How to Build a Lego Clock

The holiday spirit is already wearing off. The tree and decorations are down, and there are no more parties, treats, or tasty meals to distract us from the inevitable – the onslaught of cold. We need a project. And since my ideas are mostly limited to things that should probably take place outdoors, such as wrestling, hitting things with sticks, and lighting things on fire, I’m looking to the internet for inspiration.

A quick image search for “lego creations” reveals that nearly everything on this earth has been reproduced at some point in Lego form, from Mount Rushmore to the Sydney Opera House, a time-traveling Delorean with functional flux capacitor to a full-scale vehicle with a 5-star safety rating. The problem is, we don’t have the time or brick supply that these masterpieces require.

Believe it or not, there is a scarcity of instructions online for building your own analog Lego clock! Turns out it’s a simple and inexpensive project, great for a Saturday morning indoors.


  1. Clock movement kit, found cheap online or at a local craft store. I got mine at Michael’s for $6.
  2. Good assortment of Lego plates and other flat bricks.


  1. lego clock baseThe moving part of the clock movement takes up precisely one dot – pretty slick, but this forced the dimensions of the base to be odd, 13 x 13, since I wanted it symmetrical. With only a mediocre assortment of plates and flat pieces, I was constrained to a smallish, gray clock base.
  2. lego clock backThere’s a small nut and washer which thread onto the front of the clock and which cinch it onto the rest of the movement. As a result, you don’t need any support on the backside, so long as the face is relatively small and light.
  3. lego clock completedAgain, working with odd dimensions made it hard to center things. The number plates here are 4 x 5 and 5 x 4. Next time I’ll make things even by giving the movement a 2 x 2 space on front, rather than 1 x 1.
  4. Finally, the hands – the white pieces are superglued onto the flimsy metal hands that came with the clock kit. I had to tweak the hour hand downward so they wouldn’t collide. The second hand wasn’t strong enough to support a Lego piece, so I settled for a single dot and just twisted off the rest of the hand.

The best part is the kids can destroy and rebuild, with some help, as often as they like – change the colors, give it a medieval theme, use Harry Potter pieces, whatever.

Let me know how yours turns out.

Homemade Gifts from Dad: Lego Picture Frame version 2.0

My son was momentarily very impressed by Lego picture frame version 1, but his first question was “can I break it?” Version 2.0 should last at least a day.

Lego picture frame
Version 2.0

Really, the Lego picture frame isn’t for kids. It belongs in a hipster’s retro-decor kitchen or bathroom, next to their abstract Super Mario artwork. A permanent Lego creation defeats the purpose of Legos. Like any construction toys, they’re made to be destroyed and rebuilt, over and over. And just as I’ve passed my Legos on to my children, they will pass them on to theirs, and so proceeds the Lego circle of life, the generations of Legos.

My buddy Tim-o recently told me that our planet has more Legos than people. Apparently (link), a few other species could be outnumbered as well:

More than 400 billion Lego bricks have been produced since 1958. There are about 62 Lego bricks per person of the Earth’s population.

That seems wrong, both statistically and morally. People are starving, right? Fifty Lego bricks aren’t going to do them any good, unless they’re the edible ones, but those are just candy. We need nutritious Legos.

They are an excellent toy, and brilliantly mass-marketed, but to be honest, and to destroy the chances that they ever sponsor my blog, I admit that I prefer not to support the endless production of more Legos. I also prefer the basic extensible blocks to the newfangled specialty pieces that have limited use. Call me old-fashioned.

As the ultimate homemade gift from dad I recommend getting some bulk pieces online (Craigslist usually has a hundred or so postings), building a sweet ship or castle, and leaving it under the tree, or outside their bedroom door.

Lego Adventures: Fishing, Saving Planets, Getting Bad Guys

My son made a laser flier digger booster without destroying the Lego picture frame:

Lego laser flier digger
Laser flier digger booster mobile

In his own words:

It’s called a convotomater, because it catches fish, and this robot machine that goes down on this thing actually catches sharks, because some people say that they want sharks, so that’s why they catch sharks. Do you know what the threetow is on this? It’s the thing that spins and shoots the fish out. And what do you think this one is? This sucks up fish and then shoots them all the way to the city so people can eat them. They land in front of their houses, in a bucket.

This one has little bugs on top and you push this button and it goes into the water and it’s poisonous so the fish eat it and die. And this one looks under the water and takes pictures of fish, so they know what kind of fish it is. It’s called a three-moto-headed skywalker.

Sounds like Deadliest Catch, only more inventive and more efficient. From the sea to your doorstep – genius!

The design is all his own, but we do try to balance out the destruction and bad guy getting, which seems to come innately to a 5-yr-old boy, with something constructive like space exploration or rescue missions. The laser flier digger booster, aka convotomater, does it all:

And it can turn into a ship. Actually, this is a space ship, it’s not a water ship. It fixes other ships if they break. And it has special tools and it can fix the planets, so if Zupiter broke they can put if back together with this robot. This one drains holes in the planets so they can put nails in them so fire can’t get in and break the whole planet and it would explode.

And this robot in space keeps electricity in this wire thing that spins around, and gives electricity to any rocket that doesn’t have electricity. And this bullet one shoots out of the front and goes and makes sure the planets aren’t chemicaled.

Oh, I forgot to tell you about the best robot ever. This one on the side that has the rocket launcher on the bottom, it takes pictures of planets so they know which planet it is, and it knows how to spell it. So that’s how this spaceship works. Isn’t that cool?

The coolest. Of course, we’re always prepared for the bad guys:

And if bad guys come it will shoot this laser thing out, and it has cracking chemicals.