DIY Clock-Face Table

Repurposing a vintage clock face preserves it in a way that’s, well, timeless.
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clock table

The salvaged, 19th-century steel clock face was supported on a steel base—a ring attached to legs made from machinist stands—to be given a new life as a striking family-room table, once it was topped with tempered glass.

Digital clocks with a numeric screen display rapidly are replacing analog clocks. Those large clock faces found in municipal and commercial buildings are often discarded rather than maintained. We met a homeowner who admits she has a soft spot for any sort of salvage. When she came across a steel clock face salvaged from a Victorian clock tower in Philadelphia, she wanted it as a focal point for her family room. She found the piece, which is five feet in diameter, at a Connecticut antiques and salvage store called RT Facts. It has been mounted to a base for use as a table.

RT Facts Design & Antiques, Kent, CT: rtfacts.com

architectural salvage clock

Antique analog clock faces are ready for purchase at RT Facts in Connecticut.

The Table Transformation

CLEANING THE METAL
RT Facts owners Natalie and Greg Randall say that when they first purchased the old face it was covered with layers of black, crusty, peeling paint, which they very carefully removed using a propane torch. The stripped steel face was then polished with a 4" wire cup wheel, then burnished with Scotch-Brite pads on a buffing wheel. The clean steel was darkened with JAX Black, an easy-to-use metal darkener, to give it depth and patina. Once the JAX Black was dry, the surface was buffed with a soft cotton cloth (old white T-shirt rags), then burnished once more with fine steel wool. Finally the face was sealed with a catalyzed lacquer to give it a mellow, “burnished steel” finish.

FABRICATING THE BASE
The coffee-table base was fabricated from four antique industrial machinist stands of the same period as the clock. First, rubbing alcohol was used to remove grease and oil from the old machine parts. Then the legs were refinished using the process of stripping, buffing, and burnishing described above.

The coffee-table base was fabricated from four antique industrial machinist stands of the same period as the clock. First, rubbing alcohol was used to remove grease and oil from the old machine parts. Then the legs were refinished using the process of stripping, buffing, and burnishing described above.

Rusted clock

People have kept track of time for many millennia.

MAKING A RING FRAME
To support the clock face on the base, a ring was custom made from hand-rolled steel, measured to fit the inside diameter of the clock dial. A second, smaller ring secured the feet of the legs underneath. The Randalls note that the table’s construction was purposely designed to make it easy to take apart, so that the large object can be moved and fit through doorways and in elevators.

ADDING A GLASS TOP
Working with designer Charles Klein, the homeowner commissioned a heavy glass top to be made of ¾" Starphire low-iron glass. (The low level of iron oxide mitigates the greenish tint often seen in thicker glass, especially at edges.) A flat, polished edge was specified for safety. The surface was coated with Spanguard Glass Protector to help it resist scratches.

Telling Time 

People have kept track of time for many millennia. Sundials used in ancient Greece and elsewhere read a shadow that moved as the sun made its trajectory in the sky. The first mechanical clocks with oscillating parts appeared ca. 1300. Clocks and clock-making became commonplace in the 15th and 16th centuries, when spring-driven mechanisms were invented. Pendulum clocks invented in 1656 improved the accuracy of timekeeping further and marked the beginning of modern clocks. An analog (rather than digital) clock usually has a round face with moving hour and minute hands.

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