CountClock Hours Only

Introduction: CountClock Hours Only

About: Openproducts' focus is on design of new products and on innovative approaches towards improving existing products. An example: the CountClock, a concept facilitating children to learn telling the time. Purpose…

The CountClock Hours Only is, similar to the CountClock Hours Only Prototype, a basic clock that is perfectly suited for learning the first step of telling time. The device displays, in a cumulative way, the hour.

The animated picture above shows how the clock looks when functioning. From 1:00:00 until 1:59:59 a single LED is highlighted, from 2:00:00 until 2:59:59 two LEDs are on. And so on and so forth. It's true that it is not a very accurate clock: but it's good enough for many young children.

This version of the CountClock has colored LEDs, which introduces a new feature compared to the prototype: telling time from the color, which may be suitable for young children knowing the colors but who cannot count yet.

For the CountClock multiple Instructables were compiled. A Meta Instructable is the actual starting point for quickly overviewing the full series of Instructables, available here:

This Instructable is the detailed Instructable regarding CountClock Hours Only. There is also a CountClock variant which displays the minutes: CountClock Hours and Minutes.

Step 1: CountClock Concept

The CountClock concept has two features that simplify a clock : firstly, time can be told by counting the lights. Secondly, but this does not count for the CountClock Hours Only, the concept involves multiple learning levels that simplify the confusing characteristics of a normal analog clock. The CountClock's target audience is mainly composed of children aged 2 to 7 years old. Nursery schools, playgroups and primary education might also be interested in the CountClock. For making your own CountClock all information is available in a series of Instructables, but the CountClock may also be purchased in multiple finishes.

The Meta Instructable introducing the project and all CountClock variants can be found here:

The time lapse video presented above shows CountClock Hours Only in operation. For reading out the hour, just count the highlighted LEDs. It is clear that the CountClock only provides an approximate time, which is some cases may be precise enough, certainly for younger children. The clock has been programmed to add the next hour LED when the the full hour begins (for example two LEDs are on between 2:00:00 and 2:59:59).

Alternatively, an average time could be opted for (for example three LEDs are on between 2:30:00 and 3:29:59) but that doesn't add precision and therefore hasn't been foreseen in the Arduino program code. Explained in words when two LEDs are on: the current design shows in that case that "it is after two o'clock" (and before three o'clock). The alternative average time mode would in that case mean that it is "around two o'clock" (two o'clock plus or minus half an hour).

Step 2: CountClock Hardware

In its most basic form, the CountClock Hours Only has five main hardware components:

  1. A wooden housing, made from three slices (see template for CNC Milling further below);
  2. A programmable open source controller, here the Adafruit Trinket;
  3. A multi-colour LED ring, here the Adafruit Neopixel 24 RGB LED;
  4. Lightpipes for better aestethics (here LEDs are used, with their connectors cut off);

  5. A Protective Template to avoid LEDs contacting the wooden housing (the template for the making of the Protective Template Discs is explained in a separate Instructable: CountClock Protective Template Design;

  6. A button for selecting the display modes.

Note that the relatively new Adafruit Trinket Pro has more ports and can thus integrate additional functionality. This is used in the Countclock Hours & Minutes.

On top of the its basic form, the CountClock Hours Only can be extended with additional functions by applying these hardware components:

  1. Keeping the exact time using a DSC module (this is a very useful function for a clock but, given the basic timekeeping functionality of the controller not indespensible;
  2. A light sensor allowing to automatically adjust the CountClock brightness to the surrounding light: minimum during the night and maximum when exposed to strong light;
  3. A battery for cordless operation;
  4. A bell to sound the hour, or to use as an alarm feature. See the CountClock Hours & Minutes for how this might look. The bell is powered using a solenoid, which requires its own power source.

Step 3: CountClock Software

The software, which is licenced under Creative Commons Attribution and will soon be available for download here, adds endles functionality to the CountClock. Besides programming the colors, different display modes are available:

  1. Cumulative Mode, the main mode for young children, allowing to count the hour;
  2. Grown-Ups Mode: showing the hours and the minute (in five-minute intervals);
  3. Energy Saving Mode: higlighting the LEDs every 10 seconds to save energy (only for people with patience);
  4. Night Mode: like the previous modes, but with a soft glow on the full circle for better reading off.

Did you know that the CountClocks are open source products? Next step elaborates on the concept.

Step 4: CountClock Is an Open Source Product

The CountClocks are open source products, meaning that their design, or rather the documentation and drawings to make them, have been published under an open source license. Purpose is to ensure that the concept is available to anybody and that all world citizens can obtain the instructions to make a CountClock for own use, to give one away, or to sell it.

For the CountClock description, pictures, drawings, manufactuiring files and programme code a Creative Commons Attribution license [Add URL] was chosen, which means that in all cases the project should be referenced, preferably in this way: by (2018)
Released under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
Full license at

You might ask yourself: why giving all this away? Here is the answer: the best that may happen is that children worldwide learn telling the time from the CountClocks, either from the Hours Only or from the Hours & Minutes version. Open sourcing the product perhaps brings this objective within reach. What really helps is when people are actively communicating on the CountClock in a wide circle of acquaintances. So please feel free to contribute to the CountClock's succes and point others to this website. Many thanks in advance!

And: CountClock Housings and CountClock DIY Kits are sold in the openproducts webshop. Fully assembled CountClocks may become available as well, if there appears to be a demand for them.

The next step reports on the making of `CountClock Hours Only'.

Step 5: CountClock Housing

The clockface is manufactured from a plank (preferably use certified wood) and has an oval shape. The difficult part is to precisely position the ring of holes (12 holes for the hours). The front panel may be quite thin (say 6 mm or 0.24 in), determined by the size of the light-pipes used. If you use transparent LEDs as light pipes, 8 mm (0.31 in) may be a suitable thickness for the hour lightsThe locations of the LEDs are determined by the Neopixel LED ring (see next step). The base of the Countclock Hours Only is 158 mm (6.2 in) and the height is 121 mm (4.8 in). The depth of the assembled housing depends on the number of planks used, which is a result of the number of electronic components used inside the clock and the preferences for stability. The Countclock presented here is 54 mm (2.1 in) deep, for which three planks are used.

The design files are available soon in SVG, EPS and DXF for both the Countclock Hours Only and the CountClock Hours & Minutes version. The files will soon be made available in a separate Instructable.

In case you are not in a position to do the CNC milling yourself and don't want to purchase the ready-to-use CountClock housing through the Openproducts webshop, you could also decide to make the CountClock housing using handtools. It is suggested to use the EPS files for home-printing the sawing and drilling template on paper; be sure not to scale your print in order to keep the dimensions intact.

If you feel that it's too complicated or too time-consuming to make your own CountClock Housing, then you may also consider to buy the Housing in the openproducts webshop. Alternatively, you might also opt for a CountClock DIY Kit, which includes the basic electronic components to make your own CountClock in two variants: the "HoursOnly" variant documented here, and the CountClock Hours and Minutes.

In order to reach a wide audience, it is really advantageous for the CountClock project to be mentioned on social media, for example on Twitter ( and/or Facebook. You may contribute to the CountClock's success by sharing the announcements. Many thanks in advance!

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