“Make one, easy enough.” How to make a book clock.

This is the clock I’m going to show you being made.  I’ll explain each stage I go through and try and offer suggestions for things you can use if you don’t have the same equipment available.

The Secret Garden book clock

In 2017 one of the images of a book clock I had made ended up on social media with a reply to a comment by a potential customer that read “Make one, easy enough.”   On a business page this can have some unfortunate consequences and isn’t the same as conversations people who want to replicate what you make have in front of a craft stall or when they privately message each other.

The comment sat there making anyone who was thinking of buying the item feel they were being judged for paying for something they could easily make themselves.  If I’m honest this sort of comment isn’t the best thing to read if you are someone who easily doubts themself either.  Fortunately I have lots of happy customers and sold many clocks this year so I can keep believing in what I make.

Instead of leaving it as a bit of a negative experience I decided to create a how to post so that people who want to (and have the spare time) can make their own book clock.  As it was getting towards the end of the year I was very busy both at my day job and with The Forgotten Library so I never quite got round to it.  Now I finally have a day I don’t have to be somewhere else and thought people might enjoy this as a new year project; so if you want to make a book clock here’s how.

Of course it’s ‘easy enough’ so you might want to do things a different way but this is my method 😉  It usually takes up to 3 hours of working time and you will need to allow 24 hours for setting the book too.  Sorry the photos aren’t the best as I took them hurriedly, often in poor light, of the next clock I made after that comment appeared.


Select a suitable book.  It needs to be a hardback and no more than an inch thick.  As you cut the pages to make space to put the clock movement in, the square you are cutting will start to shift.  You can keep compensating for this but it becomes more complicated if the book is too thick.  I’ve used a Folio Society edition of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett here which I was lucky enough to buy for £5 from a shelf of books being sold to raise funds for a church I visited when on holiday in 2016.

Mark where you want the clock hands to be set on the front cover using an awl. Turn this so that it goes through the front cover and makes a clear mark on the first endpaper of the book.

Use the hole you have marked as the centre point to draw a square large enough to house the clock movement you are using with extra space around it.  For example the movements I use are 5.5cm square and I cut a hole that is 7cm square.  I think you can still buy a parallel rule at a stationers or art shop, this is an Air Ministry issue rule that I bought from an antique shop.

Cut the square using a metal ruler to guide the knife so that you don’t cut into a wooden or plastic ruler.  My metal ruler came from a car boot and the knife from a craft shop.

After cutting through a few millimetres of pages keep redrawing the square ensuring it stays central.  You will find as you turn the pages and work on the next group the square you are cutting can start to slope on the left and right hand sides so you need to counter this as you go.

Cutting the back cover

Eventually you’ll reach the back of the book.  Make sure you have a cutting mat in place as you get towards the end as you don’t want to scratch the surface you are working on.  The cover is usually harder to cut through so take care (the point of the blade has snapped off on me at this stage a few times).

PVA glue to set book

Once you’ve completed the cut you need to apply pva glue and let that set so that you have a solid book to work with.

Glue endpaper to covers

I apply glue to the endpapers front and back first.

Glue the top of the book block

Next I’ll brush the glue along the page block edges.

glue inside the cut for the movement

Finally I’ll put glue all around the pages exposed in the cut out section of the book.

Book press

To hold the book tight whilst the glue dries and sets everything in place I use a Victorian book press.  There were two at my local auction house when I bid for this and bidding was fierce.  When I first made a clock I used two pieces of mount board and two C clamps to hold it all together, the weight isn’t as evenly distributed but it still worked and makes a cost effective alternative if you don’t already have a form of press around the house.

Wrap to protect the book in the press Book in the book press

I wrap the book in greaseproof backed foil to stop the glue sticking but ensure the book is covered as the book press is over a century old and sometimes a flake of paint or rust might come free.

