Let’s Give Them Something to ‘Tock’ About (Part 1)

Today I’m going to show you how to add some faux finish flare to an old wooden pendulum clock as seen below.  I love clocks, so when the opportunity comes along to add my creative flare to a vintage find, I’m all over it!

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Fun with Faux Finishes

But first a little story about how I introduced my then-boyfriend-turned-husband into the hardcore world of DIY….. and boy, was it on a grand (i.e. national) scale!

Being the DIY maven that I am, I’m always on the lookout for that next ‘rush’, you know? The joy of the hunt, having fun narrowing down the kajillion ways in which you can upscale an item and then finally the big reveal  – those are all great perks to DIY’ing. But what else could I do to REALLY challenge myself? Apply to be on a reality TV show to see how my DIY skills stack up against the competition, of course!

Many moons ago we used to have a show in Canada that was similar to Flea Market Flip, where teams compete to find items to refurbish or reinvent, then try to sell them for the most profit. I thought I’d be perfect for the show; however, when I applied, it was unfortunately the end of the season. The producer said I sounded like just the kind of person they were looking for and she would keep my information on file. I soon forgot about it until….

The next Spring I got an e-mail from the show inviting me to audition! The e-mail also mentioned that I could bring along one or two team-mates to audition with me if I wanted to participate as a group. Who better to invite that my brand new boyfriend that I had met only two months earlier? I thought getting him to come along with me would be a fun experience – and if we got on the show, I’d get to see what he’s really made of (i.e. did he have the chops to keep up with me, what was he like to work with under pressure?)

Well, we not only got on the show (the producers added a third person to our group), but our team won ! We also outperformed every other team (sales to investment ratio) that had participated during the show’s two-year run!

Participating in the show with my boyfriend was not only going to test our relationship early on, but would also be the best way to discover whether he was going to be a keeper down the road. What we discovered was that we are a lot alike; opinionated, wanting to do things OUR way but we managed to pull together and have fun in the process. Of course, here we are over a decade later and we’re just as opinionated and still having fun together. I guess the couple who DIY’s together, stays together!

But I digress, so now back to the clock.

We were given $200, plus another $50 for supplies to find 4 – 5 items to divvy up between the three of us. On ‘buy day’ we shopped at second hand stores and content sales around town. I didn’t know specifically where we were going to shop, but I thought it would be a good idea to do some pre-location scouting where I thought we would likely be looking. Turns out that was a great decision because $200 doesn’t really get you too far when you’re hard pressed to find something within an allotted time period (production schedules are run like a well oiled clock – excuse the pun).

When we found the clock at a second hand store downtown, I knew right away that I wanted to refurbish it for the show.The door was missing its glass which was a very easy thing for me to replace (I was working at a stained glass studio at the time). The clock didn’t work and the wood was dinged and in need of TLC.

Here’s a picture of a similar clock that’s in much better shape than the one we did for the show (and has a $295 price tag!):

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We chatted up the owner and convinced him to put the clock on hold for us until Saturday (our shoot day). If we didn’t end up buying it for the show, I was going to purchase it for my personal stash! I turned on the charm and unbelievably, I managed to talk him down to $25. What a steal! One caveat to be aware of if you happen to stumble on the find of the century like I did: make sure that it isn’t a valuable antique before you do anything to it! Later on, as we were antiquing one weekend, we found a similar clock (albeit in better condition) for $295. Sometimes it better to leave well enough alone. In this case, the glass had to be replaced and it was in rough shape, so I didn’t blink an eye about giving it an update.

I decided to faux finish the clock using an applied photocopy (I found a pretty graphic in a book) and some decorative finishes using paint, crackle medium and then some stain rubbed into the cracks to bring out the distressed look and bring it all together.

Here’s a list of the items I used:

  1. White Shellac (spray or brush on)
  2. Foam applicator
  3. Wallpaper Paste
  4. Green painters tape
  5. Spray or brush on high adhesion primer – or a deglosser
  6. Paint (white of cream colour)
  7. Stain (Natural Oak or Mahogany)
  8. Crackle medium
  9. Paste wax
  10. Glass Cutter
  11. Piece of Glass
  12. Glazier’s points
  13. Venetian Plaster applicator
  14. Photocopy (it could be anything you would want to decoupage onto the clock)
  15. Stencils

To start, find a photocopy that you want to use to act as a decoupage accent somewhere on the clock. I used only a portion of my colour copy; it had a pretty peony with a lady bug on it that I could strategically place on the front and wrap around to the sides.

