Thursday, February 27, 2014

Archive Raiding: The Millennium Clock

For a few years in secondary school I took Woodwork as a subject, or Materials Technology (Wood) as it was (bizarrely) called. During that time I produced a series of poorly-constructed, ill-conceived or just plain shoddy pieces of work, which we'll get to in time. Right now though I thought we'd take a look at possibly the biggest disaster of them all: the millennium-themed clock I made for as my Junior Cert. project in 2000.

Of the potential projects we could choose from, the millennium "artefact" seemed the most promising, given it's open-ended nature. Despite having carte blanche to make literally anything I wanted for this, the bad idea that immediately popped into my had, that I never wavered from, was a clock. And not just any clock unfortunately, but a large, ornate, antique-style one with a proper face and hands and all that stuff.

The original drawing. I think it got ripped up eventually from being carted around in my school bag.

And as I got down to drawing it, I continued to dig myself into an ever-deepening hole of big ideas without the skill or know-how to back them up. A curved top? Sure! Carving? No Problem! A door; a pane of glass; a light fitting? All in a day's work. In March 2000, with about three weeks left to the deadline, all I had to show was a few planks of crookedly-cut mahogany in a black bin liner.

If that wasn't bad enough already, I still had almost the entirety of my "folio" to do - a write-up of the the research, and the work that went into making the project. (Although being mostly blank, I guess it was technically accurate at that point. :D) If I was going to have this project in any way complete for the deadline, it was going to take an absolutely herculean effort over the impending Easter holidays that year.

While I did finally get started on the folio side of things on the first week of the holidays, there was also the vital matter of getting my terrible new web site up and running, and a third playthrough of Ocarina of Time to attend to, so as insane as it was, I didn't actually touch a piece of wood until the second, and final week of the break got started.

The clock's top two sets of dovetail joints. Believe it or not, quite an improvement over my previous efforts.

Finally, on Easter Monday afternoon, I got down to work. I started off with the basic frame of the clock, which was going to be kept together with a set of dovetail joints at each corner. Past experience told me I couldn't mark out joints accurately if my life depended on it. Rather than risking disaster for my final project, I decided on a different tack. This time I cut out all the pins (pointy triangular bits) first. Once I'd finished those, I made the tails (the slots they need to go into) to measure, chiselling out each one bit by bit, widening them as necessary until they fit exactly - a painstakingly slow process that gave me ample time to get acquainted every Moby single from Play, Tom Jones' Sex Bomb and that Irish dance uh... classic: Maniac 2000, which were all constantly being piped out from 2FM into the earphones of my trusty Walkman, the only thing that was keeping me going through this ordeal.

The tip of the clock. Man, that half-assed attempt to smooth it out with a file really hasn't improved with age.

The flame bit looks better than I remember though. A bit wonky on the left though, and the top, and there's a chip missing; but that right side? Pure quality.

With the joints getting there, the next thing I tackled was the front of the clock, which needed a flame-shaped hole cut out at the bottom of it and a curve applied to the top. Both of which I cut out with a coping saw, both of which were jagged as shit afterwards. :D I did the best I could with as spokeshave on the top and later, a file on both. After a significant effort I managed to get the top looking alright, but I just didn't have the time or know-how to make any real impact on the flame bit.

No that first picture wasn't lit weirdly or anything. It really is bright yellow plastic.

Jeez, this is as rough as a badger's arse. :D In my defence, I'm pretty sure I would have needed a different spokshave for concave stuff. Plus it was inside. It was fine.

After that, it was finally time to face up to the clock situation. Although I'd already given up on the idea of installing a fully-fledged mechanical clock movement, up until the previous week I was still hopeful that I'd be able to get hold of a battered-powered one and some sort of face, and have a proper, working clock in the end. All I'd managed to come up with though was a yellow, plastic clock, from a pound shop. With no expertise in the area whatsoever and only days to go to the deadline, literally the only thing I could do with this clock was to jam the entire thing into a hole in the front of, what had now become a big, hollow plastic clock receptacle; cheap-ass yellow frame and all.

Year 2000! Wooooo! (Good grief, how did this ever seem like a good idea? :D)

Bloody hell. It just gets worse the closer you get. Bear in mind that I'd almost completed three years of Art class at this point too.

Fuck me.

As you might be able to gather from the pics above, the uh, "carving" above the clock proved to be a much bigger disaster. Again, knowing nothing about carving, and having only the cheapest, crappiest tools at my disposal, things could have only gone worse if I'd used a set of car keys instead, or tried to fix the already huge mess with a sloppy coat of gold paint. Yeah.

