Picture of The Wordclock Grew Up!
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!  :-) 

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hi! great design.
I'm also building it for my wife.
however, it's my first time using an arduino. i have an arduino UNO.
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.
I suspect it might matter of the new IDE. i already changed "WProgram.h" to "Arduino.h".

i get all sorts of function redefinition alerts .
it there a new,more recent firmware that you could send me please?
BasWage3 months ago


I am interested in the Dutch version of the clock.

Stan already made one, and it looks very nice!

Do you know where he found the right facilities to get the stencil?

Thanks in advance!


Would it be possible to get the PCB in another format? CAD or gerber file?

drj113 (author)  asterixandobelix5 months ago

I sell kits for the controllers now - you can see them at


Kindest regards,

vnk2 years ago
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?
JasonC17 vnk6 months ago

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.

NordinS1 vnk8 months ago

Hi vnk,

Did you solve this? Does it involve a change of code?

flybaby1 year ago

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

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).

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.

JasonC17 flybaby6 months ago

Hi Guys, is there an answer to this question that I have missed? I also need to know the answer. Thanks.

drj113 (author)  JasonC176 months ago
Opps - sorry about that - The manual is correct - Pin 10 is the 'It is' output.

JasonC17 drj1136 months ago

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.

EmanueleB1 made it!7 months ago

This is my Italian version of Doug's word clock!!

Thank you Doug, this istructable was very interesting!

word clock EMA.jpg
drj113 (author)  EmanueleB17 months ago
WOW - That's beautiful :-)

Well done.
MarkS137 months ago

You can get some nice diffuser sheets from scrapped flat panel monitors and televisions.

drj113 (author)  MarkS137 months ago
I have found that white photocopying paper works beautifully
laurensV68 months ago

Hi Doug,

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?

Wongone11 months ago

Hi Doug,

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.

many thanks in advanced.


HarshadP Wongone9 months ago

Can you please explain how you implemented the minutes LED. I don’t know how to connect them to the PCB.


Leafgreen10 months ago

Hi Doug. Where can I buy the wordclock?

Adyant11 months ago

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.


HeinrichK111 months ago

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.

Very nice instructable!

drj113 (author)  HeinrichK111 months ago
I use Levenim MT for most of my clocks, but the DeskClocks that are made from laser cut mirror are Terfens

piccolo251 year ago

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?

IBH1 year ago

Hi, is the the time reset after a power outage??

drj113 (author)  IBH1 year ago
If you install a backup battery, the time is kept during a power outage.

All of the clocks and kits that I sell on my website (www.dougswordclocks.com) are setup to keep time during an outage.

IBH drj1131 year ago
And how can I do that??
drj113 (author)  IBH1 year ago

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?

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?

drj113 (author)  raptor_demon1 year ago
It's great that you are making the clock - it is hard work, but the result is amazing!

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.

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.

I hope that description makes sense to you.

tw1ns made it!1 year ago

Thanks for your efforts! Give a link to my Russian version of these on the basis of MSP430G2452 and DS1302.


VelzevulGR3 years ago
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.

I can set the time but no matter how long I wait the time doesn't change... just stays there...

Any idea on what I might be doing wrong?

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...

12V Input and 5V as output from the rectifier.

Hi I have the same problem. Which voltage did you connected to the backup power?

drj113 (author)  andi1741 year ago
the backup power is designed for between 3v and 5v.
andi174 drj1131 year ago

I've tried everything and still doesn't works. Want else can it be?

drj113 (author)  andi1741 year ago

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.


andi174 drj1131 year ago

The power LED lights up fine but the pulse LED pulses twice and the voltage regulator gets very hot

drj113 (author)  andi1741 year ago

If the voltage regulator is getting very hot, it means that there s too much load on it.

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 :-)

drj113 (author)  VelzevulGR3 years ago

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.

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.
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