Introduction: Chalkboard Clock

About: Made in Canada, I grew up crafting, making, and baking. Out of this love for designing and creating, I pursued a BFA in product design from Parsons School of Design in NYC. Since then I've done work for Martha…

Even though I trust my smart phone calendar to keep me on top of my schedule (sadly, I trust the ol' noggin less...), I LOVE big + analog + visual cues for my day-to-day happenings. That's why I decided to make a chalkboard clock to help me keep track of appointments and fun times in an old school way!

Step 1: Supplies & Such

  1. 36" x 24" piece of 3/8" finished plywood (x1 for a leaning clock, x2 for a flush mounted wall clock)
  2. clock body wood pieces pattern (I attached both illustrator & PDF files)
  3. clock movement kit with 1/2" shaft (the plastic box with the tiny clock motor plus hands & hardware)
  4. AA battery
  5. laser cutter w/ 36" x 24" bed or a scroll saw & drill press*
  6. spray can chalkboard paint (I used Krylon)
  7. wood glue
  8. belt sander, or elbow grease
  9. 320 & 400 grit sandpaper (120 grit too if you don't have a belt sander)
  10. 4 small clamps, or 3 plus a bench clamp
  11. hand sanding block
  12. safe spray painting environment - either a spray booth or clean covered outdoor location
  13. safety goggles & nitrile gloves (for super safety)
  14. clean rag (not terry or anything that will leave fibers)
  15. regular white chalk

*I am lucky enough to have access to a kick ass laser cutter, so that's how I cut out my wood pieces, but if you can't find one to use, 'tile print' out the pdf and tape it together to use as a pattern for using a scroll saw and drill press.

Step 2: Stuck Like Glue

Once you have cut your wood pieces out of your 36" x 24" board (either using the laser cutter or wood shop tools), it's time to glue up the body of your clock.

NOTE: If your going to be hanging your clock on a wall, you're going to want to cut 4 of the rings total. I knew I was going to lean mine on a shelf, so I didn't worry about the fact that the clock movement was going to stick out further than the clock body.

Just like a layer cake, you're going to glue the two (or four) rings and top together. Be generous with the glue to ensure good contact surface coverage without getting it too goopy. I used a piece of cardboard to help spread the glue evenly.

Once you have all the layers glued together, go around the edge with a clean, dry rag or paper towel to remove excess glue that has squished out.

Step 3: Clamp It!

Make sure the edges of all your layers line up as best as possible and clamp the circle on four sides. (as pictured)

Leave for at least two hours before moving onto the next step. (I left mine overnight.)

Step 4: Tidy Up!

Once the glue has had enough time to dry, remove all the clamps.

Now it's time to clean up the outside edge and get it as smooth as possible. I used a belt sander to gently take down the edge, in a smooth, low pressure, circular motion using the rings to hold onto. It's important to keep the piece moving in a circular motion at all times when it's touching the sander, or you will get flat spots and ruin the shape.

If you're using elbow grease and hand tools, I'd use a 120-240 grit sandpaper with a hand sanding block to clean up the edge.

Step 5: Some Gentle Sanding

Now that the edge is looking fine, use a piece of 320 grit paper to gently, and with the grain, soften the edges of the circle. The reason it's important to go with the grain is that the thin wood veneer surface of the plywood can easily chip and tear if you go against it.

Once the face edge is tackled, load some of the same 320 grit into your hand sanding block and go over the flat surfaces on the front and back of the clock body. (also with the grain)

Once you're done sanding, use some compressed air or a dry cloth to clean the wood dust off the piece in prep for painting.

Step 6: The Tranformation

  1. In your well ventilated painting space, put on your gloves and safety goggles.
  2. Set the piece down on a clean, dust free surface that can be thrown away afterwards. (paper or cardboard)
  3. Shake your spray can for at least 30 seconds.
  4. Using medium speed horizontal passes, keeping the can 10-12" away from the wood surface, paint on your first layer of paint. Don't forget to do the edges too!
  5. Let dry for 15-20 min.
  6. Using 320 grit sandpaper, lightly sand the entire surface, including the edges using small circular motions.
  7. Use a clean dry cloth to wipe off the paint dust.

Repeat this process 4-5 times. The only difference will be that you'll switch to 400 grit sandpaper for the final sanding before the last coat.

The reason I did so many coats was to fill the dips in the wood grain so the end result would be as smooth as possible. If you cheat and do less coats, you'll find that erasing the chalk will be harder, and sometimes impossible, leaving a ghost of what had been written there. So I highly recommend putting in the time!

Step 7: Clock Assembly - Part I


I included in the parts pattern three wooden 'washers'. The clock movement I had on hand had a really long shaft (7/8") and I didn't want it to stick out that far. If you buy a movement with a shorter shaft, it probably won't be necessary to use any washers.

If you do chose to use one, slide it on on top of the rubber washer and insert the shaft into the center hole. While holding the movement in place, turn the clock over so you are looking at the face of the clock. Slide on the brass washer followed by the hex nut. Hand tighten the hex nut, securing the movement.

*In retrospect, I probably should have done step 9 before starting on this step, so look ahead and make your own call on how you'd like to proceed.

Step 8: Clock Assembly - Part II

Slide the shorter hour hand into place on the shaft and then repeat for the minute hand. Secure both in place with the small brass finishing nut.

Hold off on putting the battery in until we're done the next step.

Step 9: Priming Your New Chalkboard

Priming your board is a super important step if you want an easy to erase surface. If you don't prime it, your first chalk marks will 'burn' into the porous surface and leave a permanent mark. Priming fills all the porous holes with chalk and makes erasing a cinch.

How to Prime:

Using a piece of regular white chalk, rub down the entire surface of the clock, even the sides, with chalk. (To get the piece nice and 'dusty' for easy coverage, I used sand paper to remove one of the shiny sides before starting)

Then using a dry, clean cloth, wipe the entire surface down giving it it's first 'erase'. You are now primed and ready to roll.

You'll notice that the pattern for the clock face included little notch marks that denote the hours. I used these as guides to write in the hours with chalk. I went with standard numbers, but feel free to get crazy and mark your time however you choose! Little stars? Cat heads? Simple dots? You're only limited by your imagination!

Step 10: A Visual Day Timer!

Now it's time to put in the battery and find your new clock a home.

I keep a little eraser and chalk next to my clock so I can easily customize it for each day. It's the most fun I've had keeping track of a doctor's appointment!

If you make your own, I'd love to see pictures! Happy making!

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