Picture of Sleek word clock
Inspired by drj113's great instructable on making a word clock, I wanted to make my own.  After seeing the (extremely overpriced) commercial "qlocktwo" word clock, I decided to borrow its smooth glossy black design while basing the innards of my clock on drj113's design.

In the end, I managed to stuff the arduino and LED's inside an IKEA shadow box, and used printed transparencies to create the black letter mask.
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: The materials

Picture of The materials
This is what you need:

1 Ikea RIBBA shadow box - $10
98 white LEDs - $7-10 (buy in bulk on ebay)
98 1KOhm resistors - $3
1 Arduino (or an ATMega168/ATMega328 and extra hardware - 5V regulator, crystal, etc) - $7 (for standalone chip and extra hardware) or $30 for arduino USB board
3 ULN2003A Driver ICs - $1.89 at Digikey
3 HCF4094 shift registers - $1.44 at Digikey
1 Barrel-plug connector - $0.38 at Digikey
2 Buttons - scavenged from old electronics
1 6V or 7V DC wall wart - scavenged from old electronics, or ~$4 online
1 sheet colored paper (used for a hint of color around the border)
1 9" square piece of cardboard (used to hold LEDs in place)
1 cereal box (cut up to make light baffles - see step 3)
1 black garbage bag
2 printed transparencies (see attached pdf on step 2) - $1
1 protoboard for microcontroller, driver ICs, etc. - $5

Total cost: around $44 (using standalone ATMega168) or $67 (if you buy a full Arduino)

optionally a breadboard is useful for prototyping the circuit
1-40 of 133Next »
Nanjundas26 days ago


Some of landed her searching something else. Really nice project and I am impressed. I am planning to construct one for myself. I am an mechanical engineer and residing in India. I would like to know the list of complete parts required so that later I can build by your instructions. Can you please send the details to my mail id

SandraJ11 month ago

Hey. I am a typical biology-girl, so buying this for my geeky friend is kind of a challenge.

1st question: How big should the white LEDs be?

2nd: What is the right kind of 1k Ohm resistor? I found one with 1/4 watt and 5% tolerance.. good enough?

3rd: Is there a specific size or something for the protoboard?

Btw. Totally awesome clock!

raritan012 years ago
If I'm using the Arduino Uno instead of the ATMega, how is the wiring diagram changed? What should I hook up to what?
I used the schematic here. Easier for me to follow:

The pins you should wire to on your Arduino UNO are shown below:
Strobe - Digital 8
Data - Digital 7
Clear - Digital 6
PWM - Digital 9
Minute Pushbutton - Digital 2
Hours Pushbutton - Digital 3

quoting Joe from ""

that worked for mine : )

is that the corresponding pin where i can put the male pin in ? by the way i use Arduino Uno, i'm just wondering if i still need to make the other components like the 22pF ? or only the HCF4094 and UNL2003 ?
waiting for your quick response thanks.....

Hi, I am attempting to do this project. I have soldered the LED's in place, but i am using an arduino microcontroller instead of the standalone ATMega168 mentioned in the tutorial. Is it possible to include the next steps if you are not making your own microcontroller? I am just a bit confused about what to do without your expert guidance! I have no previous electronics experience.

Still need help? maybe i can help you?

MarioNL12 months ago

Hi, I was thinking about making this, But i'd like to add a small alarm when it's 7 AM.

is it possible to do this with a modification in your code? If you could show me an example that lit up a "alarm led" when its 7 am. that would be great :)

jchmwenn MarioNL5 months ago

you still need this? Maybe i can help you?

Dude Man3 years ago
Troubleshooting Help: I got the clock up and running but it flashes between words every second. Is my clock off? Wires crossed somewhere? What would be causing this to happen?

Hey man did you ever figure out the solution to this? I'm having the same problem. Thank you!

I had the same problem. To solve this problem i checked all the wires and it seems that i crossed the wires somewhere. Maybe you can check all the wires again?

jchmwenn Dude Man5 months ago

I had the same problem. To solve this problem i checked all the wires and it seems that i crossed the wires somewhere. Maybe you can check all the wires again?

davidramirez7 months ago

I don't understand this: 1 Arduino (or an ATMega168/ATMega328 and extra hardware - 5V regulator, crystal, etc) - $7 (for standalone chip and extra hardware) or $30 for arduino USB board

Can I buy only an arduino uno?

It is possible to use only an arduino uno but i think you also need to use 3 ULN2003A Driver ICs. This because the arduino probably doesn't have enough connections for all the letters.

davidramirez7 months ago

what do I have to change in the arduino code for making it in spanish?

I think you actually don't have to change anything in the code. You have to make sure that the Spanish words are at the same position as the English word. So for example the word 'Half' should be replace for 'Media' (think this is the Spanish translation for half).

