Making a Popsicle Stick Clock with a CNC Router

Using fancy materials can be fun, but it really isn’t always necessary to kick out nice looking finished pieces. I wanted to illustrate this by using cheap popsicle sticks as the main raw material to create an elegant looking desk clock. First I glued-up a block of them and then put it through our Carvey CNC Router. Not everything went as expected but the finished piece overall accomplished the overall mission.

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Step 1

First, I picked out some bold-colored popsicle sticks on Amazon as a really affordable raw material. For the glue-up, I prepped my work surface with wax paper and set out my supplies: Titebond III wood glue and a cheap foam brush. I applied a heavy coat of glue to each popsicle stick and started stacking them.

Step 2

Once I had the popsicle sticks glued and stacked to a height that was starting to slide around on me, I clamped them together. I then cleaned off the squeezed-out glue with a wet paper towel.

Step 3

After that, I got to work on a second block. I made two different blocks which hardened separately, and then I glued those together into one larger block. Doing it this way is much easier to manage. 

Step 4

Next, I prepared the block to go into the CNC router by sending it through the drum sander to flatten both sides. I was initially disappointed when it went through the drum sander because the color on the popsicle sticks was mostly just on the surface. I decided to stick with it because it was still a cool look with distinct stripes.

Step 5

With the wood ready to go, I took its dimensions along with the dimensions of the clock face I was using. I used these to make a design using Adobe Illustrator. Then I loaded my popsicle stick block into the CNC router and carved it. 

Step 6

At this point, I also needed a ring to sit the clock face upon, so I quickly laser-cut that part out with some scrap wedge.

Step 7

I cut away the tabs using my scroll saw to release the final shape of the clock, and then gave the edges a quick sand on the belt sander. I also took a second to sand the blackened edge off the laser-cut ring. I wanted a rounded edge on the wood, so I took it over to my router table. 

Step 8

I then took a moment to sand a nice, flat bottom on the belt sander so that it could stand up more easily. To finish things off, I hit both pieces with my random orbital sander and then sprayed the wood with water. This step frayed the wood fibers, so after it dried and I sanded it again with a 220 grit, I got an even smoother finished piece. 

Step 9

After the last sand, I wiped everything down with paint thinner to get rid of any remaining dust before finishing. I went with a wipe-on satin poly and applied it with a rag. I did two coats of the poly, allowing the finish to dry between coats and lightly sanding with a 220 grit by hand. Once the second coat dried, everything snapped together easily into the finished piece!

The Final Result

Although the clock didn’t look as bold as I was originally expecting it to, I thought that it had a very interesting look. I also felt that it met my goal of creating something cool and fun with inexpensive materials. So for that, I’m calling this popsicle stick clock a win!

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