Take an old yard sale-bound clock (or, in my case, an alarm clock I abused one too many times) and make it look...neat. It's also a good way to learn about digital electronics, and it gives people the impression you understand complex digital logic (when really all you have to do for this project is unscrew and glue things).
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Step 1: Find Stuff
Gather together your junk.
- You'll definitely want a clock of some sort to start with. Building a digital clock from scratch is a bit complicated for this instructable. I used a standard, 4-button alarm clock. The red LED displays look the coolest. Liquid-crystal just doesn't cut it for me.
- Find some other junk to embellish your clock, such as springs, cogs/gears, potentiometers, resistors, capacitors, transformers, LEDs, brass pipes, etc.
- Additionally, you may want to add extra functionality (or change the way it functions). Get some switches and buttons that work. I re-routed the wires for my "alarm-on" switch to a really nifty lever.
Step 2: Dissasemble
Take apart your clock. The screws are usually on the bottom. Some of them may be hidden underneath the rubber "feet," or behind the battery case. If you can't get the thing apart, just break it open. This thing is going to look crazy anyways.
Rip open any other circuit-things you'll be using. I took a keyboard apart at this point. I used the clear plastic contact-layer (circuit board-looking thing) and used it to make my mounting plate look cooler. I also used the integrated-circuit board from the keyboard to make the clock look a bit more complex.
I mounted everything on the metal I found inside my keyboard, and some spare Plexiglas I had. I used tin-snips to cut up the metal. I can't offer any advice on cutting Plexiglas, though. Man, that was a nightmare....
Step 3: Assemble
Gather everything together, and place the components so they'll look purdy. This took the longest time for me. I knew I wanted the display to face outwards, and "float" on the support of its thick wires. But where should all the circuitry go? I tried to give the maximum visibility to the coolest-looking parts, while still being able to press the buttons easily.
Because I'm insanely lazy, I primarily used hot-glue. It's so quick! You place something where you want it, apply the glue, and you're done! The problem is, hot-glue is generally not meant for industrial-grade projects. Heavy things, (like my transformer) pull right off. And I had problems with my switch, because hot glue doesn't support jerky pulling motions. My advice: use hot glue where you can get away with it. Use superglue for everything else.
A really interesting advantage of hot glue is its spider-web appearance. Dab the end of your gun from one component to another, over and over again, and it'll have a creepy cobweb appearance.
Step 4: Hack
If you're modifying the electronics (adding switches and so-forth) then heed this advice: use a soldering iron. I know, it's all the way across the room, or in the basement, or whatever. It took me 45 minutes of trying to twist and glue wires down until I gave up and plugged in my iron. It's well-worth the effort.
If you have a multimeter, use it. I use the sound-activated continuity feature the most often.
If your clock plugs into an outlet, MAKE SURE that the high-voltage portion of the circuit is isolated somehow! In my clock, a transformer steps the voltage down from 120v to something like 9v. Luckily, the leads of the transformer are shielded with rubber. If this had not been the case, I would have taken my time coating them in electrical tape and glue. The beauty of the steam-punk clock comes from its exposed electronics. 120v running through exposed wires can be deadly.
Step 5: Mount
Screw that thing right into the wall! (That's what I did).
Actually, there are a multitude of ways to set this thing up. A desk version would be nice, with some brass pipes and such...