Xmas present(s) - some installation required

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Corporate Member
So I managed to get my present(s) for my wife installed well within the window of holiday acceptability, and it only took me six hours to do it. That sounds OK until I tell you that her present was a wall clock, followed up with a quickly-created pair of bulletin boards. Now you're probably wondering why it took me six hours to hang two bulletin boards and a clock. If you are indeed wondering that, well, you're not alone, as I'm still trying to figure it out, and I had the benefit of being there the entire time.

Personally, I think the whole thing is Scott Smith's fault. He was the one who had the spalted sycamore. You know, the spalted sycamore that my wife saw when I took her along to Scott's shop for his lumber run event. She actually encouraged me to purchase a couple pieces. Now given the immensity of the metric tonnage of wood that I already own, wood which is stored in my shop, AND in our rented storage unit, AND in our garage, I must admit that I was somewhat flabbergasted at that suggestion, but, hey, I DO love my wife, and I want to keep her happy, and there probably was a reason that we had driven my 3-ton 13' box truck with the liftgate instead of the car, so... (BTW, have I ever mentioned my truck in other posts? I can't recall...)

So, I came up with the idea of doing a small art shelf for this weaving thing that we actually won at the Carolina Craftsman's Guild raffle two years ago, and that we have wanted to put up in our bedroom for, hmm, I'd guess about two years or so. Fast forward a mere five months later to Thanksgiving, and I had already blasted it out, all three feet long by four inches wide of it. Those gargantuan dimensions meant that, even though I had purchased only two boards, and end slices at that, with bark etc. all over them, I still had a fair amount of wood left.

And it was spalted wood, which means it's pretty, so it cannot be thrown out. (Really. If you put it in the dumpster, it sneaks back out when you're not looking and inserts itself back into your storage rack; you know the type.) So I had to find a project to use it on. But it was small, so a live-edged slab dining room table was out of the question. (Well, unless I was also going to buy a new dinner service with plates the size and shape of butter dishes, but I wasn't. So there. Uh, Where was I?)

Oh yeah, so I needed to build something small, if for no other reason than as a change of pace from that huge art shelf. So I came up with the idea of a clock.

Ever since we moved into our new house (named Fred—have I ever mentioned our new house?), my wife has had a clock from Ikea, still in the box, sitting next to her desk, which is also from Ikea, until I build her a new one with some OTHER lumber that Scott Smith still has. See? All roads lead to Scott. but I digress. (I know, how very out of character for me... Weird.) So the problem is that this particular Ikea clock is not one of their better design efforts. In fact, I would not hesitate to call it hideous. (See, that's proof right there; if I HAD hesitated, I would have used ellipses before the word hideous. And, I... didn't.)

So I have been worried that at some point she was going to foul her beautiful office wall with said clock. Hence, I conceived of a plan for a preemptive strike. If I MADE her a clock, she would HAVE to put it up on her wall, following the same logic that finds parents all over the world hanging their loved one's creations on their refrigerators. (I guess she could have put the CLOCK on our refrigerator, but that would have been kind of weird, so I thought the risk was worth it.)

So, the clock idea was born. And, about a week later—it's amazing what an accelerator upcoming holidays are to the creative spirit—the clock itself was born. Coincidentally, over dinner the very next day after the birthing of said clock, my lovely bride mentioned how much she wanted to adorn the walls of her office. With a bulletin board. Maybe a cork one. Or, maybe a magnet board. Heck, maybe even both.

(OK, I'm back after a brief pause to hug a cat that just jumped into my lap. Note to self: Do not hug cat too closely to face immediately after applying chapstick.)

Now I had a problem, because I couldn't very well show up on Christmas morning with a clock, now could I? "Here honey, just for you. You know, it's that thing you DIDN'T want or ask for to put on your office wall, instead of the ones you did want! Now, what did YOU get ME?"

