Mateo's Wall Clock

Rene liked the idea of displaying his son Mateo's name in his nursery, but also wanted something functional so he made a large clock on his wall composed of the letters of his name. No stranger to DIY (his "Museum Minimalism" was a winner in Unplggd's 2007 Smallest Coolest Tech Setups), Rene has shared his process for creating Mateo's clock which can be appreciated by perfectionists and non-perfectionists alike (she even spaced out the letters at precisely 30 degrees!).

You can follow his instructions along with the numbered photos above (larger photos here). Take it away, Rene!

Here's how I put together a custom clock for my son. It took a while to plan it all out (the clock movement needs to fit perfectly in the wood blocks) but someone could now just follow these instructions and use the same materials to have a clock done in less than two hours. It obviously works best for first/last names that are evenly spaced at 10 to 12 letters long (my son's first name is Mateo and last name is Paula) but by using two different colors one could do any name up to 12 letters long (e.g. Lisa Harrison for example with Lisa in one color and Harrison on a different color). So here's how I did it:

1. Ordered the wood block letters from CraftCuts.com (Woodland Manufacturing). I didn't want to take the time to cut, paint and letter the blocks and these guys did a very good job. Note that I ordered one extra blank block to practice with and you should do the same: Your first clock inside a block probably won't look very nice so it's worth spending an extra $5 (cost of a painted, unlettered block) so you can learn from your first attempt.

2. Ordered a clock movement from Klockit.com. The movement needs to be high-torque in order to support long hands given the size on the wall. I ordered model #10115.

3. Drill a pilot hole for the clock shaft centered on the wooden block. Be sure to start your drilling on the face side of the block: once you push through the block will break on the back side but you will carve out the back side for the movement anyway.

4. Use whatever tools you have available to carve out a hole in the block to fit the movement. I used a drill with various attachments. Carve out the block until the movement fits flush against the back of the block and the shaft sticks out on the face. Don't worry about the alignment of the movement on the block: 12/24-hour movements simply tick at a specified interval so even if your movement is misaligned inside the block (like mine is on the picture), the clock will still work perfectly, you'll just set the time to align with the dial (the block letters) the first time.

5. Create a technically-correct dial on the wall. I used Microsoft Word to draw lines at a perfect 30 degrees (Holding down the SHIFT key allows you to drag the line 15 degrees at a time). I then taped the sheet to the wall and used string to extend the lines.

6. Use sticky notes to plan where you will put each letter on the theoretical dial. As you can see from my version you don't have to create a perfect circle (boring!). As long as you align the letter on one of the 30-degree lines, the human brain will process the time of day very quickly.

7. Attach the clock movement (center) block to the wall, then the 12/3/6/9 blocks which should all be perfectly aligned. Finish with the rest. I attached the blocks by drilling a straight hole about an inch deep on the blocks and putting a nail on the wall at a slight angle. The blocks simply insert into the nails on the wall. Make sure to center the hole on the blocks so they don't end up tilted: I used a business card with a holepunch in it as a template to make sure that every block had the hole in the same center spot.

8. Attach the hands into the movement. Note that high-torque hands only come in black for whatever reason. You can spray paint. Adjust the clock to the correct time. Step back and enjoy your masterpiece!

The clock cost around $90 to make but someone could save money by buildling their own block letters and re-purposing an old clock movement.

Wow, Rene - Mateo's room and clock are beautiful and your instructions are so thorough. Thank you!

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As Apartment Therapy's Family Editor, Carrie covers design and modern homelife with children. A lapsed librarian, she lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two kids and is in contention to break the record for most hours spent at the playground.

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