Single Chain Clock




About: I am 37, I have a job that allows me to build and make daily. I love my job. I have 6 children, my oldest is also a maker and has written her own instructables. I own a computer repair shop, and I build a lo...

I have always had a fascination with clocks, The constant movement, the timing, and the art. It is beautiful. It has always been my way of integrating Technology and art. My first instructible was a wooden chain clock. I had so much fun making it that I have thought of several different improvements that I can make to create a completely new clock.

This clock Incorporates a single movement on the hour hand that also shows the minute by showing the minutes as a gauge. I chose to use acrylic and a metal chain for this project as I thought that using the metal bicycle chain complimented the look of the black acrylic.

I really enjoyed making this and I hope you will as well.


Step 1: Gather Your Parts, Materials, and Tools

Step 2: Cut the Acrylic With a Decombobulater (laser Cutter)

Way back before I even had a workshop I always said that I wanted to own a laser cutter, a 3d printer, and a CNC Router. Soon after getting my workshop I got my first 3d printer. Then I used the 3d printer to build my first laser cutter. I Love my laser, I would highly recommend to all makers out there, save your money and buy one.

Anyway, step one is to cut all the parts. Here is the sizes and colors that I used to build this clock.

All of the DXF files are available for download on this page, as well as the original corel draw file so that you can make changes if you want to.

  1. The Backplate / Frame is 1/4in Black Acrylic
  2. The Numbers are 1/8in Red Acrylic
  3. The Number accents / Arrows are 1/8in White Acrylic
  4. The Gears are 1/4in Black Smoke Acrylic
  5. The Spur Gear and Minute gauge are both 1/8in Clear Acrylic

Step 3: Glue the Numbers Together

Before I mount the numbers on the chain I will peel the film off of the numbers. Acrylic has a film coating that keeps it from getting scratched. So after the film is peeled off then I glue the White arrows onto each of the numbers. I do have some acrylic weld that I thought about using to put the arrows on the numbers with, but I decided to use regular super glue instead. It seems to work great so long as you do not use too much.

Step 4: Assemble the Chain

So because I am starting with a whole unbroken chain, I need to use the chain break tool to break the chain at certain intervals so that I can insert the numbers. The way that I designed the clock there is a hour every 12 links. So the chain links need to be 11 links long.

It took about 1 1/2 chains to get the 12 sections of chain that I needed to complete the clock. Now that I have the sections of chain cut I can start to put it together. I started at the number 1 and bolted it on. I used the m3 x 12 hex head bolt from the parts list in step 2. So it seems to work best when I included a washer on either side of the numbers. So just to clarify, if looking from the top is is chain, washer, acrylic number, washer, chain. LOL That is confusing. Just look at the pictures, I have faith that you will figure that out.

So putting the chain together is by far the most time consuming part of this build. As I am putting the chain together I think "isnt this why I have Children?". So in the future, the kids are putting the chains together for me. I will call it "family togetherness time" or "lets play Malaysian sweatshop". I forsee that lasting about 5 minutes before "dad this is boring", dang kids these days.

Step 5: Bevel the Edge of the Spur Gear

The spur gear (the one that the chain rides on, needs to be beveled so that the chain will properly ride on the gear. The easiest way to bevel the edge on this gear is to put one of the m6 x 30 through the hole and nut it tight. Then chuck it into your cordless drill and run the drill and the dremel tool at the same time. See the above photos to see me demonstrate this step.

Step 6: Ze Electronics of Ze Clock

The Math

So the math of these clocks always makes my head hurt. I will do my best to break it down for you. The Nema 17 stepper motor that I am using for this clock has 200 steps, that means that in order to make a full 360 degree rotation it will go 200 steps. The gearing on the clock is set so that one full rotation equals one hour passage of time. You cannot tell a stepper motor to turn any fraction of a step, but, you can do micro-stepping. Micro-stepping is a function that is enabled from the stepper motor driver (in this case it is the A4988). Micro-stepping enables the stepper motor to move in fractions of a step, namely half, quarter, eighth, and sixteenth step. If I were to leave it at a full step then we would need it to move 200 steps in 60 minutes, which equals 3.3333, since we can not do parts of a step I will use Micro-stepping. If I use half Micro-stepping, I have 400 total steps I can move for a full rotation. 60 minutes x 60 seconds is 3600 total seconds in an hour, divided by 400 steps is 9, so I will set the code to 400 steps using half micro-stepping, and it will move 1 step every 9 seconds. This will acheve the 400 steps every 1 hour.

