Technology
Masterpiece of Soldering: You Won’t Believe This Handmade Electronic Clock

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The collection of components that you see above is actually a clock, masterfully constructed by Gislain Benoit, who has been working with electronics for as long as he can remember. According to the description, this clock not only displays the time, but all of the components you would see in a wristwatch microchip if viewed under a microscope.

Building something like this via “traditional methods” like a printed circuit board or breadboard would be impressive enough, but Gislain decided to solder everything together in a beautiful three-dimensional structure. If you’re wondering, there are 1916 components contained in this clock, weighing in at a healthy 14 pounds.

The device runs off of a 12 volt DC adapter, and the clock’s timing is cleverly inferred from the US standard of running electricity at 60 cycles per second. In other words, it “ticks” a second for every 60 pulses coming from a standard electrical outlet. I suppose this could also be used to judge how good the quality of power coming to your dwelling place is. After griping about your dirty power, the clock, which has no external buttons, can cleverly be set using a magnet on the electromagnetic switches contained in the enclosure.

Be sure to check out the amazing images below. As seen in the last picture, Gislain signs these works of art using a soldered conductor.

20 thoughts on “Masterpiece of Soldering: You Won’t Believe This Handmade Electronic Clock

  1. Most cheap alarm clocks get their clock pulse from the grid’s 60 or 50Hz grid. That’s why they tend to run late. So this design just follows common practice. Presumably the manufacturers didn’t want to spend money on a quartz.
    But I’d love to know how he did the place and route on this design…

    1. The 50/60Hz signal is fairly regular. Clocks using it for a timing source tend to be exceptionally accurate over the long term (ie, they may fluctuate fast and slow a bit as the grid load rises and falls, but they’re always going to count off 86400 seconds in a day). Cheap inaccurate clocks would tend to use cheap crystals, not mains frequency.

      1. In the past (at least in the UK) the mains frequency was extremely accurate with the electricity companies adjusting the cycles faster and slower to keep the average at 50 Hz overall. This was the most accurate form of time keeping available to the public apart from calling the recording of the time on the telephone or listening to the radio at the end of the hour. You can read more about this in the Wikipedia article on “Utiliity Frequency”.

  2. Wow, so very cool.
    Not only is it impressive in the fundamental construction, but the balance of the work that allows it to be visually uniform is astounding.

  3. Dude – hats off to ya! That’s impressive, both for the soldering skills (and endurance!), and the design of a digital clock using only transistors! As a master solderer (25 years experience) myself :) , I commend you!

  4. “The device runs off of a 12 volt DC adapter, and the clock’s timing is cleverly inferred from the US standard of running electricity at 60 cycles per second.”

    Cleverly? You do know that some of the oldest electronic clocks used this method? In fact, when the national grid was formed, temporary factories were set up in California to convert clocks runing on 50hz timing to 60hz.

  5. It’s almost impossible for your local power to be significantly different from 60Hz for any period of time. All of the power systems across the country from the long distance distribution wires to the wall current in your house have to be locked into the same frequency (and in-phase with each other where they meet) or else massive inefficiencies and dangerous conditions appear in the distribution network. As long as you’re not running off your own local power grid, your wall power is 60Hz to an almost atomic clock level of precision (with some small variations that are quickly compensated).

    This is also why local solar and generator backups need to be connected to your house (and the grid) in approved ways. If you attempt to connect a simple solar powered inverter to your house current while power is also attached to the grid, you’re extremely likely to set things on fire. The right equipment will figure out the phase and lock onto the frequency from the grid before attempting to drive power into your breaker box.

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Jeremy is an engineer with 10 years experience at his full-time profession, and has a BSME from Clemson University. Outside of work he’s an avid maker and experimenter, building anything that comes into his mind!

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