Introduction: The Time-bomb Clock

Picture of The Time-bomb Clock

Ah, Saturday afternoon’s in front of the TV set with the Bug Bunny & Road Runner hour. A solid 60 minutes of high explosives and falling anvils. Here’s one for all the Wile. E. Coyote fans. This never fails to get a laugh and some sort of one-liner.
“What an explosive idea!”
“That blows my mind!”
“That’s a real blast!”

Uh-huh… I’ve never heard any of those before…

It’s a hot seller at my craft shows, yet it’s a simple enough project to require minimal tools. Without further ado, let’s put our Acme hard hat on and get to work.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Picture of Materials and Tools


¾” dowel (48”)
¾” base material (see explanation)
¾” clock material (see explanation)
#8 - 1” Wood screws
Speaker hookup wire (18-gauge red and black)
2 @ 10 x 24 x ¾” brass screws
2 @ 10 x 24 knurled knobs
2 @ 10 x 24 brass nuts
1 7/16” clock insert
Wood glue
Cyanoacrylate glue (aka CA glue aka crazy glue)
Masking tape
Can of red spray paint

* The base and clock material can be anything. I’m using maple for the clock and walnut for the base because I like the colours and I happen to have some around. You could use oak, pine, even Russian birch ply which has very slim layers and looks good when well sanded. It’s your choice.


I will be listing hand tools, portable tools and large tool equivalents. This can be done with any of these tools. The hand tools will just take longer.

Table saw – Power saw – Miter saw – Hand saw
Drill – Drill press
Sander – Sandpaper
1 3/8” drill bit
3/16” drill bit
1/8” drill bit
Countersink bit (or 3/8” drill bit)
Metal saw
Tape measure
Linesman’s pliers or needle-nose pliers (to cut the wire… a pair of scissors will do)
A wire stripper or a box knife (to cut the insulation off the wire)

Step 2: Dynamite Sticks

Picture of Dynamite Sticks

I usually start with the dynamite sticks. These are 7 sticks of 4 inches each cut from the ¾” dowel.

Step 3: Dynamite Sticks (cont'd)

Picture of Dynamite Sticks (cont'd)

To glue them together is a little convoluted. You may find a better method, I haven’t yet.
I use both wood glue and CA glue together to make the bond. I put a bead of wood glue and leave a bit of wood without glue at both ends of the stick and in the middle. In these empty spots, I apply a drop of CA glue and then bring the parts together and hold for 20 seconds. The CA glue bonds in 20 seconds and serves as a temporary clamp allowing the much stronger wood glue to start setting without my having to clamp or hold the assembly, which is difficult with round pieces.

Once the two sticks on the bottom are glued together, I add a third on top in the middle, then the two outside pieces of the middle tier, then the two pieces of the top tier. Wherever two faces of the dowels touch each other, I repeat the wood glue and 3 drops of CA glue to hold, which means some pieces will require two beads of glue and six drops of CA. I know that some parts will touch more pieces, but more than 2 beads of wood glue is overkill in my book. Once the entire dynamite stack is glued, I use a couple of loops of tightly wound masking tape as a clamp. Once you get used to it, it can be done very quickly. Let dry overnight.

Step 4: Dynamite Sticks (cont'd)

Picture of Dynamite Sticks (cont'd)

The next day, take the dynamite bundle and drill two 1/8” holes in any two side by side dynamite sticks – but not the centre one. Whichever sticks you select to drill will end up being the top sticks in the finished clock. Screw in a screw, or eyehook by hand in one of these holes. This is a handle for you to hold the sticks while they are spray painted, so it only needs to be screwed in until it holds the assembly securely.

Don your rubber gloves and take this outside if you can. Holding the sticks by the screw handle, spray a light coat of paint everywhere. Please don’t try to get it all perfectly covered in one coat because you will make a mess. Three to four light coats will work best. Spray paints of the type I use can be re-coated in 20-30 minutes so the painting should be over quickly. Remove the screw/eyehook when the assembly is dry.

Step 5: Clock Base

Picture of Clock Base

The base is cut to 4 ½”” x 3”. I round the top edges on a belt sander, but this is optional. You could chamfer the edges with a table saw or a router, or simply leave as it. Note that it is always better to relieve the corner and edge sharpness with a couple of passes of sandpaper (yes, you can cut yourself on sharp wood edges). Lightly draw a centerline along length of the bottom, then draw a second line 3/8” away from the centre line. Make marks along the second line 1 ½” from each end. Drill two 1/8” through holes at the intersections. Counter-drill the holes from the bottom with a countersinking bit. If you don’t have a countersinking bit, you can use a 3/8” bit to do the countersink holes These holes will be used to screw the dynamite sticks to the base. Sand through 80, 120, and 220-grit sandpaper, finish the base and put it aside.

