Introduction: Homemade Wooden Watch (From Scratch)


I love woodworking and one day spontaneously decided to make a watch out of wood.

This may not quite be an "Instructables", but rather an explanation as to how I went about doing this with very limited amount of tools.

Hope you guys enjoy!

Step 1: Dismantle an Existing Watch

I had a watch that I purchased online years back that I never quite ended up liking all that much.

So I decided to take the quartz movement inside this watch for this project. (And some other parts as well)

I forgot to take picture of the watch before it was dismantled, but you basically want to open up the back of the watch with a knife and a flat head screwdriver (or with a watch case back remover).

Next, take out the crown so that the entire movement can be removed from the watch case.

To do this, you have to find and press down on the dimple located near where the shaft of the crown enters the movement with a sharp tool (like a toothpick), WHILE pulling on the crown. (See the second picture for where the dimple is located). There are lots of videos and pictures online showing how to remove the crown from a watch.

You can now take out the movement from the watch case and VERY CAREFULLY remove the watch hands with a sharp tool.

Step 2: Measuring and Planning

Once the watch has been disassembled, measure how thick each of the parts are going to take with a caliper. (I used a ruler)

Draw out an assembled cross-section view of the watch movement, and then draw the casing thickness and cover thickness around it. Leave a small gap between the watch hands and the glass so that once assembled, the watch hands can rotate freely. See first picture.

Next, with a CAD tool of your choice (if you don't have one, you can do this very carefully by hand), design your watch and draw out the outlines to scale. See second picture.

In my drawing, I have included a top view of the links for the band and their cross sections, and the top view of my watch case and also its cross section and exploded view.

Step 3: Building the Bezel

Now comes the fun part!

Cut out the plans and with a plain white glue, glue all the plans on to a hardwood of your choice.

I used oak as it was easily accessible.

For my watch, I wanted a gear-like pattern around my bezel, so I drilled a bunch of holes and sanded down around the holes to create a gear-like shape. Feel free to skip this step if you don't want this kind of bezel. At the end of the day, you are designing and building your OWN WATCH!

First, I drilled a hole through the center of the piece of wood I was going to make a bezel out of and then screwed it on a plank of wood so that my bezel piece would rotate about its center and not slide around sideways. I then clamped the plank of wood do my drill press, aligning my first hole precisely.

Then I drilled away, rotating my bezel piece after each hole!

Next, I unscrewed the bezel piece, and drilled a 3/4" hole through the center. Then it was just sanding and sanding (by hand and with my homemade spindle sander!) until I could fit the glass cover very snug through the center of the bezel. This may be a very time consuming step, since if you sand away too much, your glass may fall right off. Make sure you sand off a very small amount at a time and repeatedly check for a tight fit.

Step 4: Sand Sand Sand Away Your Bezel!

Now, you just want to cut off any excess pieces of wood and sand away until it's round and smooth and thin.

Again, go slowly and steadily with the sanding!

For my original design (see second last picture), I had the glass sit just underneath the bezel/cover, allowing the glass to get pushed into the watch case if a pressure was applied to it. So I ended up with a new design, where the bezel/cover would be holding the glass, and the 'barrier' layer will be acting as a physical barrier preventing the glass from being pushed further into the watch case, and the watch face from getting pushed outwards (see last picture)

For my new design, it was critical that the bezel was not thinner than the glass, because I did not want the glass to be 'exposed' in case the watch was placed upside down or dropped.

Step 5: Build the 'barrier' Layer

You can create the 'barrier' layer very much like the bezel. (cutting, drilling and sanding!)

It should actually be simpler because there is no need to create the gear pattern.

The only thing you have to watch out for is that the barrier layer has a slightly smaller center hole compared to the bezel so as to not allow the glass to be pushed into the watch case. The hole should also be slightly smaller than the watch face that you are going to use.

You can look at the pictures to see how they start to fit together!

Step 6: Building the Watch Case

Again, glue the plan on to a piece of wood you are going to use and cut out the rough shape with a saw.

Sand down excess wood at first with a course sandpaper, and use finer sandpaper to get clean, precise shapes.

I made my watch case out of 4 separate pieces (see third picture) and then glued the pieces together at the end.

One important thing in this step is that the watch case should have a curved profile (see 6th picture), meaning it should curve inwards at the center so that it 'wraps' around your wrist when the watch is being worn. I made the mistake of making them completely flat at first (like in the last two pictures), which made the top and the bottom of my watch case extrude out, making it not only uncomfortable to wear, but also awkward to see.

Step 7: Chisel Out Space for the Crown

With a knife and a chisel, I chipped out some of the wood out of watch case to accommodate room for the crown when I assemble the watch.

Step 8: Glue the Watch Case Together!

It's time to glue all the pieces together to create the watch case.

In this step, I used a wood glue instead of white glue so that the bond is really strong and durable.

