Monthly Archives: April 2016

Time On Your Hands Clock

“Time On Your Hands” Clock displays the time on a manikin hand –  both literally and figuratively.

This is one of my most ambitious projects to date. The Time On Your Hands clock “tells” the current time through the articulation of a manikin hand that uses ASL (American Sign Language) to sign each of the four digits of hours and minutes.

UPDATE: 9 June 2016

The Time On Your Hands clock is signing “T” “I” “M” “E” followed by the four digits of the current time (hours and minutes).

Can anyone tell me what time I took these videos?


And another a second (just for people lying down)

Now this is handy!

The design, or at least this incarnation of the project, is now complete although I may redesign the case down the road (so expect another CNC project). The software and hardware port from the Arduino test environment to the WeMos D1 Mini ESP8266 final board is complete but was a slow and arduous process, largely based on the lack of documentation for the latter. All of the electronics and connections to the five servos are enclosed inside the 1″ thick base.

Time On Your Hands Clock: Completed

Upon power on, the software connects to the local WiFi (more on this topic below) and requests a timestamp from the US National Institute of Science and Technology atomic clock. This accurate timestamp is then used to set and maintain an internal real-time clock. When the user pushes the button (lower left), the servos operate to articulate the fingers and thumbs to sign out the tellers T I M E followed by four digits of the current time (hours and minutes) in a 24 hour format.

Many thanks to Chris (The Canadian Maker) for his help in refining the finger movements.

To establish WiFi connectivity, my software uses the “WiFiManager” library built for the ESP8266 platform. At power on, an attempt  is made to connect to the local WiFi using previously stored channel name and password. If it fails to connect with these credentials, the ESP8266 starts a local server ( prompting the user to select the appropriate WiFi channel (SSID) – selected from a list of found channels – and enter its password. These are then stored in the ESP8266’s EEPROM and the connection re-attempted.

Here are some pictures of the project during its design and construction.

Time On Your Hands

Time On Your Hands: Manikin hand modified to allow articulation of the fingers and thumb with servos.

Very much a work in progress, the manikin hand started as a 8″ tall articulated wooden hand modeled on a ladies left hand and sold for use by artists as a drawing guide. This wooden hand is sold as making “… a perfect reference tool. Perfectly proportioned and flexible fingers, the models are used for study of the human hand and the basic shapes in its design… ” and is “perfect for helping artists to capture all the correct scale and shadows for their drawings and artwork”

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LIFETIME Clock: The Game of Life with a new seed!

Introducing the LIFETIME Clock…

A clock that not only keeps precise time, but seeds and plays the Conway’s Game of Life with the current time.


LifeTime Clock: showing current time and the world of Conway’s Game of Life. Now sporting its new two-part enclosure machined from HDPE (High-Density PolyEthelene). Changes include a seconds “progress bar” at the bottom of the screen and a larger font used for the hours and minutes.

For the LIFETIME Clock, TIME becomes the seed for LIFE. 

Profound, huh!

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WEATHERMAN – ESP8266 on a 2.4″ Colour LCD

The WEATHERMAN Web Weather Station project has taken on many guises as it has evolved through different hardware configurations. My latest is built on the ESP8266 WeMos D1 Mini board and uses my recent eBay delivered 2.4″ True Color TFT LCD 320×240 Display Module.


Weatherman: sporting its brand new CNC’ed case, showing day select button


Weatherman: In its brand new HDPE 2-part case

Weatherman Colour:

Weatherman Colour: running on an ESP8266 and displaying on a 2.4″ Colour 320×240 LCD

Similar to other small OLED displays, this display runs on 3.3V and supports an I²C interface which makes it an ideal companion to the web-capable ESP8266. And what’s more, it ships from within Canada!

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Time Weights 4 !Man clock

My latest project is the “Time Weights” Clock.

As it sounds, the time is presented as the height of three moving weights representing the current time hours, minutes and seconds. The twist is that each of the weights are connected on one long continuous loop that is reeled in and spooled out on demand. The software determines the correct position of each of the weights based on the time and the geometry of the design, and turns each of the three stepper motors accordingly. It takes into account that each weight much also pass on the additional belt required by the more significant time element(s). Additional consideration is given to account for the difference in belt length around the stepper drive pulley and the weight pulley based on the vertical height of each weight.

An interesting mathematical problem to model and solve, indeed!

Time Weights

Time Weights: In progress. The three steppers driving the single continuous belt show hours, minutes and seconds. The spooling system, seen on the right, allows the excess belt to be spooled up while also allowing it to be played out as needed.

Here’s a (crappy) video showing the work in progress and the successfully operating spooling mechanism that was cobbled together from an old tape measure.

The video shows the spooling mechanism reeling in belt slack as the seconds weight crosses the minute boundary.

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