In the case that the word order is really different let me know, then i can help you further.

papadi5 months ago

Hi! There is one thing that I don't understand. Why do we need the ULN2003A? Aren't the shift registers enough to control the 23 sets of leds?

rchavda6 months ago

Really nice project. Building mine very soon. I was wondering, could you program a potentiometer (1k or so) to allow you to speed up the time at all? That way you could enable people to set it? Or even a button which, when pressed, would go through all of the time-word values to allow a user to simply set the time..?

Demonic694 years ago
This looks amazing,I'm just ordering parts :D
I'm planning on laser cutting out some acrylic for the stencil, possibly for the led holders and shrouds too, though might use wood to save cost.
I was wondering if it is possible, with the same number of parts to allow individual minutes? So have another set of numbers one to nine, then a teen as well?
Also, when you say Atmega168 and other parts, could you list the other parts please? I'll use my Arduino at 1st, then replace it later on.
Great job, thanks for inspiring
Yes i would also like to know what the other parts are as i am a bit confused.
papadi jburke268 months ago

So guys... what are these other parts?
Is this the regulator?

What is a crystal? And what about the "etc" part?

Does this make any sense?

ben142418 months ago

what size capacitor is used on the output of the voltage regulator? I'm guessing 100uF, does the voltage rating matter?

oh_mali1 year ago

Hi Scott, love the project! I'm looking to make this without the arduino chips though. Can you email me at with instructions on how to make this with just a microcontrollers board? I'd appreciate it!

Hey oh_mali,

Did you ever end up getting instructions on how to do that? I have a microcontroller and would love to try this project out.


dcgchico1 year ago


I see in the phto that you are using unregulated 7V for driving the LEDs. Why don't you use the regulated 5v the regulator provide?

ezraulo1 year ago

Love the qlocktwo - any chance you might be selling these (or in the future)?

If anyone is looking for a word clock but doesn't have the technical skills to build one like this, you can make an inexpensive word clock using a digital picture frame. Check it out at

KlarBot1 year ago
great idea and great tutorial for a cheap and easy to do word clock, i did the same thing with the transparency sheets. but one thing i noticed using an arduino board was, the time was off about 5 minutes every week or so. instead i just wired up an atmega 328 chip (basically a diy arduino) and the time is incredibly accurate, after almost a year i have never had to reset the time, plus cheaper!

The next time i do this i want to jut try and get a company to just cut the letters out of vinyl and build a face out of clear acrylic, maybe trying out LED strips instead also.
ritzanab1 year ago
two things, can you send me a better schematic to my email
and two, can you make a list with links to all the materials? thank you.
ch4r3l2 years ago
I'm almost done with the clock, but I can't download the .pde
When I click on it, it downloads a .tmp file.
Malicah2 years ago
I'm still wondering about my first question, what range of resistance the photoresistor should be if I get one, or if it even matters.

I am also wondering one other thing, I don't have an IKEA here, and can't buy the exact frame listed (It's not offered online). So should any 9X9 Shadow box frame work? What are the most important dimensions I need to try and match up? Depth?
Malicah2 years ago
I'm gathering all the parts for this project, I am hoping to add the photoresistor to it, but I am curious if anyone has suggestions on what range of resistance I should get
I just finished building my first word clock. Next I want to create a Polish version. I could not find a PDF with the letter array created however. Do you have any idea how I might make my own easily? I could try doing it in photoshop but I'm not sure what dimensions to use and such. How did you go about creating yours?
We're you able to successfully hide all the electronics inside the frame? Or did you have to mount them on the backside?
The.Sniper3 years ago
Ok as promised My Qlocks are done I still need to do a final clean up and inspection But they have been running for over 100 hours now Im happy with their turnout. each clock has 2 lens 1 black and 1 white. I will add that Since I decided to go with Mid output LED's I underestimated the the load this would have on an arduino. and had to add a PS/regulator setup at the last minute. It was an unexpected addition and had I known I would have already added it to the PCB's I built.

A full pic gallery can be seen here.

Its been a long 6 months!
Hi I suck at making stuff and would love to buy one from u of either white or black white is better though thanks!!!!!!!
OHHH! I want a white one!!! Would you consider selling me a white one? :)
remedix2 years ago
Hey all,
I've decided to copy this project but I'm new to arduino and electronics in general. I started gathering all the materials needed for this and before making any purchases I would like to know if it's possible to get a full schematics for this! Your drawing seems to be missing some parts - Is it possible to get the whole schematics ? Thank you in advance!
JXplicits3 years ago
Scottebez, each OE should be connected to PWM or just the first register?
1-40 of 133Next »