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Banjo Clock Makeover

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If you’ve squandered spent any time reading our blog, you know how much Handan and I enjoy our weekly shopping trips to Put & Take. Handan always finds something she can use, regardless how small or inconsequential, but I keep my eye out for bigger and more complicated things. On a recent trip, we found a trove we both agreed was treasure. Just as we were winding down our browsing and packing the car with a few of Handan’s bits and bobs, an elderly gent pulled up his car and began to offload clocks – two mantle clocks and a banjo clock. He placed them on an old table that had been left there. Handan and I shared a glance.

“Go!” I yelled, seeing a father-and-son duo eyeballing our prizes. We rushed the table and laid hands on the two mantel clocks, but the kid scooped the banjo clock and proudly offered it to his dad.

“Could we use this, dad?” The father looked it over, opening the pendulum door and fumbling with the winding key.

“I don’t know…” He trailed off.

Damn! I know! I can use it! Bah!

Oh well, all’s fair in love, war and scavenging. The kid got to it first. By the Law of the Sea, it belonged to him. We scored two awesome mantel clocks, so it wasn’t a total loss. We finished packing our haul, and I reached up to close the tailgate.

“Can you use this?” I turned to see the kid offering me the banjo clock.

“Wow, really?” I said.

“Yeah, my dad said that you guys might want it.”

I looked up, met eyes with his father, and gave him a nod. “Thank you!” I said to the man. “And thank you, little man!” I said to the boy. I took the clock and placed it with the others. Three beautiful clocks. Three awesome projects.

When we got home, I took the banjo clock to the basement to check it out.

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The clock was made by Sessions Clock Company – a prominent Connecticut clock maker from around 1903 to the 1950s.

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This clock is probably around 90 years old, give or take a decade. In pristine condition, you might get $100 or more for it. In the condition ours was in, it was probably worth $40 or $50. But I didn’t want to sell it, I wanted to use it! The clock is well-made, constructed of mahogany with a maple veneer inlay…

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…and a rather cheesy print of George Washington crossing the Delaware River.

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Though the actual crossing occurred on Christmas night in 1776, so George and his Continental Army could launch a surprise attack against the Hessians stationed in Trenton, New Jersey, the print shows him crossing in daylight hours. So much for historical accuracy. The clock was topped with a corny gold eagle that looked a little too much like the eagle of the Third Reich for my taste. One of the side ornamental scrolls was missing a screw.

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Yep, this guy needed some work. I started unscrewing and removing. The guts seemed intact.

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These are the hammers for the chimes.

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Time to start working. George crossing the Delaware had to go, as did the faded veneer. In their places I would put bookmatched walnut burl veneer. I removed the veneer panel from its frame.

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I had some sheets of walnut burl left over from my Veneer & Loathing project, so I lined up two matching sides and taped them together with painter’s tape. I traced out the shape of the piece and cut it out with a razor blade.

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These are the faces that would be glued together.

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I applied glue to the original veneered piece.

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I spread it around and then placed the walnut burl on top. I covered it with cling film so the glue that seeped through wouldn’t adhere to the plywood clamping board.

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…and then placed the piece of plywood on the cling film and clamped it all together.

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I then realigned the pieces of burl and traced and cut another piece for the panel where George was crossing the Delaware in daylight.

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Same process as before.

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When the glue dried, I had a look. I hoped there were no bubbles or ripples. There weren’t. But…

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I hadn’t clamped well enough, and the pieces shifted before the glue dried. Fortunately, I had a wide margin for error, as there was some overlap around the edges of the frame – enough to hide my mistake.

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I sanded the veneered pieces with 150 and 220 grit to prepare them for the grain filler.

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Grain filler is not strictly necessary, but it does speed up the finishing process, especially since I would be using wipe-on polyurethane. I spread it on with a gloved hand.

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Then I scraped off the excess with a taping knife.

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When the grain filler dried, I again sanded with 150, 220, 320 and 400 grit, then put them aside while I worked on other parts of the clock.

I repaired the loose wood around this gap with super glue.

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The gap itself had to be filled with wood filler.

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I clamped the parts I had glued, then applied the filler.

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When everything was dry, I sanded it smooth.

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I was planning to paint the clock white, and I wanted to do something different with the metal scrollwork. I decided to try my hand at faux patina.

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First some green…

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Then some blue…

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Then I distressed the paint with a rag.

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Not bad? Not good? I don’t know…first time.

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I did the same thing with the porthole frame.

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Maybe? Maybe not? Meh, it was time to move on to something else…like painting! I got a batch of Handan’s homemade chalk paint in old white.

