Funky Modern Tuna Can Clock




Introduction: Funky Modern Tuna Can Clock

Two of my favorite kinds of projects are up-cycling projects and knock off projects. Take something that everyone throws away and use it to make a cheaper version of something expensive you really like! I also really love the mid-century modern aesthetic, which is generally the style this clock is modeled on. I got the idea for this clock from this up cycled tuna can clock and I wanted to combine it with the style of this modern color block clock.

Hopefully this is something that most people can do at home with supplies they have on hand, no fancy computer programs or 3D printers needed!


For this project you will need:


  • An empty tuna can (or other short walled tin can large enough for a clock mechanism)
  • A battery operated clock mechanism and battery
  • Polymer clay (and waxed paper or parchment for a work surface)
  • Disposable wooden chopsticks
  • Scrap cardboard
  • Small piece of adhesive magnetic strip


  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Exacto knife or boxcutter
  • Scissors
  • Rolling pin (ideally one for crafts, not food)
  • Small glass baking pan (again, ideally for crafts, not food)
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks
  • Small hand saw

Step 1: Cleaning the Tuna Can

Make sure you thoroughly wash your tuna can (be careful of any sharp edges where you opened the can!) so your clock won't smell like tuna! Remove the label and scrape off any excess label goo. You can try to remove any printing on the can if you don't like it, but I'm going to keep mine because it gives it some character.

Step 2: Making the Face: Roll Out the Background

Since this is a funky modern clock, I'm going to use polymer clay to make a funky modern face! The design of the clock face is entirely up to you. I picked out 5 colors of polymer clay to use.

  • Put down waxed paper or parchment on your work surface to keep the area clean.
  • Squish around each color of clay to warm it up and make it easier to work with.
  • Roll out the background color (in my case, white) into a rough circle about the size of the opening of your tuna can and about 1/8" thick.
  • Press the opening of the can gently onto the clay to mark a circle on the background color.

Step 3: Making the Face: Add Color

Now that we have a background, we can add some color blobs.

  • Roll out each color into different size blobs and place them over the background in a composition you like. You can trim these colors gently with an exacto/knife (careful not to cut through the background) if you want specific shapes.
  • Once you're happy with the composition, roll out the face again to flatten the color shapes into the background. The composition may change a little as the clay spreads out, and the original circle outline you made will disappear or get bigger.
  • Press the opening of the can to mark a circle on your clay again, but this time line up where you want to cut the face out.
  • Using the exacto/knife, cut slightly to the inside of the mark as cleanly as possible. The cut you're making now will be visible on the clock so be as neat and close to the line as possible. Remove any excess clay.

Step 4: Cutting a Center Hole

Now we need to make a hole in the center of the face for the clock hands to stick through. We need to find the center of the clock face.

  • Measure the diameter of your clock face with a ruler. This won't be an exact measurement because we don't know exactly where the center is, but it will be close. Mine diameter was 3.75"
  • Draw a square on a piece of cardboard or paper the same size as your circle. In my case 3.75" x 3.75"
  • Draw the diagonals on the square and cut the square out.
  • Use an exacto or scissors to make a slit where the diagonals cross. This should be a small cut, just enough to stick a pencil through.
  • Line your square up over your clock face circle and center it as much as possible. It may overhang the clock or the clock may stick out, but just make sure the edges look even all the way around.
  • Poke the tip of a pencil through the center hole enough to make a mark in the center of your clay face. Remove the square. This dot is the center of your clock face.
  • Now visually center the washer from your clock kit over the center point you just made. Press the washer down gently to make a mark in the clay and then remove it. This will leave two circle marks: the small circle is the size of the clock spindle that sticks through the hole, and the large circle is the outer edge of the washer.
  • Using the exacto/knife, cut a hole in between the two lines. This will allow the clock spindle to fit through, but the washer will still cover the cut you make, so it doesn't have to be super neat. Remove the excess clay.

Step 5: Making the Hand Decorations

To make the clock even funkier, we can add hand decorations.

  • Pick clay colors for each hand and roll a small ball for the hour hand, a smaller ball for the minute hand and a teeny tiny rope for the second hand.
  • Flatten the balls for the hour and minute hands into circles that fit on the end of each hand.
  • Make the rope into a squiggly pattern the same length as the second hand. I made a tight squiggle and then gently pulled it out to the right length a flattened it a little. Try to keep the squiggle kind of skinny and straight so the skinny second hand can support it.

