Antique Clock Upgrade




A few long weeks ago I bought, at a flea market, an Ansonia cast iron mantle clock case; it had no guts, glass nor bezel BUT, it had style underneath a ton of dried rubbing compound and dirt.

Since this clock did not have any of the original clock movements or face, I decided to bring it back with a bit of a modern twist by giving it a second hand made from LEDs.

Parts List:

Clock body
Clock motor and AA battery
Styrene .02 and .06
SainSmart Uno
12 Led lights with resistors (bought a pack of lights that included resistors
Hook up wire
Hobby plywood
Rubbing compound
Car wax
Masking tape
Shoo Goo Glue

Step 1: Clean It!

First thing that I tried was to do a general cleaning however, someone who owned the clock before me tried to bring back the enamel paint by pouring rubbing compound all over the case and brass parts (compound was caked behind all of the brass pieces). Most of the original enamel was missing on the sides of the clock so I decided to strip off the old paint and start over.

I removed all of the brass pieces, stripped the clock down to bare metal, covered it with primer, sanded it with a fine paper and painted it with gloss black Tamiya spray paint. I also wet sanded the paint, used rubbing compound (in small responsible amounts) and finished it with car wax.

To get the rubbing compound that dried like concrete out of the brass parts, I had to soak the pieces in vegetable oil then used a brush and a toothpick to clean the pieces. For the most part…it worked.

Step 2: Measure Once and Cut Twice...uhh…Measure Twice and Cut Once.

1. Time to cut the plywood:

Since the clock was gutted, it needed a back for the clock to protect the insides and a floor to place the SainSmart Uno on to. I decided to use hobby plywood - it's sturdy and thin.

The Floor was easy, I cut 3 rectangular pieces of wood and slid it onto the lip that runs all the way around the base of the clock then used Shoo Goo to adhere the wood to the cast iron.

The back was also created in three pieces. The main back piece was's just a large square but the ears on the either side needed a pattern. I rubbed the receipt against the inside contour of the edges of the clock creating an outline onto the receipt itself. This will be the pattern to trace onto the plywood and cut.

2. Cutting Plexi:

Next thing I had to do was much harder; cutting a piece of Plexiglas to protect the face. I could have cut a circle and secure it to the inside of the face cutout in the clock but the connection would not have been strong and the shaft for the clock motor would have stuck out from the face and bezel for about 5/8th of an inch (too much). What I did instead was fill the inside front of the clock with plexi. I used the original mounts for the clock movements to hold the plexi in and it set the assembly back about a quarter if an inch.


a. Create a template using cardstock (easy to adjust and fine tune)

b. Find the center and make a circle (for the position of the face and clock motor)

Cut another piece of plexi the for the LED lens. This piece will be a circle that fits into the clock face opening (the bezel will cover the edges). Don't forget to drill a hole for the clock motor shaft.

3. Cut some styrene:

With the bezel on, and the plexi in place (the larger piece) the plexi will sit back about a quarter of an inch inside the clock body. To fill the gap and hide the edges, I cut a quarter inch strip of (.02) styrene, glued the strip into the bezel and painted it to match the bezel color.

Make the LED holder from the .06 styrene and make it the same size as the lens. Drill out for the motor shaft.

Step 3: Make a Face :)


I found a clock face replacement and it was too big for the application, so I made a copy, and reduced the size by using a photocopier and printing it on photo paper. The photo paper however, was to bright so I had to antique it by using a used tea bag. Place the used tea bag on the new clock face and press down in several places and let dry. You may want to do this several times until you get the look and color that you want.

Clock hands:

The hands that came with the motor was brass colored and invisible against the tea stained face. To make the contrast, I painted the hands with gloss black paint.

1. Lens:

Tape off the lens for the LED lights. I chose to have clear slits between the numbers and blacked out the rest of the lens.

