The History Behind Prairie Style Design

As you flip through the Klockit catalog or browse online you might have noticed various “Prairie” inspired designs, including: a pop-up sofa table, an end table, a wine rack, and a blanket chest – just to name a few.


You may be wondering, “Why such a vested interest in a particular style of design?” To answer that question, we must first delve into a bit of history to understand what Prairie style design is, and why it is important to a mid-western clock company.

Roots of the Prairie Style Design

The prairie school of architecture was primarily a mid-western U.S. movement, which occurred in the late 19th and early 20th century. Of course, it wasn’t referred to “Prairie” at that time – the term was later coined by H. Allen Brooks, one of the first architectural historians to write about this specific style of design.

The “Prairie Movement” stems from the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th century and can best be described as “dominant horizontality”, architecture which echoes the wide, flat, vast treeless expanses of the mid-western United States.

Influence of Frank Lloyd Wright

One of the most prominent figures of Prairie Design was Frank Lloyd Wright, a native of Klockit’s home state of Wisconsin. Wright is noted for designing a number of prairie style homes and business in the Illinois and Wisconsin area, to include The S.C. Johnson Wax Building, The Robi House, The Seth Peterson Cottage, The Winslow house, The Moore House, Wright’s Studio, and the Monona Terrace.

Wright promoted the idea of “organic architecture”, where a structure was specifically designed to look as if it had grown from its site naturally. This was further enhanced by open floor plans and use of indigenous materials to promote the feel of living with the land, rather than on it.

Klockit’s home of Lake Geneva was one of few locations chosen to display Wright’s distinctive architectural talents with The Lake Geneva Hotel (built in 1911). The hotel closed, partially burned, and was eventually razed in the early 1970’s to make way for the Geneva Towers – so it is unfortunate that it no longer stands today. All that remains are old photographs and the leaded “tulip windows” (one of many details designed by Wright himself) which shaped the overall theme for the Geneva Hotel.


Fortunately there are still a few Wright homes throughout the local area, as well as homes and buildings, which were designed by Wright’s protégés. The Lake Geneva Library is such a building, designed by Wright’s pupil James Dresser, which maintained the vision of Prairie Style architecture in Wright’s unique tradition.

Klockit’s Prairie Series: A Humble Tribute

With such a heavy Prairie-design influence tied to our local community, it seemed only natural (no pun intended) that Klockit should work to introduce a line of furniture that emulates the Prairie design tradition. Our Prairie series of woodworking plans are designed to stray away from mechanical and metal mass produced contraptions that operate in current day pieces.

Functionality, instead, is primarily based on natural materials, in keeping with Prairie Movement ideals. This is most prevalent with designs such as the slide top blanket chest and pop-up sofa table, where metal is substituted with wood for the various lift/slide mechanisms.

In short, Klockit’s Prairie series of woodworking plans is a continuing aspiration that pays humble tribute to a style of architecture and design, as well as to the pioneers of the Prairie style movement.

Look for our next installment of the Prairie Plan series, the Prairie Occasional Table, in late fall of 2013!!

occasional tableWritten By: Chris Akright

Chris is responsible for the kit, plan, and finishing technical support, which he has provided to Klockit customers for over 14 years. Chris also contributes new product designs, composes written/illustrated assembly manuals, and works to develop new kit and plan products for the Klockit catalog. Chris’s experience is the culmination of years of training under his mentor, and Klockit Designer, John Cooper.

History of the Storm Glass Barometer

So you want to know the history behind the storm glass barometer. How does it work? Read on to learn more!

A storm glass barometer is a device used to measure atmospheric pressure. Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe popularized the storm glass barometer using principles established by Evangelista Torricelli. Torricelli is credited as the actual inventor of the barometer, but it should be noted that he invented the mercury barometer. Goethe, who might have understood the dangers associated with handling and working with mercury, decided water was a safer alternative that worked just as well.

How does the storm glass barometer work?

The storm glass has a sealed body and a long spout. The long, narrow spout is connected to the sealed body below the intended water level, and extends to rise above the intended water level at the top. When the sealed body is filled halfway with water, air pressure is trapped within the body and is held constant.

The spout, however, is open to the outside air pressure, which is always changing. When the air pressure is low, the air inside the sealed body is heavier and pushes water up the spout – as a result, the water level in the spout rises above the water level in the sealed body. On the other hand, when the air pressure is high, the outside air is heavier and the water level in the spout will be pushed down – as a result, the water level in the spout drops below the water level in the sealed body.

So what does this mean? Well, low air pressure is less stable and often leads atmospheric instability causing “stormy” or rainy weather. High pressure creates a “dome” of stable air and can be associated with clear, calm weather. When water moves up the spout, this signals the onset of rainy or stormy weather with the coming of less stable air. Barometers even have the ability to indicate the onset of potentially severe weather – watch for a rapidly rising water level.

How accurate are storm glass barometers?

Storm glass barometers are very sensitive and will indicate changes in atmospheric pressure almost immediately.  In fact, storm glass barometers are sensitive enough to register the slight air pressure difference between the attic and basement of a three-story house. Developed in the mid 1600’s, it is quite amazing that barometers are still widely used as means of reliable weather forecasting today. In fact, a barometer can even be as accurate, if not more so, than your local news station weatherman or certified meteorologist.

Free woodworking plan available

Click here to download our new woodworking plan that will guide you to create a modest base to display our world storm glass barometer.

Questions? Please leave them in a comment below.

Free Desk Set Woodworking Plan

While Klockit offers some very unique products, the World Storm Glass Barometer is one of my personal favorites. We recently released a new woodworking plan that will help you create a modest, but decorative, base to display the storm glass barometer.

