one I have is 13mm but if it's a little long it's ok. I used a second brass nut on the back side of the clock face to control how much spindle protrudes through to the clock face. If your spindle is too short then you have a real problem, so if in doubt, select a longer one.

The clock hands are the final choice to be made. The pocket has a diameter of about 65mm so you are limited to a minute hand length of about 30mm. The one I used was 29mm and it was the second smallest available. The second hand is much longer than this but it is easily cut to size.

Once you have your clock mechanism ready, simply insert it into the back of your clock, secure it in place with the brass nuts (fixing are usually supplied with the mechanism) and attach the hands. Be sure to attach the hands in a sensible position or you may find 12 o' clock to be slightly off centre.

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Homemade Gifts Contest 2015

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Homemade Gifts Contest 2015