Tuesday 6 November 2012

Tutorial: How to make a Monty Python Silly Walks clock

I've received an overwhelming response to the Silly Walks clock I made. I was inspired by this wristwatch. It's great that so many people like my clock, and also to see how many Monty Python fans there are out there! This is an in-depth tutorial on how to make the clock. If you have any questions, there is a FAQ page, and I'm happy to answer any additional questions you might have.

You can also see other people's silly clocks for inspiration!

Here we go!

Finished clock

Table of contents

Preparation: Materials needed
Step 1: Decoupage the clock's face
Step 2: Make the clock hands
Step 3: Assemble the clockwork
Step 4: Add the hands

Preparation: Materials needed


  • 20x20 cm 3D (deep) canvas (or any size you might want)
  • Clockwork and hands
    • Tip: buy cheap clock hands, because you're going to cut them up later
    • Note: You might not need to buy hands, it depends on what clockwork you have
  • Decoupage glue/varnish 
    • I used matte glue/varnish because I prefer a less shiny look
  • Decoupage brush
    • Tip: Use a fine, wide brush for the best and fastest application of glue/varnish
  • Regular glue
    • For gluing the printed legs to the clock hands
    • Plastic, extra sturdy
      • This is for making the clock hands
      • Tip: A sturdy plastic folder you can cut up works fine
      • The clock face with numbers and John Cleese's upper body and the legs for the clock hands printed on regular paper
        • I used a laser printer - please note that inkjet printers can cause difficulties when decoupaging (see the FAQ for more info)
        • My source files can be downloaded here
          • If you want the easiest solution: just print the two files with A4 in the filename on regular A4 paper, and they will be perfectly sized for a 20 x 20 cm canvas
          • The font used for the numbers is Janda Safe and Sound


      • Awl
        • This is for making the hole for the clockwork
      • Razor blade and scissors
        • This is for cutting out the legs, and other things that need cutting
        • Wire cutters
          • This is for cutting the clock hands
        • Small brush
          • This is for doing touch-ups
        • Black marker
          • This is for hiding white edges (e.g. on the clock hands)
        • Optional: A spray bottle with water
          • This is for getting a better result when doing decoupage

        Step 1: Decoupage the clock's face

        Start off by creating the clock's face. 

        Print the numbers and John Cleese's upper body on regular paper. I used a laser printer. If you printed using an inkjet printer you might experience some problems with smudging - see the FAQ page for more info.

        Cut the clockwork paper to about the same size as the canvas' front. Make it slightly larger. 

        For this step you're also going to need all the decoupage material from the materials list above:
        • Decoupage glue/varnish
        • Decoupage brush
        • Optional: spray bottle with water
        • Canvas
        Lay out the canvas and the clockwork print on something you can throw away later, in order to protect the table/floor/wherever you choose to work (I work on the floor). As you can see, I put the clockwork print on an old plastic bag because I'm going to get it wet.

        Optional: Spray a good amount of water on the clockwork paper and let it soak it in. This is for reducing the risk for getting bubbles when you later put glue on the paper. However - beware! - this makes the paper much more fragile than when dry, and you risk ripping it when you add it to the canvas. So be careful!

        Paint a generous amount of glue/varnish on the canvas while the clockwork paper is soaking the water. Make sure you get an even spread all over the canvas.

        Carefully (!) place the clockwork paper onto the canvas. Make sure to place it straight, and neatly along the edges. You can take it off and redo it, but this increases the risk of ripping the paper (believe me...).

        When you're satisfied with the placement, use your hands to carefully press out any air bubbles (remember that the paper is fragile so be light to the touch). 

        Paint a generous amount of glue/varnish onto the paper as well. Make sure to spread it evenly. Also press down the corners properly so that they lie flat against the canvas and become as invisible as possible.

        Let the canvas dry (I left it over night to really make sure it dried properly). You can always add another coat of glue/varnish after the first has dried if you find that you missed a spot.

        Step 2: Make the clock hands

        Next, you should make the clock hands. For this you will need the following from the list above:

        • The legs printed on regular paper
        • Sturdy plastic sheet (or a sturdy plastic folder)
        • Decoupage glue/varnish
        • Decoupage brush
        • Optional: Spray bottle with water
        • Razor blade

        Note: For the first clock I made I used a sturdy plastic folder for this, but the legs had a tendency to bend. Therefore, this time I bought sturdy plastic sheets from my local crafts store, in the hope that it would be better (it wasn't). Others have told me that they used plastic folders successfully (though sturdier than the one I used at first), and I did a third try that worked well. However, I can't help but think that some kind of thin metal or a material like that is even better for this. Thus, if you find something better, please let me know! 

