DIY Grandfather Clock Bookshelf

With just a few simple steps you can take an antique handmade unfinished piece and turn it into a cool statement piece. This old Grandfather clock bookshelf is a perfect example of taking something from a thrift store and giving it a new purpose.

Grandfather clock Bookshelf repurpose staged with antique books and knick-knacks next to a mustard club chair.

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I’ve been keeping my eye out at the thrift store for a simple project for this small space right next to my daughter’s bedroom door. A lovely touch of creativity that can also play the role of a storage option for her books and knick-knacks.

When I walked passed this clock it had a big red clearance tag on it for $10. It was completely empty of its clock parts, with no clock face or chimes. It was just a wooden case, really. And I immediately had this bookshelf idea. All it needed was a little help.

Giving a Grandfather Clock a Bookcase Makeover

I will almost guarantee that this clock was a personal project that never got to be a finished product. It was probably somebody’s Grandfather’s clock project that never made it to fruition.

The whole thing was in reasonably great shape and just needed those last few steps to put it together and give it new life. As far as DIY projects, this was one of the most fun projects I’ve done in a long time.

If you love fun DIYs or upcycled things, check out this post, DIY Wall-Mounted Laundry Drying Rack or Refinishing An Antique Piano Stool.

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Tools & Supplies I Used

Step One – Build Out the Clock Head Box Frame

The top of the Grandfather Clock was detached from the body. And the head and body were slightly different sizes, but a lot of times you’ll come across that in handmade objects.

In order to properly mount the head to the body, I had to finish it out as a box. Which means measuring and cutting each piece one at a time for the bottom, top, sides, and then finally the back.

Building Out the Grandfather Clock Head

  1. First, I measured the bottom of the clock head base.
  2. Then I cut out the board until it fit perfectly, this took a few tries to get it just right.
  3. Then I followed the same procedure for the top board.
  4. At this point, I cut two smaller boards to attach to the sides as back support when I attached the hardboard.
  5. Once all the boards are cut and fit perfectly, then I was able to put them together.
  6. Using wood glue, clamps, and 1 1/4″ brad nails I carefully attached the bottom, the top, the sideboards, and then finally the back.

Step Two – Attach the Clock Head to the Body

Since the body and the head weren’t precisely the same size I chose to pull the head forward before attaching it so the entire clock would lay flush with the wall.

Grandfather clock head box frame of the head cabinet finished and installed.

For this, I used 1 1/4″ brad nails to secure the head inside of the box frame to the base and through the back of the head into a board that connected the two.

Step Three – Build the Shelves to Fit

This process was a bit slow as each shelf was a slightly different size and required adjustment several times.

The inside of the clock base body.
Grandfather Clock Bookshelf – The pendulum swing space was a big dark hole. I decided to make this secret storage beneath a false shelf. That way my daughter can hide her precious things away.

Since I was using scrap plywood to build the shelves themselves, I decided to cut them short and add a piece of pine to the front of each shelf. This made the shelf prettier to the front view.

Building Bespoke Shelving for a Grandfather Clock Case

  1. Measure the length of the inside of the clock case to determine how many shelves you will want. Determine this by deciding on the spacing between each shelf. What items will you hold on them?
  2. I notched out each shelf on either side with my jigsaw so they would sit flush on the inside of the clock case. This made use of the space efficiently, it also ensured nothing was falling off the shelves between the glass and wood.
  3. Then I cut small supporting boards to install underneath the bottom of each shelf.
  4. The very bottom shelf is a removable panel that can be lifted up. Underneath is the old pendulum space that can now be used as a secret compartment. I made a hole so you can use your finger to lift it up and out.
  5. When your shelves are built and fit well (not too snug) finish them out with stain or paint and a good top coat. Then let them thoroughly dry before installation.
  6. To install, use a level and a brad nailer to secure the supports.

Note: In hindsight, I wish I had drilled pilot holes on the outside of the clock case into the shelves on either side and installed them that way. Instead, I used brad nails, one became stuck and I broke a side panel of glass trying to get it out. You live and you learn.

Step Four – Stage the Grandfather Clock Bookshelf

The last step is the most fun, the staging process. This bookcase will be going in my daughter’s bedroom, which isn’t finished, so it’s still homeless. But I went ahead and staged it how I would if it was mine.

I love the front door of this piece, the glass doors just add that beautiful charm. Naturally, this means whatever is in it needs to look pretty at all times.

I’m on the fence if I should have painted the shelves since they’re an obviously lighter shade of stain than the beautiful walnut.

Grandfather clock head turned bookshelf.

It has such beautiful carving work, I couldn’t dare cover that up with paint. The original craftsman put so much time and love into it, I want to honor that.

Open cabinet of the grandfather clock turned bookcase.

And I still don’t know what I’m going to do about the hardware for this old door. The door frame runs into where hardware would come out the back. So, I’m going to have to be creative. For now, I left it without.


Though Grandfather clocks are a classic piece, many people think they’re outdated. Therefore look for them at thrift stores, garage sales, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or even in a flea market.

It is impossible for Grandfather Clocks to become outdated. Though Grandfather clocks have been around for hundreds of years they are a classic piece that remains to be a beautiful addition to any home.

Use a Grandfather clock to add to an eclectic space. Give it a fresh coat of paint (milk or chalk paint), a little paint does wonders for clock cases. Create a built-in bookcase and put them to good use as little free libraries. Or convert it into a jewelry organizer.

If the Grandfather clock is not functioning, can’t be restored, or has no sentimental value, the easiest repurpose is to create a conversation piece out of it. Add a few built-in bookshelves, a light fixture in the back of the bookshelf, storage baskets, or some old hardcover books.

Though it is popular to place a Grandfather clock in an entryway, they are very versatile as home decor. Place them in home offices, dining rooms, or in your living room. The perfect place for a Grandfather Clock is wherever they are most useful.

The very first Grandfather Clock was designed and created around 1680 by a British clockmaker named William Clement. Before his design, the pendulum system required 80-100° of swing space. Because of William’s design, these tall-style clocks had an anchor escapement system, which allowed for a small motion of the pendulum.

Thank you so much for stopping by! I hope I have given you some inspiration, ideas for creativity, and maybe a push to start creating your own wonderland one piece or project at a time.

Don’t forget to come back for more great projects like these DIY Projects and many more!


Meet the Author

Hi, I’m Julie! Mother to five beautiful kids, Homeschool Educator, Writer, Handicraft & DIY Enthusiast, Photographer, Thrifter, and Furniture Restorer. Follow along for fun DIY projects creating a handmade home on a budget! Read more about me here→

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