Well, It had to happen.

I first published my WordClock project in September 2009. It was a Microchip PIC based clock, using a PIC16F877A microprocessor. In the last year and a half, I have been constantly improving it, and have adapted it to the Arduino, and even designed an updated controller board for it.

Well, It got better. I have discovered how to cut Vinyl stencils, and have been experimenting with Perspex, so I thought it was time to share what I have been playing with.

The beauty of using cut vinyl as a stencil, is that you can create a clock that is up to 45cm x 45cm (or larger if you have the vinyl). My previous PCB based stencils were limited to 150mm x 150mm.

As with all of my clock designs, this is completely open.  I encourage everybody to make one either using the details from this site. It is much simpler than it looks.

If you want, I can provide parts, complete kits, or even complete clocks from my web site at http://www.dougswordclock.com.  :-)

This clock uses an updated Arduino controller PCB. It has a DS1302 RTC onboard, to ensure that the timing is accurate, and an automatic dimming function kicks in between 7pm, and 7am, so you can still sleep if the clock is installed in your bedroom.

It is powered from a 12V DC, 400mA power supply.  I have considered battery power, but LED clocks don't run for very long on batteries, so that is not an ecologically sensible idea.  My old clocks used to run from an AC source, but i moved to DC when I implemented the RTC chip.

I hope you enjoy building one of these clocks, and that it inspires your own projects.

My Epilog Challenge thoughts:

I have entered this project into the Epilog Challenge -  The things I could do with a laser cutter.... wow....  I could cut intricate shapes that would allow me to morph this project into a full flowing - 3D - word clock, that has a clock face that has depth, real depth, with curves....  It could be a combination of shape and texture that I see with the Dali style melting clock (http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Make-a-Dali-Style-Melting-Clock/), and using a laser cutter, I could make the intricate baffles necessary to make that real as a word clock.  

Megs will never see me again - I will have to simply live in my garage!  :-) 

Step 1: Creating The Stencil

Start assembly by making the stencil. You can either get a stencil cut by a local sign writer to your own design, or use a pre-cut vinyl stencil from my web site.

I have always felt that the clock looks more majestic if there is a border around the letters (I normally use about a 30mm border), but you can use whatever size you would like.

Vinyl by itself is floppy, so it needs to be attached to a clear acrylic (Perspex) backing sheet to provide rigidity.  Make sure that the acrylic sheet is the size you want the final clock to be.

Before you start, mix up a couple of drops of dish washing liquid with a cup of water, and load that into a spray bottle.  We will use this to make applying the vinyl lots easier.

The vinyl stencil as supplied will typically be larger than required. This is so as to provide extra material for variations in face sizes. We need to cut the vinyl stencil to the final size of your acrylic sheet, allowing an extra 10mm allowance around the edges.

Lay the acrylic backing on top of the stencil , and mark out a cut line, then using a straight edge and a sharp hobby knife (or scalpel), cut the sheet to size.

Next, ensure that your working environment is clean – vacuum your table if necessary – or work inside the house, instead of the garage. Lock up your Golden Retriever dog and your cats. If you get small particles between the vinyl and the Perspex, you will have enormous trouble making the surface look flat.

Spend some time 'weeding' the stencil, by removing the letters that you don't want there on the final stencil.  The removed letters will provide space for the light to shine through.  Once you have removed all of the letters (being careful to leave the centres of letters such as 'A' and 'P' behind), apply some masking tape along each row so that when we remove the backing sheet, the centres of the letters stay in the correct spot on the stencil.

Remove the protective cover from the clear perspex, and lay the Perspex to one side, ready for covering.

Turn the vinyl sheet over so that the front is against your working surface, and remove the backing sheet from the vinyl stencil, being very careful to ensure that the vinyl does not stick to itself.  Be very gentle so that you don't tear the vinyl.

Be gentle when you remove the backing to ensure that the bottoms of the letters are not stretched. You may find, for example, that the bottom of the letter R and W stays on the backing. Gently use a sharp instrument to detach them from the backing. This photo shows the base of an 'R' character being loosened. The base of the 'W' has to be loosened as well.

Spray the vinyl sheet with a liberal amount of the water/soap solution - Don't panic - we will be squeeging this out later - it simply allows us heaps of extra time and movement to get the vinyl applied easily.  In fact it makes application Sooooooooooo easy.