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At this time, I didn’t realize the clock was mahogany. Mahogany bleeds. A lot. I started painting…

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After two coats, I realized that I would have to prime it, so I applied two coats of oil-based primer. When that was dry, I put on another two coats of old white. When that was dry, I gave the whole piece a sanding and a light distressing. And then, because I’m a colossal moron, I decided to experiment with dark wax – something I’ve never used before.

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Let the stupidity begin.

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I don’t know what I was expecting, but it sure as hell wasn’t this! The frame looked like it was smeared with monkey poop. And hey, look! Apparently, dark wax doesn’t come off! Awesome!

I was angry. Mostly at myself, but I held a little bit towards the world in general. I hate starting things over.

At this point, Handan stepped in and offered to paint it for me using the paint sprayer. It would give a much better finish than the brush-stroked hack-job I had just perpetrated on this fine time piece. There was a catch though: I had to sand the whole clock.

Two days later…

Clock sanded, Handan got to work. Meanwhile, I was putting poly on the veneered pieces.

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It took about six or eight coats until the shine was uniform.

Back to Handan…

She prepared the clock for spraying.

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Knowing the wood would bleed, she first sprayed the whole piece with shellac. When that was dry, she started painting. And guess what!

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Still it bled!

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She sprayed it again with shellac then sprayed another coat of paint.

Still it bled.

She again sprayed shellac and applied some paint.

Still it bled.

She again sprayed shellac. She applied another coat.

She had staunched the bleeding.

The weird thing about Handan helping me with my projects is that just like they always go wrong for me, they also always cause trouble for her. This bleed-through was just the beginning of her troubles with this project.

Three more coats of paint, and she was done.

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She sanded it, gave it a light distressing, waxed it and buffed it.

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I took the frame pieces downstairs and mounted the veneer.

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I used brad nails that I pushed in with a screwdriver head to hold the veneer in place.

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I reattached all the parts of the clock (except the face, which Handan still needed to paint).

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For the top, where the eagle had been, I screwed in a drawer pull I found at Hobby Lobby.

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I propped it up and had a look.

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It was okay, I guess. But that thing on top looked ridiculous, so I removed it and tried another one I had bought as a backup.

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Better, but the whole thing wasn’t quite working. When Handan got home from work that night, we both had a long stare at the thing and decided that my patina pretty much ruined the look of the clock. But what color, then?

We tried black. It was too…black. Didn’t look right. We had another drawer pull for the top – a slate-ish gray thing. It looked cool. Handan wanted to paint all the patina parts in a similar color, and she knew just how she would do it. Remember warm onyx from my wine bar post? I hated that color, but Handan found a way to make it awesome. She had already done so for her ornate frame to clock and step stool makeover  projects. She would use the same technique here. It basically involves rubbing white wax over the warm onyx. The resulting color is a beautiful smokey gray.

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After she finished the porthole and the side scrolls, Handan started to work on the final piece – the clock face. It should have been a simple stencil job. But between our changes-of-heart regarding the color and the aforementioned problems she always faces with my projects, that little clock face took Handan almost a full week to complete. There was a lot of this:

Banjo Clock Makeover | DIY furniture makeover with homemade chalk paint and exotic wood veneer | How to cover wood stains when painting with chalk paint | Homemade chalk paint recipe | Diy veneer tutorial | How to apply veneer | Woodworking | Refurbished banjo clock | Before & After | Victorian style furniture | Annie Sloan Old White color | TheNavagePatch.com

…followed by some colorful expressions, some in English, some in Turkish. Meanwhile, I tried to sink into the sofa, knowing that I was the one who caused her this pain. In the end though, she prevailed (as she always does).

When we assembled the clock for the final time, our jaws hit the floor. It was stunning.

Banjo Clock Makeover | DIY furniture makeover with homemade chalk paint and exotic wood veneer | How to cover wood stains when painting with chalk paint | Homemade chalk paint recipe | Diy veneer tutorial | How to apply veneer | Woodworking | Refurbished banjo clock | Before & After | Victorian style furniture | Annie Sloan Old White color | TheNavagePatch.com

Banjo Clock Makeover | DIY furniture makeover with homemade chalk paint and exotic wood veneer | How to cover wood stains when painting with chalk paint | Homemade chalk paint recipe | Diy veneer tutorial | How to apply veneer | Woodworking | Refurbished banjo clock | Before & After | Victorian style furniture | Annie Sloan Old White color | TheNavagePatch.com

Banjo Clock Makeover | DIY furniture makeover with homemade chalk paint and exotic wood veneer | How to cover wood stains when painting with chalk paint | Homemade chalk paint recipe | Diy veneer tutorial | How to apply veneer | Woodworking | Refurbished banjo clock | Before & After | Victorian style furniture | Annie Sloan Old White color | TheNavagePatch.com