Note on finishes: I have traditionally used a wiping varnish to finish these as it is an easy and simple finish. For this instructable, I’m using tung oil which, when dry, will then be finished with a buffed coat of wax. Both these finishes are thin finishes which look better than a thick finish for this project.

Step 6: Clock Face

Picture of Clock Face

The clock part is made of a piece of material 2” x 2”. I use maple because of its nice contrast with the red sticks and the walnut base. I prefer to cut a long strip 2” wide and work with a longer piece rather than with a small 2” x 2” piece. It’s much safer to do everything on a longer piece and to cut to dimension at the end when I’m done. Mark the length of the 2” piece, then draw an “X” from corner to corner to find the middle of the piece. Drill a hole halfway deep using the 1 3/8” drill bit for the clock insert. Then drill a 1/8” hole all the way through the middle of the 1 3/8” hole. Use the countersink bit to countersink the 1/8” hole. On the top edge, drill two 3/16” holes about ½” deep, ½” from the edges. Cut the piece out, sand and finish.

Step 7: Preparing the Brass Screws

Picture of Preparing the Brass Screws

Drill a 3/16” hole in a foot-long scrap piece of 2 x 4 or 2 x 6. Insert the brass screws in the hole and use it as a holder to saw off the head of the screw with a metal saw. The brass of the screws is relatively soft and easy to cut. Watch out these will be hot when you’re done.

Step 8: Preparing the Wire

Picture of Preparing the Wire

Cut a length of wire 18” long and separate the black and red wires. Strip off about ¾” to 1" from one end of each wire and twist the exposed copper wire. Wrap each wire tightly around a pencil to give it that explosive wire look.

Step 9: Assembly

Picture of Assembly

Screw two screws up through the bottom of the base until they are sticking out from the base just a bit. Orient your dynamite bundle so the two drilled pieces are on top of the bundle as shown. Press the bundle down on the screws to mark the location for drilling into the dynamite pieces. Drill the dynamite sticks with the 1/8” drill bit and screw securely to the base.

Screw through the centre of the 1 3/4" hole of the clock face until the screw extends a bit out the back. Place the clock where you would like it to be on the dynamite sticks, and press to mark the location of the hole. Drill this hole with a 1/8” drill bit and screw the clock to the dynamite sticks.

Step 10: Assembly (cont'd)

Picture of Assembly (cont'd)

Put a drop of CA glue into the holes on top of the clock and insert the cut end of the screws into the holes. Wait 5 minutes until well set. Screw on the two brass nuts. Put a tight bend in the stripped ends of the wires and hook them onto the brass screws. Secure with the knurled nuts.

Put a drop of CA glue in the holes drilled into the dynamite sticks, and insert the unstripped end of the wire into these holes. Hold in place for 30 seconds until set, and let stand for 5 minutes to allow to glue properly.

Insert the clock face. Display and wait for the unavoidable "explosion" of jokes and one-liners.


JokerBot (author)2016-01-23


anton nizanth (author)2015-11-09

superb .....................................

thorswolf (author)anton nizanth2015-11-09

Thanks for the comment!

sdixit5 (author)2015-02-26

I can't resist myself!!!

DukeMelrose (author)2014-03-08

I made one for my buddy's birthday. This was a cool project!

thorswolf (author)DukeMelrose2014-03-09

Excellent mod! Love the addition of the tape. Is that electrical tape?

DukeMelrose (author)thorswolf2014-03-10

Yes, I wrapped the "TNT" with electrical tape. I think it gave it a more authentic look.

EMTBOB (author)2013-04-07

i've made quite a few of these after seeing a picture a couple of years ago. I use pin nails to hold the dowel bundle together while the glue sets.

Ibanezfoo (author)2011-09-30

I made a few of these for gifts. The plans are in an old woodworking project book I have.

lbuchholz (author)Ibanezfoo2012-11-10

I can just imagine. Your recipient opening a nicely wrapped ticking gift to discover this.

thorswolf (author)Ibanezfoo2011-09-30

Hey that's excellent! I don't claim to be the originator of this. A friend had bought one of these clocks from God knows where, and I reproduced it. What's the name of the book??