Book clamped to drill

After 24 hours the book should be set so you can remove it from the press or whatever method of holding it together you have gone for.  You’ll drill the hole to put the clock movement through from the back of the book so lay it front cover face down on a piece of wood on your work bench.  Place a piece of thick card or mount board on top so that you can hold the book in place with an F clamp without marking the book.

Top view of clamped book to drill

This is how it looks from the top.  Note the vacuum cleaner on the floor – you will need one for the paper dust created when you drill.  I use a lightweight cordless drill that I can  easily control so I can adjust the speed and stop quickly if the card/paper starts to smoke. This isn’t usually an issue here as you are drilling the cover only.  Sometimes I drill narrow books all the way through and it’s never easy to anticipate how combustible the different paper types might be.

Drilling and hoover dust

I use a drill bit designed for use with wood.  I’ve tried multipurpose and personally find it doesn’t create as clean a cut.


You can use sharp scissors to trim the hole as drilling often creates burred board or leaves parts of the cover design attached, especially if it is fabric or laminated.

Fitting the hanger

Before you fit the clock movement you need to attach a sawtooth style hanger to the back so that the clock can be hung from a wall.  You should be able to buy these items at a local hardware shop.  Mark the points to nail using a piercing tool first and it will be easier to ensure the nails go in straight and exactly where you want them to be.

Spanner for fixing the movement

Insert the clock movement into the back of the book and secure the nut with a spanner.  Most movements will include a rubber washer to put between the movement and the book cover at the back and a brass washer to fit the nut against on the front.  I bought my first clock movement from a local craft store but you can easily search online to find a supplier.

Clock hands

Depending on where you purchase it from you may have a choice of hand designs and colours.  The hands usually have a plastic covering you peel off before you fit them.  With the type I use I fit the hour, minute and then second hand.  You will be able to tell which order they should go in by the size of the hole and the instructions that came with the movement you have purchased.

I hope you enjoy your finished clock.  One of the first clocks I made was this from Books In The House.


It is still going strong in the living room 5 years later.  I’ve only had to replace the battery a few times.

The clock shown in this how to guide was sold from a stall at an artisan market in November 2017 .




Etsy Craft Party June 6th 2014

Today I rushed from work to join some very creative fellow Etsy sellers for craft and chat.  The lovely organiers had set out five different tables with activities to have a go at.  Arriving late I only managed two and a half makes but had a wonderful time.

Going to fill out a name badge I found myself at a table with three ladies I’d already met before through an Etsy meet a creative venture and being stallholders at the same event.  I love the way crafters are so friendly even if you’ve only smiled and waved over a table you feel welcome and part of a group immediately.  First up Emma Blue (www.emmablue.co.uk) was giving tuition on paper folding to create a little box. The idea was to put photos inside on a fold out but after needing three goes to make the box lid big enough to fit (two abandoned green lids are no doubt on the way to the recycle bin as I type) I thought I’d leave further box work for later.

Next Rhea Clements (www.rheaclements.co.uk) was demonstrating how to make a clutch bag from a magazine.  I love the way all these different creative projects for using photos had been devised.  Miraculously the sticky back plastic didn’t wrinkle and I was especially pleased I learned to create a cord using a latchook.  I found that so theraputic I think I may have to dig in the family sewing box for tools so I could make cord to relax.

Etsy Craft Party makes June 2014Just before the venue needed to reclaim the space I moved to a table full of pretty coloured threads to have a go at embroidering one of the old photos I’d brought along but only had time for a few roughly attempted plant stalks ad one very basic flower.  It’s been something I’ve thought about doing for a long while so I am at least inspired enough to make a plan to learn embroidery stitches and try this in depth (as soon as I get a little time that is).

There was even a raffle with some lovely prizes and I was lucky to win a selection of cards by Debbie Greenaway (www.debbiegrenaway.com) and an Etsy t-shirt.


Lovely afternoon. Thank you to all the organisers and I’m sorry I didn’t get time to chat to more people.



