How To: Make a Mid Century Inspired Clock for $30

Project: Mid Century Inspired Clock
Time: 3 hours total (not including drying time)
Cost: Approximately $30.00

Modern clocks from the mid-century typically satisfy both a practical and artistic function. They certainly serve a timekeeping purpose, but not to be overlooked is the brilliance of their simply combined colors, shapes and textures that join to form a bona fide piece of wall art. If your budget is stretched thin but you love the iconic clock designs of mid century modern designers, there are plenty of styles you can inexpensively adapt and DIY. Here's my own DIY version of the George Nelson Ball Clock just to prime the creative pump of your crafty self.

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Tools and Resources:

  • 3/4" thick wooden disk for the clock face
  • Twelve 1 3/4" wooden balls with a hole drilled on the bottom
  • 12 dowel rods that fit tightly in the drilled holes of the wooden ball
  • Purchased clock movement and hands that fit through the clock face
  • Liquid Nails Project Glue (I've discovered it recently and it's easy to work with)
  • Med. to fine sandpaper
  • Primer
  • Satin based white spray paint
  • Gloss red spray paint
  • Sheet of black aluminum (typically used for embossing) used here to make modern shapes
  • scissors
  • pencil
  • ruler
  • crescent pliers to cut dowel rods
  • cordless drill and bits
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Step by Step:

  1. Gather your materials
  2. Lightly sand the wooden clock face and wooden balls
  3. Measure desired length for the dowel rods (mine turned out to be 8") and cut with crescent pliers
  4. Smooth off rough edges of dowels with sandpaper
  5. Measure the center point on the clock face, drill a hole large enough to fit the clock movement stem
  6. Measure 12 equal distances around the outside edge of the clock face
  7. Carefully drill 12 holes around the edge of the clock face that will allow a tight fit for the dowels
  8. Squeeze a bit of glue in each hole and dampen one end of each dowel rod, insert all 12
  9. After rods are dried, prime this section, let dry and paint with white satin paint, let dry, repeat and seal with a craft sealer or water based polyurethane (optional)
  10. Prime wooden balls, let dry, paint with red gloss paint, let dry and repeat to cover
  11. Trace modern triangle and oval on black aluminum and cut out
  12. Glue modern shapes onto clock hands, let dry, spray paint any color if desired
  13. Squirt glue in the holes of painted wooden balls, spritz dowel ends with water and push balls onto rods, let dry for at least one hour
  14. Following clock movement directions, attach clock movement and hands, add battery and set the time
  15. Follow the time for a couple of hours and make adjustments, if necessary

For more retro clock design inspiration:

  • DIY Projects from AT Readers
  • Vintage Clock Roundup