Andi Best Freelance Designer

Driftwood Tide Clock


  • Published 14-03-2021
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Driftwood Tide Clock
What good is living near the sea if you don't adorn your house amply with nautical themed decor? We've the odd seashell here and there and a few sea-life-print soft furnishings, but for my next instalment I thought I'd devise something that was functional as well as aesthetic. The beach here in Worthing is spectacular; when the tide recedes out to the horizon it leaves behind a mile of sandy crags, oceanic litter and infinite rock pools to explore. Conversely when the tide is high there is considerably less space out of the water and absolutely no pleasure to be gained from getting into the water before summer. Timing a visit to the shoreline therefore needs to be precisely calculated, made all the easier with the aid of a tide clock - if only we had one...
Driftwood Tide Clock
Above is an image of the component parts I've acquired to create my clock. Clockwise (haha amazing) from the top: a lovely smooth bit of sea-worn driftwood that's approximately the length of a sheet of A4 paper. Washers and nuts and the like, most of which I actually end up just chucking in the bin (spoiler alert). An exceptionally long roundshaft pressfit hand. A Quartz tidal roundshaft movement. In the centre, a standard AA battery.
Driftwood Tide Clock
The lunar cycle (which governs the tide) is a little over 12 hours long, which equates to six hours and twelve and a half minutes either side of a peak tide point. Because the actual numerical labels of the hours are redundant on this scale, they can be replaced by two six-hour count-downs represented in a segmented display like a traditional clock. This layout I drew up in Illustrator and printed to scale comes in handy throughout the process of making my tide clock. Notice how 50% of it is shaded blue? The reason for that is explained later.
Driftwood Tide Clock
The first irreversible step in the construction was to drill a hole for the movement shaft to pass through from the back of the driftwood and protrude out the front. It is here I encounter my first problem (off to a flying start) in that I don't possess a drill bit as thick as the shaft. Instead I have to use the largest bit I own to grind against the hole's internal edges to widen it incrementally, which eventually does the trick.
I purposefully selected a piece of driftwood that was slimmer than the depth of the shaft so that it would indeed protrude and give enough clearance for the hand to clip on and fully rotate. What I hadn't bargained on was that the rustic, uneven surface of the wood would prevent the entire movement from sitting flush, meaning the shaft wouldn't actually make the clearance even though the depth overall was adequate. Planing down the rear surface was the method I chose to remedy that.
Driftwood Tide Clock
Remember those blue shaded segments on my digital template? Those represented this painted design feature for the left side of the clock face. All the time that the tide is entering or leaving the higher half of the cycle I want the hand to be passing over a nautical blue, sea water finish, and whilst the cycle is in the lower state I want the hand to pass over the sand/stone coloured wood finish. It's both a stylistic touch and a functional visual cue.
Driftwood Tide Clock
Using oil paint for the blue detail wasn't an inspired choice - it was genuinely just the only paint I had in the tone I envisioned. It dried with a high sheen that was at odds with the dry, weathered overall look of the wood, so I spent a bit of time sanding the layer back and scratching into the wood to return the rugged finish.
Driftwood Tide Clock
Adding the interface was the finishing touch the piece needed. I considered hand-painting the characters around the circumference but the inevitable homemade rickety look resulting from that wasn't what I was aiming for. I wanted to avoid a chintzy naive demeanour as much as possible so opted for pre-printed letter transfers instead. I've never encountered a virgin sheet of Letraset before; my memories of it from school were that it was always scrubbed in graphite to within a few atoms of deterioration, with only the more obscure marks like tildes and hash marks still available. Using my digital template for placement guidance I transferred each character into the correct position around the circumference. Lastly, I trimmed down and reshaped the pressfit hand so that it felt better balanced on the face.
Driftwood Tide Clock
As a phase two process I could affix an appendage to the rear of the wood to allow the clock to free-stand but at the moment it's propped comfortably against other shelf dwelling items.
Turning my hand to craft projects is relatively rare for me so it's all the more rewarding when they turn out as planned. I'm pleased with this and dare I say it, I may even make more.
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