Hopes & Dreams

The blog may have been untouched for 6 months (oops) but The Forgotten Library has been busy with December seeing every weekend on the top floor of Waterstones as part of the Craft in the City event.  This was my stall and welcome refuge on a Saturday from my retail sun-fri day job.

Craft In The City 2013During December I reached one of those big birthday milestones and a very dear friend sent me this gorgeous painting by Ritchie Collins.

40thPaintingI can’t do it justice in a photo, the detail is so incredible.  There is something so magical about the night time cityscape that my imagination has been filled with what The Forgotten Library at this building might be like inside.

40thPaintingright 40thPaintingleftWhilst I fall over the crates of stock on the landing and try to rearrange my work bench to create amongst all the tools and materials piled there I dream of a studio with plenty of space in this amazing building full of historical character and dreams.

Find more of the artists work at http://www.ritchiecollinsgallery.co.uk/


100% busy but only 50% output.

Posts, like buses – nothing for weeks then two in one day.

I’m having one of those frustrated moments when you have spent every spare scrap of time you can working on one thing or another but the visible output isn’t as much as you need it to be.  In a few days I have a stall at the lovely Pretty Dandy Flea https://www.facebook.com/events/404978856254535/ and I was supposed to gather stock and plan my layout this past weekend but it wasn’t to be.  Whilst fighting a cold/throat infection I was not at my most productive (still not) and if anything could go a bit awry it did.  Even getting new instruction inserts for the clocks printed turned into a 90 minute fiasco in Staples (long story) in which I had to stop my fevered self buying stationery I didn’t need – difficult at the best of times.  Fortunately the sale corner had a coin counting tray reduced to £2 so I was able to buy myself a toy to cheer up.

I’ve been working on some new memento keepers too and as soon as I fix one problem there is a new challenge to overcome.  Tonight I have decided I need a press to get it all right but searching for the right equipment is not going well and drooling over expensive book presses I can’t afford is not helping.  These are images of the prototypes so far…

Memento keepers version 3 style Memento keeper version 4 Memento keeper version 1

So on the positive side two clocks have been hand cut and are clamped for the glue to set.  I made ten hairgrips and only superglued one finger.  At least something saleable has been made amongst all the hours of trialling things.  Distracting myself with new ideas means I seem to have lots of unfinished odds and ends all over the desk.

Since I have no Forgotten Library time again until late Thursday afternoon I am hoping the idea that it will all come together in the end proves correct!

*Adds making non-smuding price labels to the list of things to do*


Christmas markets & fairs

Goodness where does the time go!  I can’t believe it’s 2013 already. Thank you to everyone who has supported The Forgotten Library in 2012.  I really do hope to be updating this blog regularly this year.  I have some wonderful treasures I have yet to unpack and document, I think it’s almost a year since I was lucky to be sold some original patterns, sketches and documents from a lace firm.  Having been tied in rolls for decades and covered in roof dust they need careful unrolling and flattening so I was always too busy to get to them.  They really are top of my list once I’ve made some space round here.  Last minute making for fairs over the Christmas period inbetween a busy day job means it looks like someone shook all the books off the library shelves and sprinkled them with clock movements, findings, paper tags and binding wires.  I can’t even see some of the equipment like the laminator and the drill any longer!

Here are some photos of a few of the craft fairs and markets I enjoyed standing a stall at this past Christmas period.

Craft In The City, St Peters Church, Nottingham
Craft In The City, St Peters Church, Nottingham

St Peters Church Craft In THh City

Newark Vintage Fair, St Marks Gallery
Newark Vintage Fair, St Marks Gallery

St Marks Gallery Newark Vintage Fair

The Pretty Dandy Flea, November 2012
The Pretty Dandy Flea, November 2012

The Pretty Dandy Flea November 2012

Stall shared with gorgeous Elves courtesy of Rachel Gallagher.
Stall shared with gorgeous Elves courtesy of Rachel Gallagher.
Huge space, only managed to fill it thanks to the help of Rachel Gallagher and her fab fae folk.
Huge space, only managed to fill it thanks to the help of Rachel Gallagher and her fab fae folk.
Not The Camden Market, Bartons PLC
Not The Camden Market, Bartons PLC
Craft In The City, Waterstones, Nottingham.
Craft In The City, Waterstones, Nottingham.

