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PocketWatch Shadowbox

September 2, 2011

My grand-grandfather (you can see him here) had a watch shop, he sold, repaired and also built clocks from spare parts. When he died, my grandparents sold his shop (a very stupid move). What remained was a box of broken pocket-watches… some still looking nice (which we have hanged to a wall like an ornament in our country house)… some other quite too damaged to be used as an ornament.

This summer I was browsing through this latter group and decided to pick one and disassemble it completely, aiming at recovering some gears for a possible jewelry/steampunk project… When I finished (beside acquiring some insight on the working of the mechanism), I had all the components arranged on a piece of cardboard…. looking at them, I decided that this kind of components arrangement would look good inside a shadowbox… So, I decided to build one.

I already built a shadowbox in the past, starting from scratch from pieces of wood. This time I found a much quicker way to build a simple but good looking shadowbox. The basic idea is to use some ready-made picture frames. This picture frames, found in many decoration shops or convenience store, generally have a body (a simple wood/plastic/resin frame) with an inset front border, a glass pane and a wood back-panel are kept in place by small metal flaps.

Since the picture frames are around 1 centimeter tick, using TWO frames would give enough space for the shadowbox. As seen in the cut-through section below: place one frame facing down, its back panel will act as the bottom surface for the shadowbox and will be glued to the inset border of the frame. On top of this first frame, glue the second frame, facing up; its glass will be glued to the inset border of the frame or fixed with the small metal flaps of the frame. The result will look similar to the second image below: a shadowbox, with enough space to fit all the pieces we have to arrange.

You will also end with a spare back panel and a glass, for future projects. I chose a frame with an old-style decoration which looked good with the old pocketwatch, of a size large enough to accommodate all the pieces I had.

I spray-painted the back panel white, to make the pieces pop out. Then,with the help of a pair of tweezers, I laid down all the pieces. Most of the pieces are just kept in place with a bit of cyanoacrilate glue (superglue), they are light and small enough to pose no problem to the glue. Moreover, being the glue transparent, it is almost invisible also when placing small object like the tiny watch screws. On the pocket-watch, the larger and heavier piece was the body shell: to avoid possible glue failures, I used two pins, affixed in the point where the body would lay; I also scraped some of the paint to let the glue have more grip on the panel. Fixing the spring presented some problems too, given its mobility and small contact are with the back panel: I used two pins to keep it in place, and some glue in three-four points in the spiral.

This pieces arrangement must be done with a plan… not a precise one, just a general idea on where to put things. A great way to arrange a collection of different objects is to group them in batches of similar shape, color, size or purpose, and lay down each batch in a regular pattern, trying to keep the general distribution of the objects balanced. This is what I did.

An alternative would be placing all the components in a tight ordering, following size, shape and color criteria: this will look good only if there are lots of pieces and there is a certain continuity in the ordering… placing nine gears in a row, each slightly smaller than the other will look incredibly nice. If, on the other hand, there are three gears quite similar in size and then, with a serious change in size, another three, the series will appear incomplete, and will be better appreciated in separate groups like I did. Simply placing all the pieces randomly is NOT an option.

I am extremely satisfied with the result… nice and clean and quite easy to do…


From → Project

One Comment
  1. lillaccia permalink

    meravigliaaaaaaaaaaa! molto steampunk!!!!!!! lo adoro…e qui a brighton, un paio di settimane fa ho visto in un negozio molto trendy (leggi “molto costoso”) gioielleria ricavata da pezzi di orologi meccanici vecchi…. bellissimi! Pensaci… ovviamente, se lo fai, il primo pezzo è MIO!!! xxx

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