Clockwork - bedside clock, weather, and message system [in progress]

I fairly recently got hold of a couple of Photons and began my journey into microcontrollers. After a handful of very, very simple breadboard setups, this is my first attempt at making an actual “thing”. I wanted to share with the community my progress so far, things I’ve learned along the way, and welcome any feedback or suggestions.

The concept for Clockwork is based loosely on an Instructable I saw called “Wood Block LED Clock”. My wife was talking recently about wanting something like this, and so I figured I’d try and build one as a gift for our upcoming wedding anniversary.

I’m not using a kit, just a Photon and a handful of other parts. It’s a fairly simple device, so it feels achievable to build.


The clock has 4 display modes:

  1. Clock - 24hr, synchronised with my timezone, periodically updated from Particle Cloud to ensure accuracy
  2. Temperature - Celsius, show outside temperature for my location, as obtained from BOM and provided by Node.js app.
  3. Blank - Basically a sleep mode, switches to this 30 seconds after the last interaction, until another interaction occurs.
  4. Scrolling message - This mode isn’t in the normal rotation, and will appear whenever a message is sent from the Node.js app. Scrolls through 3 times.

There are 2 buttons:

  1. Brightness - The capacitive touch sensor cycles through several brightness steps. Moving to the next one on each press, and looping back around to start again from 0 when the maximum is reached.
  2. Display mode - Mini pushbutton cycles through the display modes on each press, except for the 4th one.



  • Breadboard
  • Soldering iron

Parts (implemented)

Parts (coming soon)



I’m currently working on a plan for this using SketchUp. It’ll be very similar to the design from the Instructable linked above.

The basic plan is:

  1. Have the LED display shine through the veneer on the front face.
  2. Have the USB port accessible from the back face.
  3. Have a layer of copper foil tape, connected to the capacitive touch sensors, beneath the side faces.
  4. Be able to open the enclosure to access / remove the internals fairly easily, while attempting to maintain a streamlined appearance of it just being a wooden block when the display is off (just a little port on the back the only clue).

I think the hardest part here will be to provide support to all the components to ensure they’re in the correct positions within the cavity.


As far as powering the device goes, I’m hoping that with the Sparkfun battery shield and the 6Ah LiPo I’ll be able to either have the device permanently plugged into a USB power supply, or unplugged for a decent amount of time. I’m really not certain about this though, mainly in terms of whether that’s a possible and / or sensible thing for the health of the battery. Also, I have no real concept of how long that battery would last with normal use of the device!


Note: I would have included a Fritzing diagram / schematic of the project, but most of these components aren’t available and I just didn’t have the time to create them. Sorry!

A word of caution, the Power Shield’s chip is only capable of charging a single cell, the 6Ah battery is a 3 cell battery. I’m not an expert on such things, but I figured I’d pipe up to raise the alarm before you get too far so that a discussion can be had before something catches fire :smile:


Ooohh… good point, I got over-excited and missed that. I might ping Sparkfun and ask what they think before ordering an alternative. Thanks for the heads up!

In this case, I might skip the battery option for now and mount the Photon’s USB port into the rear of the enclosure directly. I guess it’ll mostly be stationary anyway, I was just hoping for a travel option. Can always take a USB battery instead!

The battery is a 3 cell in parallel so the voltage is still correct, i cant see how it would effect the charging? but ask the question to sparkfun anyway! I run a sparkfun battery shield with a 5Ah cell no problem, it just takes ages and ages to charge.

depending how much power the LED’s draw a phone power bank may be a cheaper option anyway… the reason for the LED draw is because most phone charger power banks turn off if you don’t draw much power, like when the phone is charged.

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Ah, interesting… thanks! I was also warned of the potential fire hazard these batteries can be, so thought perhaps the setup I was planning might even be dangerous? (Wooden enclosure, beside, plugged in most of the time except when travelling, etc.)

yeah a phone charger battery thingy is simple, easy, safe and cheap…

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