        Using a plastic sheet

        Using a sturdy plastic folder

        Cut out the legs in a rough shape. Make sure to leave quite some white space around them (it's just to make life simpler). Cut out a large enough piece of plastic.

        Just as when doing the clock face, spray water onto the legs and let them soak a little.

        Meanwhile, paint glue/varnish onto the plastic. Carefully lift the paper and place on the plastic. Use our fingers to press out any air bubbles.

        Paint glue/varnish on the front of the paper and let dry over night.

        With the thinner plastic, the legs became a little... bent...
        The tougher plastic turned out just fine though! :)
        If your legs look all bent like mine after they dried (sigh), there is a way to fix it. Don't worry!

        Just decoupage a piece of regular paper to the back of the plastic (make sure the front is properly dry first), like you did the legs. Let dry, and the legs will have straightened out reasonably well.

        When the legs have dried properly, use a razor blade or scissors (depending on your plastic material) to cut them out (make sure you have something protecting the surface underneath - I use a flattened cereal box :P). Be very careful and accurate when you cut.

        And there you go! Clock hands in the shape of legs O_o.

        Step 3: Assemble the clockwork

        Now it's time to assemble the clock face and the clockwork. The way to do this might vary depending on what kind of clockwork you have, but I imagine that the process is quite similar at least.

        Anyway, for this step you'll need:

        • Clockwork
        • Clock face
        • Awl

        My clockwork has four parts. You can see the "instructions" for my clockwork in the photo above. 

        First, you need to find the centre of the canvas. Then use the awl to make a hole big enough to fit the clockwork through. My awl is just about the right size. Use your fingers (be careful when pushing the awl, though) or something that isn't fragile to prevent the canvas fabric from being pushed inwards and ruining the clock. 

        My clockwork has a wide rubber ring that goes on first. It's very easy to forget... Then put the clockwork through the hole, and attach the screw on the other side. Make sure to screw it in properly - you may need to widen the hole. There is one screw left for my clockwork, but I'll save that for the next step.

        Finally, I'm going to use the extra print of John Cleese's upper body to cover the golden glimmer of the screw. I'll cut a circle the same size as the screw, make a hole in the middle of it, and simply glue it to the screw. 

        There - done with this step :). Just one more step to go!

        Step 4: Add the hands

        Now the clock is almost finished! For this final step you'll need the following:

        • Clock face with attached clockwork (+ the remaining screw for the clockwork)
        • Clock hands
        • Cut out legs for new hands
        • Glue
        • Awl
        • Pencil
        • Razor blade
        • Wire cutters
        You may not need to buy clock hands at all for this, but I use them since the holes are not circular and for making the clock hands move correctly I don't dare do without them. Also, the hour hand has a bit of a distance so the hands don't come too close to each other. However, I'm going to cut up the hands, so I just bought really cheap ones. 

        Lay out the hands on top of the legs. Make sure they are facing the correct direction - you'll want the holes to be in the right direction as well since the legs have to point to the right numbers. 

        Use a pencil to draw where the hole is. Use the awl and the razor blade (or whatever tools works for you) to make the holes in the legs. Have some kind of protective material underneath the legs while you work (I used the folded cereal box again). Try to put the legs onto the clockwork to make sure the holes are big enough - they might require a little tweaking.

         Now that you have the holes in the legs you can cut off the clock hands so they don't show where the legs bend. Then glue the hands to the legs. 

        Once the glue is properly dry, add the clock hands to the clockwork, and put on the last screw. On my clock it's possible to see some white on the sides of the clock hands from the paper. I used a black marker to paint over this so it wouldn't show. It doesn't have to be perfect, but enough so you don't see the white shine from a distance (I could have done this before putting the hands on the clock, but I've found that my marker doesn't dry properly, so my fingers would get all black when handling the legs - that's why I saved it for last). 

        If necessary, you can glue a small, circular piece of the print out of John Cleese's upper body to hide the top screw.

        Aaaaaaaand - done! I hope you're happy with the result :). I would love to see what you've done, so please send me a photo. If it's all right with you, I'll add it to the page with other people's clocks!