Grandfathers clock – the drop door, the movement and other things – Part IV

This is the fourth and final article on this curious and somewhat homely Waterbury time and strike schoolhouse clock. I have a vivid memory of this Waterbury octagon short drop schoolhouse clock that hung in my grandparent’s kitchen when I was a young boy. Now that I have it what do I do with it.

It is a clock that had been passed down within the family and as you can see it went through a significant change. I thought about next steps and considered advice from friends and family. It came down to three options:

1) Do absolutely nothing, preserve it as-is and store it in a closet,

2) Discard the case out, buy a donor case and install the parts I have in the new case or,

3) Preserve it, that is, not change it in a significant way but make some cosmetic changes and have it run reliably.

The drop door, movement and other things

The next photo shows the clock after the glass bezel was installed, the dial face was refreshed and the case was given a coat of dark walnut stain (the number “IIII” has a reflection from an overhead light). You can still see the plywood and the nail heads but my objective was to clean it up, refresh and preserve the character of the homemade case.

Dark walnut stain, dial re-freshened and glass installed

The access drop door:

The clock requires an access door on the short drop, the opening is unsightly. As you can see in the photo above the cut-out is rough and a door will effectively hide it. Making a n access door is a simple project and will enhance the appearance of the case.

I have an old Ogee clock case that I use for any wooden parts required for clock projects. I cut a 1/4 inch piece and fashioned the door panel using a paper template for the dimensions. There are two panels which make up an inner and outer door sections.

First, I used paper as a template to draw the new door.

The template is a sheet of paper

I cut the inner and outer door panels using a table saw and sanded all sides.

Inner and outer door, cut and sanded

Next, using masking tape I taped one piece to the other. I positioned my hand in the drop area so the inner piece would be aligned correctly with the door panel.

Glue applied to both panels

Once the panels were aligned I removed the masking tape, gave the panels a final sanding, then applied yellow carpenters glue to both panels. Hide glue would have been used originally but the goal for this little project is to hide the crude cutout, not to replicate woodworking methods at the time it was constructed. Yellow glue is appropriate for this project; it is stronger and has a high bonding strength.

The two panels are clamped together.

Next, a dark walnut stain was applied to the door panel to match the case. Installing the door to the case required two small brass hinges mounted on the right side. For the pull handle, I decided to go with a wood knob stained in dark walnut.

Drop installed and stained to match case

Final steps:

A small piece of wood was affixed to the inside of the dial cutout to ensure that the hinge screws had something to bite into. Following this, the glass bezel door was attached.

Block on left is glued in place to screw the door hinge to the case

Next are dummy slotted wood screws for the bezel holes, basically to conceal the holes.

The drilled holes in the bezel are unsightly
The door project is almost complete, door pull missing in photo

Having sorted out the striking issue the movement is now installed in the case.

My thoughts on this project:

Prior to the first pictures I saw, I had visions of a clock that needed a little work to restore it. When I discovered that the case was homemade it was a disappointment. After giving it much thought it seemed that the most appropriate course of action was to preserve what I had.

Overall the cost of bringing this clock back to running condition and refreshing the case was minimal. Was it worth it? Yes! It is now complete, it shows better and it will tell an interesting story for years to come.

It may not be the prettiest clock on the wall but it will be a great conversation piece and after 60 years it is functional and it will finally tell the time. I can only imagine my grandfather standing under the clock, comparing the time with his pocket watch and deciding if he should make just one small adjustment.

2 thoughts on “Grandfathers clock – the drop door, the movement and other things – Part IV

  1. Time to clean the stove pipes, polish the black boots , send Beatrice to the store, sweep the front porch, clean the dentures, kippers for lunch or time for a nap.Grandpa Bill had a time for everything.Nice job, Papa can now rest in peace.


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