Add a micro-mini clock insert, pen, and nameplate to your completed wood base to make it a functional desk set that’s sure to spark conversations. It’s also the perfect project to share with younger woodworkers, as it can secretly intermingle a bit of history and science into the fun and rewarding aspects of woodworking.

The best part? It’s free! Click here to download the woodworking plan.


Ready to get started?

Click here to download the woodworking plan that will guide you to create a base to display our world storm glass barometer.

Questions? Please leave them in a comment below.

Written By: Chris Akright

Chris is responsible for the kit, plan, and finishing technical support, which he has provided to Klockit customers for over 13 years. Chris also contributes new product designs, composes written/illustrated assembly manuals, and works to develop new kit and plan products for the Klockit catalog. Chris’s experience is the culmination of years of training under his mentor, and Klockit Designer, John Cooper.

Free Woodworking Plan: Spinning Gypsy Fortune Teller Base

Last month, we introduced the novel and entertaining Spinning Gypsy Fortune Teller (#42018). This month, our team is proud to introduce a free woodworking plan for the fortune teller that w42018ill construct a simple base plate to serve as a display.

The wood base plate described in this plan can be made from most any type of wood desired. The finished size will be 5” X 5” X 3/4″.

Step 1:

Begin by marking vertical and horizontal center line marks on what will be the face surface of the wood blank. The intersection of these lines (at center) will denote the location of the 2-1/8” recess where the fortune teller will be seated within.

General base plate dimensions are shown below. Please refer to Step 2 for profiling recommendations to accent your base plate. Note that a 2-1/8” diameter forstner (or multi-spur) bit can be used to create the counter-bore.


Step 2: Profiling

Various router bits can be used to create a desired profile that will provide accent to the base plate wood piece. You can find seven illustrated examples of common profiles below.

When using router bits to create profiles, we recommend completing the profile in numerous passes in order to maximize personal safety and the longevity of the bit. Make certain to wear the recommended protective equipment as detailed in the manufacturer’s manuals. Last but not least, we also recommend experimenting with profiles on a scrap wood piece before diving into the base plate itself.

Style 1:

prof-1This profile would be machined on a table saw or with a raised panel beveling router bit. Table saw machining will require the plate to be secured to a shop made jig (which is secured to a sled) so that the plate can be safely beveled standing up.


Style 2:

prof-2This profile would be machined with a cove router bit. While we illustrate a 3/8” radius cove, note that cove bits come in a variety of sizes.


Style 3:

prof-3The profile illustrated is a bull-nose profile. We illustrate a 5/8” bull-nose radius, leaving a 1/16” thick ledge at the top/bottom of the wood piece.


Style 4:

prof-4The profile shown is an ogee profile. We illustrate a ¼” double radii ogee profile.



Style 5:

prof-5This profile shows a 45 degree bevel created by a chamfer bit. In this example, 3/8” of the entire 3/4″ thickness is beveled 45 degrees.


Style 6:

6The profile shown is one example of various classical bit profiles which are available. Classical bits usually combine coves, round-overs, ogees, and/or beads to create a compound profile.


Style 7:

7-styleEither profile can be created with a round-over bit (also referred to as a beading bit).  Depending on the height setting of the bit, either a simple round-over or round-over with ledge can be created.  We illustrate a 3/8” radius round-over in both examples.

Step 3: Finishing

Once all machining has been completed, sand the block with medium (#150) and fine (#220) grit sandpaper in preparation for finishing. The block can be stained and finished however you would prefer; it may also alternatively be primed and painted to suite desired décor. There are additional options to enhance and/or personalize your base plate, including nameplates, small ball feet, and micro-mini clock inserts.

Once complete, set the spinning gypsy fortune teller within the 2-1/8” counter-bore to proudly display the fortune teller and your handcrafted base plate.



Please post any questions about this woodworking plan in the comments section below. Our team promises to answer them within 24 hours!

Woodworking Resource: KenCraft Co.

Even though I have perfected the craft of smaller edge-glued table top and bookshelves, I found myself wondering if it was the best use of my time to make my own edge-glued tops, or to search possible sources for my next project…a new coffee/sofa table plan.

Making a rather large (50”L x 30”W) high-quality table top isn’t an easy task. Especially if it split in the middle with each half sliding smoothly on wood tracks. So upon further research, I decided that finding a company that could supply the table tops would be the best route in of time and money.

In my online search, I found several companies that could provide the size top I was looking for. While prices and shipping were pretty much all comparable, one company in Toledo, OH, stood out from the others in the area of enthusiasm and customer service. KenCraft Co. had all the answers I was looking for! Everyone I worked with at Kencraft – from my first call inquiring about specifications, pricing and delivery time, to my most recent order – has been 100% invested in providing me with the very best service possible. (Click here to visit the KenCraft Co. website)

I share this because providing the very best customer service has been “JOB ONE” at Klockit over our 40 years of existence! KenCraft is a good source for materials and supplies for your next woodworking project – especially for custom manufactured solid wood panels and a wide variety of woodworking supplies.

I’m glad I found KenCraft because now I have a reliable source for high-quality, reasonably priced edge-glued panels. It also encourages me to design and build more furniture items such as end tables, side board serving tables, wine cabinets, dressers, etc!

Keep an eye out for the new coffee-sofa table plan this Fall!untitled


Written by: John Cooper

John spent the better part of the 28 years he was employed by Klockit, designing hundreds of clock and furniture kits and plans and has continued with product design since his retirement in 2008. John’s love of clocks, his passion for creating furniture for his own home as well as for family, and his great appreciation for the beautiful finished pieces Klockit customers make from our kits and plans inspire him to continue to create still more new clock and furniture designs.