We have been making clocks from old whiskey barrel tops for over 2 years now. They are very popular and now close to becoming my company’s best seller. During Christmas we made over 100 of them in a 3 week span. If that doesn’t sound like much please realize during those 3 weeks we also made 30 barstools, 50 coasters gift sets and many other small items. It felt like the tools were running 24 7. Not much time for rest during the holidays for us. It is a good thing for sure but I do also like to spend time with my family during that time of year. Anyways, back to the new clock idea I have.
As you may know a barrel has two heads. (tops are called barrel heads). 30% of those barrel heads are usually bad. Just absolute crap. Warped to hell and completely unusable. These barrel tops are normally saved for tap handles and chess pieces. Those are projects where a hefty amount of mill work comes into play. However, just a couple of bad tops per month would easily be enough for those. Which means there is still about a couple 100 useless tops just soaking in the weather all year around.
In the past we did have a very sleek coffee table design that required these messed up tops as well. The table top was made up of cut up tops which were arranged in a subway tile like fashion. Pieces ranged from 2 inches to 4 inches in width and in random lengths. The look was awesome and I actually have one in my living room now. But, the production time for each piece was far too much to be worth while. Milling down a bunch of tops then carefully leveling them to be flat was just too tedious. Production time is very important. If a design takes too long to make, it usually gets the axe within a couple of months. We’ll probably try to keep it around for a while by raising the price but if sales slow down then it eventually lands in the “never mind folder”.
As the clocks are selling like hot cakes the busted barrel head pile kept growing too. There is far too much cool distillery markings on them just to chuck away. Staring at them I often revisit the old coffee table design idea and wonder if there is a faster and better way to make them to bring them back into production. Which of course would let us start using the shitty barrel tops again at a greater scale. As I also looked at one of our barrel head clocks I remembered quite a few people asking us over the holidays if they were available in an XL size. Unfortunately not many whiskey barrels come bigger than a 21 inch diameter top so the answer was always the same. As I kept thinking, I realized clocks are a great seller simply because everyone could use a clock and they are small and can be easily hung anywhere. They can be given as gifts or purchased on a whim.
A sale of a coffee table usually meant the customer wanted or needed that exact design. The market for those is much smaller. Then this thought entered my mind. How about we take the same table top design, shrink it a little to a 32 inch diameter, remove the legs and hang on the wall. Most people frequently purchase decor for their walls and this could be just another cool whiskey barrel wall art. But to make it a huge seller I need to do a more interesting to the layout of the wood. It needed to pop and show… “art”! So the basic subway tile concept needed to be changed. Playing with a design program I come up with a cool yet simple configuration which isn’t too busy for the eyes. It is uniform and clean which is always a good thing. Plus, a great design is one that can be easily replicated multiple times over and over again. Yes the plan was coming together perfectly. Even though I have not made one, it already looked good on paper.
The NEW Whiskey Barrel Clocks
Then another word come to me. Functionality. Most of our customers purchase handmade goods from the Hungarian Workshop because they serve a function. Chairs, rockers barstools and so on can be sat on. Coasters hold drinks and clocks tell time. Time…hmm. If we can turn this new idea so it has more of a function than just looking pretty, then we would be open to yet another market. Yes this needs to be that XL clock that so many people have inquired about. With that in mind now I went searching for the right size clock mechanisms. Boom. Easy as hell I found that the company that makes our current ones that fit the 21 inch clocks make a larger version. Only a few dollars more too. Next came the clock face numbers.
On our small whiskey barrel clocks we use a stencil to create the painted on roman numerals. For this big clock I didn’t want to do that. Most large wall clocks have a focus point that isn’t really the time they tell. It’s often the material which they are made from. To keep focus on the medium, the hours are usually just marked with lines or dots or in some instances nothing at all. With a quick glance out our shop’s window I saw the answer. Another widely discarded material was just staring back at me. The barrel’s metal bands. Six comes on each barrel and these also sit in a giant pile in the back of the shop. To keep the design authentic with barrels, cutting up the barrel bands for the hour markers was the ideal choice. There are plenty of other options available online but adding some big factory made numbers or decor is a big no in my book.
The lines marking the hours will be a nice fit without taking any visual focus from the whiskey barrel wood and their layout. Alright, with all this figured out we are on the home stretch. Now came the edge. We can’t just keep it bare. Seeing the cut sides and plywood underneath is a very cheap look. Not to mention unfinished. To cover them up I decided to go with our barrel end table’s top design. Where we use the metal band to go around the whole table top. Now, the 32″ diameter can’t be covered by just one band. We’ll split two of the bigger ones. This should be no problem and it will also add some structural support to keep the face from any warping.
It is now the end of January 2022 and we are just now finishing up the holiday back orders. This new clock idea should be starting up soon in the next couple weeks. A few prototypes will have to be made at first to work out all the kinks, but I think it will be in our online shop by spring time. I am very excited about this because it will open a whole new door to recycling even more of the barrels we purchase.
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