Modernizing a 170 year old Antique Grandfather Clock

Frankly, we let out a yelp of despair when we read this in the tip line “Antique Grandfather clock with Arduino insides“! But before you too roll your eyes, groan, or post snark, do check out [David Henshaw]’s amazing blog post on how he spent almost eight months working on the conversion.

Before you jump to any conclusions about his credentials, we must point out that [David] is an ace hacker who has been building electronic clocks for a long time. In this project, he takes the antique grandfather clock from 1847, and puts inside it a new movement built from Meccano pieces, stepper motors, hall sensors, LEDs, an Arduino and lots of breadboard and jumper wires while making sure that it still looks and sounds as close to the original as possible.

He starts off by building a custom electro-mechanical clock movement, and since he’s planning as he progresses, meccano, breadboard and jumper wires were the way to go. Hot glue helps preserve sanity by keeping all the jumper wires in place. To interface with all of the peripherals in the clock, he decided to use a bank of shift registers driven from a regular Arduino Uno. The more expensive DS3231 RTC module ensures better accuracy compared to the cheaper DS1307 or similar clones. A bank of RGB LEDs acts as an annunciator panel inside the clock to help provide various status indications. The mechanical movement itself went through several iterations to get the time display working with a smooth movement of the hands. Besides displaying time, [David] also added a moon phase indicator dial. A five-rod chime is struck using a stepper motor driven cam and a separate solenoid is used to pull and release three chime hammers simultaneously to generate the loud gong sounds.

And here’s the amazing part – he did all of this before laying his hands on the actual grandfather clock – which was shipped to him in California from an antique clock specialist in England and took two months to arrive. [David] ordered just the clock housing, dial/face and external parts, with none of the original inner mechanism. Once he received it, his custom clock-work assembly needed some more tweaking to get all the positions right for the various hands and dials. A clock like this without its typical “ticktock” sound would be pretty lame, so [David] used a pair of solenoids to provide the sound effect, with each one being turned on for a different duration to produce the characteristic ticktock.

At the end of eight months, the result – christened Judge – was pretty satisfying. Check the video below to judge the Judge for yourself. If you would like to see some more of [David]’s clockwork, check out Dottie the Flip Dot Clock and A Reel to Reel Clock.

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Bluetooth Bedroom Clock!

When [decino]’s old bedroom clock finally bit the dust, he built himself a new one from scratch for fun and functionality.

Initially, he wanted to solder Adafruit NeoPixel lights onto four prototype boards, using a mini-USB for power and a DS1307 to keep the time. However, after soldering the board for the first digit and realizing that carrying on with the other three would be a huge pain, he switched to etching the boards instead — a far more efficient solution. In keeping with this time-saving mindset, he added a Bluetooth module that would allow him to update the clock from his phone whenever the DS1307 started dropping minutes or whenever daylight savings time is in effect.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Global Positioning Clock

How do you get the attention of thousands of Hackaday readers? Build a clock! There are just so many choices to agonize over. Do you go with a crystal as a clock source, a fancy oven controlled crystal oscillator, or just mains voltage? Should you even think about putting a GPS module in a clock? All these are very interesting questions that encourage discussion or learning, and that’s what Hackaday is all about. Clocks are cool, and the engineering behind them is even cooler.

For one of [Nick]’s Hackaday Prize entries, he’s building a minimalist GPS clock. First up, the centerpiece of every clock, the display. There are eight seven-segment displays, two each for the hours, minutes, and seconds, and a smaller digit for tenths of a second. These displays are controlled by an ATXmega32E5, an upgrade on an earlier version of this project that only used an ATtiny and a MAX6951 LED driver.

The GPS wizardry is where this project gets really cool. [Nick] is using a SkyTraq Venus838LPx-T (that’s also available on a breakout board on Tindie). This GPS chip has a handy edge mount SMA connector to receive the signals from a GPS satellite, and has a bidirectional UART to dump the NMEA time codes and a PPS output. By combining the timecode, PPS output, and playing around with the timers on the microcontroller, [Nick] has a fantastically accurate clock that also looks great.

