A Mid-Century Modern Clock Radio Gets a Surprisingly Simple Overhaul in Barry’s Upcycling Project – Hackster.io

Mononymous prop designer Barry has put his skills to work in upcycling a discarded mid-century modern clock radio — adding Bluetooth compatibility, a choice of custom clock faces, and a light-pattern projector at the rear.

“There are many [guides] that modify speakers, clocks, and radios to add Bluetooth, smart speakers, and LEDs,” Barry admits of his work. “[Mine] shows my process of modifying a mid-century modern clock radio, including dismantling, reproducing the clock support, making interchangeable clock faces, and projecting patterned lights from the back.”

With its internals long deceased, this clock radio was saved from the junk pile to play host to modern guts. (📷: Barry’s Prop Shop)

The heart of the project is a sadly-deceased Sylvania clock radio, finished in eye-catching gold in the mid-century modern (MCM) style. The gadget’s rectangular layout may have given some cause to consider using its housing for a display of some kind, but Barry’s upcycling is more sympathetic — while still delivering a useful end-product.

The clock’s AC mains-driven mechanism was removed and replaced with a battery-powered movement, for simplicity. Likewise, inner lighting comes courtesy of a battery-powered LED light strip — easily integrated into the surprisingly spacious housing. “I wanted to replace the AC clock mechanism with a battery-powered clock, but I didn’t want to take apart the original clock to reuse its metal clock face,” Barry adds.

“I decided to reproduced the clock support using sheet metal. Optionally, you could use foamboard to fabricate a clock support. I used a metal brake to bend the sheet metal. I marked the bend location with a metal scribe. I also marked the cut lines with the scribe and then bent it back and forth to break the metal along the these lines. I cut a piece of foamboard to support the battery-powered clock, as shown in the pictures above. I also used foamboard to create ears to hold the clock in place, using the screws that held the original clock in place.”

The new clock mechanism uses printed faces created in — of all things — presentation tool Microsoft Powerpoint. (📷: Barry’s Prop Shop)

This replacement face was then given a makeover, using a somewhat unusual illustrator’s tool: Microsoft Powerpoint, chosen for its “line-art capability,” Barry explains. “I created the artwork for several clock faces and took screenshots for each of them. I then cropped the screenshots to 4″×6″ and had them printed at a local photo service.”

The remainder of the project is simply putting the new hardware inside the case, including an off-the-shelf Bluetooth speaker — not, sadly, integrated with the radio controls on the front of the clock. A new rear with cut-out patterns allows the LED lighting to “project” from the rear, illuminating the wall behind.

“Notice that there are multiple projections of the cutout shape,” Barry writes. “This is due to the many LEDs in the LED strip, each projecting the shape from a different angle. I’m not sure whether to call this a bug or feature.”

Barry’s full guide is available on Instructables.

Gareth Halfacree

Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.