Minimalistic Word Clock

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A big thanks to Super Make Something as this project was inspired by their Neopixel Word Clock. I created this clock as a part of my IGCSE Design & Technology course and received an A* for it. The CAD model was built on fusion beforehand a thus isn't a 100% accurate model.

The aim of this product was to be simple and minimalistic to fit into an office environment. The clock is a fun and unique way to show time in 5-minute intervals and uses RGB LEDs to spark things up. This Instructables guide will hopefully take you on a detailed step-to-step journey so you can also create your own word clock. It's quite simple :)

The document attached below might help later on with the dimensions. I also strongly recommend that you watch the video linked above as it will help to further understand the assembly behind this clock.

Step 1: Collecting the Required Materials & Electronics

Electronics:

  • 32x WS2812B RGB LEDs
  • 11x Male to Male jumper cables
  • 1x Arduino Uno
  • 2x Ring Led PTM Button
  • 1x Female to Male USB Cable
  • 1x Male to Male USB Cable
  • 1x Male USB Type A to Male USB Type B Cable
  • 1x Powerbank

Materials/Cutting List:

  • 2x 325mm x 295mm x 10mm Maple Wood (Ash Wood Work Just As Good)
  • 2x 315mm x 285mm x 10mm Maple Wood (Ash Wood Work Just As Good)
  • 1x 325mm x 315mm x 5mm MDF Wood
  • 1x 295mm x 285mm x 5mm MDF Wood
  • 1x 325 x 315 x 3mm Black Gloss/Matte Acrylic (Gloss looks better but gets fingerprints and scratches easily)

Tools:

  • Vernier Caliper
  • Triangle Square
  • Circular Saw
  • Miter Guillotine
  • Linisher With Angular Guide (Optional But Recommended)
  • 90° Corner Clamps
  • Miter Clamp (optional)
  • Bench Drill With A Bench Drill Clamp
  • Drill Bits (5mm, 10mm, 16mm)
  • Hole-Saw (48mm)
  • Laser Cutter (Should Work For Both Acrylic And Wood)
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Photocopier
  • Scroll Saw
  • Disc Sander (Optional)
  • Soldering Iron & Solder
  • Multicore Wire
  • Hand Drill
  • Hot Glue Gun (Optional)
  • PVA
  • Epoxy Resin
  • Counter Sink (Optional But Recommended)
  • Screws & Screw Driver
  • Rough & Fine Sandpaper (Optional But Recommended)
  • Beeswax (Optional)
  • Laptop

Step 2: Marking Out & Cutting the Maple Wood for the Main Body Frame

  • 2x 325mm x 100mm x 10mm Maple Wood
  • 2x 315mm x 100mm x 10mm Maple Wood

First, ensure there are no natural defects or cracks along with the wood and try to make sure the wood is even in thickness.

Use a Vernier Clapier to measure the thickness of the wood and ensure it is 10mm. Then use a Triangle-Square for a straight line and mark out 2 pieces of wood 325mm apart and 2 pieces at 315mm apart. Don't worry about the 295mm and 285mm dimensions, those will come later when the mitre cut is made.

Label the pieces, 315mm are the sides (vertical), and the 325mm are the top and bottom (horizontal)

*Ensure that small gaps are left between the marking out of each piece in case of chips or uneven cuts.*

Step 3: Use a Circular Saw to Cut Out the Maple Wood

Using the Circular Saw, cut out 4 pieces and sand them to the right dimensions if required. Sanding can be done using a Disc Sander or manually with sandpaper.

Safety: Wear safety glasses and keep hands away from blade

Step 4: Using a Mitre Guillotine to Make a 45° Mitre Cut

Using a Mitre Guillotine which is set to a 45° angle, perform 8 total cuts on 4 pieces (2 cuts at the end of each piece). However, sometimes there may be an uneven fit due to the cut being rough or inaccurate, so we will use a linisher in the next step to make sure there is full contact at the joint and an even fit.

Safety: Keep fingers away from the blade

Step 5: Using a Linisher at 135° to Shape the Joint

Set the Linisher to a 135° angle and use an Angular Guide to ensure the wood is straight at a 90° angle. Ensure that you don't over sand the pieces as they may become too small and not fit in a frame/box shape.

