Introduction: Wood, Glass, Twine & Brass - the Hourglass

'Timeless' fun with mini jars.

An Hourglass' beauty and simplicity of design and materials make it equally comfortable on a modern office desk or an old bookcase.

A favorite of both classic and modern décor, the hourglass will never cease to be admired by the old and young alike. Made of simple, durable materials, (wood, metal, and glass) there is almost nothing here to age. While most gadgets today depend on the life of a battery, the hourglass will never die. They have been around for hundreds of years and will do so for hundreds more because they will never cease to fascinate. How many of you have picked one up with a smile remembering having played with one as a kid? Or remember wishing you could?

Now you can! And it's easier than you think!

The simple materials and construction has never changed. (And never will!)

And this isn't a cheap imitation either! This is truly a quality replica made with simple, household materials.

So grab a few materials and tools and let's get started!


  • Small Craft-size plywood sheets - Available at any craft-shop or even craft-isle at a department store.
  • Wooden dowels. Size of your own choice. Thicker is better.
  • Brass tacks and nails. :-) (All of mine came from a picture-hanging kit of assorted brass hangers.)
  • 2 Mini Mason Jars.
  • Ball of twine
  • Sheet of thin, stiff plastic (clear)
  • 1 sheet of felt fabric (color of your choice)
  • Wood stain or paint of your choice
  • Black shelf paper or construction paper
  • Sand, Salt, or Sugar
    • Tools:
    • Small battery-powered hand drill for drilling and screwing
    • Small paint-brush
    • Hot glue gun
    • Fine-toothed saw
    • Scissors
    • Small Clamps
    • Hole-punch
    • Pliers

Step 1: Preparing Materials

Since the size of the hourglass depends on the size of the jars, prepare your materials accordingly. This project uses mini jars so the materials are minimal.

The sheet of craft plywood is roughly 3"x7" cut in half to create the top and bottom.

The dowels consist of 4, foot-long lengths. They will be cut to the height of the two jars that make the hourglass.

You will also need 8 small brass screws for fastening the dowels on both ends, 8 brass picture-hanging eye-screws, and 32 small brass picture-nails for trimming the base and top.

You will need a thin sheet of clear plastic to separate the jars inside, and a hole-punch for making the hole allowing the flow of the sand.

One ball of twine or string.

A hot-glue gun.

A sheet of black construction paper or shelf paper for trimming the base.

Wood Stain or Paint color of your preference.

Step 2: Paint or Stain

Measure the 7" sheet of plywood and cut in half carefully.

(Remember! Measure twice cut once!)

Wipe clean of any sawdust.

I then used a Traditional Cherry wood stain to color both the plywood halves and the 4 lengths of doweling.

Do this before cutting the dowels to length. This gives you extra length to hold onto the dowels while staining or painting.

Step 3: Drill Holes

Mark the corners carefully using a ruler to determine the location for drilling the holes for the dowels.

Then mark and drill very carefully the holes for the brass screws that hold the glass jars in place. These holes must be drilled very carefully! Only drill half-way into the wood. Not all the way. They are pilot holes for the screws.

Always use a ruler to mark your holes.

Step 4: Cutting and Drilling the Dowels

Stack your jars like a hourglass to measure the height.

Cut your 4 dowels to that length plus an extra 1/8". Use a fine-tooth saw to get a clean cut.

Using a drill size slightly smaller than your screw size, drill pilot holes into both ends of all 4 dowels.

Be careful to drill straight.

Screw the dowels onto only one base for now.

Step 5: The Hourglass

Select a clear sheet of thin, stiff plastic.

Trace the mouth of the jar on the surface.

Mark the center.

Use a hole punch to make your hole for the sand.

Fill one jar with sand or salt.

Use a hot-glue gun to glue the clear plastic to the mouth of the jar.

Glue the second jar on top.

Have patience!

Step 6: Add Padding

Trace the base of the jar onto a felt fabric.

Cut 2 squares.

This will give padding to the jars and add a nice look.

Step 7: Twine

To cover the jar seam, I then wrapped the center with twine and fastened the ends with hot-glue.

You can use yarn, string, twine, or any other decorative idea! Just make sure it covers the seam and looks good.

I chose twine to give it the rustic look.

I then wove a 'snake-belly braid' and wrapped it around the center for a more decorative look than simple wrapped twine. Bracelet chains look good too. The choice is up to you!

Step 8: Trimming the Edges

Because I used plywood for the base, the edge looks unfinished. So I went for the old-fashioned iron-band and brass look like you find on old trunks. This covered the edge well.

Trace the edge of your base onto a sheet of black shelf-paper or construction paper and cut out.

Drill 4 equally-spaced holes on each edge of both bases.

Use a drill size equal to the size of small brass nails.

I used picture-hanging nails. You will need 32.

Use a ruler and keep your drill straight!

To keep from having to drill deep holes, drill shallow ones and cut the brass nails with a pair of pliers. 1/8" lenght should be enough.

You want the brass nail heads to be visible so make sure you choose a nail that has a larger head.

Paste the paper along the edges.

Glue your shortened nails into the pre-drilled holes.

Step 9: Assembly

Almost done!

Place the felt squares on each base, Position your hourglass, Then place the opposite base on top. Screw the top on carefully.

Step 10: Finishing Touches

To cover the screws on the base, paint them the color you've selected for your hourglass.

Also, to cover them further and to prevent them from scratching any surface the hourglass is placed on, I wrapped and glued twine in a figure eight pattern from one side to the other on both sides on both ends.

Use your imagination and try other materials or methods.

Step 11: Gallery

That's It!

It really is that simple.

Enjoy your beautiful hourglass!

Place it on your office desk, coffee table at home, bookcase, or just about anywhere and watch how quickly it gets noticed. People won't believe you made it yourself!

And for children, try and see how many materials you can substitute. Instead of plywood, try cardboard. Straws instead of dowels, small plastic containers instead of glass jars. Sugar instead of sand. Let them decorate and paint it any way they can imagine.

Above all, remember to have fun!

Mason Jar Speed Challenge

Participated in the
Mason Jar Speed Challenge