Introduction: Custom Digital Clock From Wood and Jeep VIC

About: I love building things, and I'm a twin, we both are electrical engineers and inventors. Feel free to ask anything else

I was trolling through the junkyard in the usual Jeep section awhile back and I came across the Grand Cherokees. I saw that almost everyone of them still had the vehicle information center display still in them. I seen online that these displays show the time and date among other things like issues with the vehicle and a top image of the jeep showing whats wrong. That's when it hit me; I'm going to make a clock for my room out of that!

There are two videos of the complete project below.

Step 1: Tools and Parts

        -- Jig saw 
        -- Power sander
        -- Wood glue 
        -- Hacksaw blade
        -- Wood 
        -- Soldering iron and solder

        -- Jeep VIC (vehicle info center) 93-97 Jeep grand cherokees ( $6 at junkyard)
        -- Wood for case. I used poplar wood from Lowes
        -- Wood stain and sealer
        -- Paint brushes
        -- switch (radioshack) $4
        -- power supply (scrap from work)
        -- any extra parts or pieces you come up with along the way

Step 2: Preparing the VIC Unit

There's about twenty wires on this "clock", and I didn't know what wire went to what and I was sure more than two were needed to power it and also how much voltage and current was needed. I Googled images on it and found a schematic for the wiring. I put it in the images and marked what wires do what. After I found the right combo of wires I got a few plugs to try out. As I thought, it runs on twelve volts and after testing a couple power supplies on it, found out it pulls about two amps. I tried lower amp power supplies that worked but they just overheated really fast and I didn't want to risk it. I had a 2500ma plug that works perfectly and doesn't get hot. I'll explain what specific wires do what later on. 

I needed to alter the VIC unit a lil bit to get the desired slim look of the wood case I wanted so the screw mounts and clips had to go. To get rid of these things I just took a hacksaw blade and cut them right off. Neatness is not necessary here as none of this will be seen. The only issue that I came across with this is now I don't have a way to secure the unit inside the case but that turned out not to be an issue once I designed the case parts which will be shown later on. 

Step 3: Cutting and Gluing the Wood Case

The wood I used was poplar wood because it's a light wood but really sturdy and has a good look to it. I set the unit on top of the wood plank and took a few measurements. I wanted to get the case as slim as I could to give it that sleek look. I used a battery powered jig saw to cut the wood since it was easy to use, but you can also use a circular saw. If you want to use that by all means do so. I cut the top and bottom piece at the same time. This saves time by not having to cut two pieces of wood and they will be the exact same. 
I used only glue on this project because the thickness of the wood is very thin and I didn't want any nail or screw heads showing. The glue turned out to be very strong to where once it sat for 15 mins I couldn't get it to separate so I reckon nails weren't needed.
The next thing I did was measure the quarter inch trim piece that will go on the front of the clock. I made it so that the longer pieces will go on the top and bottom of the clock so I cut them to those top and bottom pieces. I liked the way it recessed the face of the VIC and it also doubled as a way to keep it from falling out the front of the case. I then took some Gorilla wood glue and glued the trim to the pieces of wood and let them dry. I went and did this now to size up the next steps. 
Place the clock on the bottom piece of wood and then place the top piece of wood on the top of the clock. Now we can see where the sides need to be measured and cut. I cut the sides with the jigsaw at the same time also. Before I went any further, I took the power sander and sanded all the edges of everything to smooth out any jagged cuts.

Step 4: Gluing Continued...

Once the pieces are all cut minus two front trim pieces, the cabinet can now be glued together. I glued one of the side pieces to the bottom part of the case with glue to start off. I then got a square half inch dowel that I bought from Lowe's (they come in 4ft sections) and I cut four pieces of them in two inch pieces. these will be used to strengthen the structure and give more bonding surface for the glue. If you wanted to use nails or screws, you would put them through these. 
Place the clock inside the case in its place. I did this step now so I can find the place to glue the square dowel on. The dowel will be what holds the clock inside the case. The trim on the front holds it in place and these square dowels will hold it in place from the rear. The only downside once the case is all done is that if the VIC goes out there's no way to change it from the case, but... oh well.
Wait about fifteen minutes for the glue to stiffen up a bit before you move on to the next side piece. Go ahead and glue the other side piece on and let it dry for a time. 
If everything was glued properly and square, the top piece should fit on good and go ahead and glue it on also. Use the last two square dowels to secure the clock in the case by pushing them all the way against the clock and the sides just like the bottom two. You can refer to the images to see how I done it. Let the glue dry a bit before moving on, about 30 mins.

