Howard Lake Herald, July 6, 1998

Chris Fall, 13-year-old clockmaker


Want to know what time it is? There are 15 clocks visible from the kitchen area in 13 year-old Chris Fall's home south of Howard Lake.

No wonder he is fascinated with clocks. His dad, Clinton Fall, collects them.

Chris points out all the fancy bird feeders, lawn ornaments, and the deck his dad has built, and it is easy to see where Chris gets his love of woodworking.

Clinton does the woodworking, but Chris's mom, Debra, designs and paints many of the craft things in their home.

Supervised by his dad, Chris started his first project when he was just six years old.

He took a block of wood and made it into skunks and squirrels on a band saw.

Then in fourth grade with teacher Bill McCarty, Chris cut out intricate paper patterns with a knife.

He got bored cutting paper, and McCarty told him the patterns were for woodworking projects.

Chris cut out his first pattern with a knife from pine and was hooked on this type of work.

At first, he worked on craft-type things: a Champion Valley sleigh to hold silk flowers for his mother, a winter scene with a horse-drawn sleigh and deer, and maybe 40 to 50 other items he has given as gifts to teachers and relatives, he said.

It wasn't long before he wanted to try something more complicated.

Chris talked his mother into a pattern for a clock from a catalog, and he was off and sawing.

The pattern was for an Iowan clock, a cathedral type clock mounted on an expanded base. It is made from cherry and black walnut.

"I wanted one that wasn't too easy or too hard. I wanted to be able to finish it," said Chris. His mom helped with the decision.

Chris started about a year ago on the clock and chose his wood pieces carefully.

"I like cherry, but I had never worked with black walnut before," he said.

"I kind of chose the wood to go with my parents' furniture," said Chris.

He kept track of the time it took to make the clock, and he has it figured at about 800 hours.

Chris is very fussy. If a piece doesn't turn out perfect, he throws it away.

"The projects I do take almost all my spare time," he said.

"I like to finish a section once I start on it, so I may spend 15 or more hours at a stretch," he said.

The hardness of the wood makes a difference in the speed at which it can be cut.

Some of that time is spent replacing scroll saw blades when he is working with woods like oak.

Beginning a project requires gluing the pattern to the wood with cement glue that can be sanded off, said Chris, as he brought out a piece to use for demonstration.

Then, placing the scroll saw blade through a pre-drilled hole in the wood, he began to work.

He took out a tiny piece of wood from the center of the pattern, concentrating on the vibrating blade with a little frown.

Changing positions frequently to better catch the light on the pattern, Chris talked about his equipment.

"When my dad saw I was serious, we got a better scroll saw," he said.

"There is a new one out now that is even better, but I don't think I'll get one," said Chris.

As he loosened the saw blade and removed the work, he said, "If you look at it, it may not look as if it's hard, but it takes a lot of time."

After all the separate parts are completed, Chris uses glue or brads to join them together for the completed project.

He has four pieces finished for the new clock he is working on as an anniversary gift for his parents.

Their anniversary is already over, but his intentions were good, he said.

The new clock project is a lacy, Swiss style, hanging, wall clock with lots of intricate details and overlays, said Chris.

"I would like my mom to help me design my next clock," he said.

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