Introduction: Timer for Public Speaking

About: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying posting things I have learned and done since I got my first to…

As a pastor I speak in public each week.  I need something to keep me aware of elapsed time while giving my sermon.  What I am offering here would help anyone who must speak before an audience and, yet, stay within time constraints.  The photo was taken by a friend at one of our worship services while visiting us. 

(Photo by Günter Peters of Wiesede, Germany)

Step 1: Use a Wristwatch?

Many simply take off their wristwatch and lay it on the pulpit or podium.  In my case, my sermon does not start at exactly the same time each Sunday.  Sometimes special events are inserted between the beginning of the service and the sermon.  And, I would need to make extra effort to remember where the minute hand is when I begin.  Also, the pulpit or podium may be slanted and the watch would slide down, maybe even fall off onto the floor once it begins to slide.

Step 2: Digital Timer?

I could use a digital timer, like this one.  But, it is handier if I can see something more visual than a row of numbers. 

(Photo is from Bing images)

Step 3: Rework a Quartz Clock Movement

There is a clock on the back wall of our church, but it is 75 feet away and not always that easy to read.  It also has some of the same problems as using a wristwatch. 

I bought a quartz clock movement for just a few dollars and made some modifications.  When the minute hand moves from the top corner of the movement to the one at the right, 15 minutes have elapsed.  If the target time is more or less than 15 minutes, it is still easy to make a rough visual approximation of where the hand should be.  I simply slide the red on/off switch to "on" when I am ready to begin.  The clock movement is held in place by a bent paper clip wrapped around the lamp support post.

Step 4: Open the Movement

My movement is held together by two snap tabs on opposite sides.  Pry them one by one so they release and allow removal of the back from the movement.

Step 5: The Inside of the Movement

I needed to add an on/off switch.  After opening the movement I looked for unused space to insert a small sliding switch from an old police scanner that quit working.  See the upper left of the movement case in the photo. 

Some quartz movements have loose reduction gears that may fall out when the case is opened.  In this movement, the gears are encased in clear plastic.  If the gears fall out of your movement, getting them back into their proper places is not as difficult as it might seem.  Within a couple of attempts you will have it working again when it is time to reassemble the movement. 

Step 6: Rewiring the Movement

The electrical conductor from the tip of the battery (top of the battery case at the right of the photo) is a shiny metal strip that runs to the red arrow.  I removed part of it (shown in gray) from the red arrow to the left.  It had made contact with the area on the circuit board shown inside the red circle.  You can see the conductor from the base or negative terminal on the battery at the center bottom of the movement case.  I soldered a piece of magnet wire to what is left of the conductor from the battery tip and connected it to one side of the switch.  The other side of the switch is connected by magnet wire to the spot on the circuit board in the red circle.  The movement is now controlled by the on/off switch I inserted.

Step 7: Mounting the Switch

Use a drill or a cutter bit on a Dremel tool to make an opening for the switch slide.  Drill holes in the movement case to match the mounting holes on the switch.  I applied a generous amount of hot glue to the inside of the movement case in the area where the switch would rest.  The hot glue oozed through the mounting holes in the switch inside the case.  While holding the switch in place I applied a little hot glue to the mounting holes on the top side of the movement case.  This forms some small, but effective hot glue rivets.  These have held up well for many years.  When the glue has hardened, close the movement case.  I wrote the words "off" and "on" onto a small piece of paper.  After trimming it I attached it to the movement with a piece of frosted tape.

Step 8: Bend the Minute Hand

Quartz clock movements come with an hour, minute, and second hand.  The hour hand is not needed.  I bent the minute hand so it closely follows the case of the movement. 

Step 9: A Use for the Second Hand

It takes a while to see if the minute hand has changed its position.  I wanted a way to know immediately that the timer is working when I turn it "on."  I cut the second hand to leave only a little of it.  When I turn the timer "on," the second hand should begin to turn immediately.  It automatically tells me the unit is working and I can rely on it. 

Step 10: When Finished Speaking

When I am finished speaking, I flip the switch to "off" and manually turn the minute hand back to the top corner of the movement case for the next use.  

If I did not speak from the same pulpit each week, but was speaking elsewhere, I could put an anti-skid material on the back of the movement and simply place it onto the podium surface.  To protect the hands, etc., I could place the quartz movement/timer into a small box that would fit into my coat pocket.  

This timer does not guarantee that my sermons are exactly a certain number of minutes, but it does keep me aware of how long I have been speaking so that I can move toward my conclusion. 

While you might not use this, consider making one as a gift for your pastor or anyone who does public speaking.