Afterwards, check that the joints fit evenly, this is important for the next steps. If not, keep shaping the joint.

Safety: Safety glasses, apron, keep fingers away from the blade

Step 6: Drilling Two 16mm Button Holes

Using a Bench Drill, drill two 16mm holes at least an inch apart. In order to prevent damage to the wood, step up the drill bits with 5mm, then 10mm, then a 16mm drill bit. Use a centre punch for more accuracy.

Drill towards the top of a side piece (smaller one), however, not too close to the edge or the wood may chip, do it on the right or left piece based on your dominant hand. Make sure it is centred!

In the above picture, I drilled the holes after assembling the frame which is wrong, do this step before glueing the pieces as it is easier and safer. These buttons act as +5 and -5 minutes.

Safety: Safety glasses, clamp, fingers away from drill bit

Step 7: Laser Cutting the USB Interface

Create a circle with a 48mm diameter on Adobe Illustrator or on another software which can be laser cut. Then create a rectangular cut out in the centre of the circle of 12.0mm and 4.5mm (size of a Standard-A USB). It should look similar to the cut-out in the second image.

I couldn't attach the file as I lost it :(

Step 8: Using a Hole-Saw for the USB Interface Cut Out

Use a 48mm Hole-Saw Drill Bit and drill 3mm deep into the wood.

I also did this step once the frame was assembled which was very difficult and wrong. Do this step before glueing the pieces. Additionally, drill a hole underneath so the USB plug can fit through.

The interface with the hole underneath will allow a USB plug to fit through so the power bank can be later charged.

Safety: Safety glasses, fingers away from the drill bit

Step 9: Gluing the Maple Wood Pieces Into a Frame

First place the pieces in a frame orientation with the 325mm (larger) pieces placed horizontally and the 315mm (smaller) pieces placed vertically.

Apply PVA wood glue across the surface of the joints and clamp all 4 of the joints in one go using 4 90° Corner Clamps. Make sure you use some paper in between the clamps and wood to prevent indents or scratches.

Step 10: Strengthening the Joint With a Mitre Brace (Optional)

This step is optional if your initial clamping was perfect, however, if you have small gaps as I did, then using a Mitre Brace is essential. Place it towards the top so the joints are secure, no need to add extra PVA glue.

Make sure to do this right after step 6 otherwise the glue may dry out.

Step 11: Laser Cutting the Main Front Word Panel

Download the file attached below and Laser Cut it onto 3mm acrylic of size 325mm by 315mm. The .ai file might need to be modified to create a 325mm x 315mm border so the letters are centred on the panel. The letters are reversed so the protective film prevents scratches on the front side.

For letters such as O, A, P, Q, D, etc, keep the middle pieces for later as we will glue them onto the panel.

Step 12: Laser Cutting 2 MDF Panels

Use 5mm MDF to Laser Cut these. The larger panel is to seal the frame and the smaller panel is where all the circuitry and RGB LEDs will go.

Step 13: Photocopy the Word Panel

First, Photocopy the word panel onto an A3 sheet and cut it out to size (as seen in the first photo). Then use masking tape and stick it onto the smaller MDF panel. Then move/adjust the photocopied paper and align it with the acrylic word panel so all the letters match up (as seen in the second photo). Once everything is aligned, use multipurpose spray adhesive or another form of adhesive to permanently stick on the paper to the MDF board.

Aligning the acrylic panel and the paper is crucial for the clock to function properly later.

Step 14: Cutting Teak Wood Strips and Glueing Them on the MDF Board

Use long teak wood strips with a 10mm base and 5mm height (the side extruding from the board). Cut 7 strips of 295mm length that will be placed horizontally and 22 small strips that will be placed vertically.

The attached photo below will guide you on the placement of these strips, and the last 2 photos (CAD and Paper models) should also help.

Safety: Safety glasses

Step 15: Glueing the Teak Strips to the Board

Once all the strips have been cut and placed in order, use PVA adhesive to glue them down correctly. These strips act as light barriers for later steps.

Step 16: Soldering 32 RGB LEDs

This is a long and tedious job, I suggest you buy 40 RGB LEDs just in case a few breaks as the soldering is quite difficult and time-consuming. 14 single RGB LEDs soldered and 9 pairs (18) RGB LEDs soldered. Each RGB LED will have 6 connections, extend every one as they will be joined later on. I used Single Core Wires that came attached which made it much easier, as you could have 3 wires attached to each other for 3 connections.