Ibanezfoo (author)thorswolf2011-09-30

Nick Engler's Weekend Projects Plus

thorswolf (author)Ibanezfoo2011-10-01

Thanks for that. I will definitely check it out.

Just Bill (author)thorswolf2011-10-22

You might want to query Amazon for "Nick Engler's Weekend Projects Plus" before clicking on the checkout button. Your call.

Ibanezfoo (author)Just Bill2011-10-23

I got mine at a used book store so if you have any stores like that nearby I'd look there first. I got tons of woodworking books from the used book store.

parsonadhesives (author)2012-09-26

CA Glue is the best super glue know as parfix cyanoacrylate glue. I visited one site which have detail information in table form check:

oddball7465 (author)2012-01-20

Where's the best place to buy the clock?

RabidAlien (author)2012-01-02

Hmmm....would gluing them in rows (3 sticks side-by-side, then two sets of two...once dry, glue the two pairs on top and bottom of the set of three) be easier, or just more time-consuming?

Loving this clock, and am seeing a trip to Lowes in my future!

H3xx (author)2011-12-01

I shall make some of these and sell them at the Airport! :D jk

thorswolf (author)H3xx2011-12-06

LOL! Might set a new record for the shortest-lived business ever!!

myles136 (author)2011-11-03

I bundled the bottom 5 together and used it to make a template on two scraps of plywood, penciling the outline and sanding out the "half-flower" shape. Then made a cradle rack. I put the 2 bottom ones in and glue then add 3 in the middle and two on top. I either use masking tape to clamp or a large rubber band. With the cradle, I can spend a bit more time bushing glue where I want it. By the way... I got a small bottle of Gorilla Glue to try here and it was a disaster. It might work elsewhere, buy the label warnings are treacherous!

myles136 (author)myles1362011-11-06

Here is another jig I made from scraps. I traced half of an assembled stack onto the edge of two pieces of plywood screwed together. Using a band saw, I roughed out as much as possible then sanded it to a perfect fit. Separate the two identical cradle jigs and attached to a base. I added a back piece to keep them lined up. Liquid Nails is PERFECT!!!!! It doesn't run. and has 10 minutes work time. Then wrap with several rubber bands and set aside. I can do 5 bundles in a half hour. Any excess can be pulled out with a folded business card or sanded off 30 minutes later.

thorswolf (author)myles1362011-11-05

Do you have a photo so I can see what you;re doing? It sounds like you're doing something new with the most difficult part of the construction.

myles136 (author)thorswolf2011-11-05

I will post a pic tomorrow. I also made a jig to guide the wood stock through the drill press process. It bolts directly to the table and that way I need no clamps. I make a mark at the measurement plus 1/16" for saw kerf and it takes only minutes to forstner drill all the faces.

myles136 (author)myles1362011-11-06

With scraps of plywood, I bolted this jig to the press. It has a line on the right of the bit. I mark the piece with a tick at 3-9/16" (I am using bigger clocks) and then continue to maks more marks along the edge of the stock. Move the tick to the right side line and drill, then move to the next tick and drill. No need for marking centers, they are all equally centered and ready to be cut into individual squares.

grantlairdjr (author)2011-10-25

I've successfully build similar as yours! I ran into few problem but I was able to work around to it just fine. Also, I can't find knurled nuts at Home Depot. I use alternative nuts and it looks not bad. See picture attached.

Thank you for wonderful instructables!

myles136 (author)grantlairdjr2011-11-05

AlbanyCountyFasteners on ebay has them at a great price and arrives in 3 days with cheap shipping. Listed as 10-24 Thumb Nut

thorswolf (author)grantlairdjr2011-10-26

Hey that looks great!! Thanks for sharing the picture. Did you find that you had any difficulties along the way? Did you think any part of the instructable or photos could have been improved?

grantlairdjr (author)thorswolf2011-10-26

Like you said in your instructables regarding put glue on dowels and put them together is hard part of all. I did not CA glue - I used Gorilla Glue's Dries White 2x which works good however it caused too much foam (expand) after drying. Next time, I need to use very little and see what happened.

Also, I am thinking about use plastic disposable cup to hold 7 dowels quickly while taping rather than hold with hands.

I got good deal with 1 7/16 clock insert from ebay - five clocks for 20 bucks. So, I plan to make couple more soon. And will do it better, too.

Another things is I can't find cheap 18g wires so I had to buy 18 ft 14g wires for 5 bucks each at Home Depot. So, I have plenty left to use them.

