Junk Yard Clock

After living a car,  a clock finds a new home

In recent years a lot of auto manufacturers seem to go towards a more "retro" looks in some of their styling. As part of this movement, a number of cars have been using the more traditional analogue clocks versus digital clocks.

As time goes by, all cars eventually end up in the junkyard. In a lot of "you pull" junk yards, clocks are not a very high demand item, and a very well-made clock can be had very cheaply ($4 at my local junkyard).

The goal of this project is to show how to make an attractive desk clock from a clock salvaged from the junkyard - the perfect gift for the family gearhead!

Step 1: Sourcing the Clock

First order of business is finding the appropriate donor of your clock. As mentioned earlier, a number of car manufacturers have been putting analogue clocks in their models, however my preference has been to use the clocks that are found in the Chrysler 300M.

The reason for this is that I have found the clocks in the 300M to have a compact footprint and are fairly energy efficient - one of my main criteria for this project is that the clock needs to run off of a 9-volt battery for at least a few months and I have found that the clock from the 300M fit this requirement the best.
To remove the clock, simply gently pry apart the front panel containing the clock and carefully remove the 2 small screws holding the clock to the panel (NOTE: Try not to damage the panel. Someone might need that panel at some point - that person could be you!)

After removing the clock, also remember to take the connector that connects the clock in with the car's wiring harness. We'll need that connector later to power the clock. Remove the connector from the wiring harness with wire cutters and make sure to leave a little bit wire on the connector to make hooking up a power source easier later on.

Step 2: Building the Cabinet

The cabinet of the clock is constructed from: one 6-inch piece of 2" x 4" pine (cut from a 2"x6" pine board)
one 5.75-inch piece of 1"X4" pine  
I selected a tombstone shape for my cabinet. To get the correct shape I created a template on a 4" x 6" piece of Bristol board and traced the outline to the 2x4 block of pine.

At the same time, I also created a template of the clock face and time set button on the clock.

Once the outline has been traced, cut the outline out on the wood block with a scroll saw. Once cut, sand the edges to make the curves smooth.

Next is to cut out the hole for the clock face. The clock face on the 300M clock is 1.75 inches in diameter. On the pine block, I used a 1.75-inch hole bit. Cut a hole 4 inches up from the bottom of the pine block and in the center of the block (I measured in 2 inches from the side).

Using the template of the clock face and setting button and using the hole that has been just cut as a guide, I marked the position of the setting button (make sure it's also in the center of the block) and drilled a 1/8" hole at that mark.

Step 3: Mating the clock with the cabinet

Next, we must create a cavity within the cabinet for the clock to sit in. Taking the clock, place it face down into the holes for the clock face and the clock set button and make sure that the clock is flush against the pine block.

Trace the outline of the clock mechanism on the pine block and with a rotary tool or router, create the cavity for the clock in the pine block. Always stop periodically to check the fit with the clock (it should be snug, but easy to remove) and pay special attention that the clock reset button can move freely in its hole.

Continue to carve the clock cavity until the clock face is approximately 1/8 inch from the front of the cabinet.

If you want to run the clock off of a nine-volt battery, create a cavity below the clock cavity to accommodate a 9-volt battery (make sure to make room for the battery connector!)

You can also power the clock with a 9 or 12-volt wall wart, in which case, a battery cavity is not needed.

Step 4: Finishing the Cabinet

Using the 1x4 block of pine as the base, use a router (if desired) put a decorative edge on 3 sides of the 1x4 block and drill 2 small pilot holes in the center of the block.

Using 1-inch wood screws and glue, attach the clock cabinet to the base, making sure that the clock cabinet sits in the middle of the base. The clock cabinet is now complete! Paint or stain in the color of your choice

Step 5: Putting It All Together

Install the clock into the cabinet by applying a little bit of glue around the outside edges of the clock and seating it in place, again make sure that the clock time set button can move freely

If using a 9-volt battery, solder a 9-volt connector to the clock (wires on the clock match the same colors as the battery connector - red to red, black to black)

For a wall wart solution, solder in an appropriate socket connector for your wall wart.

Once done, tidy up the wiring with a bit of electrical tape, plug in the battery and you're ready to tell time!

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