DON'T DO THE APPLICATION DRY (Unless you are a professional sign writer) - YOU WILL GO QUITE MAD.

Lie the Perspex on the top of the vinyl at an angle, starting with the bottom edge – carefully align the edge so that it is straight, Hold the top of the vinyl sheet taunt (you can have an assistant help you), then, and using a folding, or rolling motion lay the sheet on the vinyl. The folding or rolling motion will help to ensure so that most of the air and soapy water is expelled.
(In the photo, I didn't use tension – I have subsequently determined that tension helps : )

Turn the Perspex over and make sure that the alignment of the stencil is where you want it.  Don't worry if the stencil is in the wrong spot, because you used water and soap (you did - didn't you?) you have tons of time to get it right.   Then, using a squeegee, credit card, or your hand,  gently flatten the stencil out to remove the excess water / soap mix.  Use some paper towel to clean and dry the stencil as you expel liquid.  As you expel the liquid, you will notice that the stencil locks onto the acrylic sheet.  We want this gluing action to happen.   Do not rub the front hard, as you will damage the surface. 

Then remove each of the tape strips - one at a time.  Again - be gentle - use a tissue to blot up the excess water/soap mix as you go.  If you find that a letter is staying attached to the masking tape, simply use a sharp tool to detach it. 

Once you have expelled all of the water/soap mix, and things are looking very flat, marvel at your work, and leave it to adhere for an hour or so.

Cut the vinyl sheet to the final size on the perspex – I love the look of making the stencil 3 – 5mm smaller than the acrylic, allowing a small clear bit to frame the black vinyl. You may prefer to cut the vinyl even with the edge.

That completes the stencil assembly.

