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  • Writer's picture~rooks /|\

TicToc - A Gnarly Clock

The Clock

For years my mother has been asking me to make her a clock. It was always a project that went on the list and then kept moving down the list until a few weeks before Christmas. It always seemed like too much of a project to design and fabricate a working clock in a couple weeks, and do it with the quality I would like to present to my mom. This year was the same, with one small change, we added a Form 1+ 3D printer to the office last summer.

December and finals at Pratt rolled in quickly after Thanksgiving and I saw that looming "Design a Clock for Mom" task in my projects list. I had just finished a couple big projects in the office, and my main project was going on hold for a few weeks, so I thought, I can do this, design and fabricate a clock while spending my days on reviews and in meetings at school over the next two weeks. To do this I formulated a plan to dig up some forms/geometry from an old project that never materialized.

A couple summers ago I worked with a Pratt grad, Gillian Shaffer, to develop a way to translate my advanced doodles into 3D geometry and potentially into projects. We developed a component form and minor behaviors of mutation and connection from the drawing in this post, but other projects bubbled to the forefront and the work hit the shelf. It took a day of heavy dusting, editing the geometry and manipulating it to work within the context of a clock. In that time I got pulled into the organic curves and defining the behaviors of the forms and underlying geometry to express the rhythm of time. Something like a flower, or perhaps a crumpling desiccated insectoid creature started to emerge. The forms actually started to become quite spatial, reigniting my interest in developing the drawing transformation into an architectural project. For now, I am excited by the deployment of the work as a unique product design.

That takes care of the initial step, a plan for a rapid paced design of a clock form, but what about fabrication. After the first few hours of tweaking and organizing the forms I knew it was time to get this thing out of the computer and make sure that scale and fabrication were going to be feasible with my tools at hand. I extracted 1/4 portion of the clock, scaled it to match the clock motion hardware, and sent it off to the 3D printer. I had a new batch of black resin in the tank that I ordered recently and for a couple quick material tests. The result felt good, I liked the black hard finish, both expressing the fine details and hiding them in the complex play of specularity and shadow in the darkness. I also had some white resin handy and decided that white hands over an ominous black form would provide the necessary contrast to read the clock and make a graphic formal statement.

The initial prototype of 25% of the clock's base form took 6 hours to print at the fastest speed / lowest resolution settings of the machine. The quality was pretty good, but I thought I could get it better with a little bump in resolution. That pushed the time up to ~11 hours per part X4 parts was 2 solid days of printing and the deadline of my flight home was fast approaching. I printed one of the final quadrants as a test at the increased resolution and did not really make a massive impact, back to only 24 hours. The hands took several rounds of design and prototyping (and in the end still did not function properly) which devoured the rest of the 24 saved hours. I learned that the off the shelf clock motion hardware really wants to work with stamped metal hands rather than large resin forms. The resin can do super fine detail, but does not have the rigidity to maintain form in very thin parts, good lesson to know for production on this machine. Luckily I did have the generic hands that came with the clock motion, and their back sides were white so they are visible against the black.

Since the machine is pretty limited in size (more focused on detail), I broke the form down into 4 parts. I was able to integrate the alignment and connection pins into the geometry and even print the connection pins right along with the form. The alignment went together cleanly and a little clear epoxy cinched it all together in a snap. The resin sands clean with 320 grit sandpaper, taking a more matte finish (which I want to explore more) and can be brought back to gloss with a little boiled linseed oil (or mineral oil).

The clock lives, climbing my parents dining room wall, serving as a great two week, fast tracked, prototype for a pretty gnarly clock. I have some new motion hardware to play with, I know some acid etchers/cutters near by for metal forms, I have a project to do for next Christmas.

Keep making things.

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