Timing Gear and Chain Clock - Almost Free!




About: I'm a handyman, poultry farmer, novice beer brewer. I'm an expert beer drinker, and I love to cook and bake great food for my family.

Hopefully when you changed your car's timing set, you didn't toss the old gears and the chain.  I almost did, but my wife showed me this: http://www.uncommongoods.com/product/auto-timing-chain-and-gears-wall-clock

$125 US plus shipping.  Right.

So I decided to kludge this together for my brother's 40th birthday.

Bonus: you don't need to weld a thing! Although I'm a welder, I like the idea of the gears and the chain suspending each other.  Besides, if your car used a belt, you wouldn't be able to weld them, since the belt is made of rubber and twigs and cat pelts.

Step 1: Parts

Timing gear set: crank gear, camshaft gear and timing chain (free or cheap)

Clock movement kit with hour and minute hands ($8.00 US online) - This one has a 5/8" shaft and Maltese cross hands.

AA battery (depends on your clock movement) ($1.00 US, or less)

second hand for clock

clock's wall-mounting bracket

paint(s) and primer of your choice - spray paint is the easiest

masking tape and razor blade
nail or screw from which to hang the crank gear (the smaller of the two gears)

1/2" to 5/8" thick spacer for the nail or screw (to offset the thickness of your clock movement's plastic case

self-adhesive numbers or dots

sparkly things

Step 2: Tools and Supplies

small wrench or socket - to tighten clock shaft nut to gear (gently!)

wire to hang chain and gears to dry

latex or nitrile gloves

clean lint-free towel or rag

wax/grease remover for paint prep, such as DX-330

large washer, stainless - to tighten clock shaft nut against face of cam gear

bushing - to center clock's shaft in center hole of cam gear (11/16" O.D x 5/16" I.D x 1/2" tall in my case)

paint - I used Rustoleum's Sunrise Red, gloss black, and Plastikote's clear gloss spray cans

wax paper - to set clock hands on for painting

heater to dry paint

clean brush to degrease parts

hammer to drive the nail into your wall

Step 3: Clean Parts Are Happy Parts

You will need to clean the oil, dirt, grease and fingerprints from your gears and chain, otherwise the paint won't stick.

I borrowed a parts cleaner which removed most of the oil from the timing set.  Then I suspended the chain with baling wire, sprayed DX-330 into all its crevices and brushed it clean.  This took several sessions.

Let it all drip dry.

Step 4: Paint

Remember, kids, the first half of "painting" is "pain."   Actually, the hardest part of this step is watching the paint dry.

I taped a sheet of wax paper to some cardboard - I figured the delicate hands would be easier to pull up away from the painted wax paper, instead of gluing themselves to the cardboard.  And they were.

Mask off anything you don't want painted (like the car or the dog), prime the parts if you like, and paint away.  Follow the instructions on the paint can.

First attempt at painted the alignment dimples red:   The syringe came without a needle (so it was sloppy), because it was for medicating our chickens, and chickens don't like needles; they're... chicken.  (You just never know when your hens will come down with human pox.)   Twisted up paper towels worked better for detail work.

You can see the alignment dimple painted.  Stupid syringe.

I sprayed clear gloss paint over everything to make it shiny and seal in the red dots.

Step 5: Good Timing

Insert the clock's shaft from behind the larger [cam] gear.  Insert your bushing if needed.  Add the large washer.

Install the clock's washer and nut to secure the clock to the gear.  Tighten by hand or gently with a wrench.

Carefully press the hour hand onto the shaft, then the minute hand with its oval or "double-D" shaped hole.  If you're using the second hand, lightly press it into the center of the shaft.

Correctly insert your fresh battery in the clock's battery holder.  Set the current time using the clock's little serrated wheel (usually above the battery).  If so equipped, move the clock's ON/OFF switch to the ON position.

Run your chain around the large clock/gear.

Pull the top of your chain up using the smaller gear, and holding the small gear, lift the entire timing set up off your filthy garage floor and hang it on your filthy garage wall.  Now is a great time to add numbers to the gear's dial face if you wish.  Or you could paint some of the teeth to denote clock positions.

Note: this is opposite of how the timing set would appear in your vehicle's engine - the small gear for the crank would be at the bottom.  You could certainly flip the whole contraption 180 degrees, but then you'd have to find a job for the little crank gear to do.

Time's up.  Congratulations, you've made your first car part art.  It's a start!

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43 Discussions


4 years ago

streetrod5 keep it up! looks awesome! .....now i have to make one..... lol


4 years ago on Introduction

It looks great, and the product you link to is a complete robbery! $125?? Holy mother Jesus!

BTW. I'm looking into making a wall clock similar to yours, but with working gears? So hour and minute hands are on each gearwheel, and driven by the same clock mechanism. Any ideas how that could be made?

I've thought about buying two of these, and only using the minute on one, and hours on the other, so it could work easily. Please respond :)



4 years ago on Introduction

I was searching similar to this. Great writeup


4 years ago

Very nice


5 years ago

Doesnt the inside part for the clock kit have to match the size for it to fit in the cam shaft gear?

1 reply

Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

I'm not sure what you mean, can you be more specific? The shaft of the clock movement/kit has to be smaller than the cam shaft gear - if the difference between the cam gear hole and the clock shaft is more than 3mm or 1/8 inch, you may choose to find a bushing to make up that difference.


6 years ago on Introduction

Love the clock! The timing belt you refer to is one of the high quality ones, others, are made of yak dung and dried monkey snot LOL

1 reply

Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

Oh yes, 67spyder, those are the belts to avoid; I believe they are imported from Yakistan.


6 years ago on Introduction

Once again we have a craft project not unlike the one where a guy put a clock module on the insides of a disk drive. When I saw that clock my first thought was, "Wow, he motorized the part to yield a clock!," which is not what was done. Again, seeing this one I thought the same thing was done. You could have motorized the chain and gears to repurpose them into a clock since the mechanical demands of a clock are far less than that of an engine. These sorts of Instructables should come with a warning or disclaimer that they do not teach anything novel other than adding a clock module to an interesting piece of hardware destined for discard--a craft project.

3 replies

Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

Exocetid, there are so many fantastic and interesting Instructables on this site; I am honored that you took the time to view mine and to add your comment. Obviously you are more experienced at this; if you have a better idea for the title, or for a disclaimer to warn folks away, I will certainly take it into consideration. I don't have the technical know-how (or the cash) to build one of those motorized chain clocks.  I have seen a couple of them here, including SteveMoseley's excellent build.

Perhaps you would prefer this clock: https://www.instructables.com/id/Make-a-Customized-Clock-that-Runs-Backwards/

Have a great day!


Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

Frankly, I do not think we are talking a lot of money here. The trick is to retain something of the original functionality of the discarded parts repurposed into something new. 

I sense you were a bit put-off from my comment and I apologize. It is a fine Instructable as far as arts and crafts. 

SteveMoseley's chain clock is not quite the same thing. He produced a novel and very clever design for a clock using chains. For your clock, you should consider using the gears as time indicators and the chain as a connective mechanism--that has not been done here.

Many, many people have put clock modules into discarded items, again, a great crafts project.


Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

The two gears are not in the 12:1 ratio that would be best for a clock. It would be great if:
There was a gear set in 12:1 ratio. The small gear could rotate once an hour, the large one once every 12.
There was a timing chain in 12:1 ratio w/ the gear. The gear could rotate once an hour, the chain would complete a revolution every 12. An enclosed and lubricated installation would be best to keep the chain from rusting and being a dust magnet. A sufficiently powerful motor/gearset that turned precisely once per hour would be best to drive it.