Introduction: DIY Word Clock - in Seven Steps

Picture of DIY Word Clock - in Seven Steps


UPDATE =) I have updated Tinker's Word Clock and it can be seen at the link below.

It is now 110% more slick. Sleek face, easier build, more clear instructions. Jump to the link below.


John Missikos


Hello Internets!

Having seen my friend with one of these as a sexy wrist watch I thought the next best thing was to make a desk and wall version. After several versions and upgrades I am proud to now share this: WORD CLOCK - Do It Yourself Guide.

Why use THIS guide?

  • Parts Availability - I have optimised so many of the parts can be sources locally
  • Multiple Colours - Suits your decor or fluctuating mood at the push of a button ;-)
  • Ease of Making - The clock used to take a long time to make, I have simplified the electronics and made everything modular to help you.

What you get at the end?

  • A sexy word clock that is unique and will match your decor
  • More friends when you share your own build


Step 1: Collect All the Things!

Picture of Collect All the Things!

All The Files

I have split the design files into Mechanical and Electrical which are available here.

Now lets use those files to get the physical things.

You will need to collect the below items. To make things easy and save time, I provide a kit HERE:

Electrical (shiny lights)

    1. Lights - RGB Led strip (2 meters) - '60 LEDs per meter' strip. Using the 'WS2812' chip LED Like this one
    2. Controller - Electronics BOM. Effectively an Arduino Pro Mini with a DS1307 RTC
    3. Power Supply - 5v, 1A (minimum) Like this one

Mechanical (hard housing)

    1. Baffle and Backing - Have the files ( and cut out of opaque 3mm acrylic. I use a local laser cutting supplier and black. Mechanical
    2. Frame - Ribba from Ikea
    3. Face - Have this file ( / pdf) cut out of opaque laminate/contact
    4. Baking Paper (we will need cookies later)

Now you have the parts, lets build the matrix >>

Step 2: Build Word Clock LED Matrix (Back)

Picture of Build Word Clock LED Matrix (Back)

The core of the clock is an LED matrix. The LEDs currently function as a strip but we need to make them more square.

  1. Cut the LEDs into lots of 11 - Ensure you cut in the middle of the marker as shown. This is so we can solder them back together to bring them back into communication
  2. Stick the LEDs down following the stencil. Ensure they align
  3. Solder the LEDs - In a snake like manner connect the three (positive to positive, negative to negative, and data to data)

Congrats, you have completed the LED Matrix! Now lets sort the controller! >>

Step 3: The Electronics (The Smarts)

Picture of The Electronics (The Smarts)

Now we create the brains of this operation!

The controller has three main jobs.

  1. Light Control - Control the LED matrix, turning LEDs on or off
  2. Maintain Time - Accurately know what time it is
  3. Integrate - Turn the lights on/off appropriately with the time, as well as allow for adjustments of colour and time as the user wants

I have designed the below circuit and code to achieve these objectives. If you want to manufacture the PCB yourself simply download the design.

Alternatively I also sell these PCBs and parts.


If you are using the raw chip you will need to program it using an FTDI programmer

Upload the program given here: Code

You will know it works when you can see the matrix light up. If this is successful we can move onto the Mechanical section! >>

Things that can go wrong:

  1. Matrix does not light up - Test the matrix to see if there is power
  2. To add more

>>Lets make the face!

    Step 4: Make the Face (Front)

    Picture of Make the Face (Front)

    The Face is designed to block the light and only show the letters. Simply have the file (face.pdf) plotted on a vinyl cutter using adhesive opaque vinyl. Local print stores will be able to provide this service. If this can not be found then you can print onto a Transparency which can also achieve this effect. Note: I used this method in one of my original versions, you will need 2x densely printed Transparencies to achieve an opaque effect.

    Place the vinyl on the glass. You can use soapy water to allow you to reset the position until it dries. Use a firm object to press out any bubbles that may occur.

    Now onto the Baffle which isolates each letter >>

    Step 5: Make the Baffle (Meat in the Middle)

    Picture of Make the Baffle (Meat in the Middle)

    The degree to which you isolate each letter is the degree of awesomeness you end up with at the end! The baffle achieves this easily. Have the file laser cut out of 3mm opaque acrylic. There are 10 with a small cut, 8 without and 2 short. See the image for where each cut goes.

