Step 2: The black letter mask

The key to making the clock look nice was making the glossy black letter mask.  I thought of several different ways to make the letters, such as silk-screening on the back of the glass, or having a custom black sticker made, but eventually I settled on printing black onto transparencies - see the attached PDF file.

Since there's a lot of black ink, I had my transparencies printed at Staples for something like 50 cents a piece.  The ink wasn't quite black enough to completely block out light, so I printed 2 of them and stacked them.  Depending on how dark your ink is you may need more or fewer layers to get an opaque black.

Cut off the clear parts of the transparency so only the black square is left.  Align the letters of the two layers and tape the layers together with double-sided tape on the top and bottom black regions - see photos 2 and 3.

Note: the viewable area of the Ikea frame is 8.5" square, but unfortunately you can't print all the way to the edge of the transparency. Therefore you need to cut a piece of construction paper to form a border and fill the gap - it also adds a nice touch of color.  Cut a piece of construction paper to be 9"x9".  Mark lines 0.5" in from each side forming an 8"x8" square (photo 4).  Use a utility knife to cut out the inner square leaving a 0.5" paper border (photo 5).  Tape the transparencies to the back of the border (photo 6).

Now, cut out a square piece of the black garbage bag big enough to cover all of the letters.  Tape this on the inside (back) of the letter mask to help diffuse the LED light and make the letters a dim gray when not illuminated.  Also, put a piece of black electrical tape behind each of the non-used spacer letters to make sure no stray light gets through.

