An Upcyling Case Study: A Higher Visibility Clock

The desire for a wall clock was born from the opportunity to reduce the friction required to know approximately what time it is. High precision time is consistently available on the many screens, but the screens carry with them far more then merely the time. Interacting with the screen can bring friction as mental associations to other tools the screen offers may gum up the mind. What sense does it make to interrupt a precious activity that does not involve screens with a screen just to keep somewhat oriented to the time?

This wasn’t a high priority search. I set some requirements:

  • Display a good enough time
  • The displayed time should be easily readable, with a minimum of unnecessary annoyance.

Of course there were preferences weighted over the leisurely, largely passive search. Mostly a lack of obnoxious branding or noise. And so I stumbled across a promising artifact while grocery shopping.

The low price and readable face made the very correctable flaws forgivable. Replacement wall clock movements are an inexpensive commodity. A silent one with a sweep second hand was easily aquired locally for approximately 3 USD in our local currency.

However a greater problem shortly revealed itself:

There is a glaring usability issue! With less that ideal lighting the visibility of the hands drops rapidly. The problem of the dark blue factory paint job can be corrected as well. Applying a definitive bug fix requires a little bit of prep.

The artifact is first placed in a well ventilated location where the need to clean up over spray later has been minimized. This dark blue is going to required a primer to conceal it. The glossiness of the paint is enough to make concerns about our desired paint separating from the default paint a serious concern as well.

The answer to the priming problem is pigmented shellac. Whether using a commercially available product or a homemade version the composition is simple. Shellac, Solvent, and pigment. The pigment does not have to be titanium white, but it usually is in commercial preparations. The solvent, typically alcohol, evaporates leaving the primed artifact covered in a durable coating that is supremely sticky.

For this use, any other choice of primer would be strictly inferior. I managed to find a version in an aerosol can.

Use caution when shopping, because this same brand markets other primers with the same branding that are not pigmented shellac products. In the worst case, a homemade version could have been prepared with dry shellac, pigment, and rectified alcohol.

After applying a coat of primer, some of the factory blue paint can be seen bleeding through, especially in areas of thinner coverage. I deemed this an acceptable imperfection that informs “human hands were doing here”, which the states of the arts has let become a thing.

After applying our Fluorescent orange paint, we have radically transformed our wall clock’s user interface for the better.

After allowing paint to dry and installing the movement upgrade, visibility is improved substantially during testing of even very unfavorable lighting.

Anyways, a born defective clock was saved at a trivial cost. Now checking the time in the artifact’s presemce involves only a quick diversion of the gaze.

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