In case you can tell or not, I did not use different kind wood. All pine wood, I paint it with walnut stain (base) and other one with natural stain. (clock)


myles136 (author)2011-11-03

The American Birch advertised at a home store with a big blue and white lettered sign, actually comes from China. At least it does at the stores here. Even the web-site says American and made by Americans....WRONG. Very poor quality, but it does have many thin layers. The American Birch plywood at the store with the orange sign is real American wood, with thicker layers. This applies to all their hardwood plywoods!

thorswolf (author)myles1362011-11-05

I am very lucky to have a local supplier of hardwoods and hardwood plywoods: cherry, walnut, birch, maple... Really, really lucky!!

myles136 (author)2011-11-03

Pricing out materials to make a few. The home stores prices for brass screws and nuts is OUTRAGEOUS. I am finding some better prices on the net, but I am brainstorming to find something cheaper still. Must say, I really like this one. Great Job!

sdudley (author)2011-10-03

I really dig this project and you did an excellent job with the instructable.  So much so, that I just had to make one too!  However, I couldn't help but think to myself... "Self - something is missing from this project.  But what could it be???"  ALAS... it came to me!

No Acme Time Bomb is complete without the likes of Wile E. Coyote!

Below are a few pictures of what I did to expand on the idea.  Thanks again for the great instructable.  I voted for it by the way!


thorswolf (author)sdudley2011-10-04

Aw, cool! Is Wile E. laser etched or something? That's excellent. That version would definitely have problems crossing the border!!

sdudley (author)thorswolf2011-10-04

I don't have a laser etcher and I am no artist so...

I found an image online, printed it out, placed the acrylic over it, then I traced it using my Dremel with a small etching bit.  (note: I used an inverse of the image because the image is on the back side of the acrylic and the letters would be backwards if I didn't.)

I was trying to make it look like an explosion behind him.  The great thing about this project is that no fancy tools are needed.  I used a hack saw to cut out the design and simply cleaned up the edges with a little sand paper.

Below is a link to an instructable I made that shows a "similar" idea to what I did here.

I must admit, I really enjoy using my Dremel (or any rotory tool) to etch out things like this.  It gives talentless chumps like myself a chance to do some pretty cool stuff and feel somewhat like an artist! 

Thanks again, I would never have thought to do it without your instructable.

By the way... I am probably going to make another since my wife has decided this is now hers!

thorswolf (author)sdudley2011-10-04

Thanks for that update. I really like where you went with this project.

BTW, your wife has great taste!! ;-)

sdudley (author)sdudley2011-10-03

Oh by the way, I took the advice from an earlier comment by "mwhitt" and used bicycle inner tubes for the straps. They worked great! I used 5/8 inch dowels (because I already had them) and my old bicycle innertube was the perfect diameter to stretch nicely over the bunch.

Thanks mwhitt!

El Colombiano (author)2011-09-29

Do you make international shipping? LOL.. Excelent. Hat off too.. i will start mine too..

mwhitt (author)2011-09-29

thorswolf, Couldn't you use tire inner tubes cut into 1" bands for clamps? I was thinking either a wheel barrow tube or perhaps a motorcyle tube. Matt W.

thorswolf (author)mwhitt2011-09-29

Those are good ideas. I use the tape because it's handy and, believe it or not, works rather well, event for gluing mitered box croners. Feel free to explore and modify any way you like!

Dr.Bill (author)2011-09-20

Do these sell good?
What do you get for one?
Good idea for a flea market.

thorswolf (author)Dr.Bill2011-09-20

They sell very well. A well made clock like this fetches around $25-$30.

WoundedEgo (author)thorswolf2011-09-25

This is so clever and appeals to my mischievous side... would you be offended or flattered if I ripped off your idea and made and sold them?

thorswolf (author)WoundedEgo2011-09-25

Instructables is just for that... sharing projects. Have fun!

WoundedEgo (author)thorswolf2011-09-29


WoundedEgo (author)thorswolf2011-09-26

Well, that is very generous of you, thanks.

Victor Moser (author)2011-09-27

You could leave the tips of bombs with a "recess" would be more realistic!

thorswolf (author)Victor Moser2011-09-28

Hmm... not sure if I want to go "more realistic". I do like my freedom... ;-)

Victor Moser (author)thorswolf2011-09-28

No problem, it's great!

myles136 (author)2011-09-28

Where do you get the brass knurled nuts?

About This Instructable




Bio: I love to learn new stuff. I am, by trade, a computer geek, but my true passion is the arts... ALL the arts. I have ... More »
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