(Edit 8/1/10: Added a better description of the construction paper border and more pictures)
<p>Can you explain the garbage bag portion (Step 2) again in a little more depth? It was a little confusing</p>
<p>You can just cut out a square from a black garbage bag, sizing it slightly larger than the letter mask, then tape it to the back of the letter mask. It doesn't need to be precise as long as it covers all of the letters on the mask. The idea is just to diffuse some of the light coming from the LEDs to make the clock more easily viewed straight-on. If you don't have any, check your local dollar store, the Dollar Tree by my place had em cheap. Here's the front and back of mine, including the border.</p>
<p>Thank you for the instructable! I made this a as a Christmas gift for my dad a couple months ago. I based its design on this, but added an RTC and dimmer, used panel-mounted components, and rewrote the firmware. I captured its development process here: http://rmconway.com/word-clock/</p>
<p>The more I add leds to one array, the more the brightness of led in that array gets dimmer. You seem to use 10 leds (TWENTY FIVE) in one array. Is the brightness of all the 10 leds same?</p>
<p>That'll happen if you connect the leds in series, in that case they'll rapidly get dimmer as you connect more and may not light up at all if you connect several.<br><br>The leds for the same word should be connected in parallell, i.e. with all the anodes together and all the cathodes together; that way they should stay bright even if there's several. (unless you've got a too weak power-supply or too skimpy wiring relative to the size of your leds I guess)</p>
Thanks :)
<p>I used a Nano, and used different resistr values for each word depending on their length instead of soldering 80something of the same value. I used 74hc595's, but i guess the working is the same principle. Its a gift for my wife, and we're both pleased with the outcome! </p>
<p>Quit note: Don't do what I did, ie. use one resistor for a series of leds. Something odd happens and one by one the words stop shining. So now I'm soldering single resistors per led, as instructed... :-) Hope that helps. I use 470Ohm resistors, giving more brightness, and use PWM on the 74HC595 OE-port to dim or brighten the words. I used a photoresistor to measure light, and did some weird math to figure out a dimming value (which seems to work for me :-) )</p>
<p>It's fine to use one resistor for several leds in a series. But there's a voltage-drop across each led so you need a SMALLER resistor the higher count of leds are connected in a series. </p>
<p>Looks great! Do you have a picture of the garbage bag step? That was a bit confusing to me.</p>
I used a sheet of white &quot;backing paper&quot;, not sure how that's called in English. I'm sure any kind of thing paper will do, like tracing paper. I sandwiched it between the two overhead sheets. All it does is prevent you looking straight into the leds, and at the same time makes the other letters readable, but not stand out too much compared to the illuminated ones.
<p>Hello :) </p><p>I would like to realize this project and try to buy all the conponents I need to. </p><p>I would like to use standalone ATMega and try to understand (on step 7) all I need.</p><p>I see that we have to use :</p><p>- a capacitor (what is the min. voltage needed ? and number of farad ?)</p><p>- a crystal (16Mhz ?)</p><p>- a regulator (reference number ?)</p><p>- LM7805</p><p>Is that all we need to build this ?</p><p>Tkanks in advance !</p>
<p>where is Circuit diagram?<br>And how can i get this Arduino board in Pakistan?</p>
@ Meissler: Picture from behind. Hence the mirrored lettering. It's from bottom to top: Red frame;overhead sheet;thin paper;overhead sheet. All scotch taped together. Not exactly as build in this instructable, but very functional.
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: <br> <br>http://www.highonsolder.com/blog/2011/1/8/arduino-word-clock.html <br> <br>The pins you should wire to on your Arduino UNO are shown below: <br>Strobe - Digital 8 <br>Data - Digital 7 <br>Clear - Digital 6 <br>PWM - Digital 9 <br>Minute Pushbutton - Digital 2 <br>Hours Pushbutton - Digital 3 <br> <br>quoting Joe from &quot;http://www.highonsolder.com&quot; <br> <br>that worked for mine : ) <br>
<p>hey man! Im having trouble getting all connected together, I also have the arduino UNO. I connected the pins as you stated right up but Im still having some doubts about where the other connections of the minute, hour buttons go as well as the IT IS cathode and the LED common anode. I wuld really apreciate your help!</p>
<p>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 ? <br>waiting for your quick response thanks..... </p>
<p>Tweaked it a little ,used standalone ATMEGA328 with ds1307 for time keeping A little inspiration from Jalvelin WordClock.</p><p>Couldn't find a block box so used old 10&quot; x 10&quot; Frame.</p><p>Added Happy Birthday Greeting with DS1307 RTC.</p><p>Awsme Project </p>
<p>hi,</p><p>i want to build this for a school project but i have a question: do you have to program this and if yes what is the code i can use?</p><p>thanks,</p>
<p>Hi, </p><p>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 nanjubel@gmail.com</p>
<p>Hey. I am a typical biology-girl, so buying this for my geeky friend is kind of a challenge. </p><p>1st question: How big should the white LEDs be? </p><p>2nd: What is the right kind of 1k Ohm resistor? I found one with 1/4 watt and 5% tolerance.. good enough? </p><p>3rd: Is there a specific size or something for the protoboard? </p><p>Btw. Totally awesome clock! </p>
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.
<p>Still need help? maybe i can help you?</p>
<p>Hi, I was thinking about making this, But i'd like to add a small alarm when it's 7 AM.</p><p>is it possible to do this with a modification in your code? If you could show me an example that lit up a &quot;alarm led&quot; when its 7 am. that would be great :)</p>
<p>you still need this? Maybe i can help you?</p>
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?
<p>Hey man did you ever figure out the solution to this? I'm having the same problem. Thank you!</p>
<p>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?</p>
<p>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?</p>
<p>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</p><p>Can I buy only an arduino uno?</p>
<p>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.</p>
<p>what do I have to change in the arduino code for making it in spanish?</p>
<p>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).</p><p>In the case that the word order is really different let me know, then i can help you further.</p>
<p>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?</p>
<p>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..?</p>
Hi <br>This looks amazing,I'm just ordering parts :D <br>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. <br>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? <br>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. <br>Great job, thanks for inspiring
Yes i would also like to know what the other parts are as i am a bit confused.
<p>So guys... what are these other parts?<br>Is this the regulator? <b><a href="http://tinyurl.com/lzbayjq" rel="nofollow">http://tinyurl.com/lzbayjq</a></b></p><p>What is a crystal? And what about the &quot;etc&quot; part?</p><p>Does this make any sense? http://tinyurl.com/m9p7veu</p>
<p>what size capacitor is used on the output of the voltage regulator? I'm guessing 100uF, does the voltage rating matter?</p>
<p>Hi Scott, love the project! I'm looking to make this without the arduino chips though. Can you email me at <a href="mailto:mtclake@live.com" rel="nofollow">mtclake@live.com</a> with instructions on how to make this with just a microcontrollers board? I'd appreciate it! </p>
<p>Hey oh_mali,</p><p>Did you ever end up getting instructions on how to do that? I have a microcontroller and would love to try this project out. </p><p>Thanks!</p>
<p>Hi, </p><p>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?</p>
<p>Love the qlocktwo - any chance you might be selling these (or in the future)?</p>
<p>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 dpfwordclock.com</p>
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! <br> <br>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.
two things, can you send me a better schematic to my email ritzanab@gmail.com? <br>and two, can you make a list with links to all the materials? thank you.
I'm almost done with the clock, but I can't download the .pde <br>When I click on it, it downloads a .tmp file.
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. <br> <br>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?
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

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