Craft In the City Waterstones Craft In The City, Waterstones

Last fair of the season - which is why I look so exhausted.
Last fair of the season – which is why I look so exhausted.

Beautiful Books

So many lovely dustjackets on these books.

Blogging has been rather scarce due to day job commitments and being busy out at craft fairs and making items on any spare days.  This morning I was happy to get down to the local car boot sale to try and find some penguin books having sold my remaining stall stock of keyrings and magnets.

So many fabulous books.  I know my own shelves will be groaning as I found so many volumes to treasure myself alongside those I will use to make items for The Forgotten Library.  Here are a few snapshots of some of the wonderful editions I came home with.

These are bound for my own book shelves. So happy to find another Bronte novel in this series (so far I only had Wuthering Heights in this edition) and the Classic Myth and Legend book to go with the Celtic volume I bought in a book shop on holiday in September. As an Arthurian legend lover that Tennyson book has been a joy to read this afternoon.
Lots of beautifully designed book covers marking these volumes ready to become book clocks.
I love looking at peoples collections of cuttings to see what they chose to keep and what was important to them. I haven’t had time to look through all of these yet but an article from Kelmscott, somewhere I was lucky to visit this year, caught my eye and I love the fashion styles which look to be around the 40s.
Fabulous Frank Lloyd Wright book and a 1930s book on design. More fantastic finds I shall be adding to my own book shelves to enjoy on one of those dreamed of days off.
After finding some calligraphy pens in the summer I was overjoyed to find all these books and can’t wait to find some time in the new year to have a go at the art of penmanship.
Many books often have a bookmark or marker as a sign of where the reader left them. I know my own shelves have many unfinished volumes.
This may look very weary and the cover is coming loose but I was so excited to find this 1860 edition.
I love the way the bookseller labels are inside these Victorian volumes and the owners always wrote their names inside in such beautiful script.

October Giveaway Timmy Tiptoes Book Clock

My first giveaway is now up and running on Facebook.  Why not enter to win this cute cloth bound edition of The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes by Beatrix Potter as a book clock.  Simply like the page at www.facebook.com/theforgottenlibrary and share the giveaway post to your timeline.  Please share the post directly from The Forgotten Library rather than someone elses timeline so that your entry can be tracked and placed into the draw.  A winner will be drawn at random on October 24th 2012 and will be contacted through Facebook to arrange delivery of the prize.

Stocking up

Popped into my little spot in the Hopkinson Vintage, Antique & Arts centre today to leave a supply of childrens book clocks. I rather overloaded the shelving with them but I know I can’t get in to restock for a little while so it now looks rather crammed full like this…

I’ve also done a little shopping towards converting a storage room into a workshop.  Most sensible folk would head to ikea for cupboards for storage.  Me I spotted a 1930s bedroom set of 2 wardrobes and a dressing table in the local charity shop and decided that was for me.  Can’t wait to get set up in there.

Busy behind the scenes.

Sorry for the long delay in posts.  I am finding that a small business running alongside a regular day job leaves very little time.  Making the stock and taking it out to venues has taken all those extra hours of late.  I had hoped to share more of the vintage diaries and papers here but my bright idea to store them away safely and a lack of time to get them out and photograph things means that’s a coming soon style project right now.

There has been much clock and card making of late.  Sometimes I read the books before converting them.  Children’s books aren’t always a happy tale…….

….after all the animals buy on credit but never pay their bills Ginger & Pickles can’t keep the shop open and go out of business.  I hope my next choice for clock conversion is more uplifting.