Dry Fitting Trim While Shaving The Front Piece To Exact LengthTrimming a piece requires careful attention to the joints. Even simple forty five degree miters can be tricky, sometimes requiring hand fitting with a block plane. But the most difficult part is cutting trim to the correct length; too long it doesn’t sit tightly against the backing and too short it leaves unsightly gaps.

I like to start by cutting the front trim to length first. To do that I cut the miter on the side pieces leaving them long. I clamp then in place and then cut both miters on the front trim, intentionally leaving it about 1/8” too long. I then sneak up on the correct length with a series of very fine cuts. As I approach the correct length I observe how the miters are coming together, and, if they need hand fitting I take thin shavings with a block plane and a shooting board. This is the equivalent of the dry fitting process that precedes all glue ups.

Trimming An White Oak Hutch Once I have the front piece cut to exact length I glue it in place and clamp it. I let it sit for about an hour and then go back and apply the side pieces. The side pieces require special attachment because this is a cross grain situation. Normally I would glue the first two inches of the end that connects to the front trim, and use a sliding dovetail joint to hold the other end in place to allow for seasonal expansion. See picture above right.

With A Software Tool, Movement master, I Check For Expected Seasonal Change However, this piece has relatively narrow sides, only 7 3/8” wide. Using a software tool to calculate the expected seasonal change for the Western MA area and cherry wood, I need only allow for about 1/8” expansion/contraction. Enlarge the picture at left by clicking on it and you will notice that this calculation is a function of stock type (flat sawn verses quarter sawn), area of the country where the piece will reside, current moisture content and species of wood.

An Elongated Slot Allows For Seasonal Expansion/Contraction Since the amount of movement is small, and the side narrow, I can use a simple elongated slot, screw and washer to allow for seasonal expansion. See the picture at right. Notice that I placed the screw toward the right end of the slot because most of the hot humid season is still ahead of us. I tighten the screw just enough to hold the trim in place, but not too tight, allowing the screw and washer to easily slide within the slot.

Wiping The Surface With Mineral Spirits Provides An Easy Check For Glue Stains After the glue dries I like to inspect for glue spots that may have been left during the glue up process. The easy way to do this is to wet the surface down with mineral spirits. Mineral spirits does not raise the grain like water does and dries quite quickly. Completed Carcass With TrimThis procedure also gives me a preview of what the wood will look like once the finish is applied. I’ll again inspect the entire piece this way toward the end of finish sanding.

The completed and trimmed carcass can be seen at right. The trim seems a little weird without the doors in place but that will be resolved shortly. The slots you see in the clockworks compartment is for a 1/4” panel that will slide into place, and on which the clock dial will be mounted. Both the clockworks and pendulum compartments will have backs. I am in search of a highly figured wood for the pendulum compartment back, perhaps spalted maple, because it will be visible through the glass door. The doors will be contrasting black walnut.

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4 Responses to “Trimming The Shaker Style Wall Clock”

  1. David says:

    Joe –

    Excellent posting! Lots of great details and outstanding craftsmanship.


  2. Joe says:

    Thanks David,

    I am a little stalled on this project while I look for just the right figured wood for the back, which I think will make or break the look. I am hunting for it this week.


  3. Mark Mazzo says:


    Just re-discovering your blog. Your design and work on the clock is very nice. I’ll be watching to see how the build progresses!

    The Craftsman’s Path

  4. Joe says:

    Thanks Mark,

    I had followed your Marc Adams School adventures with great interest. It sounds like you got a lot out of it and would do it again. I was scheduled to take a class with Lonnie Bird but had to drop out due to a health problem. I may try again after the summer is over.