Banjo Clock Makeover | DIY furniture makeover with homemade chalk paint and exotic wood veneer | How to cover wood stains when painting with chalk paint | Homemade chalk paint recipe | Diy veneer tutorial | How to apply veneer | Woodworking | Refurbished banjo clock | Before & After | Victorian style furniture | Annie Sloan Old White color | TheNavagePatch.com

Banjo Clock Makeover | DIY furniture makeover with homemade chalk paint and exotic wood veneer | How to cover wood stains when painting with chalk paint | Homemade chalk paint recipe | Diy veneer tutorial | How to apply veneer | Woodworking | Refurbished banjo clock | Before & After | Victorian style furniture | Annie Sloan Old White color | TheNavagePatch.com

Banjo Clock Makeover | DIY furniture makeover with homemade chalk paint and exotic wood veneer | How to cover wood stains when painting with chalk paint | Homemade chalk paint recipe | Diy veneer tutorial | How to apply veneer | Woodworking | Refurbished banjo clock | Before & After | Victorian style furniture | Annie Sloan Old White color | TheNavagePatch.com

Banjo Clock Makeover | DIY furniture makeover with homemade chalk paint and exotic wood veneer | How to cover wood stains when painting with chalk paint | Homemade chalk paint recipe | Diy veneer tutorial | How to apply veneer | Woodworking | Refurbished banjo clock | Before & After | Victorian style furniture | Annie Sloan Old White color | TheNavagePatch.com

Banjo Clock Makeover | DIY furniture makeover with homemade chalk paint and exotic wood veneer | How to cover wood stains when painting with chalk paint | Homemade chalk paint recipe | Diy veneer tutorial | How to apply veneer | Woodworking | Refurbished banjo clock | Before & After | Victorian style furniture | Annie Sloan Old White color | TheNavagePatch.com

It runs a bit fast, but I know how I can fix that. It plays a chord on the half hour and plays two notes for every hour on the hour.

I love this clock and I plan to keep it until I’m an antique.

–Greg

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Banjo Clock Makeover | DIY furniture makeover with homemade chalk paint and exotic wood veneer | How to cover wood stains when painting with chalk paint | Homemade chalk paint recipe | Diy veneer tutorial | How to apply veneer | Woodworking | Refurbished banjo clock | Before & After | Victorian style furniture | Annie Sloan Old White color | TheNavagePatch.com

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24 Comments

  1. SWEET!!! Greg and Handan, you … er… beat the clock. 🙂 So glad you did get the clock. 🙂 Love the colors AND that it still has all its working insides.
    I had my first visit to the dump store yesterday and scored some paint. Love that! I thought you had to pay and they just want your name and walk out with the stuff … free! 😉
    Mostly chemicals and such at the dump store here. I look forward to going back another day.
    Thanks so much for the education, entertainment and inspiration.

    1. Hi Christina, hey that’s awesome that you’re now officially a dump shopper like us! I hope that they stock more than just chemicals in the future, so you have the chance to find some cool free furniture to work on!

  2. Nice work! Is it bad that I enjoy reading about the troubles some of these projects give you? Not that I’m happy about the problems…..just your colorful way of writing about it. Ha ha!!! Keep up the good work you two, you make a great team!

    1. Regi, it’s not bad at all…in fact, I encourage you to laugh at my mistakes. Mistakes are a necessary part of learning, and writing about them can be really fun!

  3. i would never poop on a clock lmao, it is a thing of beauty now i hated the eagle and george also glad they are gone, and glad you are going to keep the clock for a short while ha ha xx

  4. What a great story from beginning to end! The work you both put into it is inspiring. I get extremely frustrated when I start a chain reaction of “wrong” decisions during a project. Ha! It turned out beautiful!

    1. Thank you, Angie! I know what you mean. All the wrong decisions and twists and turns can be really frustrating in the moment. Fortunately, it usually pays off in the end!

  5. It may have taken a few inappropriate choices to get there, but the final result is a lovely piece of work. The grey and white really work well with the veneer you added.I love it.

  6. I hate to show my ignorance but when I saw the title I actually thought you were going to take a banjo and make it into a clock! After I got over my disappointment I really liked the result lol! I love how you and Handan compliment each other so well. It’s like you are in tune with each other. (Yes, that is a very lame attempt at a banjo joke!)

    1. Giselle, that’s not a bad idea! I have an old 1950s era Gretsch banjo up in the attic – I could easily turn it into a clock. Anyway, I’m happy you liked this one! And, yes, Handan and I are usually in tune 🙂

  7. Wow! You two have more patience than I do. I probably would have given up, but I’m so glad you didn’t. The clock came out beautiful! Thanks for sharing at Dishing It & Digging It!