Quick and Easy NTP Clock

[Danman] got an ESP32 with built-in OLED display, and in the process of getting a clock up and running and trying to get a couple of NodeMCU binaries installed on it, thought he’d try rolling his own.

[Danman] used PlatformIO to write the code to his ESP. PlatformIO allowed [Danman] to browse for a NTP library and load it into his project. After finding the NTP library, [Danman] wrote a bit of code and was able to upload it to the ESP. When that was uploaded [Danman] noticed that nothing was being displayed on the OLED, but that was just a simple matter of tracking down the right address to use when setting up the library for his OLED. Lastly, [Danman] created a large font to display the time with and his mini-clock was done!

It’s always nice to see someone be able to go from buying a board to having a demo put together, and it’s getting easier and easier. Check out this OLED watch, and this pocket watch doesn’t use OLEDs, but it still looks pretty cool.

Solar Tide Clock Keeps Track of the Moon

Old fashioned tide clocks were an attempt to predict high tide by timing the rising and setting of the moon. When you looked at one you could see how many hours until the next high tide. [rabbitcreek] wanted to make his own version of the tide clock that does a better job of predicting the actual high tide than those old clocks, which were essentially glorified timers tuned to the moon’s phases.

[rabbitcreek] based his the tide prediction software off of [Luke Miller’s] Tide Clock, which applies location-specific adjustments to the standard lunar clock, taking into consideration such factors as the geographic features (basin depth, etc.) that modify the default timing. [Miller]’s Arduino code includes a library of common locations organized by NOAA station number.

[rabbitcreek]’s project consists of a Adafruit Feather board hooked up to a DS3231 RTC breakout and a HS-225BB servo, which turns the clock’s hand. It’s an 180-degree servo, attached to a hacked-down Actobotics gearbox gearing the servo down 2:1 to permit 360 degrees of movement.

He also wanted his creation to be left to operate unattended for years, theoretically — so solar power was a natch. The face of the clock consists of individual wavers of solar panel glued into a huge clock-like array. The solar cells feed into an Adafruit PowerBoost 500, a TPL5111 low power timer breakout, and a LiPo battery for when it’s dark out.

If you’re looking for more solar clocks check out this one that uses capacitors as hour markers.

FPGA Clocks for Software Developers (or Anyone)

It used to be that designing hardware required schematics and designing software required code. Sure, a lot of people could jump back and forth, but it was clearly a different discipline. Today, a lot of substantial digital design occurs using a hardware description language (HDL) like Verilog or VHDL. These look like software, but as we’ve pointed out many times, it isn’t really the same. [Zipcpu] has a really clear blog post that explains how it is different and why.

[Zipcpu] notes something we’ve seen all too often on the web. Some neophytes will write sequential code using Verilog or VHDL as if it was a conventional programming language. Code like that may even simulate. However, the resulting hardware will — at best — be very inefficient and at worst will not even work.

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Word Clock Five Minutes At A Time

As this clock’s creator admits, it took far more than five minutes to put together, but it does display the time in five minute increments.

After acquiring five 4-character, 16 segment display modules that were too good to pass up, they were promptly deposited in the parts pile until [JF] was cajoled into building something by a friend. Given that each display’s pins were in parallel, there was a lot of soldering to connect these displays to the clock’s ATMega328P brain. On the back of the clock’s perfboard skeleton, a DS1307 real-time clock and coin cell keep things ticking along smoothly. The case is laser cut out of acrylic with an added red filter to up the contrast of the display, presenting a crisp, crimson glow.

Troubleshooting — as well as procrastination — proved to be the major stumbling block here. Each of the displays required extensive troubleshooting because — like Christmas lights of yore — one bad connection would cause all the other displays to fail. Furthermore, there isn’t any easy way to change the time, so the clock needs to be reprogrammed once in a while

We love word clocks because there are so many ways to configure them and for the oddities. That isn’t to say radial clocks are any less creative.

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