DIY Word Clock - In Seven Steps
DIY Word Clock - In Seven Steps
DIY Word Clock - In Seven Steps

Hello Internets!

Having seen my friend with one of these as a sexy wrist watch I thought the next best thing was to make a desk and wall version. After several versions and upgrades I am proud to now share this: WORD CLOCK - Do It Yourself Guide.

Why use THIS guide?

  • Parts Availability - I have optimised so many of the parts can be sources locally
  • Multiple Colours - Suits your decor or fluctuating mood at the push of a button ;-)
  • Ease of Making - The clock used to take a long time to make, I have simplified the electronics and made everything modular to help you.

    What you get at the end?

  • A sexy word clock that is unique and will match your decor
  • More friends when you share your own build

    Lets Start by... COLLECTING ALL THE THINGS! >>

    Step 1: Collect All The Things!

    DIY Word Clock - In Seven Steps
    DIY Word Clock - In Seven Steps

    All The Files

    I have split the design files into Mechanical and Electrical which are available here.

    Now lets use those files to get the physical things.

    You will need to collect the below items. To make things easy and save time, I provide a kit:

    Electrical (shiny lights)

  • Lights - RGB Led strip (2 meters) - '60 LEDs per meter' strip. Using the 'WS2812' chip LED Like this one
  • Controller - Electronics BOM. Effectively an Arduino Pro Mini with a DS1307 RTC
  • Power Supply - 5v, 1A (minimum) Like this one

    Mechanical (hard housing)

  • Baffle and Backing - Have this files ( and cut out of opaque 3mm acrylic. I use a local laser cutting supplier and black. Mechanical
  • Frame - Ribba from Ikea
  • Face - Have this file ( / pdf) cut out of opaque laminate/contact
  • Baking Paper (we will need cookies later)

    Now you have the parts, lets build the matrix >>

    Step 2: Build Word Clock LED Matrix (Back)

    DIY Word Clock - In Seven Steps
    DIY Word Clock - In Seven Steps
    DIY Word Clock - In Seven Steps

    The core of the clock is an LED matrix. The LEDs currently function as a strip but we need to make them more square.

  • Cut the LEDs into lots of 11 - Ensure you cut in the middle of the marker as shown. This is so we can solder them back together to bring them back into communication
  • Stick the LEDs down following the stencil. Ensure they align
  • Solder the LEDs - In a snake like manner connect the three (positive to positive, negative to negative, and data to data)

    Congrats, you have completed the LED Matrix! Now lets sort the controller! >>

    Step 3: The Electronics (The Smarts)

    Now we create the brains of this operation!

    The controller has three main jobs.

  • Light Control - Control the LED matrix, turning LEDs on or off
  • Maintain Time - Accurately know what time it is
  • Integrate - Turn the lights on/off appropriately with the time, as well as allow for adjustments of colour and time as the user wants

    I have designed the below circuit and code to achieve these objectives. If you want to manufacture the PCB yourself simply download the design. Alternatively I also sell these PCBs and parts.


    If you are using the raw chip you will need to program it using an FTDI programmer

    Upload the program given here: Code

    You will know it works when you can see the matrix light up. If this is successful we can move onto the Mechanical section! >>

    Things that can go wrong:

  • Matrix does not light up - Test the matrix to see if there is power
  • To add more

    >>Lets make the face!

  • Step 4: Make the Face (Front)

    DIY Word Clock - In Seven Steps
    DIY Word Clock - In Seven Steps
    DIY Word Clock - In Seven Steps

    The Face is designed to block the light and only show the letters. Simply have the file (face.pdf) plotted on a vinyl cutter using adhesive opaque vinyl. Local print stores will be able to provide this service. If this can not be found then you can print onto a Transparency which can also achieve this effect. Note: I used this method in one of my original versions, you will need 2x densely printed Transparencies to achieve an opaque effect.

    Place the vinyl on the glass. You can use soapy water to allow you to reset the position until it dries. Use a firm object to press out any bubbles that may occur.

    Now onto the Baffle which isolates each letter >>

    Step 5: Make The Baffle (Meat in the Middle)

    DIY Word Clock - In Seven Steps
    DIY Word Clock - In Seven Steps

    The degree to which you isolate each letter is the degree of awesomeness you end up with at the end! The baffle achieves this easily. Have the file laser cut out of 3mm opaque acrylic. There are 10 with a small cut, 8 without and 2 short. See the image for where each cut goes.

    You will notice they slot into each other as shown:

    Note that there are two types, one with side slots and ones without. The side slots are for the wires we had to add when making the LED matrix. Place them appropriately.

    A drop of glue is useful to ensure the baffle stays square and together as we bring it together with the LED Matrix in the next part>>

    Step 6: Put It Together (Sandwich Time)

    This is an easy step;

  • Place the Baffle on top of the LED Matrix
  • Wiggle the wires so that they fall into the slots
  • Test the LED matrix ensuring that you can still communicate with the furthest LEDs. This is to ensure none of the wires were damaged
  • Glue down the controller and colour/time buttons
  • Place tracing paper over the matrix
  • Place the glass Face on top of the tracing paper
  • Bring the Ikea frame down on top of it all and encasing it
  • Adjust slightly so that everything aligns
  • Close the Ikea frame

    Step 7: Congratulations & Conclusion!

    DIY Word Clock - In Seven Steps
    DIY Word Clock - In Seven Steps
    DIY Word Clock - In Seven Steps
    DIY Word Clock - In Seven Steps
    DIY Word Clock - In Seven Steps

    Congratulations, you have yourself a Unique and personally made Word Clock!

    I would love to see your version, please post it and say hi!

    Hope you have enjoyed and look forward to hearing your feedback.

    -John Missikos, Australia


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