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”

However, as all of the finger joints were designed to maintain a pose, they had to be painstakingly taken apart and adjusted to allow free movement. In addition, each joint was modified with an additional wedge of wood so that their range of movement mirrored the human hand. Holes were bored through the palm of the hand to the base of each finger and thumb and through each joint. Nylon cord was then threaded from the tip of each finger, down through each joint and through the hand. In addition, a strip of stretchy rubber was attached to the back of each finger joint to pull the finger upright.

Time On Your Hands

Time On Your Hands: rubber bands keep fingers upright

Time On Your Hands

Time On Your Hands: completed hand

Time On Your Hands

Time On Your Hands: finger joint detail

The hand sits atop a box that I designed in SketchUp and cut on my CNC out of 1/4″ plywood. The cords from each of the fingers pass through the top of the box and attach to the horns of high-torque servo motors (MG995) mounted around the periphery of the box. Each servo operates a separate finger and with 180° that produces a range of linear motion of about 2.5 inches, more than enough to pull a finger from upright to a fully clenched position.

MG995 High-torque servo

MG995 High-torque servo

The box is made up of 4 sides that tab together. The top is machined with a groove and attaches to the periphery of the box sides. Refinements to the design included tabs on the sides that connect to a base and a larger clearance hole for the central servo mount. The central servo is mounted from the inside of the box, whereas the other servos mount from the outside. This peripheral arrangement of the servos allows for a more compact layout as the sweep of the servo arms can overlap.

Time On Your Hands

Time On Your Hands: tabbed sides, large servo cutout


Time On Your Hands: Servo mount

Time On Your Hands

Time On Your Hands: initial set of machined sides

Time On Your Hands

Time On Your Hands: sides tabbed together

Time On Your Hands

Time On Your Hands:  showing sides tabbed to base

Time On Your Hands

Time On Your Hands: base and hand

Time On Your Hands

Time On Your Hands: initial position of hand on base

Stay posted for more details as the design unfolds…

Handy, huh?

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