Cactus Wood Clock

For Douglas, a few old snaps of the cactus wood grandfather clock built by my Dad's great uncle, Eddie LaPlant.

I found some notes from my Dad - he owned a brick yard in Tuscon and built worked on (I don't have much information on this) many of the older brick buildings at the University of Arizona. There's also a snap of a newspaper article from the late 60s - sorry, I don't have a larger version handy - it's somewhere in my files - on the cactus clocks.

I can't even imagine the patience it took to design and build this (and he built five of them!). Photos below the fold.

Wow - I found the text to the article above online!
You have heard of the patience of Job. Odds are Job would run a close second to Edward -P. LaPlant, an 88-year-old re- 'tired contractor, who lives at 1001 N. 6th Ave. Time hung heavy on his hands, so LaPlant Built a grandfather clock. To be specific, he has constructed four. But it is the last one that takes the grand prize for intricacy, for beauty, for patience. The entire surface of. the clock is decorated with more than 14,000 pieces of inlaid wood, some so minute they a l m o s t defy identification. And LaPlant has never worn eyeglasses in his life!

He used 11 different kinds of wood in their natural tones of brown, beige, and creamy yellow. The soft shades, blending together in patterns designed by LaPlant, are warm and beautiful. Included in the types of wood used were cherry, maple, mahogany, black walnut, African padauk, teak and oak.

LaPlant cuts the wood with a band saw, with the original strips ranging in size from 1-16 to 1-64 of an inch in thickness. In one section on the clock, there are 86 pieces of inlaid wood for every inch, and this portion of the clock measures only ? inch in width. The delicate veneer of inlay is backed by sturdy oak.

LaPlant utilizes many patterns , including diamonds, squares, circles and half-moons. With the same process, LaPlant has designed floor and table lamps constructed of cholla and saguaro cactus. He believes he is the only person to combine desert cacti in patterns of inlay.

The retired businessman started his hobby about five years ago, learning by trial and error. Seven months were required to complete his last grandfather clock. Early in the game, when his patience wore thin, he learned "to walk away and stay away from the project for several hours." "The lumber for the clock cost $107," he said. "And even though there was a minimum of waste, only about two-fifths of the wood finally ended up in pieces of inlay. The rest is sawdust."

Mr. and Mrs. LaPlant, who have been married 62 years, live in the home which he built in the 1930 ! A bricklayer and stone mason, he remembers that 27,000 bricks were used in its construction. LaPlant first came to Tucson in 1899 and returned again in 1907 when a "revolution in Mexico made it expedient to work north of the border. "This was Arizona territory, and I remember that scrip was being issued in place of money. There was a panic on and right then things weren't very stable," he said.

F o r 33 years, LaPlant owned his own contracting business, the Pima Brick Tile Co. He is proud of the fact that he continuously has had an account in the Southern Arizona Bank since Aug. 7, 1914. That was the year he permanently made this city his home. A small man {he weighed only 96 pounds the day he reached his 18th birthday), LaPlant knows that size is no indication of a man's worth. "Patience and perseverance--with these two character traits, one can accomplish almost anything," he says.

Citizen Photos By Dan Tortorell PAGE 16 T U C S O N D A I L Y C I T I Z E N SATURDAY, JUNE 24, 1967


ColoComment said...

Wonderful family history.

My son (and DIL) graduated U of A. The old part of campus is lovely. Multiple visits to Tucson grew my appreciation for the beauty of the desert. Love Tucson - could easily retire there.

Son stayed in AZ & now lives in Scottsdale, across the street from DIL's [absolutely wonderful] parents. (He loves them like his own.) Funny story remembered often at gatherings: son & DIL met on her last day in Tuscon after her graduation, and while he was working as a patrol officer for TPD. a bar called "Dirtbags." It was one of those "...across a crowded room, and somehow you'll know..." things.

Still happily together >12 years & 3 kids later.

Cassandra said...

What a wonderful story! Growing up Navy (and then marrying a Marine), I'm only now learning about my extended family. My Dad's family lived out West, and my Mom's family were from upstate NY (almost to Canada). Neither place was near any of our duty stations, so contact with my aunts, uncles, and cousins was limited during my growing up years.

The family stories are really fascinating stuff - I loved reading Tex's post a while back, and reading about Grim's family has been so interesting.

Last year, I was Googling my maternal grandfather and was surprised to find quite a bit about my maternal grandmother -- newspaper articles, and she's even mentioned in a book! I never expected that.

Anyway, apparently my Dad's family settled around Florence, CO for some time. Have never been there, but hope to see it one day.

Texan99 said...

Perfectly lovely clock.

raven said...

A very nice piece of work! Made in the 1930's?

It is good to have things made and used by our ancestors.
Sometimes even things they kept as a reminder of terrible times can speak to us-

Grim said...

My wife really liked it.

Gringo said...

That is incredible work. An interesting Tuscon connection is that Linda Ronstadt, a Tuscon native, is a cousin of Roque Dalton, the Salvadorean poet and guerrilla who was killed by other revolutionaries. Truly, the Revolution devours its own.

douglas said...

Wow, that's way beyond what I imagined it would be. Incredible. And this response from a guy who normally is averse to highly dense decoration, but this is done so well, and so finely in scale it doesn't immediately read as 'a bunch or decoration' but rather as a field of pattern, that on closer inspection breaks down into finer fields of patterned strips.

Thanks for posting it.

I'd sure like to see his lamps, too. They must have been quite nice.

If Antiques Roadshow ever comes around your neck of the woods, it would be a great piece to bring in to see their reaction.