Step 17: Drilling Holes in the Panel for LED Wires

Use a Hand Drill (3mm drill bit) to make 6 holes per word. The wires of the LEDs will go through these so they can be soldered at the back of the board. Refer to the attachment below to see how the holes are and watch the video linked at the start for more clarity.

Once this is done, fit all the LEDs in place, make sure they are orientated correctly with the arrows flowing in the right direction. Once again, refer to the attachment below for the direction of the arrows.

Safety: Safety glasses, fingers away from the drill bit

Step 18: Soldering and Insulating the LEDs

Solder the wires in proper order, such as GND to GND, +5v to +5v, Data to Data. When you reach the end of a row, you have to carry down the connection to the next row, so make sure you follow the arrows on the LEDs.

You can use heat shrinks the insulate the joints or simply hot glue gun them to insulate. Heat shrinks are more ideal but much harder to do.

Safety: Safety glasses

Step 19: Hot Glue Gunning the LEDs

Apply the Hot Glue Gun to the back of the LEDs (just a bit) and stick them down to the board. You could also use double-sided tape.

Step 20: Soldering the Buttons

Solder 4 wires onto each push button, make sure the length of the extended wires is around 10cm. I suggest you use male to male wires so it is easy to connect to the Arduino.

Safety: Safety glasses

Step 21: Code

Download the code attached below, and upload it to your Arduino. Make sure all the libraries are installed.

Step 22: Connecting the Wires to the Arduino

This is a simple step, just follow the list of connections. The GND, 5V and Data wires coming from the LEDs should be soldered to male to male jumper wires so they can be connected to the Arduino. Solder any single core or multicore wires to male to male jumper wires so it's easier to connect to the Arduino.

If you connect everything successfully and use the push buttons, the time should go +5 or -5 minutes and the clock should work properly. If for some reason only half of the board is lighting up or none of it is, you have loose connections. Use a multimeter on the continuity mode and test that all the soldered joints are proper.

The code is currently set to blue lights but can be easily modified to a colour of your choice.

Step 23: Wiring

Use a female USB to male micro USB cable, one end will go to the acrylic USB interface we created before, and the other end will plug into the power bank to charge it. Use a hot glue gun to secure this wire to the interface.

Connect the B Standard USB 2.0 cable from a power bank to the Arduino. Use a power bank that doesn't need to be turned on with a button, one that is always on.

If the power bank dies, then simply charge it with a USB male to male cable.

Step 24: Glueing the Word Panel to the Frame

Mix Epoxy Resin and a hardener which will create an effective adhesive for acrylic and wood. Apply the epoxy resin (not too much) around the border of the frame, and place the word panel on top. There is no need to clamp, just hold it down with slight pressure for 10-15min.

Step 25: Screwing on the Back Panel

Since the 10mm wood is too thin to screw into (as it would split/damage), create 4 thick wood blocks and stick them to each corner with PVA glue. Then drill into the larger MDF panel and the blocks so they can be screwed together.

Safety: Safety glasses

Step 26: Countersink the Larger MDF Panel

Use a Countersink Drill Bit so the screw-head fits neatly into the panel. Then simply screw the panel to the frame.

Use a hand drill to also drill a hole towards the centre top, that's where the nail will go to wall mount the clock.

Step 27: Final Finishes

Use both rough and fine Sandpaper to even the surface and then provide a smooth finish. The Beeswax is optional, but it will provide a smoother look and feel, while also making the wood stand out more.

Step 28: Done!

At this point, everything should work in order. Currently, there is no RTC module in the circuit so the time has to be manually set, however, the circuit can be modified easily. If you have any questions or uncertainties, leave it down in the comments below and I will clarify asap.

A special thanks to Mr. Matthew Weaver, Mr. Paul Williams and Mr. John Zobrist for assisting during the whole project and allowing their workshops to be used.

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    11 Discussions

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    Jonathan shallom

    9 days ago

    Congrats bro,, i have some feeds i want to ask you abou,can you send me your email or some way else we can chat,thx

    1 reply
    1
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    seamster

    18 days ago

    Very nicely done, congrats on the A grade!! : )

    1 reply