Brush the front and back of your colour photocopy print with the shellac using the foam applicator and let it completely dry. Do this in a well ventilated area. It will seal the paper and prepare it for the other finishes. Once dry, mark the placement of your paper against the area of the clock you want to apply it to and cut it to size.

You’ll have to forgive the less than ideal photos that follow; they were captured from the video of the show, so aren’t as sharp as I would have liked 🙂

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Colour photocopy prepared with shellac and ready to mark for placement on the clock

I removed the door so I could work on it separately and replace the missing piece of glass. I purchased a beautiful decorative glass called everglade. I measured the length and width then cut a replacement piece to fit (minus 1/8″on the total width and length for wiggle room).

I own a pistol grip glass cutter that automatically dispenses oil, but any glass cutter will do. Just be sure to add a dab of oil on the cutting wheel to lubricate it and make it easier to score the glass.

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Everglade glass is my all time favourite architectural glass. I’ve even used it to make a thermo-sealed unit for my front door!

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Scoring the glass

Once the glass is scored, lift it up with the score centred between your two thumbs. Then pull outward as you apply downward pressure to snap the glass apart.  I secured the glass back in place with glazier’s points around each edge. The pictures of the clock unfortunately doesn’t do the glass justice, but it did add a lot of impact.

I covered up any glass that was still in tact (over the clock face and on the sides) with green tape to protect it before starting to prime. Working on both the body of the clock and the door simultaneously, the next step was to lightly sand the wood finish and then apply a high adhesion primer so the paint would stick.  You can use a deglosser instead of sanding and priming, but make sure to use it outdoors. Apply the paint and let it dry.

We were on tight time constraints during the shoot – (and there was no air conditioning in the warehouse they were using as a studio!) – so I used a blow dryer in between each step. Once the primer is dry repeat the same steps with paint.

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Prime then paint the clock

Apply wallpaper paste (or mod podge) to the back of the photocopy where you want to place it. I only applied it to the very top and around the sides.

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Top and side where decoupage is being applied

Choose a stencil that goes with your theme; I added some feathery foliage to the clock. I positioned the stencil where I wanted it. Then I applied some venetian plaster with an applicator through the cutouts and carefully lifted the stencil off. You could also use stencil paste or spackling paste instead of venetian plaster to give a raised embossed appearance to some areas (I happened to have left over venetian plaster on hand). Lightly sand away any nubs until it’s smooth and you’re happy with the appearance of the raised effect.

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Blow drying between each step. Here you can see the embossed look that the stencil provides

Once the embossing is dry, apply the crackle finish according to directions.  Crackle medium is unpredictable; it is affected by the environment – temperature, moisture, materials and how heavy you apply it. Generally, the thicker the application, the larger the cracks but it’s difficult to get consistency, given all the variables that can affect the final outcome. As a DIY’er you just have to learn to accept and live with what you end up with! I didn’t have the luxury of time to do a practice piece, but it would be a good idea to do one before you apply the crackle finish  to the clock – especially if it’s your first time using it.

I used a two-part crackle to apply over my coloured paint finish; one part is the base and the other is the crackle medium. After the first application, allow it to dry as recommended (usually 1 to 3 hours). The crackle medium has to be used over a dry color coating.

Once the top crackle coat is applied and dry, it can be coated over with stain to enhance the cracks and age the white paint. This coat allows the base color to show through the crackle pattern. Don’t be too heavy handed when you rub on the stain; wipe most of it away to just highlight the cracks.

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The stain blends everything together and ages the white paint, while enhancing the cracks

Ideally wait at least 24 hours until everything is dry and then apply paste wax to the entire piece and buff it off. You could also brush or spray on a few light coats of matte water based varathane to seal it.

Reattach the glass door and it’s ready to hang on the wall (or sell on a TV show)!

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Once the door goes back on, it’s all done!

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Before and After; and something to ‘talk’ about too

On sell day, we turned the $200 investment spent on five pieces into $825; and we had a hoot doing it! The clock got sold as part of a package deal with a wrought iron table that my (boyfriend) now husband and I worked on together. I guess birdz of a feather really do flock together (and feather the nest with DIY projects, in our case).  Less than 10 months after the show aired, were were happily married (and still are).

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Clock ended up being sold as part of a combined package

In a future post, I’ll share how to create an outdoor table for the patio. The wrought iron table shown above features a DIY multi colour stone-pebble inner section topped off with plexi glass to extend the surface area.  Stay tuned!

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