How to make your own wooden watch

If you have some free time on your hands, we have a project that will put something even better on your hands: a wooden watch that you crafted yourself. Does it seem like an impossible feat? It’s not, trust us. You just need the patience and the passion and you might end up with something you’re really proud of. Let’s get down to business.

Step 1: Dismantle an existing watch

If you have a watch laying around, that you’re not particularly fond of, take it appart by opening the back of the watch with a knife and a flat head screwdriver. Then, take out the crown, so that the whole movement can be removed from the watch case. To achieve this, press down with a sharp tool on the dimple near the shaft of the crown, where it enters the movement, while at the same time pulling the crown. Very carefully remove the watch hands with a sharp tool.

Step 2: Measure and plan

Use a ruler and measure the thickness of each of the parts with a ruler or caliper. Draw an assembled cross-section view of the watch movement, then draw the casing thickness and cover thickness around it. Make sure to leave a small gap between the watch hands and the glass, so they can rotate freely after it’s assembled. Next, use a CAD tool (if you don’t have one, you can do it with your hands, but very carefully), design your watch and draw out the outlines to scale.

Step 3: Build the bezel

Cut out the plans and glue them on to a hardwood of your choice. If you want a gear-like pattern around the bezel, drill some holes and sand down around the holes to create a gear-like shape. But this is up to you, the design is your choice.

Drill a hole through the center of the piece of wood used for the bezel and screw it on a plank of wood, so that the bezel will rotate around its center and not slide around. Clamp the plank of woodto the drill press, aligning the first hole precisely. Then drill away, while rotating the bezel piece after each hole.

Unscrew the bezel piece, and drill a 2 cm hole through the center. Then sand away until you can fit the glass cover through the center of the bezel. Make sure you sand off a very small amount at a time and repeatedly check for a tight fit. Cut off the excess wood and sand until it’s smooth and thin.

Step 4: Build the barrier layer

The barrier layer can be created pretty much liek the bezel: cut, drill and sand, only much simpler, because there is no need for gear pattern. Watch out for one thing: the barrier layer has a smaller center hole compared to the bezel, to not allow the glass to be pushed into the watch case. Also, the hole should be smaller than the watch face.

Step 5: Build the watch case

Glue the plan on to a piece of wood and cut out the shape with a saw. Sand down excess wood with sandpaper, and use finer sandpaper shape it cleanly and precisely. The watch case should curve inwards at the center so that it wraps around your wrist. If you make them completely flat, the top and the bottom of the watch case will extrude out, making it uncomfortable to wear and awkward to see.

Step 6: Chisel out space for the crown

Use a knife and a chisel to chip out some of the wood out of the watch case, to accomodate room for the crown when you assemble the watch.

Step 7: Glue the watch case together

The time has come to glue all the pieces together and create the watch case. Use wood glue (not white glue) to make the bond strong and durable. Apply a generous amount, clamp the pieces together and leave them like this for 24 hours. After the glue dries out, cut and sand the excess glue.

Step 8: Drill a hole for the crown and sand the edges

Drill a hole for the shaft for the crown to go through. Make sure to center punch first, so that the drill bit doesn’t shift as you drill. Then sand down the edges and corners of the watch case, until it looks smooth on all sides. Once the look is satisfying, glue the three layers of the body together.

Step 9: Create a custom watch face

First, draw a circle with a compass on a metal plate, then cut out its rough shape with a saw and sand it down with sandpaper. Then, drill a hole in the middle, for the watch hands, then another for the date. Always remember to center punch. Sand down the surface of the watch face with a fine grit sandpaper, to give it a brushed metal look.

Step 10: Create the center links

Drill a hole through the entire piece, then cut and sand down to appropriate sizes. Make plenty of them, as you will require quite a few of these to create the whole band. Use toothpicks to hold the links together to form the band.

Step 11: Create the edge links

The edge links are different from the center links, because the hole has to be drilled only half way. Technically, the hole can be drilled all the way through but you may not want the holes and the toothpicks to be visible from the sides. Make plenty of these edge links. There will be 2 edge links for each center links, so this step might take a while.

Measure how deep you drilled into the edge links, multiply that by 2 (because you will require 2 edge links for each center link), and add the width of the center link. You will need to cut the toothpicks slightly shorter than this number.

Step 12: Glue the links and the watch case together

Once the toothpicks have been cut to the right sizes, apply a bit of wood glue into the holes of the edge links only. Insert two cut toothpicks into the edge links, then insert two center links, then seal it off with another edge link.

You will have to glue two sets of toothpicks at a time, because if you glue only one set, then you can’t take the glued links apart to put in the next toothpick. You need to take careful measurements of your latch and make appropriate end link pieces that will fit into the latch.

To prevent the toothpick from getting glued to the center links, hold the glued links together with your fingers for a minute or two, then rotate the center link until it breaks free from the glue. Repeat this step 2 or 3 times over the course of 10 minutes or so. After this, let the links settle overnight.

Once you have glued enough links together, glue the links to the watch case.

Step 13: Create the back

With the same metal plate used for the watch face, cut out the shape you want for the back, then bend it by hand, to fit the curvature of the back of the watch case.

Step 14: Seal the watch

Apply some teak oil to the watch to protect it from moisture.

Step 15: Screw holes for the back

Drill holes at the back of the watch and cover for the screws to hold them together. Drill holes on to the metal sheet first, then trace and drill the holes on to the watch. Make sure the holes are perfectly aligned.

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