Strange Art Projects: Neil Diamond Clocks
Clock1 The inspiration for this project came from the 1984 Neil Diamond tour program. I usually collect those for the interior pictures, but what really caught my attention was the photograph of the cartoon Neil clock in the inside back cover. The quality of the cartoon was excellent- a fine likeness. I thought it was utterly charming. At last, a clock that utilizes the clock hands as part of the design. I'd seen pictures of Neil clocks before, but those were of Neil's face, and the necessity of having a hole under his nose and putting black clock hands on it meant that he'd have a Van Dyke mustache everytime it was 4:40 or 7:20. 

Of course, the clock is not something that you can just go to your local gift store and BUY. No one seemed to know where those were sold, or whether they were even in stores once. 

So, while I was drooling at the clock, it occurred to me: what is a clock face, but a piece of printed paper? Then I started thinking about my COLOR Epson 740 printer. I had CD clock kit on a broken CD, then I started thinking, "why not a Neil CD clock?" 


Step 1: Scan the Neil clock image from the 1984 tour program. You will have to rotate the image slightly to get the clock numbers to line up correctly. You must scan this at 300 dpi, due to the small size of the original image.

Step 2: Import this scan into a graphic program. You will have to stretch the image vertically to restore the original aspect ratio, and to compensate for the downward angle of the original picture. Spend a WEEK "cleaning up" the scan. This involves erasing the arms and re-drawing the parts of the cartoon that were obscured by the hands (shirt, guitar) and converting the speckled colors (as scanned) into 24 bit continuous tone color by hand (the smear and the blend functions come in handy). Erase any of the lettering that you can't use (original brand name, "swiss made")

Step 3: Print this image on a CD Stomper CD label sheet. Stick the label on a CD (Neil CD preferred). Put 4 coats of varnish on this. Do not use oil (turpentine) based varnish, since it reacts to the label adhesive!

Step 4: The center hole of a CD is larger than the clockworks!  You will have to cut and bevel a plastic "washer" to fill the CD hole. You can use the back of a CD jewel case and use ever-larger drill bits to make the correct size hole in the center.

Step 5: Now you have to deal with the hands. Use as much of the gloves from the original scan as possible. The thin "Mickey Mouse" arms had to go. Draw a pair of arms using your graphics program (cartooning skills help). Print these on the same label stock as the CD label. Cut out the arms and stick them on thin plastic card stock. Use a hot knife or X-acto knife to trim the arms accurately to size. Epoxy these to the arms of the clock.

Step 6: Assemble the CD clock, as per the instructions!

The result. This is still playable, if I were to remove the clockworks. Mine plays as Serenade.


While on a trip to Walgreens, I found a very inexpensive 70's style "Smiley Face" alarm clock- styled almost like the one in the tour program, with the two bells on top. The gears started turning in my head again, as I evaluated the possibilities of that one. I opened the box in the store and examined it and noted the screws on the back. That meant... I could take it apart!

I purchased it and took it to the kitchen table and opened it up. It was a very simple design. Once I removed the hands and the cardboard Smiley Face, I was ready to start the serious work. Most of the hard work was already done (the graphics) when I made the original Neil CD clock, so this one went quickly, by comparison. Since I wasn't dealing with a CD, that freed me from using label stock for the cartoon pic. I used glossy photo quality Epson heavy stock instead. The end result was breathtaking. I mused that the printing quality was probably equal to that of the original clock!

The arms would be a problem though. My tried n' true plastic card wouldn't work this time... the clock shaft was much shorter, and the clearance between the hour hand, the minute hand and the second hand could not accommodate the added thickness of my favorite plastic card. There was only one material that was thin enough and yet strong enough for the arms... sheet metal. &^$#@)* I thought I was done with sheet metal work when I stopped making jewelry and brass fittings for wooden ships years ago! But it was a necessity, so I really did end up cutting and filing a brass sheet to make the custom shaped clock arms. I epoxied the cartoon arms (printed on photo paper) to the brass arms, and then epoxied the whole thing to the original clock hands. I did end up removing the extra "alarm" hand completely. No more room on the shaft for it, so this clock will never ring again (this is a good thing).

Pretty slick looking (not bad for a single Sunday afternoon project), although I don't like working with sheet metal all that much anymore- it's murder on the fingers.


"Poor little Smiley clock, you've ripped it apart." "I'm going to put it back together again." "...all that craftsmanship in making the original clock, and look what you've done to it." "Craftsmanship? They probably made those clocks in prison factories in China. It's just part of their quota." "But you already have a Neil Diamond clock". "I want another one. I'm good at this. This one has a new lease on life. People used to ignore it when it was a Smiley clock at Walgreens. Now, as a Neil Diamond clock, it's a collector's item!"

And now, the final chapter in our clock-making odyssey. Now it seems that I can't avoid looking in the clock section while shopping in variety stores! This little 3" clock has been affectionately dubbed, "Neil Diamond Clock, Jr.". It originally had a picture of a teddy bear on the face. The clock body is made of plastic (not metal) and comes in several different colors. The mock twin bells do not ring, since the alarm is of the type that goes "beep" using a sound chip. But the shape of the clock is about right, and, with a scaled-down Neil cartoon face, it looks just like its big brother (shown above). The small size of Clock Jr. became an advantage- it was no longer necessary to use brass sheet metal to hold the outline of the cartoon arms. The smaller scale meant that the photo paper arms could be glued directly on the original clock arms, using only several coats of Elmer's glue to stiffen them.


This article is Copyright 2000, K.F. Louie. May not be reproduced without the written permission of the author.

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