So, on December 23rd, in a mere 14.5 hours—straight—I cranked out a cork bulletin board and a cloth-covered magnetic bulletin board, both designed to match the clock. The spalted sycamore clock. Yep, I had made the clock from the spalted treasure. And now, I had framed two bulletin boards with pretty much all the rest of that stash. (OK, the clock had walnut with holly inlay on it too, but the only other walnut I had left of sufficient length to make bulletin board frames also happened to be of 16/4 and greater WIDTH, and there was no way in heck I was going to cut THAT down, and I just don't think a bulletin board with 4"+ deep frames would look very good. Although it WOULD be very solid.)

So, Christmas was saved. And on Wednesday morning, they were a hit. Now all I had to do was install them. Simple, right? Here is a brief rundown of how it went.

9pm yesterday: Go to my shop. (the one in the industrial park. Have I ever mentioned my shop before?) Note: I am nocturnal; it's a benefit of being gainfully unemployed. At the shop, I spend the majority of the night making french cleats for the boards and clock. OK, they were ALMOST done for Christmas morning. All the important bits, anyway, if not the infrastructure. I was pretty sure my sweetie wasn't going to look at the backs of them and say "You know honey, these are pretty hefty boards—especially the magnet board clad with the 16 gauge steel that was the only steel you had laying around the shop when you built it—so these will probably need french cleats to be hung properly, especially with your clever use of flush-mount frame design. So dumbo, where the heck are my cleats?"

7am: After finishing her cleats, I call my wife and ask her if she would like to go out to breakfast. She replies in the affirmative. I think "Great, we'll get some breakfast, and then I'll come home and go to bed, as I'll have been up for around 20 hours by the time we return."

9am: We return home. I mention to my wife that she will need to clean off her desk so that I can install her boards and clock. The clever reader will note the foolish lack of specificity in my request with regard to timeframe.

10am: I am leaving my office, ready to shower and retire. Simultaneously, my lovely bride utters the following: "OK, sweetie, I've cleared my desk!" I knew the answer to the question before I asked it, but I had to give it a try. "Honey, would it be possible to wait until tomorrow to hang the boards?" Given that the contents of her entire desk—all 13 feet of it—was now sitting on her loveseat and floor, her response was not unreasonable. It was also not "Yes.". (Sigh)

10:30am: Drive back to the shop to get the boards and ALL the tools I would need to do the job. (See, the word "ALL" in caps is what writers call "foreshadowing". It's what woodworkers call "stupidity".)

11:15am: Return home with tools and boards. Start to discuss locations with my bride. This also becomes a challenge because the boards need studs for their cleats to anchor to. The first three positions we select, all manage to have but ONE stud in their span, with the other studs hitting the frame and not the cleat area of the boards. Yes, I AM gifted. Thanks for noticing.

12:00pm: I have finished the math needed to figure out the cleat offsets from the edges of the boards, while also trying to align the boards with a wall outlet in order to keep things neat and tidy. (I have a thing about bad alignments; can't happen on my watch.)

12:15pm: My wife decides that the concept I had mentioned originally—that of putting the clock on the left of the boards instead of her original vision of the right—would, indeed, look better. Bless her heart, when she's right, she's right. Well, at least when the original concept was mine, anyway. Which of course means that I have no defense against the change. (She's a clever one; you have to get up pretty early to put one over on her. Apparently MORE than 23 hours-and-counting early...)

1:00pm: Measurements completed. Again. Installation starts.

1:30pm: The first board is up! In the studs, no misses, level, in the right place... Awesome! The rest of them should be easy.

2:00pm: The second board, which fits right under the first, is up. Its french cleat is a bit tenuous though, as it's a really short board with a really thick frame, so the flat, bottom portion of the cleat is not very beefy. So "not beefy" that I have to drill the mounting holes on an angle so they won't split the cleat. But, son-of-a-gun, it works. And the left side is ONLY a 1/4" higher than the right side.

2:30pm: After crafting masking tape shims to fit in the tenuous cleat on four different occasions, I finally get the bottom board to align with the top one, miraculously without breaking the tenuous cleat. Now all that is left is the clock. Piece of cake!

