How to Make a DIY Modern Desk Clock

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There’s something about clocks, isn’t there? In this age of smartphones and digital everything, there’s still a timeless charm to a good old-fashioned clock sitting on your dresser, nightstand, or desk. And a hardwood modern desk clock is exactly what I’ll be teaching you how to make today.

The plan calls for hardwood, and I’ve chosen oak this time. Why? Well, just because I can easily get my hands on them where I live. Overall, this project is simple but it brings a touch of sophistication to your space. 

Okay, enough chit-chat. Let’s roll our sleeves and get to it!

Cut List

Hard Wood


Dimensions (Inch)


Body A


4 x 4


Body B


4 x 4






Wood glue



Wood stain



Wood varnish





80, 150, 220 grit

Clock mechanism





Before we head into the actual step-by-step process, I wanted to explain a few things.

You’ll see in the plan that it’s made up of three pieces of wood — we’ve got Body A and two pieces of Body B. Simple enough.

But you have to be careful when it comes to choosing the right clock mechanism. It has to go through a hefty ¾ of an inch thick, which means not just any old clock mechanism will do the trick. You have to find one with a stem long enough to poke through that chunk of wood.

Oh, and don’t forget about the “D=*” notation in the plan. That little asterisk means the diameter of the hole in the middle depends on the clock mechanism you choose. Remember, different mechanisms mean different hole sizes.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s go into the steps for making this modern desk clock.

Step 1

Cut three equal pieces measuring 4×4 inches. Sand them with sandpaper, starting with 80 grit and finishing with 150 grit for a smooth surface.

Cutting three equal pieces measuring 4x4 inches for a desk clock

Step 2

In Body A, create a hole for the clock shaft with a diameter matching the clock mechanism

Creating a hole for the clock shaft

Step 3

In Bodies B, use a Jig Saw or Scroll Saw to carve out a space for the clock mechanism body, ensuring it fits the clock’s dimensions.

Creating lines for the clock mechanism body

Step 4

Attach all three clock bodies together using wood glue and clamps, then remove any excess glue. Personally, I prefer using CA glue for this type of project.

Applying glue on the clock body
Carving out a space for the clock mechanism body

Step 5

Round the corners of the clock bodies by 1/8 inch using a router with a 1/8 inch bit or a sander. Round the edges as well.

Step 6

Sand all sides of the glued clock body with 220-grit sandpaper.

Sanding all sides of the glued clock body

Step 7

Optionally, apply stain or varnish to the clock body for added color. Follow up with at least two coats of polyurethane varnish for protection. After applying the first layer of varnish, sand it lightly with 320-grit sandpaper for a smoother finish.

Step 8

Finally, attach the clock mechanism into place.

Attaching the clock mechanism

Optional: Add Walnut Rods

Okay, this is not a requirement to complete this project. However, I wanted to add a little bit more character to the clock, so I added pieces of walnut rods to mark the hours. 

Hammering additional rods on the clock

I just cut a dowel rod into smaller pieces to fit the holes, drove the rods in the front face with a mallet, and used a flush cut saw to remove the excess that was sticking out of the clock face.

Cutting the excess walnut rods on the black of the clock

Final Product

Desk Clock Final Product

Final Thoughts

And there you have it. While there have been a few bumps (hello, finding the perfect clock mechanism), overall, I’d say this project was fun to make. There’s just something about working with wood and creating something beautiful and functional that never gets old.

So, whether you’re using it to spruce up your own space or gifting it to a friend, I hope this clock brings a smile to your face every time you check the time. And who knows? Maybe it’ll inspire you to tackle even more DIY projects in the future.

Rich Profile Pic

Rich is a second-generation woodworker, having grown up in his dad’s workshop, “making sawdust.” Fifty years later, he’s still studying and working on improving his own woodworking skills, while also helping new woodworkers “catch the bug” for the smell of fresh sawdust. While Rich has done some custom woodworking projects, his greatest thrill is helping the next generation of woodworkers along, regardless of their age. His background as an engineer and a writer just adds to his ability to teach his true passion, woodworking.

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