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I Made A One Of A Kind Totoro Clock

February 14, 2018

I’ve been wanting to create something Totoro themed for a while now, and this clock kit that I’ve had sitting in my closet for a couple of years became the perfect template to complete my vision.

Wood clock kits are simple to build and easy to customize with a bit of acrylic paint.

I did a Milky Way/tree silhouette one a few years ago, which I really love and I’ve got another one waiting to be painted, but to be honest, I’m out of wall space and as much as I love making customized clocks, I’m really out of room to hang them up.

Below I’ve detailed how I transformed the plain kit into something one of a kind and special.

The clock came in a standard box for six different clocks. I’d love to get my hands on each of them, except for maybe the alarm clock style one. But again… where would I put them all???

Anyway, the kit was bought off of Amazon and it cost somewhere between £12 and £16. You can see a green sticker indicating the specific model that was in my box.

Inside the box were four punched wood boards, a tiny square of sand paper and the clock mechanism.

I’ve completed several of these wood puzzle type kits now, and sometimes the pieces are very tricky to get out without snapping or splitting the wood. This kit however was pretty easy to separate. If you are having trouble, one trick to getting them to cooperate is to sand the back of the wood sheet before punching them out with a sanding block and even if they punch out perfectly, it is pretty much essential to have sandpaper or files (preferably files) on hand to help the holes line up or open up properly. That tiny square of sandpaper they give you is really not going to be enough.

One little detail that really tickled me about this kit was that there is a little wood spanner to help you secure the clock in place. Not entirely necessary, but clever, adorable and useful!

The instructions were just on one A4 sheet with the layout for all the clocks. The directions consist of matching up numbered slots. It doesn’t look like much, but you really don’t need anything more. A child could easily figure this thing out, but all the pieces laying in front of you can look a bit intimidating.

Whenever building something like this, especially if you’re going to paint it, it’s a good idea to do a dry fit to see how everything is meant to come together from all sides and to do any essential sanding or reshaping before the paint goes on. Painting the clock assembled is not a good idea. I’m sure plenty of people have done it, but if you want a really good finish, paint the clock in pieces, then reassemble.

I drew in my characters with pencil, but felt that it needed something extra, so I thought that I would also draw in some bugs or acorns to tie the design together, but then I remembered that I had these wooden shapes stashed away that I’d been hoarding for some time and they were perfect! Sometimes (rarely) it actually pays off to be a crafty hoarder. 

The next challenge I was faced with was to do something about the big hole in the back, where a leg can be inserted to make it a standing clock. Since I wanted it to be a wall clock, I didn’t need that leg, or the hole… and the hole was clearly visible, which cheapens the whole design.  I mean, it’s fine if a child is making it, or if you don’t want the finished product to look very polished, but I like taking kits like this and elevating them to sort of realize their full potential … so the hole had to go!

Funnily enough, the solution came in some more hoarded crafty bits. I had a pad of beautiful papers that I’d never even used before and I found the perfect, foresty pattern to cover the hole. The paper also provided a color scheme which I hadn’t yet decided on, so after I fitted that onto the clock I was ready to prime all of the pieces.

As with model painting, a primer layer is essential, especially when dealing with thirsty wood like this which will soak up any paint/moisture it comes into contact with. Special primer paints are not essential, the primer layer is really just the first layer of paint and I usually prefer to brush it on, which is what I did here, but sprays can be a lot faster!


At this point in the project I got the bright idea to clear out all of my craft stuff and dig out my desk from the pile of crap it was sitting under so that I could start  using it again, so the clock pieces all went into a box for 3 days while I did that, but it was worth it, because now I have a creative space to use, which isn’t constantly being dismantled by my children. The downside is that I haven’t sorted out the lighting over there yet, so it’s extremely frustrating to work in because it’s so shadowy, but that is a rant for another time. :)

It took me a few days to get through the painting of the clock as there were a lot of layers involved, and not a lot of time where I was able to work on it. I had to mix most of the colors, so every time I did another layer I needed to try and not only match the color exactly (sort of impossible), but also make sure that there weren’t any bits that I’d missed where you could see that the colors weren’t actually matched exactly to the previous layer.

One thing to keep in mind when painting these kits is that the wood is going to be super thirsty, and this causes the wood to swell after paint is applied. The swelling, in addition to stray paint means that it is very likely more sanding of the holes and slots will be required before the final fit. I like to periodically check the fit as I go.

After I put down all of the base layers of paint, I added some shading with darker colors and metallic paints. I sponged the paint around to give it some added texture as well and to create a bit of a rustic feel.

I use metallic paints in most of my projects, I just love the way it catches the light and adds additional dimension to the finished project. Having said that, it isn’t always appropriate, but in the case of this clock, it works!


After everything was painted and fitted together, I secured the clock pieces in place, and popped in a AA battery. These kits are made to pretty much stay together on their own without a lot of glue, however glue is unavoidable on some bits. The only parts that I super glued, besides the accent/detail pieces were the slats that make up the sides of the round portion of the clock. The other parts either fit together very snug, or they locked one another in place. I didn’t want to risk glue blobs ruining my paint, so only used it where it was absolutely necessary.

And that’s really all there was to it. :)

There are a few details that I’d maybe change, but to be honest, after this length of time, and fighting for every minute I get to work on it between house demands and the demands of small children. I’m sick of it and ready to move onto something new!


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