1. LED holder:

a. Mark the placement for the LEDs, using a pin vise, drill the holes for the anode and cathode leads.

b. Paint the holder flat black.

c. For the ground, I glued a copper peg above the holes for the LED leads and soldered a ring of bare wire to them (make the wire longer than needed with leaving the extra long wire with it’s insulation).

d. Place the LEDs back into the holder and bend the cathode legs up to the edge of the holder, crossing the ground wire and solder.

e. Cover with electrical tape.

f. Glue the resistors below the anode and solder the anode lead to the resistor bend resistor lead up.

g. Mark each LED with a number going from 1 to 12.

Step 4: Getting Control

To count down the seconds and control the LED lights I decided to use a micro-controller.

The code was simple – All lights on and for every five seconds, I turn off a light then have it start over again.

//counting down the seconds

int d = 5000; //delay time

void setup ()


pinMode(1, OUTPUT); //assigning pins

pinMode(2, OUTPUT);

pinMode(3, OUTPUT);

pinMode(4, OUTPUT);

pinMode(5, OUTPUT);

pinMode(6, OUTPUT);

pinMode(7, OUTPUT);

pinMode(8, OUTPUT);

pinMode(9, OUTPUT);

pinMode(10, OUTPUT);

pinMode(11, OUTPUT);

pinMode(12, OUTPUT);


void loop ()


digitalWrite(1, HIGH); // All pins on

digitalWrite(2, HIGH);

digitalWrite(3, HIGH);

digitalWrite(4, HIGH);

digitalWrite(5, HIGH);

digitalWrite(6, HIGH);

digitalWrite(7, HIGH);

digitalWrite(8, HIGH);

digitalWrite(9, HIGH);

digitalWrite(10, HIGH);

digitalWrite(11, HIGH);

digitalWrite(12, HIGH);

delay(d); //Wait five seconds

digitalWrite(1, LOW); // turn pin off


digitalWrite(2, LOW);


digitalWrite(3, LOW);


digitalWrite(4, LOW);


digitalWrite(5, LOW);


digitalWrite(6, LOW);


digitalWrite(7, LOW);


digitalWrite(8, LOW);


digitalWrite(9, LOW);


digitalWrite(10, LOW);


digitalWrite(11, LOW);


digitalWrite(12, LOW);


Step 5: Getting It Together

1. Take the clock motor apart and place the Led holder on it with LEDs facing up.

2. Add the lens with painted side down, and add the face.

3. Align the LEDs in the lens slots then align to the face.

4. Add the Large Plexiglas piece onto the front to protect the face, making sure the flat side is above the 12 and the curved side is down by the 6.

5. Add the brass washer, nut and the hands.

6. Align the hands then add the AA battery

7. Slide the assembly into the clock and secure (since I plan to make some changes in the future, I used cork to hold the assembly in).

8. Connect the micro controller pins to each resistor in order.

9. Plug in your ground to the Gnd pin.

10. Plug in your Uno

11. Button up the back of the clock.

Step 6: Enjoy

My 1880s Ansonia mantel clock has old world charm with an upgrade.

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    9 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Wow, nice job! The lighting around the clock face is fantastic.


    Reply 3 years ago

    Thanks :)

    It was a fun build.


    3 years ago

    So glad I read the blurb. My first thought was 'Why would you put LEDs on an antique clock and destroy any value.' Then I read that it was only a case. The purist in me still shies away from altering it rather than sourcing an original movement (my better half repairs antique clocks so I'm used to seeing them in all stages of repair) but it does give it an interesting mix of new v old.

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    I understand...if it had all of the original parts then I would try to fix it like the flip clock I did a while ago (bit of a purist too). But, all of the new stuff is removable except fot the new paint and not totally lost to modernization yet.


    3 years ago

    Really nice job on the instructions and making a clock come back to life. I have done a lot of scroll sawed clocks and love how you included lights to make it amazing.

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago the time I finished this one, I found another clock. Cast iron and no guts.