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How To Make A Beach Wall Clock

Updated on February 17, 2015

The Perfect Clock for a Beach House

When it comes to decorating, my wife is really good... I stink at it!

I honestly have lost track of how many times we have changed the décor of a kitchen, living room, bedroom, or the entire house.

But we always have done it on a very tight budget. With a bit of thought and creativity (again a trait for which I have to depend on my lovely spouse), it is not all that painful.

Add to this 50 years of living near the beach. Which simply means that we have usually had at least one room sporting coastal décor.

Home improvement projects don't always include the wall hangings and furnishings, but over the past year or so, my interests have begun to include woodworking and wall decorations, especially the beachy kind.

I found some interesting cartoon-like wall art on Google images, and tried to make similar ones in my garage. They turned out pretty good, too. But the thing that captured my attention was that the kind of wall art I got into did not need to be perfect, nor did it cost much (remember the tight budget?).

In the beginning, it was some very simple painted fish. Then the work began to take on a more targeted audience. Still the beach people, but now it is more focused.

In looking for an outlet to get rid of my creations, we started selling them at a local store that allowed individual vendors to rent small spaces. It was a match for us.

I have created what I consider the perfect clock for a beach house, and I wanted to share the process because I have not seen it anywhere else.

Start With The End In Mind

Most building projects start with a plan. My beach clock actually evolved over several versions. However, all of them have used the same materials. What changed is the final appearance.

Below is the final appearance. I had this picture in mind when I started. I knew it would be whimsical and bright. I love cartoony things like this. Your version does not have to look exactly like this, but the process is what is important.

Start With The End In Mind

The finished product.
The finished product. | Source

Painted Fish Wall Clock Materials and Tools

Once the completed project is imagined, it is time to gather the materials. Here is my list:

  1. Strips of lumber - mine came from free pallets picked up from small businesses. Most small shops are happy to give them up so they don't have to dispose of them.
  2. Glue or construction adhesive.
  3. Paint - find this in all those left-over paint cans in your garage or storage area. Or you can find really cheap paint samples that were rejected by customers at the paint counter of Home Depot. In my case, I actually bought some chalk paint at WalMart.
  4. Stain or paste wax - used for the final coat.
  5. Stencil numbers (or you can free-hand paint them).
  6. Clock works

Tools and supplies you will find handy:

  1. Scroll saw, band saw, jig saw, or coping saw for cutting curved pieces.
  2. Sander and medium grit sandpaper (100 grit is good)
  3. Glue or construction adhesive
  4. Hammer
  5. Brad nails
  6. Screwdriver
  7. Drill and drill bits
  8. Clamps (you can substitute heavy objects like bricks or heavy paint cans for these)
  9. Paint brushes
  10. Rags for wiping and clean up

I DIY, How About You?

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DIY work duds - may be time for some new ones.
DIY work duds - may be time for some new ones. | Source

Start with a Plan and a Pattern

The pattern is being transferred to the pallet wood.
The pattern is being transferred to the pallet wood. | Source

Cut Out Your Clock

I begin by sorting through a pile of used lumber. Most of my discarded wood comes from pallets.

Pallet wood has become very popular as a resource for DIY projects over the past year. It's cheap and readily available. Check with your local retailers. They will most likely be happy to give you their used pallets. Materials are delivered on them, and store owners have to figure out how to get rid of the pallets when supplies are put into their stockroom.

It might seems likely that places like a home improvement or garden center would be a great place to get pallets, but this is not usually the case. They have so many that they have a service that picks up their used pallets to recycling. DIY guys like you and me need to look elsewhere for this free lumber.

Once you have secured your lumber, check that the edges are not too crooked. The wood should fit together without any large gaps. If the edges are not straight enough, I run them through a table saw and cut off enough rough wood to straighten them. About an 1/8th inch is usually sufficient. A perfect fit is not really necessary, but large gaps should be eliminated.

Trace Your Pattern

I almost always have a pattern to work with. I sometimes look for coloring pages or line art drawings to get an idea of how I want the final item to look.

In the case of this wall clock, I came up with the pattern by creating a circle, adding a tail at the rear, and adding some cartoon-like lips. The circle works really well for a clock.

I used a string and a pencil to draw the circle. Holding the string in the center of the paper and holding the pencil wrapped in the string at the other end, I was able to use it as a large compass. Again, remember that perfection is not necessary for this kind of project. In fact, perfection is not a desired result at all.

After drawing the pattern, cut your pieces with your saw. I have a nice little band saw, but any saw capable of cutting curves will work.

Lay the wood pieces side-by-side and make sure the edges line up closely. You may have to go back to the saw and trim a bit off so the outside of the clock is fairly smooth.

