Introduction: Another CD Clock Build

About: Hobbist, IT professional, teacher.

Yeah, theres like 50 other CD clock projects here but I figured what the heck, one more won't hurt. Besides, this is more on what you can do to decorate your clock rather than build the clock itself.

I started doing these because my wife had a charity flea market coming and I figured these would be popular (I hope) and of course it would be a good way (for a worthy cause) to get rid of the 100s of CDs that I have around the house, because who uses CDs anymore?

Don't worry if there is data on the CDs, I'll show you how to more or less effectively render the disc unreadable without needing any fancy IT hardware.


1) CDs (obviously)

2) CD cases (in case you bought a whole stack of CDs without the cases) or mobile phone ring stands to make the clock stand up

3) Clocks (obviously too - cheap ones cost less than SGD$3.00 here)

4) Color printer (to print the backgrounds, laser preferred) and/or spray paint (if you want a painted solid color background)

5) Clear lacquer spray

6) 3M spray on glue

7) Dremmel tool (with drill, sanding bit, cutting bit and polishing bit with polish)

8) Contact glue or super glue

9) Thin cardboard and penknife/exacto knife

Step 1: Layered With/Without Printed/Painted Background

Mouthful of a title for this step, but this Instructable focuses on the CD design, so you have to decide what you want to do. I made 4 versions, 2 layered with printed backgrounds, 1 layered with painted background and 1 just plain old printed.

What exactly is layered? Well thats using another CD or other material (cardboard, plastic, metal, etc) to create a overlay piece, which in this case is the Bat logo (as you can tell, I'm a bit of a Batman/Bat-Family nut) made from another CD and a Pikachu head on cardboard. This will lie on top of the CD.

The CD can be spray painted or you can just have a print out and have it stuck on using the 3M spray glue and the overlay can be stuck to the CD with contact glue, superglue (messy) or the 3M spray glue as well.

Step 2: Rendering the CD Unreadable

I did say I'd show you how to render the CD unreadable if you had data on it. Well real simple, flip the CD over so the shiny side (without the brand etc) is facing up. Now just spray a few coats of clear lacquer on it and dry each coat with a hair dryer on low heat. The lacquer spray creates an uneven surface that makes it impossible for the CD reader to read and if anyone tries to scrape off the lacquer or dissolve it with nail polish remover, etc, that will just make it even more unreadable.

Step 3: The CD Background

Doing the CD background is a no brainer if you just want to spray it a solid color. Just get your spray paint and go to town on the CD. Remember to be patient, do 3-4 passes, let it dry then repeat about 3 times. That makes sure the paint doesn't pool and that the paint dries all the way through, otherwise you have the top layer dry but underneath its still wet and when you touch it, you leave prints and can tear through the dry layer and make a real mess.

Doing a printed background is much easier and allows you a more elaborate background. All you have to do, is find a background image you like (or make one yourself - MS Paint is more than sufficient), make sure you print it so that its bigger than the CD and then cut it to the CD shape.

Cutting it round can be a challenge and there are elaborate CD tools to cut it or even stickers you can print on with a plunger to make sure you stick it centered on the CD. Here I go with the simplest method - using the CD itself, or if you bought a stack of CDs, they usually have this transparent protective clear plastic piece in the shape of the CD at the top of the stack (see picture).

Put the CD or the protective piece over the background you printed, hold it firmly down and using a sharp penknife or exacto knife, cut around the CD, pressing the side of the blade along the outer edge of the CD and then the inner edge of the middle hole to make the cuts.


NOTE: When you are cutting, MIND YOUR HANDS - I cut myself just above the radial artery of my wrist when doing the cuts! If you are doing this with the kids, do the cutting yourself, straight cuts the kids can do since they have to learn, but circular cutting can be tricky so the adults should be doing it.

After that, just spray the 3M glue on the cutout and stick it on the CD, making sure the hole in the center of the CD lines up with the hole in the middle of the cutout - might not get it right the first time around, so don't press the whole background onto the CD straight away, just around the center hole first (so you can remove it if its not in the right position) and when you're satisfied its aligned with the hole in the CD, then press the rest of it down. Use a soft cloth to rub the surface of the pasted background so you push out any air bubbles and make sure its stuck down properly. And there you have it - one printed CD background.

