How to Make a Wooden Mantel Clock

To make a beautiful heirloom wooden mantle clock, you will need patience and the appropriate tools. Time consuming as the project may be, the finish piece is well worth your efforts. A perfect wedding or special anniversary gift, this is not a project for the novice woodworker.


  • 3/4 inch Walnut stock to cut pieces described
  • 1/4 inch plywood (hardwood optional)
  • 12 by 24 inches Walnut veneer
  • Clock movements and parts
  • Handle (decorative for top of clock)
  • Hinges
  • Stain
  • Polyurethane
  • Tack cloth
  • Sandpaper (120-grit and 220-grit)
  • Natural bristle paint brush
  • Rags
  • Eye protection
  • Wood glue
  • Contact cement
  • Table saw
  • Jointer
  • Belt sander
  • Router & table
  • 5/32 inch Roman Ogee router bit
  • 1/2 inch cove bit
  • 1/2 inch round-over bit
  • 1/4 inch straight bit

Step 1 - Cut Finished Pieces

From 3/4 inch walnut, cut the following pieces:

  • 3/4 by 4 by 11 inches (top molding)
  • 3/4 by 5-1/2 by 12-1/2 inches (top molding)
  • 2 @ 3/4 by 6 by 13 inches (1- top of box, 1- bottom of box)
  • 2 @ 3/4 inches by 4-1/2 inches by 10-1/2 inches (clock sides)
  • 2 @ 3/4 by 3-1/2 by 7 inches (feet molding)

From 1/4 inches plywood (or hardwood)

  • 1/4 by 10 1/2 by 10 1/2 inches (clock face)
  • 1/4 by 10 by 10 inches (back of box)

Cut walnut veneer to 12 by 24 inches. Sand all pieces with belt sander and 120-grit sandpaper.

Step 2 - Rout Box Top

With router, cut a 5/32 inch Roman Ogee on all 4 edges of the 2 pieces 6 by 13 inches. Make cuts to the next piece (5 1/2 by 12 1/2 inches) using 1/2 inch cove bit, then with a 1/4 inch straight bit. Finally, rout the 4 by 11 inch piece with 1/2 inch round-over bit and a 1/2 inch cove bit. Tip: it is best to rout profiles in multiple passes for smoothest results.

Step 3 - Rout molding for Clock Feet

On the 2 pieces 4 1/2 by 10 1/2 inches, rout to make molding with the 1/2 inch round-over bit, and the 1/2 inch cove bit. Sand all pieces from Steps 1 to 3 with 120-grit sandpaper.

Step 4 - Veneer Plywood

Cut oversized pieces of plywood for the front and back of the clock. With contact cement, attach walnut veneer to plywood. Apply pressure to the veneered plywood until contact cement is completely cured.

Step 5 - Rout Grooves to Accept Clock Face

With a 1/4 inch straight bit, rout grooves that are 9/32 inches wide by 1/4 inches deep on the bottom of the top molding from Step 2 (two 6 by 13 inches) and the top of the foot molding from Step 3 (two 4 1/2 by 10 1/2 inches). Rout the front edges of each of these 4 pieces.

Step 6 - Create Mortise & Tenons

With a 1/4 inch straight bit and drill press, create 1/4 inches wide by 1/4 inches deep on each end of the two pieces 6 by 13 inches (along the 6 inches edges). With table saw and tenon jig, form tenons on the top and bottom of both sidepieces (4 1/2 by 10-1/2 inches). Check the fit of the mortise and tenons. When satisfied with the fit, using a table saw, cut a chamfer along both front and back edges of the 2 side pieces (along the 10-1/2 inches edge).

Step 7 - Measure for Final Plywood Cuts

‘Dry’ (not permanent) assemble the box with the pieces just cut and shaped in Step 6. This forms the sides, top and bottom of the clock. Being sure that the pieces are square (measurement from corner-to-corner will be equal in both directions), measure both the front and back openings. Cut 2 pieces of veneered plywood to dimensions just measured.

Step 8 - Assemble Top Pieces and Feet

Assemble 3-pieces that form the top of clock from Step 2 (1 each: 4 by 11 inches, 5-1/2 by 12-1/2 inches and 6 by 13 inches). With the assembled pieces upside down (smallest to largest), clamp together and drill a 3/8 inches hole through both of the larger pieces and partially through the smallest. Insert a 3/8 inch dowel through the holes to keep pieces aligned while gluing together. Remove clamps. Glue the 3 pieces together with wood glue, clamp and allow to dry completely (24 hours). Remove dowel. Drill 2 holes for handle (size to fit hardware). Glue feet from Step 3 onto bottom piece from Step 2 (6 by 13 inches).

Step 9 - Final Clock Assembly

Glue together front, sides, top assembly and foot assembly. Be certain to keep box square throughout assembly. Clamp, and allow glue to dry for 24 hours. With drill press, drill hole in face as required to receive clock movement. With 120-grit sandpaper, smooth all surfaces including the back panel in preparation for polyurethane. Remove all sawdust with vacuum. Wipe all clock surfaces with tack cloth. Apply polyurethane, sanding lightly with 220-grit sandpaper between coats. Allow 24 hours between each coat. After final coat has completely dried (24 hours), install clock movement as directed. Install hinges onto back of clock case, then attach the back panel onto other side of hinges. Install handle with screws provided.