The glue I used is called Titebond III (which is what I use to make my longboards).

Apply a generous amount of glue and clamp the pieces together for 24 hours.

Once the glue is completely dried, cut and sand off any excess glue.

Step 9: Drill a Hole for the Crown and Sand Down Sharp Edges

This step is pretty self-explanatory but first, drill a hole for the shaft for the crown to go through. (Always good to center punch first so that the drill bit doesn't shift as you drill)

Then you want to sand down the edges and corners of your watch case so that it's got a smooth look all around.

Once satisfied, you can glue the 3 layers of the body together!

Step 10: Creating a Custom Watch Face

I liked the look of the original watch face with the wooden watch case, but I wanted to fully customize this watch, so I decided to make my own minimalist watch face.

First, score a circle with a compass on a metal plate, cut out its rough shape with a saw, then sand it down with some course sandpaper.

Then, drill a hole in the middle for the watch hands, then another for the date. (Again, remember to center punch)

I sanded down the surface of the watch face with a fine grit sandpaper to give it a brushed metal look.

Step 11: Creating the Center Links

Now it's time to create the links for the band.

I glued the plan on to the side of a 1/4" oak wood and clamped two pieces of wood to the drill press to create a jig.

For these center links, drill a hole straight through the entire piece and then cut, sand down to appropriate sizes.

You will require quite a few of these to create the whole band, so go ahead and make plenty.

I used toothpicks (Yes, really!) to hold the links together to form the band. You can purchase those screw type watch pins to lock the links together, but I decided to do this the hard, complicated way, for fun. More about the gluing later on!

(SOMETHING TO NOTE FOR THE TOOTHPICKS: some toothpicks are fragile, oddly shaped and weak. I bought a pack of toothpicks and dug into the pile one by one to pick the roundest, strongest ones I could find)

The last two pictures aren't part of the assembly, but rather the way I kept them together for storage purposes.

Step 12: Creating the Edge Links

The edge links are different from the center links in the sense that the hole has to be drilled only half way.

Technically, the hole can be drilled all the way through but I didn't want the holes and the toothpicks to be visible from the sides.

Again, make plenty of these edge links! There will be 2 edge links for each center links, so this step will take a while.

Measure how deep you drilled into the edge links, multiply that by 2 (because you will require 2 edge links for each center link), and add the width of the center link. You will need to cut the toothpicks SLIGHTLY SHORTER than this number.

You can see in the second picture how all the pieces start to fit together!

Step 13: Glue the Links and the Watch Case Together

Once the toothpicks have been cut to the right sizes, carefully apply a little bit of wood glue (I recommend using Titebond III, as this thing REALLY sticks) into the holes of the edge links ONLY.

Insert two cut toothpicks into the edge links, then insert two center links, then seal it off with another edge link.

Two things to note:

1. You will have to glue two sets of toothpicks at a time because if you glue only one set, then you can't take the glued links apart to put in the next toothpick.

2. I reused my old latch instead of making my own wooden latch. You need to take careful measurements of your latch and make appropriate end link pieces that will fit into the latch. See last two pictures.

TO PREVENT THE TOOTHPICK FROM GETTING GLUED TO THE CENTER LINKS, hold (do not clamp) the glued links together with your fingers for a minute or two, then carefully rotate the center link so that the center link breaks free from the glue. Repeat this step 2 or 3 times over the course of 10 minutes or so. After 10 minutes, the links should be good to settle overnight.

Once you have glued enough links together, glue the links to the watch case!

Step 14: Creating the Back

With the same metal plate I used for the watch face, I cut out the shape I wanted for the back, then carefully bent it by hand to fit the curvature of the back of my watch case.

Step 15: Seal the Watch

Apply teak oil on the watch so as to protect my watch from moisture.

Do not use varnish/shellac/polyacrylic/polyurethane/lacquer as these will probably glue your links together.

Step 16: Screw Holes for the Back

At this point, you can drill holes at the back of the watch and the cover for the screws to hold them together.

Drill holes on to the metal sheet first, then trace and drill the holes on to the watch.

You don't want these holes to misalign!

Step 17: Almost Done!!

Now, you can assemble all the pieces together!

First, put your new/existing watch face back onto the movement, then attach the hands

Second, insert the movement into the watch case

Third, insert the spacer (from your old watch)

Fourth, screw on the back

Fifth, attach the latch

Step 18: Last Step: Enjoy Your New Watch!

Last step of making your own watch is of course, wearing it and enjoying every second of it. :)

One thing I noticed while building this watch was that before you wear it for the first time, the band might look crazy thick and bulky. The thickness of my band was 5mm. I was afraid of going thinner as I didn't know how well the wood would hold up, but once I wore it, it didn't look bulky at all.

If you liked this instructables, please like and follow me for future posts!

Aaaaand if you were confused anywhere while following this instructables, leave me a comment and I will try my best to explain it for you!