The back door. Ignoring the fact that the hinge is on the wrong way, I don't think I even tried to polish it before I handed this in. The stuff that's stuck to it was always there.

The glass here wasn't actually supposed to be frosted, or brown. I dispatched my dad to get some and this is what he decided to go for. I actually think it works pretty well though.

With that much out of the way, unlike what it says in the folio I'm sure, this is when my Dad crashed the party, attaching the back door (borrowing a handle from one of our cupboards for it, which is still missing to this day), the front panel, and the pain of glass behind the flame shape. Usually I'd be furious at him butting in like this, but I guess I had so much mahogany dust lodged in my sinuses at this point, I felt I was doing enough myself already. I pretty sure I glued the joints together though and by the end of the week, against all odds, the clock was more or less fully assembled.

It's a pretty nice handle. I should really put it back where it came from at this point though.

The unfinished folio though, I got all to myself. (Lucky me.) Reverse engineering my research from the now almost finished piece and making a few uh, minor adjustments to the "making of" section for said piece, I spent several nights throwing it together in MS Publisher, employing the basic graphic design skills I'd picked up from working on my web site throughout. As per the woodwork teacher's suggestions, I crammed the thing full of sketches, as well as doing one section in my own (horrendous) handwriting - proof that you hadn't just printed the project off the internet, apparently.

I mean, really, who would waste their time putting a Junior Cert. woodwork folio on the internet...

Direct Google Docs Link | Download Hi-Res CBR Version

Yes, here it is, in all it's waffle-spewing glory. You'll have to excuse any typos. I did cross out one word towards the end, but had to pull myself back before I spent days editing the thing (again). :D

Quite a lot going on here. You can see how my dad attached the glass and the front panel. (With one screw per corner and a bunch of rusty joiners by the looks of things. Honestly, you can't get the help these days.) Also, the lamp holder, still fitted with the same flame effect bulb from back in the day.

And it still works! (Not that I left it on longer than necessary to take a few shots though. I still expect it to start smouldering at any second.)

Pretty sure my internet's about to crap out imminently (so exciting!), but when I get the chance I've got a really pointless video of the clock in action to upload too. (EDIT: Here it is. Sorry about the soundtrack; couldn't resist. :D)

With the folio finished, all that was left to be taken care of was the light bulb. After a quick primer from my dad on bulb holder assembly on Sunday, I managed to cobble together something that didn't instantly trip the power out and screwed it into the bottom of the case. Job done.

The inner workings in all their glory. Not quite as glorious as I'd imagined back in October.

Come the following Wednesday, having lugged it around with me for hours beforehand, I was finally able to produce the finished piece and folio at the first Woodwork class of the week. Despite being obviously relieved to see the four planks I'd been carrying around for months turned into something resembling a clock, I get the impression the teacher didn't exactly rate the finished product too highly. He gave me some (probably very helpful) tips on how to improve future projects. Having spent the last week breathing sawdust, nothing could have sounded less appealing at the time. I nodded along politely.

Filler! As the thing didn't look bad enough already.

I wasn't entirely off the hook yet though. Despite attempting to precision engineer my dovetail joints, there were still plenty gaps between them that needed filling. I left that until the following weekend, plugging them up with a mix of glue and sawdust. I'm pretty sure the Wednesday after that was the final, final deadline. Still needing to sand the thing down, inside and out, give it a couple of coats of varnish, and draw a big 3D drawing of the piece, what better course of action to follow than leaving it all until the very last minute? I don't remember now, but man, those must have been some ridiculously late nights. Oh, and protip: huffing varnish fumes from a bowl you've left directly under your nose while you work: best avoided. :D

The 3D drawing. I was convinced I never got this back until I found with my other woodwork stuff the other day. Actually, I've been told the teacher was kind of impressed with this. I guess because I didn't take technical drawing as a subject like the rest of the class.

No relevance here. Just thought this picture looked kind of rad.

And that was it. I handed off the clock and the folio not to be reunited with them until the beginning of summer the following year. They liked to keep on to the previous year's projects to show to the upcoming Junior Cert students, I guess either for inspiration or to act as cautionary tales in what not to do. :D Despite being a bit shoddy though, my project mustn't have done too badly come exam time. I got an A overall and while I never saw the exact breakdown, it must have gotten at least a B to average out at that.Something I took completely for granted at the time. Looking back at the piece and how it got made now though, the fact that it did that well was nothing short of a fucking miracle. :D

No comments: