Dispatches from the front (Pre-Release Report) - Time to 'forge

By now everyone is probably tired of the Star Wars Day jokes and gimmicks, tchotchkes and future dust collectors :slightly_smiling_face: so here is a brief instructional that although featuring a Star Wars theme, is transferable to other designs.

Like others I find the SW Millennium Falcon to be a really cool design. It dispenses with all of the sleek smoothness of many spacecraft designs in movies and television in favor of lots of bits and stuff that adds a fair amount of complexity and visual interested to the design even in 2D.

Now I work with folks across several timezones, even across the world. Half my staff is on the left coast, the other half with me on the east. But I have a fair number of folks working for me in India and there in comes the need for a dedicated clock. Indian Standard Time is not an easily remembered (at least by me) delta from Eastern Time - it’s either 10 1/2 or 9 1/2 hours ahead depending on whether we’re on Daylight Savings or not. A 3 hour shift for California or 12 hours for Manila I can handle, IST not so much.

But clocks are generally not an aesthetically interesting specialty in the design world - mostly they look fairly utilitarian. At least the ones in the office. I don’t want an ugly one on my office wall.

Glowforge to the rescue:

How do we get from a blank space on the wall to a space clock? Simple enough Scooby.

First one takes a scan of the Millennium Falcon, adds an outline and a hole for the clock movement’s shaft. Well, I guess first one starts with a clock movement so as to know what size to make the hole. Off we go to Hobby Lobby (or other craft store) and buy a battery powered clock movement.

However, since one costs $7.99 and a package of 4 costs $21.99 it seems prudent to go with the 4 pack. Each clock movement consists of the actual clock circuitry (AA battery powered) mounting hardware and a set of hour, minute and second hands. Since my Falcon is going to be roughly 14"X10" the hands included won’t fit the scale I’m thinking of. So I grab a couple of hands-only packages. Not sure which will look best - gonna depend on what wood I make the Falcon from.

For under $10 I’ve got the mechanics for my clock. I’ll use the extra hands and movements on other clock projects.

Measure the shaft and drop a suitably sized hole somewhat off-center (aesthetics again) in the design and send it to the 'forge. I really like the Proofgrade cherry plywood - it’s a nice finish in between the blond of the maple and the rich brown of the walnut and I have a sheet in my stash.

Slide it in and hit the print button. Ooof, not gonna work. I’ve got a vector of the Falcon but the GFUI loads only the bottom half with the discrete vector lines. The upper half shows a solid blob in the UI. A few attempts to finagle the file and the same results. So, no vector score for this. A raster engrave it’s going to be.

That’s not entirely bad. I’ve had many complex designs that laser faster using rasters than vectors when the pattern is especially complex. The expected time savings from not having the head traverse back & forth is outweighed by all the movement needed to follow the paths. In fact I have an example of a tree I use in class to show students that there are exceptions to rules like “vectors are faster than rasters”.

I convert the Falcon to a bitmap and zippy skippy it’s off to the Forge. Hit the print button and am rewarded with a 1hr 56 minute estimated execution time. Hmmm…probably should have done this before 9:30 at night. Press on!

There’s something magical about watching a complex engrave reveal itself. Mesmerizing.

All done and we’re left with a hole in the Proofgrade and an extra PG hole inside the hole (it’s the donut hole from the cut for the clock shaft).

Time for Gorilla Tape and weeding. There are a wicked ton of itty bitty pieces of masking that are gonna need to get picked out. But GT makes short work of it. I contemplate removing the back masking but decide to leave that on. Sort of like the paper used on the back of framed art. No real reason but I like the clean white finish it gives the back.

With the front weeded, just need to mount the clock movement.

The movement gets a bent metal hanger placed on it before the rest of the hardware gets assembled. That’s the aluminum bracket on the plastic movement box.

The hardware goes on in the following order. A compression washer goes on the shaft before it’s inserted in the hole in the face. Then a brass washer and a nut. Tighten the nut and the hands go on. Then either another knurled nut goes on or an acorn cap depending on whether the second hand is used (if not, the acorn cap nut covers the end of the shaft).

The compression washer (more of a fiber thing than a true compression washer but that’s what they called it) is first.

Insert the movement from the back and attach the brass washer and large nut.

Now to decide on the hands - brass or black? They’re pressed in place over two steps on the shaft.

Neither looks as good (I think) as the alternative. The black hands are white on the back side. So I flip them over and try the white - much better contrast I think. I try different combinations but settle on both hour & minute hands white side out.

But the second hand presses onto a pin in the center of the shaft. The hand has an “outie” or projecting expanding shaft that fits over the center pin so it can’t be mounted backwards like I’m doing with the hour & minute hands. But before I mount the second hand I screw on the knurled nut that holds the minute hand on.

Mounting the hands has to be correctly done or they won’t be properly seated relative to each other as time passes. So put the hour hand pointing to the 12 o’clock position (it’s a press fit over the larger portion of the shaft). The minute hand has two flat sides to its mounting hole to match up with two flats on the smaller minute hand part of the shaft. Line those up and push the minute hand on. Then add the knurled nut. Or if you’re not using a second hand, screw on the acorn cap nut. Then move the minute hand so it’s centered over the hour hand at 12 o’clock. Finally press the second hand over the pin in the center of the shaft aligning it with the other hands before seating it fully.

Flip the clock over (it’s a clock now because it has a movement, face and hands) and insert a double-A (AA or LR6) battery. Next to the battery is an adjustment wheel to adjust the clock.

And we’re good! Ready to hang.

The clock movement is lightweight and battery powered. It’s fairly small (2 1/4"X2 1/4"X1/2") and can support decent sized hands. The hands and shaft sizes are standard so you can get different hands to match your project. If you go very large then there is a high-torque movement available for about twice the price. There’s also one that keeps track of clock changes for Daylight Savings time - again for about $15 or $16.

The same movement can be used on an a variety of clock faces and is small enough that you could incorporate it into a shadow box picture frame as well. Easy to put together once you’ve done it a first time and when you’re done you’ve got a clock no one else has.


That’s awesome! Thanks for the step-by-step too. I’ve seen a lot of clock designs going around pinterest for lasers and always hoped it might be this straight-forward.


Wonderful write-up and excellent choice of subject for your clock. I’ll be making several clocks and am glad to see this!


That is truly awesome. I just can’t believe that you didn’t do custom “blaster bolt” hands though. Not too late!


The detail is not increadible! I was wondering about the larger hands slowing down the movement till I read on.
Look great! Thanks for sharing!!


Nice job on the Falcon and the post! I like the white too. :sunglasses:


Awesome job! I love the edges on this piece. Really appreciate the detailed process description as well.


Nice job and description ! Have you thought of cutting out hands yourself? Something thin/light enough but sturdy enough? ( Then you could do one black Darth(head) hand and one white trooper(helmet) hand)

OOh - Light saber hands !!!


Thought about that but I’m not sure I have anything that’s thin & light enough. Have to see what’s out there materialise next time I’m at Blicks (they have more “exotic” stuff than the craft stores).


Soooo bookmarked!!

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ERM MA GERD!!! I’m in love with this. Huge star wars fan. I know a project ill be doing once i get my glowforge.

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Well done! Appreciate the details, too!

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Love this! Any idea how long batteries last in those clock movements? On the order of months, year+?

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Year+ from my experience. Doesn’t take much to power these.


So if you need to keep track of three time zones, will there be an Imperial Star Destroyer and Tie Fighter clock chasing the Falcon?

A lot more fun than the clock project hanging in every house of my home town. It was the Jr. High shop project.


Looks great, nice work! FYI, there are some clock movements out there that will read the atomic wireless time sync signal and they work pretty well. I used one for a similar build last year on an office laser and was quite happy with it.


Now you can tell the time to people like “It is rear thruster o’clock.”


Very cool idea. Next steps, strategic LED placement to pump up the jam.

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Hmmm…a string all around the back with a small battery pack and it would float on the light :slightly_smiling_face:

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And a Death Star clock, of course.