3:00pm: Math done. Alignments done. Wall marked. The clock is small. It doesn't mount in studs. We use toggle bolts. You know, the kind that you drill a 1/2" hole in the drywall in order to insert. With a 1/2" drill bit. The 1/2" drill bit that is sitting in my drill bit index right behind my drill press at the shop.

3:30pm: Return from the shop with the drill bit and attempt to insert it into My Festool CXS drill.

3:31pm: Go back to the shop to get my DeWalt drill that actually has a chuck large enough to hold the 3/8" shank of my 1/2" drill bit. (Yes, I knew this; it was not a surprise.)

4:00pm: Return with the DeWalt drill and drill the first hole for the clock's cleat. Perfect.

4:05pm: Drill the second hole. Attempt to extract the drill. Realize that the room on the other side of my wife's office is MY office. The one with staggered stud walls all around it filled with rockwool so it will be sound proof when I am both nocturnal and living up to my screen name on NCWW. Have you ever driven a 1/2" drill bit into a compressed pile of rockwool?

4:15pm: Find a set of ChannelLock pliers to not-so-gently extract the drill bit from the wall, as the horsepower/torque of a 20volt DeWalt cordless drill was insufficient to do so. Suffice it to say that this particular 1/2" hole is no longer 1/2" in diameter. In fact, given its new shape, I don't think it even HAS a diameter. Thank goodness for the generous flange on Toggler brand toggle bolts. (Available at Lowe's; accept no substitutes. Really; dead serious on that one.)

4:25pm: Clock is hung. Not straight, mind you; just hung. The walnut piece that the artsy-fartsy designer of said clock thought would add tension to the design through its asymmetry is definitely adding tension. It's so heavy that the clock won't hang straight. My wife leaves the room for the final time at this point.

4:30pm: I drive a nail into the frikken wall to wedge against the walnut piece and keep the clock from tilting. It's not that visible. Really.

The final result:
Clock and Boards-1.jpg

Happy holidays.


Bill Clemmons

Corporate Member
Kevin, I think this falls within the category of, "No good deed goes unpunished." But if she's happy, everybody's happy. :wsmile:

Thanks for sharing the story.
Well If you are lucky enough to have a wife that does not mind if you spend all night in the shop then you are doing something right.... does she have a sister LOL

Phil S

Board of Directors, President
Phil Soper
Staff member
Corporate Member
Nicely done Kevin and great write up, although I did have to stop half way thru and make some popcorn


Corporate Member
Kevin -- that is a real classic! And its a good think you had a picture at the end or someone would have chimed in: "No pics, didn't happen"! But at least you didn't leave the camera in the shop forcing another round trip! Final result... Happy wife, happy life!


Corporate Member
I don't think that there is any problem with Chapstick and popcorn. I should have had popcorn.




I can't tell you how much I appreciate your posts. Now I finally feel like mine are brief and to the point. :D

I think your present(s) will be well appreciated throughout the years... and... yes, hanging anything on a wall is an art in and of itself so don't feel bad. I promise it does get easier with practice so get started on the next gift!

Charles Lent

Corporate Member

Until now I thought that I was the only one who could turn a simple project into a major one.

I enjoyed the story, but won't be showing it to my wife.



New User
Scott Smith
Personally, I think the whole thing is Scott Smith's fault. He was the one who had the spalted sycamore. You know, the spalted sycamore that my wife saw when I took her along to Scott's shop for his lumber run event. She actually encouraged me to purchase a couple pieces.

Kevin, why do you think that I encouraged her to sample the moonshine?

BTW, have you thought about naming your effort "Rorscharh's clock"?

Looks good!


ps - your poplar is going into the kiln tomorrow to be finished off.


New User
Wonderfully unique clock! You did justice to the gorgeous spalted wood by making it the face of the clock. It looks like a wall art. The boards look great and well installed. I'm sure they will serve well your wife. Great job and great story!
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