Step 5: Finish the Front Trim

This was the hardest part of the build. The two top and bottom trim pieces should be glued on already. Now all that's left is the side trim. I measured the length of trim I needed and went ahead and cut it with the jigsaw. I placed it next to the clock and marked where I'll need to cut and angle the pieces. I made the initial cut with the jigsaw at a 45* angle. I then used a power sander to get my desired angle that I wanted which is the curved angle of the trim. I never done this before but I took my time and checked it against the case a bunch of times and it eventually looked good enough. I did this with the other piece too. Once the pieces are good, you can glue it in place. 
Its ok to have the trim not even with the rest because it will be sanded down to even and smooth it out next. 

Step 6: Cutting the Back Cover

Take a piece of wood and measure and cut the back cover which will hold the switch and cover up the back. To cut the hole for the switch. I read the instructions on the back of the package and it said a 3/4 inch hole is needed to mount it. I used a 3/4 inch paddle drill bit to make the hole a quarter way on it. I also drilled a small hole for the power cord to go through.
Feed the power supply wire through and tie the wire into a small knot on the inside so it wont pull out once the case is finished. Solder the negative wires together which were three different wires as marked in the schematic and then to the negative power wire. (Black, black/orange, and light green/ orange). Then tape it up and tuck it inside.
Twist the three positive wires together but do not solder them yet. (red/white, yellow/green). Just push it through the switch hole to finish later. Go ahead and trim off the other wires on the harness since they wont be needed.
Cut two more square dowels and glue them to the back sides of the side walls. Then glue the back cover on and let it dry.

Step 7: Sanding and Rounding Edges

The box is starting to look good now but its far from complete. It looks like something a ten year old would build at this point. We need to do some fine detail work now. Start by sanding the front area with the sander. This smooths out the wood and more importantly will even out the uneven wood. Im not sure what grit sandpaper it is but probably 220 or so. 
Now perhaps the one detail that makes it look professional. Rounding the edges! Use the sander to slowly round the edges by working the sander up and down the edge and rolling it top to bottom. 
Dont' forget to sand the entire case to smooth everything out!

Step 8: Prepping and Staining

Tape off the face with newspaper and masking tape so no stain or sealer gets on it. Go outside to stain the case because it stinks and isn't good to breathe. Start on the bottom with the color stain you chose to see if you really like it. I chose this color so it'll match my night stand and other bedroom furniture. Lowe's also sold spray paint versions of stain and sealer but that's totally up to you if you want that route or not. Staining the wood is pretty idiot proof. just get all the wood. You can put it on thick at first then just thin it out with the paint brush by running over a few times. I only put one coat of stain on as that's what the instructions recommend. Let it sit for about three hours to fully dry. 

Step 9: Sealing in the Awesome

The next thing to do after the stain is dry is to seal it to keep the color safe and to give it a shine. I put three coats of the semi gloss sealer on the case. The first coat looks like it doesn't do anything because its soaking into the wood but the next two start to give it a nice smooth shine to it. let it dry about two hours between coats.
Remove the paper and tape once its dry or tacky enough to handle. The paper may be stuck to the wood like mine was because the stain and sealer dried to both. Just use a razor blade or knife to score the edges and it'll come right off.
You don't have to do this next part but I got some car wax and polished the front screen on the clock to remove and seeped stain and to remove and scratches from its hard life in the Jeep it came from. It made it look new again. 

Step 10: Soldering and Mounting the Switch

One last step to do is to solder the switch in place and install it. You should have the three twisted wires sticking out of the back. Twist the red/white stripe wire together with the remaining positive wire coming from the power supply. Go ahead and solder it to one of the switch posts on the back. the red/white wire will have a constant voltage to it so the clock can remember the time when its off as long as it stays plugged in. Kinda similar to a car radio. The yellow/green wire will be soldered to the remaining post by itself. This wire is what turns the display on and off. 
The last step to do is to insert the switch into its hole and pull out any excess power supply wire to the knot you tied earlier. My switch fit into the hole nice and tight so I didn't use the provided nut to secure the switch earlier. 
As a side note, as you can see from the pictures what a difference the camera flash makes on the color of the wood. The dark brown ones are without the flash and the more redder ones are with it. 

Your clock is now ready to fire up!

Step 11: Finished Clock

Nothing left to do now but plug it in and fire it up. Mine always shows the miles left to service. If you wanted to you can reset it to 3000 miles by holding down the select button when its showing it. You set the clock by holding down the set button until the number blinks then you put the set button again to set the number. The select button moves it to the next one. Once its set the "rear lamp failure" cycles for about two minutes then it will go away and show just the time from that point on. Every time the clock is turned off and on again the "rear lamp failure" will cycle through but it will go off.
This display will also show 4 wheel drive modes also if you want them to. the top view of the jeep will have all four tires lit up instead of the back two and it can be wired to show "full time" or "part time" or "LO" on the bottom part of the display. It looked pointless to me to have those words showing on it. If you want them to just comment below and i'll tell you how to wire it for that. If its not done right, the display will just cycle "service 4 wheel drive switch".

I got the desired color stain I was looking for to match my nightstand and now just enjoy your new clock!