Enjoy looking at it, and then cover it with paper, attached with tape to ensure it doesn't get damaged and put it away somewhere safe where it won't get damaged.
hi! great design. <br>I'm also building it for my wife.<br>however, it's my first time using an arduino. i have an arduino UNO.<br>although i have succesfully compiled and uploaded several example sketches, i cant compile either this firmware or the first wordclock(without the RTC) . I'd really appreciate some advice.<br>I suspect it might matter of the new IDE. i already changed &quot;WProgram.h&quot; to &quot;Arduino.h&quot;.<br><br>i get all sorts of function redefinition alerts . <br>it there a new,more recent firmware that you could send me please?
<p>Hi,</p><p>I am interested in the Dutch version of the clock. </p><p>Stan already made one, and it looks very nice!</p><p>Do you know where he found the right facilities to get the stencil?</p><p>Thanks in advance!</p><p>Bas</p>
<p>Would it be possible to get the PCB in another format? CAD or gerber file?</p>
HI,<br><br>I sell kits for the controllers now - you can see them at <br><br>http://www.dougswordclocks.com/shop/wordclock-controller-module-preassembled/<br><br>Kindest regards,<br><br>Doug<br>
I have the same problem as DWhitlow Mentioned. A bunch of words light up and stay put. And the pulse LED doesn't blink or light up. Using an ATMEGA328 does it require a change of code?
<p>Hi. I am experiencing a similar issue. Except that my pulse light is working fine. Can anyone confirm whether or not this 168 code will run unmodified on the 368p chip? Thanks.</p>
<p>Hi vnk,</p><p>Did you solve this? Does it involve a change of code?</p>
<p>Hi, there seems to be a difference between the 26 way output pin assignments in the v3 construction manual and the schematic - could you tell me which is correct </p><p>please. (example: page 5 schematic shows pin 10 as the 'ELEVEN' output but the pin assignments on page 12 show pin 10 as 'ITIS' output).</p><p>Many thanks - P.S. Brilliant project can't wait to get mine up and running, have got as far as producing the pcb so far whilst sourcing the parts.</p>
<p>Hi Guys, is there an answer to this question that I have missed? I also need to know the answer. Thanks.</p>
Opps - sorry about that - The manual is correct - Pin 10 is the 'It is' output.<br><br>
<p>Thanks for the info and swift response. My clock is nearly done, but it remains to be seen whether or not I did the PCB soldering correctly... I looks like a small, lead meteorite hit the back of it! I have powered it up though, and both the LEDs work (the pulsing LED is very faint - is it supposed to be). Additionally, I didn't electrocuted, and my house didn't burn down - so those are also pluses.</p>
<p>This is my Italian version of Doug's word clock!!</p><p>Thank you Doug, this istructable was very interesting!</p>
WOW - That's beautiful :-)<br><br>Well done.
<p>You can get some nice diffuser sheets from scrapped flat panel monitors and televisions.</p>
I have found that white photocopying paper works beautifully
<p>Hi Doug,</p><p>In step 7 you are talking about files for Dutch language modifications. However I cannot find the link the download these files. Where can I get these files?</p>
<p>Hi Doug,</p><p>I am currently making a similar version of your wordclock and am trying to implement the individual LED's for the minutes. I see that you have each LED connected to an analog output pin. Is there anything other then a resistor between the pin and the LED. Also how do you control the brightness of these as all the other LED's are controlled by the PWM connected to the output enable on the darlington arrays.</p><p>many thanks in advanced.</p><p>Damian</p>
<p>Can you please explain how you implemented the minutes LED. I don&rsquo;t know how to connect them to the PCB.</p><p>http://www.dougswordclocks.com/wordclocks/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Black-DeskClock-916x1024.jpg</p>
<p>Hi Doug. Where can I buy the wordclock?</p>
<p>I'm trying out the project but have to do it with an arduino instead of the separate atmega chip as the ftdi connector is not available in my locality. Could you please tell me whether the connection of the reset switch to the ftdi is necessary? Or whether the reset pushbutton can be connected only to the Arduino. </p><p>Thanks</p>
<p>Just a quick question... What font are you using for the clock? I really like the simple design but I cannot put my finger on what font this is. </p><p>Very nice instructable! </p>
I use Levenim MT for most of my clocks, but the DeskClocks that are made from laser cut mirror are Terfens<br><br>Doug<br>
<p>Im confused about putting the program on the ATmega168 chip... I bought one from an electronics place with the rest of the parts and I'm assuming there is nothing on it. Your instructions above say that to program it you just need a FTDI USB-232 cable to upload the sketch, however in the comments below you state it first needs a bootloader on it... so do I need to buy something like: https://www.sparkfun.com/products/9825 to put the bootloader on it and then a FTDI cable to put the code on top?</p>
<p>Hi, is the the time reset after a power outage??</p>
If you install a backup battery, the time is kept during a power outage.<br><br>All of the clocks and kits that I sell on my website (www.dougswordclocks.com) are setup to keep time during an outage.<br><br>Doug<br>
And how can I do that??
<p>You get a 3v battery, and connect it to the battery connector on the circuit board. Which clock did you build? Did you make a circuit board for it?</p>
<p>Hi, i am in the process of building one of these, we just etched the pcb and its going to get drilled someday soon. i noticed on your site you have a black clock with invisible words. how is that done?</p>
It's great that you are making the clock - it is hard work, but the result is amazing!<br><br>The 'invisible' words clock is made using an acrylic mirror - I use a product called 'Euromir' sheeting which is a colored transparent acrylic which has a mirror back.<br><br>I laser etch the words (in reverse) into the inside of the mirror, which removes the mirror layer - when that is mounted onto the clock, the unlit calls look dark, and barely show (if you look closely, you can see them), but as soon as the cell is illuminated it displays clearly.<br><br>I hope that description makes sense to you.<br><br>Doug<br>
