Art Con SEED Clock

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This project has been completed.
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Art conspiracy is a local 501(c)(3) non-profit that organizes a big fund raising event for a different North Texas non-profit group each year. They've raised over $70,000 for local non profits so far. To cover their annual operating expenses, they also hold an annual art auction called the Art Con SEED event. For SEED 2010, Art Conspiracy selected 30 local artists. Each artist was given an identical kit. Each kit was used as the basis to build a working art clock. The 30 clocks were auctioned off at a live event on July 16 at Sons of Hermann Hall in Deep Ellum. The DPRG/DMS was selected as one of those 30 artists. We had approximately 3 weeks from the time we received the kit to design and build our art clock.

Our clock went for $230 at the auction! - We weren't able to stay for the entire auction but when we left, the Dallas Makerspace clock was the biggest winner so far. Check out photos of our clock and all the other art clocks in the ArtCon SEED auction gallery

The SEED Clock Kit

Each artist will receive a kit containing the following:

  • 11" x 18" recycled plywood panel
  • battery (AA) powered clock mechanism
  • 14" hand set
  • 4.5" hand set

The Official Rules

  • One kit per artist.
  • Artists must use and make functional the clock kit made available to them.
  • Clocks must be able to be transported up & down the stairs at Sons of Hermann Hall.
  • Clocks may be free-standing or wall-mounted.
  • We discourage you from making drastic changes to the weight of the minute/hour hands of the clock kit, as they may lose their functionality if they are too heavy.
  • You are NOT REQUIRED to use the plywood with the kit, but we urge you to recycle it one way or another - it's yours!


  • Design, welding, grinding: Steve Rainwater
  • Design, power, wiring, polishing: Ed Paradis
  • CAD, plasma cutting: Mike Dodson (DPRG)


  • Incorporated elements unique to the DPRG/DMS (welded metal, Makerbot printed 3D stuff, or moving paper robots)
  • Make a clock compelling enough to bring the most money at the auction
  • Raise awareness of DPRG/DMS in local art / non-profit community
  • Bid on an art clock for the new hackerspace at the auction

Important Dates

  • June 21, 10am - artist kits available for pick up at The Cube Creative
  • June 24, 7pm - present kit to group, brainstorm ideas, pick team
  • July 14, noon - Drop off deadline for finished art clock
  • July 16 - Art Con SEED Event at Sons of Hermann Hall

Design Process

Use the 4 foot triangular metal space frame beam we salvaged from Probotics as the stand. Weld a heavy metal base to support the stand and clock. The stand and clock should be removable for transport. The clock will consist of a round metal face with an attached chassis that will mount to the stand and contain any electronics we need. The clock face will be polished perforated metal, possibly with CCFL backlighting on quarter hours.

Ed and Steve visited Garland Steel to pick up some rusty scrap metal for the base. The metal was brushed, cleaned, and arc welded into a suitable base weighing about 40lbs. Three pieces of steel rebar were cut to serve as mounting pegs for the stand. The rebar was welded to the base. The entire rusty base was clear coated in hopes of preserving the rusty appearance. Other metal artists have reported mixed results but hopefully it will hold up.

Meanwhile, the salvaged steel beam was drilled to allow wiring to pass through it. After that, we cleaned the surface and painted the whole beam in high gloss red.

The clock face and chassis were plasma cut from sheet steel. Mike started out torch welding the chassis but switched to brazing to minimize warping of the the metal parts. Blue CCFL lighting tubes were attached to back of the clock face. The inverters for the CCFL tubes were attached to the chassis and connected to power via wiring from the clock stand.

All the steel used was repurposed salvaged material. While we polished and clear coated the face, we're not exactly sure what the final appearance will be. There will likely be enough oxidation to darken it but hopefully it won't actually rust.

Steve with scrap steel
Plasma cutting clock face
Steve welding
Steve arc welding base
m|frame|plasma cutting chassis</flickr> m|frame|Ed polishing chassis panels</flickr>
Steve cutting rebar
m|frame|Ed test fitting the face</flickr> m|frame|Mike welding the chassis</flickr>
m|frame|View down the stand to the base</flickr> m|frame|CCFL lighting test</flickr>
The clock face at an angle
m|frame|Finished clock at the SEED auction</flickr> m|frame|Finished clock at the SEED auction</flickr> m|frame|Finished clock at the SEED auction</flickr>

Notes from Initial Brainstorm Session

Like all DPRG/DMS projects we dreamed up way more stuff than we could ever do in the time allotted or with the available resources. But they're good ideas so we'll save them here for future reference.

Since we're stuck with the provided analog movement, doing anything cool means we need to find a way to decode the output into something a microprocessor can read. How about an array of 12 IR reflectance sensors for the hour hand and a single sensor for the minute hand (so we know when it hits "o'clock"). Pololu makes a cheap sensor that we can connect directly to an AVR / Arduino, the QTR-1RC for about $2 each. Sparkfun has the cheaper QRD1114 IR emitter/detector for $1 but probably needs some additional electronics to use.

Desired qualities

  • Lights
  • Sounds
  • Motion (automatons)

Sound Suggestions

  • Use provided movement to actuate non-timed element (metal disks, etc)
  • Automaton (robot cuckoo)
  • Tick/tock sounds (subwoofer)
  • 1, 1.5, 1.25 hour sounds
  • Sounds to accompany automaton movement
  • Need an off switch for all sound

Clock Face Suggestions

  • Shadow clock (round or simulated sundial)
  • POV clock
  • LED binary clock
  • Open frame with exposed mechanism
  • Lots of excess movement within open clock frame

Motion Suggestions

  • Hourly automaton performance
  • Papercraft robot with servos
  • Rotating turntable with Dallas scenes (Deep Ellum, Oak Cliff landmarks etc)

Misc suggestions

  • CCFL light tubes
  • Use EL wire for ??
  • Neon tubes
  • fluorescent acrylic
  • metal plate

Available Hardware

  • Arduino
  • Pololu Maestro servo controller
  • Pololu Orangutang controller
  • EL Wire in various colors, w/triacs and invertor
  • 2 blue CFL tubes w/invertor
  • 1 POV clock kit (Alyssa)
  • Subwoofer & amp from Noise Boundary gear
  • Speakers & 15 watt stereo amp from Noise Boundary gear
  • 100 or so two color LEDs from Noise Boundary gear
  • China cymbal from Noise Boundary gear
  • Four foot space frame salvaged from Probotics, might make a good base

Primary Clock Components - the clock should break down into parts that can be easily transported. It needs to be able to make the trip up the stairs in Sons of Hermann Hall with minimal effort.