How to Build Your Own Mechanical Clock

Updated July 19, 2017

Making a clock can be as simple or as complex as you choose. Ready-made clock bases, movements, hands, numbering and faces (with and without numbering) are available for purchase in most large craft and hobby stores. Wood hobbyists may choose to make their own base, or use wood-burning tools to embellish the face and body. Painters may prefer to use stencils and acrylics. Learn the process and make this simple clock by using a ready-made wood base, re-using an old wood tray (or frame), or, re-using the base from an old or broken clock.

Plan your clock design. Create border patterns, decide on the style of numbering and the overall look you want to achieve. Options include using a wood stain or paint, varnish for a glossy surface, wood-burning tools to create a pattern, painting with acrylic paint or applying decals to establish your design. Choose from several varieties of quartz or battery-powered movements, sized to fit your base and select the type of hands you would like to use. Faces and numbering are available in decal form or in stencil form for painting.

Apply a base coat of paint or stain to the clock base if you are going to change the wood's colour. While the base coat is drying, plan your design. Using a pencil and templates for the pattern, sketch your design plan on paper. When you are satisfied, and the base is dried completely, transfer the design directly to the wood of your base. If painting your own numbers (clock face), mark the locations for each number and sketch them in with a pencil. Otherwise, mark the locations for press-on numbers or decals. Do not apply decals or stickers until all other design elements are complete. Outline the face. Measure its length and width to locate the centre point of the face. Mark the centre with an "x."

Paint, stain or burn the design you have created. If using a pre-made clock face, place your design around the area and edges of your base. If using paint, let the paint dry.

Add a glossy sheen to your project by applying a clear coat of varnish, if desired. Let dry. Paint the wood numbers; let them dry. Glue numbers or any extra embellishments that you want to add. Let everything dry completely.

Apply decals, if you are using them, and install the clock movement, after you have completed the clock design, and everything is dry. Choose a drill bit suited to the size of your movement shaft and drill a hole in the centre of your clock face. If using a pre-made face with numbering, remove backing paper and press in place. If using a decal, wet lightly with a sponge and smooth in place. Take care that the centre hole and numbering, if any, are aligned correctly with your markings from Step 2.

Attach the clock movement by fitting the hands around the centre hole drilled in Step 3. Insert the shaft through the hole and hands. Twist into the movement in back per manufacturer's directions. Attach battery if using a battery-powered movement.


Charts and diagrams are available for planning the placement of numbers in most craft stores. You'll need, in most cases, to enlarge or reduce the size of the chart on a copy machine to suit the size of your clock face. Pre-made clock faces are also available in decal and sticker form.


Never leave wood burning tools unattended. Follow safety procedures as directed by manufacturer.

Things You'll Need

  • Clock base
  • Stain (optional)
  • Clock movement and hands
  • Clock-face sized numbers and/or face or templates for painting
  • Wood numbers sized to fit your project
  • Wood burning tools (optional)
  • Acrylic paint and brushes (optional)
  • Pencil
  • Glue
  • Drill and bit
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About the Author

Cath Savage is a returning freelance writer with a B.A. degree in organizational/intercultural communication from Arizona State University. She has written for Tempe Magazine, Arizona State University, the Phoenix Zoo, and McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Co. Inc. Savage says she will 'write everything about anything' but really enjoys pieces about interesting people, places, cultures and workplace issues.