<p>Thanks for your efforts! Give a link to my Russian version of these on the basis of MSP430G2452 and DS1302.</p><p>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESkQZudEWPo</p>
I'm running into a problem here. When I power up the pcb the leds lightup in sequence and then flash five times. The pulse led pulses twice, faintly but pulses every second. <br> <br>I can set the time but no matter how long I wait the time doesn't change... just stays there... <br> <br>Any idea on what I might be doing wrong? <br> <br>thank you all in advance
What is your input voltage and what is the voltage on the output of the rectifier?
The problem with mine was that I didn't have the backup power connected so the clock chip (DS1302) didn't get any power... Once I connected the battery Everything worked perfect... <br /> <br />12V Input and 5V as output from the rectifier.
<p>Hi I have the same problem. Which voltage did you connected to the backup power?</p>
the backup power is designed for between 3v and 5v.<br>
<p>I've tried everything and still doesn't works. Want else can it be?</p>
<p>When you say 'It still doesn't work', what do you mean? Does the power LED on the controller light up? Are you having problems with the battery backup? Some chineese rip offs of the DS1302 don't work correctly with battery backup.</p><p>Doug</p>
<p>The power LED lights up fine but the pulse LED pulses twice and the voltage regulator gets very hot</p>
<p>If the voltage regulator is getting very hot, it means that there s too much load on it.</p><p>I would start by removing all of the components from the sockets, powering the board up and seeing if the regulator heats up. If it does, then there is a short on the back of the board somewhere. If it doesn't, start inserting parts one at a time (with the microprocessor first) and seeing which part causes the regulator to heat up. That component will be the culprit :-)</p>
excelent. <br /> <br />It is odd that the DS1302 didnt get any power - it should be fed from the 5V rail. The backup power is only needed for when there is a power loss. <br /> <br />Some cheap chineese copies of the DS1302 don't behave very well. I brought a batch that had really poor timing - The supplier said that it was because I dodn't have a battery connected to them..... I ended up tossing them in the rubbish, and now sourcing from reputable suppliers who don't provide copy components. <br />
Thats odd - <br /> <br />The new design does not rely on AC to do its timing, so all I can think of is a problem with the DS1302 or its crystal. <br /> <br />Doug <br />
Thank you much for this tutorial, it really helped me for my school project! Could you just send me the circuit diagram with a better quality to this mail adress: milenko.jankoski@gmx.at ?
Dear drj113, <br>I'm trying to upload the code to the ATMega (with the bootloader) using arduino. <br>I changed the WProgram.h to Arduino.h but when I verify the .pde I obtain the following error message: <br>wordclock_reduced_brightness:137: error: 'DS1302' does not name a type <br>wordclock_reduced_brightness.ino: In function 'void print_DS1302time()': <br>wordclock_reduced_brightness:142: error: 'Time' was not declared in this scope <br>wordclock_reduced_brightness:142: error: expected `;' before 't' <br> <br>etc... <br> <br>Any suggestion? <br> <br>Thanks, <br>Mario
I forgotten to mention that the arduino version is the 1.05. <br>Thanks
Dear Doug, I hope u or someone else (dutch one probably) can help me out with this. I've followed the whole instructables and came on the end with uploading the sketch for my Dutch language (used the same template as Stan). I've used the 'dutch' download provided by you and uploaded the reducedbrightness.pde sketch to the chip. <br> <br>However when I plugin my clock, the way it gives the time is not totally correct. The hours seems to be OK, but it goes like: A quarter past 4 -&gt; 10 minutes past 4 (in dutch ofcourse). <br> <br>Since there isn't a dutch pin layout provided i tried to translate it myself but I did have a few struggles. <br> <br>In dutch we say: &quot;It is 10 past four&quot; and &quot;10 before half 5&quot; <br>In english this is: &quot;It's 10 past four&quot; and &quot;It's 20 past four&quot; <br> <br>Do I have to connect both pins: &quot;Minute twenty (6)&quot; and &quot;Minute Ten (8)&quot; to the same strip? That should be to the word &quot;TEN/TIEN&quot; <br> <br>In short: Is there a pin layout for the dutch people avaidable?
Hi,<br><br>We can certainly sort this out - I don't have great documentation on the Dutch version here, but if you email me the sketch I will sort it out for you.<br><br>In case it seems like I am insane, if you email me what you have, then we are all working off the same source :-)<br><br>Doug<br>
Hi Doug, <br> <br>Not to be impatient but may I ask if u found any time to have a look at it already? I've made a PCB and added the minute lights so now its totally finished but I can't figure out why the time is displayed wrong.
Hi Doug, thanks for the swift reply. I've emailed u a few seconds ago with the source I'm using and the dutch template that is used. <br> <br>When we solve this I can help to write the Dutch documentation. If anyone needs help with a dutch or different language template just give a yell. <br> <br>Enjoy the weekend!
Hi Doug. <br>I have a question about the RTC. <br>I built the circuit on a bredaboard and hooked up RTC PCB i have. When connected to the AT328 the circuit froze and the buttons were not functioning anymore. <br>the PCB is fine.. what could be the reason for that? it prevents me from inserting the RTC . The program complied fine with the DS1302 library ( after I changed WPROGRAM.H to ARDUINO.H..) <br>appreciate your input. <br>tnx <br>Amos
All I can think of is that the RTC board isn't DS1302 compatible - do you have any further info on the board?<br><br>Doug<br>

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Bio: I have a background in digital electronics, and am very interested in computers. I love things that blink, and am in awe of the physics ... More »
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