Step 6: Baking!

In order to harden the clock face and hand decorations you need to bake it. Place all of your clay pieces in a glass baking dish and bake in a preheated 275 degree oven for 20-25 minutes. When they cool the clay should be hard, but because it is so thin it may be brittle so handle it gently.

Step 7: Assembling the Hands and Clock Mechanism

Now that we have our clock face and hands baked, we can start assembling the hands and clock mechanism.

  • Using hot glue, fasten the hand decorations to each hand. I also added glue to the back of the squiggle to reinforce it, but be as neat as you can so you don't see any glue from the front.
  • Take the motor housing and place the rubber gasket around the spindle. The gasket on mine had a ridge on one side and the other was flat. The flat side should be up.
  • Place your clock face next. Position it how you want it on the clock. For reference, the battery slot on the motor housing is the bottom, so position the face accordingly. It is helpful to make a small pencil mark on the edge of the face where 12 o'clock would be so we can line it up later.
  • Place the washer and then the hex nut and screw it down until it holds the clock face in position. Finger tightened should be plenty. Be careful not to tighten too much (like with pliers) or it may crack the face.
  • Place the hour hand on the spindle and press gently to push it onto the plastic. Do the same with the minute and second hands.

Step 8: Adding the Magnet

Now we need to get the face to stay attached to the clock, but we also need to have access to the motor to replace the battery every once in a while. So instead of gluing the face, we're going to add spacers and a magnet to hold the face on.

  • Place your tuna can and your clock assembly side by side. Estimate how much space you need to fill in order to get the face level with the top of the can.
  • Cut squares of corrugated cardboard that are the size of the flat spot on the back of your motor housing.
  • Cut a square of adhesive magnetic strip that will fit on one of those cardboard squares.
  • Stack the magnet and a few squares of cardboard under your clock mechanism and compare it to the height of your can until you figure out how many squares you'll need to fill the space.
  • Use hot glue to attach your cardboard spacers to the back of your motor housing and then stick the magnet to the cardboard.
  • Place your clock assembly into your tuna can. The magnet should hold it in. If it doesn't, the magnet might not be touching the can yet so you may need more spacers. If your clock face is sticking out a little, you can squish the corrugated cardboard a little to get it to fit better.
  • You should be able to tip you clock face down and the magnet will hold your clock together.

Step 9: Adding Feet

Now to add some mid-century flair, we're going to make two feet for the front of the clock.

  • Find the tapered end of the disposable chopsticks and measure 3/4" from the end.
  • Use the small hand saw to cut the chopsticks on that mark.
  • Make marks on the can for where the feet will go. I visually guessed the bottom of the can and marked out 1" to either side, just under the rim of the can. The feet should be towards the front of the can so it will sit balanced without falling over. If your clock does fall over, you may need to move your feet closer to the front of the can or shorten them.
  • Use hot glue to attach the feet to the can on the marks you made. They should stick straight out (parallel to the table and perpendicular to the can's surface).

Step 10: Finishing Up

We're almost done! Gently remove your clock face to insert the battery. You can also estimate where 12 o'clock on the can is and make a small pencil mark. When you place the clock face in, line the mark on the face up with the mark on the can. You're done! You're the proud new owner of a knock off, up-cycled Funky Modern Tuna Can Clock!

Clocks Contest

Runner Up in the
Clocks Contest

1 Person Made This Project!


  • Cold Challenge

    Cold Challenge
  • Block Code Contest

    Block Code Contest
  • Make it Glow Contest

    Make it Glow Contest



2 years ago

Love this! Reminds me of a retro looking desk clock I got from eBay years ago with the details and all. I'm a sucker for vintage clocks.

Penolopy Bulnick
Penolopy Bulnick

2 years ago

The background of the clock is simple and pretty and I love the way you incorporated clay bits into the hands :)


2 years ago



2 years ago

I liked the use of the magnet and your choice of materials.


2 years ago

That looks awesome! I love the idea of using polymer clay.


2 years ago

Awesome, tuna out great.


2 years ago

great job! Turned out perfect :) got my vote!


2 years ago

What a great combination of materials :D


Reply 2 years ago

Thanks Jessy! I used your tutorials to do my first instructable!