How to make a rustic clock from wood pallets and clothespins for about $10
A couple of years ago I bought a clock mechanism with the intent of making a custom clock (I love analog clocks. I have dozens).
My minimalist clock on the wall
At the time I was uninspired as to what kind of clock to make, so I hung the mechanism by itself on a wall and called it a “minimalist clock.”
One afternoon a year and a half later I was cleaning up my woodpile down by the compost bins and came across a couple of broken pallets. Boom. Inspiration. A clock made from pallet wood.
A couple days later I had a rustic clock hanging where my minimalist one once did. Best of all, the total cost was only $10. Here’s how I made it:
Build a wood pallet clock
These are instructions for making a clock that’s about 24 inches (61cm) square with a 20 inch (51cm) clock face. If you want to make your clock larger or smaller, make sure to adjust the size of the clock mechanism (larger / smaller hands) accordingly.
Tools & Supplies
4 – 5 pallet boards at least 24″ (61cm) long
2 1″x2″ (2.5cm x 5cm) boards cut to 22″ (55cm) long
The first thing you want to do is cut your pallet boards down to 24″ long and line them up to make a 24″ square. Based on the width of the boards, this will be 4 or 5 boards total.
Arrange the boards so ones with rough edges or broken bits are at the edges so the area for your clock face is as even as possible.
Lining up the pallet wood to make a 24″ square
Step 2 – Join the boards
Flip your boards over and line them up so you’re looking at the back of the clock. Mark a line 1″ in from all four edges.
Cut your 1″x2″ boards down to 22″ long and align them on the marks you made on the pallet wood. Use wood glue, clamps and a few screws to attach the 1″x2″s securely to the back of the clock.
Screw and glue the boards together to make the clock back
Step 3 – Make the clock face
Place your now joined boards face up on your work surface. Using a measuring tape, find and mark the center. Then use your drill and bit to make the hole where the the clock mechanism will poke through for the clock hands.
Once your center hole is drilled, grab your pencil and a string and use the hole as a center guide to draw the circle that will become your clock face. (I simply left the drill bit in the center hole, attached one end of the string to the bit and the pencil to the other and drew the circle.)
Measure to find the center of the boards and drill a hole for the clockworks
Step 4 – Paint the clock face
Now paint in the circle to make the clock face. My wood was in pretty tough shape, so I put down a layer of primer first, let it dry and then painted over that with an indoor latex paint that I happened to have sitting around.
Paint the clock face on to the boards
Step 5 – Disassemble and paint the clothespins
While your clock face is drying take apart the clothespins to make the numbers for your clock dial. At a minimum you’ll need six to mark all 12 numbers on the dial. I actually used eight because I wanted a double market at 3, 6, 9 and 12.
Once you’ve got the pieces, go ahead and paint the clothespins. I used a deep yellow indoor latex paint that I had left over from another project. The yellow offered a good contrast with the white clock face and the black hands so you can see what time it is even if it’s dark.
Paint your clothespins
Step 6 – Chisel out the notch for the clock mechanism
After your clock face is dry, flip it over so the back is face up. Figure out which end will be the top of the clock, align the top of your clock mechanism with it and use your pencil to trace the outline of the mechanism.
Now carefully chisel out a notch in the wood to seat the mechanism. Depending on the thickness of your wood and the length of the shaft for the hands, you’ll probably have to chisel out ¼″ to ½″ of wood. I had to remove a little more than ¼″ of wood so that the hands would clear the clothespins I was going to use as the numerals on the dial.
Once you’re done, set the clock mechanism aside and flip the clock over so it’s face up.
Chisel out a slot on the back of the clock to fit the clock mechanism
Step 7 – Attach the clothespins to clock dial
Locating where 3, 6, 9 and 12 are on your dial is fairly straightforward. You should be able to use the marks you made to find the center of the clock. Put a little glue on the back of the pin, and attach them to the clock face (I tacked them in place to make sure they didn’t move while the glue dried.)
The other eight markers are a little harder to line up. If you’ve got a compass, you can mark half the clock face every 30°, attach the pins and then use a straightedge to mark the location of the corresponding markers on the other side of the clock dial.
I didn’t have a compass so I sort of eyeballed the location of the clothespins on half the dial then used my straightedge to line up the ones on the other side. It wasn’t perfect, but no one other than me really noticed.
Attach your clothespins to the clock face to make the dial
Step 8 – Mount the clock mechanism
Once your clock dial is dry, flip it back over and insert the clock mechanism into the slot. Secure the mechanism using a plastic band or a piece of pipe strap.
Make sure to place the strap so that you can change the time and the battery without removing the strap.
Secure the clock mechanism to the back of the clock
Step 9 – Hang your clock
Attach a length of picture wire to the back of your clock with a couple of screws. Old wood isn’t consistent in weight from end to end so picture wire will make it easier to level on the wall.
For the wall mount, make sure you use a heavy duty hanger. My clock ended up weighing about 16 lbs (7 kilos) so the standard lightweight hangers bent and pulled out of the wall. A 30lb rated hanger did the trick and gave me a little extra cushion in case of an earthquake.
Finally, flip the clock back over and attach the hands to the clock shaft. Make sure that both hands move freely over the clothespin numerals and each other. If they don’t bend the hands a little to make it all work. Hang your clock, set the time and enjoy!
I’m just a guy with nearly an acre of dirt, a nice little mid-century ranch house and a near-perfect climate. But in my mind I’m a landscaper survivalist craftsman chef naturalist with a barbeque the size of a VW and my own cable TV show. I like to write about the stuff I build, grow and see here at Sage's Acre.