Now there's an optional step with the printed background and that's to spray coat it with clear lacquer. This will protect the print out from water and dirt, especially useful if you don't use a laser printer but use an ink jet. I find that doing the lacquer makes it look more professionally done as it causes the surface to look textured and not like paper at all. But its up to you if you want to do this step or not.

Step 4: The Overlay

Making the overlay depends on how much trouble you want to go through. I did both the easy way (Pikachu head) and the hard way (Bat logo).

The easy way is to just print out the design for the overlay, in my case, Pikachu's head then spray the back with 3M spray on glue and stick it to a hard cardboard and cut it to shape. Find where you want the center hole to be placed and use a dremmel tool with a drill bit to drill (on slow speed) the center hole and then slowly expand the hole with the sides of the drill bit until its big enough for the spindle (where the clock hands attach to) of the clock to fit through.

The hard way, is cutting it out of another CD, a piece of plastic or thin sheet of metal even. This is mainly for a single solid color overlay, not for anything elaborate or with many colors (unless you are going to hand paint your own design on the plastic, then knock yourself out - if you are, remember to use acrylic paints).

Print out the shape of the overlay and lightly glue it to the plastic or CD to use as a cutting guide - glue lightly because you will need to peel it off later. Using a cut bit with the dremmel, cut the shape out as close as you can to the edge of the printed design. Use the sanding and finishing bits to bring the plastic to the final shape. Once done, peel off as much of the printed cutting guide as possible and using sandpaper, sand the plastic down sufficiently to remove any of the remaining CD data layer (the shiny stuff) and paper from the cutting guide. Use the polishing bit with the polishing compound to polish off the design till its more or less smooth without visible scratches on the surface. If you have a good polishing compound you can almost get it perfectly transparent.

Last step is to spray it the color you want and then you're done. Again optionally, you can protect the paintwork with a clear coat of lacquer.

Now remember when you are doing layering, the overly cannot be too thick, because if it is, the clock spindle that sticks through the CD's center hole, won't be able to stick out far enough for you to attach the hands of the clock. So the plastic piece or cardboard you use MUST be thin - I found out the hard way it shouldn't be any thicker than the thickness of a CD.

Step 5: Mounting the Clock

This is probably the easiest thing in the world but yeah lets go through it anyway.

Whatever clock you've purchased, you have to dismantle. The ones I bought had 3 clips on the back so by prying those off, I could access the front of the clock. Remove the hands and then unscrew the clock base and you're done.

Heres where you have to decide if you're going to use a CD case as the stand or the mobile phone ring stand to stand the CD upright. If you're using the case, you need to use the dremmel tool to bore a hole in the center of the BACK COVER of the case because you'll be mounting the clock base to the back cover. If you're using the ring stand then you'll be mounting the clock base directly to the CD.

*Note: I don't really recommend the ring stand because depending on the weight of the clock base, the CD might tip backwards if you use the ring stand.

Now its just a matter of applying a little contact glue or super glue (messy) to the front of the clock base (put the glue to the outer edges and not the center, so that it doesn't show through the center hole of the CD when its mounted) and stick it either to the back cover of the CD case or the CD itself (if you're using the ring stand), making sure the spindle that sticks through the back cover is centered.

All that's left to do is place the CD onto the back cover (if you're using the CD case) and mount the clock hands.

Now the clocks I bought come with an alarm feature, but because of the thickness of the back cover and overlays, it becomes impossible to mount the alarm hand, so I just didn't use it and set the alarm to off. If the clocks you buy have a spindle that's long enough, you can attach the alarm hand.

Step 6: The Final Product

As you can see the final product looks pretty darn awesome if I do say so myself (and I do!) and as I'm sure some other tutorials have shown, you can use the front cover to place a nice photo print out too, making this a CD Clock Photo Frame.

Total cost of parts for each build was approximately $4 (since I recycled the CDs), plus the effort in cutting the parts and painting etc, I think selling this at $10 at the flea market is reasonable, especially since its for charity.

That's it for my second Instructable, hope you found it good and again apologies if its not!

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