Breadboard Or Solder Board

Another question I often ask myself is wether to mount the electronics on a breadboard or a solder board. What I usually do is use the breadboard first and make sure everything is working and then I move all of the electronics over to a permanent solder board.

Step 7: The Code

The code that I am using for this project was originally made for my wooden chain clock that I made last year. The code was developed in such a way that there are three adjustable variables.

Code Variables

  1. Total Steps, 200 for full step, 400 for half step, 800 for quarter, 1600 for eighth, and 3200 steps for sixteenth step.
  2. Steps , How many steps do you want to move
  3. Seconds , How often do you want to move this many steps

With these three variables this code will work with any clock that uses a single stepper motor. For this project the variables are set to

  1. Total Steps 400
  2. Steps 1
  3. Seconds 9

The finished Code is available to download in .ino file.

Step 8: Paint the Minute Guage

Before I pulled the film off of the gauge acrylic I Painted the gauge with blue acrylic paint, filling the engraving with paint. When It is dry I Pulled the film off and was left with the clear gauge with blue lettering, I really think that this looks a lot nicer that plain engraving. After Looking at the clock on the wall I painted another gauge white, so it would stand out better.

Step 9: Make Gear Holdy on Thingy

I am sure that there is a name for this thing, please tell me in the comments. But because I am not sure what it is called, I am calling it a gear holdy on thingy. So there. I have a lot of 3d printer parts, so I am taking the stepper motor belt drive and taking a dremel and chopping off the belt drive part, keeping the part that uses a set screw to mount to the motor shaft. By putting one of these on either side of the gear, The gear will stay where I want it to.

Step 10: Assemble the Clock

The Frame is pretty easy to assemble, everything gets bolted onto the main base and then the back will go on last.

Start with the m6 x 30 bolts and put them through the three gear holes towords the top, and put a washer and then double nut them all. The main shaft that the chain will be on uses a m6 x 50mm bolt and will also be washered and double nutted (is that a word?). Then you can put another washer and then the gears, then another washer and then the lock nut. Do not over tighten the lock nut or the gears will not move.

The stepper motor is mounted with 4 M3 x 8mm bolts. Then the Main Gear needs to be assembled, it is the large toothed gear, then 3 spacers, and then the spur gear, Held together by 2 M3 x 30mm bolts with lock nuts on the back.

The Minute guage gets attatched using 2 M3 x 16mm bolts and nuts held in to place. Then the only thing left is to hang the chain and plug it in.

Step 11: Finishing Touches

The chain ended up weighing a lot, so I added a small piece of wood to the bottom of the frame so it would sit straight on the wall.

Pick your colors carefully, trust me. I made another chain in red, because it turns out that black numbers over black gears, and a black frame, is not so readable (who would have thought???).

I made several clocks and several chains, they look completely different with the different color chains.

I had a blast building this and I hope you enjoyed reading this. I appreciate your vote in the contests if you liked it.



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    13 Discussions


    2 years ago

    I think your clock is real cool. Would you consider making it in kit form and selling them ?

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    I will be making kits soon, I should have them ready in about a week or two, send me a private message if you are interested


    2 years ago

    the concept looks amazing, a video of the finished clock working would have been wonderful

    1 reply

    2 years ago

    Very cool. I was thinking that there could be another free-hanging gear at the bottom to keep the chain from kinking up (or just to keep the whole thing in an oval shape), and maybe that gear could be set up to show the minutes like a regular clock hand or with numbers that rotated around? Might have to experiment with that once I get my workshop built and get a laser cutter :)
    One vote for you

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    the chain moves pretty slow, it will not kink up


    2 years ago

    Very cool. I would add an intermediate gear so it runs clockwise

    2 replies

    Reply 2 years ago

    You can change the motor direction in software or by swapping the wires of either motor phase.


    2 years ago

    Here's some upvote and love . :)


    2 years ago

    I don't have a laser cutter, YET, but I do have a 3d printer. I think the gears are inherently Steampunk. it would be fun to do a printed version of this project. Thanks!


    2 years ago

    Gear holder thingy is really called a collar. You can get these from a hardware store so you dont have to hack up other pulleys to make it work.

    Great project, i am looking for a unique clock, i think this might be it.


    2 years ago

    About time someone made this. Very ingenious. Thanks.