Fish Creation 101

The fish is assembled - waiting for the glue to set.
The fish is assembled - waiting for the glue to set. | Source

Assemble The Clock

Now the fun begins.

Lay the pieces on your work surface. Find some scrap lumber for the back. In this case, I used some 1/4" plywood, but any scrap wood should do fine. As you decide where to place the backing, keep in mind that the clock works go in the center. You should have that item on hand when doing this step so you know where to leave space for it.

Trim your backing to fit using your saw.

Next step is to glue the whole thing together. This could be a bit tricky, if you are anything like me. I tend to move things around when pressing down to secure the glue.

To avoid things moving, I place a clamp in front and at the back end of the pieces, just tight enough to hold the pieces together.

I apply glue or construction adhesive to the backing and press it down on the back of the fish. I tack the backing to hold it while the glue sets.

I also use clamps to hold everything tight. I feel this is important because the old lumber can be a bit twisted. Clamps keep everything held together nicely. I use some scrap hardwood on the top and bottom of the fish for a larger clamping surface.

Allow the glue to dry according to the instructions on the container. I will wait 3 hours or overnight.

Sanding at this stage is critical
Sanding at this stage is critical | Source

Adding The Clock

Carefully lay out your numbers - time depends on proper placement.
Carefully lay out your numbers - time depends on proper placement. | Source

Finishing The Beach Wall Clock

After the fish is together and the glue has set, it is time to apply the finish.

I sand the fish before I paint and after as well. The first sanding is to knock off the roughness of the pallet wood. I use a belt sander or an orbital sander for this step. I pay special attention to the edges. I don't want the piece to show that it was just cut out, so I sand the edges smooth and round them off a bit.

I then apply paint. I am not very neat about this step. Everything is supposed to look rustic. To accomplish this, I use the same paintbrush for all colors without rinsing in between colors (if I am going from a very dark color to a light color, I will rinse the brush). I also use water when necessary to thin the paint. I do want some of the wood to show through.

Paint choice for this project was beach colors using chalk paint. I love chalk paint because it is extremely easy to use, and it sands off easily to show the lumber. However, my favorite place to find cheap paint is the paint counter at Home Depot. They have rejected paint samples there for 50 cents.

After Painting

I allow the paint to dry. This is really quick if using chalk paint. Maybe half an hour may be enough depending on the climate conditions where you are painting.

Now I sand the clock again. This time I will use a hand sander of my orbital sander with some worn sand paper. The object is to reveal some of the wood under the paint and make the fish look like the paint has worn off over time.

But sanding is not quite enough to accomplish the vintage look. I next use wax applied with a stipple brush. I used Annie Sloan Clear and Dark wax on this clock. I love this stuff, but it took me a few projects to understand how to get the effect I was looking for.

When using wax, I apply some clear wax to the entire surface unless I want a very dark finish. Then I will use the dark wax first. Dark wax can be applied on top of clear wax to get a "lighter darkness" than when apply dark without the clear under it.

Wipe the wax now. Remember Miyagi in the movie Karate Kid? Wax on, wax off? Right. Rub vigorously and blend the dark and light together, leaving no big hunks. You can reapply as much as you want. If an area is too dark, apply some clear wax and rub hard to remove some of it.

Stand back and admire your project.

Rustic Look

The wall makes a difference.
The wall makes a difference. | Source

Finally - It's Time For The Beach Clock

I made a pattern for the clock on my computer and printed it out. I find the center of the circle (fish belly). I drill a hole for the stem of the clock mechanism.

Now, I place the pattern on the fish and mark where the major numbers will go -12, 3, 6, and 9. In between these, I put a mark so that I can put a black carpet tack instead of the number.

Next, I attach the number stencils with painter's tape. Using charcoal chalk paint, I stencil those numbers.

After the numbers dry, I add the tacks to indicate the other clock numbers.

I always add an eye to my fish, whether it's a clock or just a beach themed wall art piece. I have a pile of rusty washers and screws. For this fish, I added a medium sized washer and a screw to complete the look.

Finally, I find the center of weight and attach a saw-tooth hanger on the back.

It is finished!

Adding The Clock Parts

I really hesitated before doing my first clock, simply because I was not sure about whether all clock parts would work. As I looked at different products, I noticed that they are all about the same except for the depth of the center stem.

Some stems are really short, meant for replacing parts with a piece of metal or plastic that is about the thickness of a vinyl record.

The product I decided on has a stem that is meant for surfaces up to 1/2" thick. I actually had to route the backside to the proper depth. You can purchase parts for clocks up to 3/4", so make sure what you buy is going to fit your design.

Installation is very simple once you have the correct part. They always come with an installation sheet to show the order of each piece. Follow that and you won't have any problem.

DIY Beach Wall Clock


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