    You will notice they slot into each other as shown:

    Note that there are two types, one with side slots and ones without. The side slots are for the wires we had to add when making the LED matrix. Place them appropriately.

    A drop of glue is useful to ensure the baffle stays square and together as we bring it together with the LED Matrix in the next part>>

    Step 6: Put It Together (Sandwich Time)

    This is an easy step;

    1. Place the Baffle on top of the LED Matrix
    2. Wiggle the wires so that they fall into the slots
    3. Test the LED matrix ensuring that you can still communicate with the furthest LEDs. This is to ensure none of the wires were damaged
    4. Glue down the controller and colour/time buttons
    5. Place tracing paper over the matrix
    6. Place the glass Face on top of the tracing paper
    7. Bring the Ikea frame down on top of it all and encasing it
    8. Adjust slightly so that everything aligns
    9. Close the Ikea frame

    Step 7: Congratulations & Conclusion!

    Picture of Congratulations & Conclusion!

    Congratulations, you have yourself a Unique and personally made Word Clock!

    I would love to see your version, please post it and say hi!

    Hope you have enjoyed and look forward to hearing your feedback.

    -John Missikos, Australia


    barrow4491 (author)2017-07-27


    My clock is gaining about 10 minutes in two days, any ideas?

    Maybe the crystal is faulty



    Hi Jim,
    Which version are you using, one with RTC or particle photon? This seems like a high variance. With the RTC version, if the crystal was over heated when soldered it may do this. Other than that I can not think of what else would at the moment.

    I am using the one with the RTC Ic and crystal, I built two of them and both are inaccurate. Do you have a later version and if so could you supply me the link.
    Will it fit in the same space?

    PatrickK159 (author)2017-03-05

    I buld my own:

    I also Programmed a Word Clock Generator to generate the Mask:

    Maybe someone find this useful.

    Hi PatrickK159, would be interested to see the generator. How would you go about converting the raw java into compiled inside your repo?

    Just download the jar file from the realise tap.

    Jan5412 (author)2017-01-12

    Ik maakte soortgelijke met een vol regenboog effect.

    I made a similar clock with a full Rainbow effect.

    uncels (author)2016-12-26

    I found one, & after some emails with
    the nice people who made it i was able to make my own. So the efforts
    should go to the 2 dutch makers. They even implemented a weatherclock in

    A week after finishing, i uploaded another code to my clock based on this one,
    which was made by a friend of them, this time compact coded with the
    FastLed library. When i switch it on, it has a rainbow effect. Until
    wifi signal is found the 4 dots on the bottom keep flashing red. When it
    has signal it becomes green. (or any other colour you want its
    adaptable in the code) If you want to know more just ask me.

    TinkerElectric (author)2016-12-26

    Uncels, would love to be able to make this sharable with everyone and offer it if people want it. Ok for this? I started translating here if keen I'll send an edit invite.

    uncels (author)2016-12-20

    I did find one in dutch & made it, looks great on the wall. But thanks for all the effort.

    TinkerElectric (author)uncels2016-12-20

    Nice Uncels.

    uncels (author)TinkerElectric2016-12-20

    Tinker thanks for the compliment.

    nitrodude150 (author)2016-11-11

    Hey Tinker,

    Your Wordclock is fantastic (digitally addressable LEDs are THE WAY to go!) and its awesome how many resources you've supplied to make this possible. I was hoping for some more pictures though. For example some pictures of the finished soldered LED strips.

    I want to make build this project, but there's a couple nuanced steps that I'm having trouble visualizing, so some more pictures would be incredible helpful, if possible!


    uncels (author)2016-03-12

    I'm looking to build some like this for quite sometime, but in dutch.

    Since i can't seem to find the face in dutch language on the net.

    Does someone have the Face in Dutch language please?

    Thanx in advance.

    TinkerElectric made it! (author)uncels2016-03-12

    Hi Uncels,

    You can translate and be the first!

    This is the Excel file: Raw

    Each colour represents a word. There are a couple rules for making a face.

    1. There is a first half and second half. The first has 'it is quarter, half, half past, twenty ... to. The second specifies time in 5 minute increments.

