Oversized Wire Spool Clock DIY
Vintage Wire Spool Clock DIY
There were several old large wire spools here on my farm when I bought the place 25 years ago. I saved a few that I liked and passed the rest on to others. The blue and white one is my favorite along with the bright yellowy orange one. Once I found Klockit and their movements and hands for oversized clocks, I planned my next project: an oversized wire spool clock.
These graphic painted wire spools are less common so when you find one you like, grab it! I have a large Plain Jane more common spool and that will be my next project. For that spool, I plan to do a full paint job including some sort of graphic image or text in the center and numbers around the edge.
vintage wire spools with great original paint
First step is to disassemble the spool. This one is quite old and the four hefty bolts that run from one side to the other holding it all together were very rusty and I could not budge them. I carefully painted some ATF (automatic transmission fluid) to each bolt hoping they would be easier to remove after they sat for a day. The next day, I was able to loosen the bolts slightly using a ratchet and socket on one side and a big crescent wrench on the other. The best and really necessary tool for this job was my reciprocating saw (also called a Sawsall, or demolition saw.) If you don’t own one, see if you can borrow one to make quick work of the bolts. I used a new metal cutting blade and cut in the newly created space between the the bolt and the big washer. The reciprocating saw made quick work of this and the spool came apart in a matter of minutes. I did the cutting on the side that already had the most age and wear in case the saw gouged the wood further as I worked. Some spools have a core made up of wooden slats which would be easy to cut to gain access to the bolts. This spool had a heavy metal core that I wanted to salvage undamaged in case a project for it came to mind later.
Once I had the spool disassembled, I picked the side I wanted and stashed the rest for other projects. To clean the spool I used a stiff brush on the edges and non painted areas and then wiped it all with a soapy cloth. I tested the painted surface with a clean damp soapy cloth, no paint came off so I washed the painted area in dishsoapy water and let it dry. The spool passed the sniff test so we were off and running! If the wood you are working with smells, this post has a few suggestions that might help.
Before I even started any of this, I purchased the clock parts I needed from Klockit so I would have them on hand before I made any modifications to the spool.
I think the key to an oversized clock project looking right is sizing the hands and face correctly. Resist the urge to use the smaller, shorter hands you normally find in stock at craft stores, the result will not be as satisfying.
Most clocks have the minute hand very near or moving over the minute marks and the hour hand pointing to but not touching the hour marks on the face of the clock. With this in mind, I ordered the 14 3/8 inch hands and a high torque movement with a long (11/16″) shaft for this 32 inch spool. I ordered two sets of hands and two movements, this spool is is 32″ and the spool for the next project is 41 1/2.” The order totaled just under $33.00 including shipping and arrived quickly. Since this spool has good color and graphics, I decided to not have any marks for minutes or hours and just leave the vintage junktastic spool as is.
You will find that the clock movement is only slightly too big for the center hole of the spool. I oriented the movement so it sat the way I wanted in the opening and then used a sharp wood chisel to cut away the wood until the movement could pass through the hole.
Next I cut a circle to fit the center. Rather than cutting a circle and then finding the center, I find it faster to mark a center and create the circle around it. I used an old reciprocating saw blade and a scrap of thin plywood. Any wood you want will work, just be sure the thickness will allow the clock shaft to sit away from the clock surface enough for the hands to move freely. For this movement, the seller recommends 3/4″ maximum thickness. I nailed the blade (there is a hole in the blade already) and measured out from the center of the nail. I placed a pencil in the correct spot between blade teeth and pushed the blade and pencil around to mark the circle.
Once the circle was cut, I tested the fit and hand sanded the edges and chiseled a bit more until the wood circle lay flush in the opening. Next I drilled out the center hole to just slightly larger than the shaft on the movement. To add thickness so the shaft didn’t protrude too far, I cut a donut shape and glued it to the back of the center circle. The seller of the clock movement recommends a maximum thickness of 3/4″ for this shaft.
Before gluing the center assembly into the hole, I finished it to blend in with the spool. For this spool, I used a layer of brown spray paint, then a layer of white. Once that dried, I rubbed some stain to the surface and then distressed it lightly once the stain was dry. If you are changing the entire surface of an old spool, install the center first and then create the finish you want.
I used construction adhesive and hot glue applied through the back of the spool to secure the circle and let it cure for a few hours.
The Klockit instructions were very clear and easy to follow.
Next up is to add a coat of clear wax to the clock and use a french cleat wall mount that is made especially for heavy objects. This is a very important step, these large spools are certainly heavy enough to hurt someone if they are hung up with wimpy hardware.
Total working time for this fun project was about one very relaxed day with plenty of coffee breaks and some drying time.
The clock keeps great time too!
Keep your eyes open for something large to make a clock with, it doesn’t even have to be round!
What have you found for your big clock project? I would love to hear from you.