How to open up this clock?
August 13, 2005 2:22 PM   Subscribe

How do I take apart this alarm clock?

I have a broken clock and some free time, and would like to try to repair it. The first step, though, is getting into the thing. Here are three pictures of the clock I want to try my hand at - maybe a trained eye could point out a seam.

It doesn't work because two of the plastic bits whose job is to hold up the digits have snapped off. All I want to do is to fish out these two bits, about 3 square mm each, and then super-crazy-glue them back in place.

Looking at the clock, my first thought was that the easiest way in would be by removing the clear plastic front piece. Any advice?
posted by tepidmonkey to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total)
Are there screws on the bottom of the clock?
posted by Thorzdad at 2:40 PM on August 13, 2005

As Thorzdad points out, the case looks like it is in 2 halves with screws in the bottom holding it together. Should be a snap. Let us know if it works.
posted by Eekacat at 2:43 PM on August 13, 2005

It has a pretty obvious (to me) seam about a third of the way up the front and back. My guess is it's two U shaped pieces, with the rounded-rectangular sides either connected to one, or just riding in a gully held in place when the two pieces are together.

If there are no screws in the bottom (and I reckon you'd have found them by now if they were) then it's probably just snapped together - you might need to use some brute force, and you might break off an internal clip or two that hold the thing together. But then, if it's already broken...

Try with a very thin flat-blade screwdriver, or a stiff knife, trying to slip it in the seam at the back and levering the top half (ie: the longer part) forwards - it's my reckoning that that side will be over the lower, stiffer, shorter side. Normally you need to work on or two clips off, and working one off clips the other one back on, so this might be a frustrating experience. Use a second screwdriver/knife to hold the first clip apart perhaps...

It should come apart relatively easily, but you might need to use more force than you imagine.
posted by benzo8 at 2:49 PM on August 13, 2005

The screws should be in the bottom. The front lens is going to either be contained and held in by both halves of the case or screwed/glued in to the top half of the case. The seam for that case runs around the sides, just above where the wire enters the case.

Super glue (Cyanoacrylate) may not be strong enough for the task, especially if the 'hold back' bits are small. The mechanical force generated by those clocks can be quite strong.

Also, if you do manage to get it to hold with superglue, let it dry for a few days or maybe more before putting it back together and turning it on. 1) It'll allow the glue to set before the force of the clock-digit flaps start torquing on the bits. 2) Superglue "clouds" almost all plastics, especially clear plastics. The discharging vapors and gas of curing superglue does something to the plastic and will often turn clear plastics a milky white opaque.

So, if you do get it to hold, you'll end up with at least a partially obscured window.

Also, I'm not usually one to usually argue against DIY culture and for disposable culture, but you might just want to toss that clock and go get an LCD or LED clock. They're more accurate and consume far less power. That particular clock relies on a constantly running AC motor to very slowly turn a geared clock mechanism that those number flaps are attached to.
posted by loquacious at 2:53 PM on August 13, 2005

If there are no screws (and that would be highly unusual), benzo might be right about the snap. In my experience, however, it is damn near impossible to release such a snap without breakage.

Another possibility is that it is a sonic weld holding the two halves together. If so, then you are screwed.

If there are anything like rubber feet on the bottom, but no visible screws, the screws might be hidden under the rubber feet. You would have to pry the feet from their mounting to get to the screws.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:55 PM on August 13, 2005

Your photobucket pictures won't load, so I won't attempt to address how to open the thing. As for gluing plastic, your best bet is something like Tenax-7R, or some other solvent cement. Look in a hobby shop for something containing methylene chloride. Don't spill it or breathe too much of it; it's not good for you. You'll find that ingredient in the warning part of the label if it's in the stuff.

Another possibility is that it is a sonic weld holding the two halves together. If so, then you are screwed.
Or un-screwed.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:16 PM on August 13, 2005

Response by poster: There were screws on the bottom after all, but they were deeply recessed in the case. I had to look at the bottom of the clock straight-on, thanks to Thorzdad's suggestion, before I could even see them. I guess that solution was obvious all along, sort of like looking for your keys while you're holding them.

Loquacious: Thanks for all your advice on super glue. I'll at least give it a shot, or try Kirth Gerson's suggestion, and see what happens. It's broken anyway.

Also, I would toss this decades-old clock in favor of a new, more energy-efficient one, but as strange it may sound I think the number flaps are naive and charming.

Seriously, thanks for all the help.
posted by tepidmonkey at 3:18 PM on August 13, 2005

i bought a "number flap" clock at a thrift store a month ago for about $3.00, so they're still out there.

maybe you're just into the zen of fixing things though, and i applaud your effort.
posted by fishfucker at 4:32 PM on August 13, 2005

Thorzdad: If there are anything like rubber feet on the bottom, but no visible screws, the screws might be hidden under the rubber feet. You would have to pry the feet from their mounting to get to the screws.

Along with hiding screws under the feet, they will often hide at least one screw under a label. Feel for a hole in the plastic under labels by massaging them a little. Not all of the holes you feel will have screws though, sometimes they will be artifacts of the injection mold (can't think of what to call the artifacts, but they look like little recessed circles with a bump in the middle).
posted by Chuckles at 4:55 PM on August 13, 2005

I also applaud the idea of fixing things, and if you like the personal aesthetic, go for it. I didn't intend to discourage that at all.
posted by loquacious at 5:01 AM on August 14, 2005

Rather than attempting to fix the busted plastic, you might be better off replacing the plastic bits with some carefully cut and shaped paper clip wire (bend the wire back on itself in a very sharp U where the digit flap slides past it, so you don't scratch your flaps - nothing's more irritating than a scratched flap).
posted by flabdablet at 9:11 AM on August 14, 2005

Response by poster: After I managed to disassemble the clock, which wasn't at all hard once I smacked my forehead with my palm and unscrewed the six screws, I was only able to locate one of the two tiny plastic bits. There's no telling where in the clockwork the other one may be, so flabdablet's great suggestion about using paper clip wire is what I'll try next.

Thanks again, everyone.
posted by tepidmonkey at 4:43 PM on August 14, 2005

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