    2. You are allowed to connect words that aren't on at the same time.

    Let's do a first pass and see how it goes. Grab the file, add another one with translations, then we can step though it!

    uncels made it! (author)TinkerElectric2016-03-13

    Hi TinkerElectric,

    Thanx for the quick respons. I translated it in dutch.

    Maybe you would like to check it, so i could make the next step.

    John2000 (author)uncels2016-10-23

    I will get back to this Uncels. I'll try and find a smoother way of doing this.

    uncels made it! (author)TinkerElectric2016-03-13

    Hi TinkerElectric,

    Thanx for the quick respons. I translated it in dutch.

    Maybe you would like to check it, so i could make the next step.

    TinkerElectric made it! (author)uncels2016-03-13


    "over kwart" is quarter to? (google says it is 'about a quarter' :-) )

    From here, we need to step though each time to ensure it is correct. I notice that the 'five' is now in the top right. In the english version the first 'five' is used in combination with 'twenty' to be say: 'twenty to six.' as well as, 'twenty five to six.'.

    If you step though all times and see that they sound correct then I can do the code.

    Please also adjust the colour so it lines up with the english, this will allow me to translate.


    uncels made it! (author)TinkerElectric2016-03-19

    Excuse for my late response, i have been very busy with my work.

    In dutch it is:

    vijf over = five past

    tien over = ten past

    quarter to = kwart over

    twenty past = twintig over

    twenty five past = vijf voor half

    I found a qclocktwo in dutch on the web what helped me with this.

    I think i corrected it,the way you asked me to.

    Maybe you want to take a look at a real knockout (but what lies far beyond my building possibilities)

    VivianD12 (author)2016-09-17

    Hi there! Just wondering what the purpose is of the 4 circles at the bottom of the face of the clock? Thanks!

    John2000 (author)VivianD122016-10-23

    These are for the minutes. As the accuracy of the words is every 5 minutes. I've decided to remove them in the new version as it is more elegant without them.

    Johnd565 (author)2016-08-08

    Hi , What paper do you use for the letters ? Is this just normal paper ?

    Nice Project :)

    John2000 (author)Johnd5652016-10-23

    In this edition: The letters are cut out of adhesive vinyl and then a layer of baking paper is used.

    I've done various tests including screen printing.

    My latest uses the vinyl but also a frosting.

    I've just prepared 3 various frames and braided cable colours.


    Kit version:

    Martv (author)2016-09-25

    Great work!

    Just a heads up, the Ikea page is for australia (where i assume u are from) but this means that the prices for the frame are in aud. The frame seems more expensive then it is like this.

    TinkerElectric (author)Martv2016-09-25

    Correct! I've provided the article number below so you can find it in your local store. It is in the Ribba range:

    802.081.38 - Black
    602.073.09 - White

    Martv (author)TinkerElectric2016-09-26

    Thank you!

    Shi3la (author)2016-03-16

    Where is your code?

    TinkerElectric (author)Shi3la2016-03-16

    Hi Shi3la,
    All code, mechanical and electronics are on BitBucket. Here is a link directly to the code folder:

    ts128900 (author)2015-11-06

    Great project. What font did you use for the face?

    TinkerElectric (author)ts1289002016-03-12

    Hi ts128900,

    Myriad Pro, here is the Illustrator file if you want to mod! View raw

    ts128900 (author)TinkerElectric2016-03-12

    Thank you.

    choboKo (author)2015-04-27

    Would you kindly show us the schematic diagram? I want to build your clock!

    TinkerElectric (author)choboKo2015-10-20

    Hi ChoboKo, they are available now!

    ceejay07 (author)2015-09-11

    Very nice; do you have any schematics?

    TinkerElectric (author)ceejay072015-10-20

    Hi ceejay07, just added it then! It is in the repository under PCB but realised that I should make it more clear and in a more universal format. Done! =)

    tomatoskins (author)2015-03-03

    Beautiful word clock! I've always wanted to make one I've just never jumped in quite yet.

    Thanks Tomatoskins, hopefully with this guide you can jump in and have your own! Let me know if you need any clarification.

    About This Instructable




    Bio: Hi, I'm an electrical engineer who loves making things that make people wonder how it works. From my popular word clock to physical facebook ... More »
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