This custom Piston Clock makes a wonderful gift for anyone who appreciates cars – learn how to make one easily at home with a few simple materials.
I recently spotted a piston clock on Etsy for a ridiculous amount of money. I love picking up custom gifts on Etsy and EBAY, but sometimes I feel like I can make things for much less.
Making a piston clock is fairly simple and requires only a few items. All you need to make this piston clock is:
Measure the hole of the piston before buying the clock. My piston measured 2 1/2 inches. The clock insert was just over 2 inches but it had a rubber ring/gasket around it so it fit 2″ (which was perfect!)
You can sometimes find different designs/clocks on Amazon. Do note that local craft stores like Hobby Lobby and Michael’s have a very very limited amount of clock inserts.
Finding a Piston
If you live near a salvage yard, you can find a piston from a broken engine. Or, if you are on Instagram, you find an auto parts supply to buy a used piston. EBAY is always an option if you need a specific piston (Ford, Chevy, etc.) – sometimes you can find a piston that’s already clean and ready to go.
In most cases, you’ll have to dismantle the piston to give it a decent clean before getting started.
Dismantle the Piston
Locate the snap rings on the piston – they are the rings on each side of the holes on the side. Use your small flathead screwdriver. Pry it out of the gudgeon pin (be careful, because they have a tendency to spring out and get lost easily).
The snap ring is what holds the gudgeon pin in, and it’s a beast to get out, so try to have patience.
Once the snap rings have been removed, slide the gudgeon pin out of the piston. The gudgeon pin is what holds the piston rod in the piston base. If you slide in a narrow tube (I used a wood measuring spoon) you can hammer it out.
If it doesn’t hammer out easily, you can boil the base of the piston in water for 2-3 minutes. Make sure you don’t touch the base of the piston on the bottom of the pot (it will burn). You also want to make sure you hold the piston with gloves as the metal will heat up considerably.
Once you boil the piston for 2-3 minutes, hammer the gudgeon pin out – it should slide right out quite easily. Set all the parts aside in a bowl – you don’t want to lose the piston clips.
Wash the Piston
Fill up a washing tub and scrub the piston with soapy water until there isn’t any dirt left. If you choose, you can paint the piston with engine enamel for a more uniform look. But some folks just like the authenticity of a used piston.
Assemble the Piston
Once the piston has been cleaned, but it back together in the reverse that it was taken apart. See far below for a photo diagram breakdown of a piston.
Slide the con rod into the piston.
Then, slide the gudgeon (wrist) pin into the con rod and piston.
Push the snap clip back into place (be careful, this can be tricky!)
Stand the piston up on the base and snap the clock insert in the piston. Then tighten the cap and bolts on the side to ensure that it doesn’t pop out.
Now stand the piston upright on its base and while holding it, put some super glue drops down the side of the con rod to make sure it stays upright. This should only take a few minutes but is necessary or the rod will fall to one side.
Make sure you hold the con rod straight until the super glue dries completely.
That’s it! Once the super glue dries you have your very own piston clock.
All in all, this piston clock only took me a the course of an hour separated over the course of the day. If you plan on shipping this piston clock, ensure that you use sufficient packing material to give it enough cushion to survive the postal mail.
Looking for more custom gifts? If you have an automotive lover in the family, you might want to try making them a hubcap clock: