Art Student’s 407-Piece Hand-Carved Wooden Clock Literally Writes The Time

Art Student’s 407-Piece Hand-Carved Wooden Clock Literally Writes The Time
Art Student's 407-Piece Hand-Carved Wooden Clock Literally Writes The Time Feature Articles
(Image credit: Tohoku University of Art and Design Blog)

Every horological enthusiast should be enthralled by Tohoku University of Art and Design student Suzuki Kango's astounding hand-carved wooden automaton clock. With over 400 moving parts, Suzuki's senior thesis exhibition project uses four magnetic stylus pens on a magnetic drawing board to mechanically write the full time every minute in 24-hour format – and it is a work of art.

Watching his viral Twitter video, you will see a beautifully complicated-looking mechanical contraption quietly ticking away, with "06:19" somewhat crudely scrawled on a white board in the center. A few seconds into the video, and the entire structure comes to life, the white board is cleared, and mechanical arms scratch out the time "06:20." Then, in most likelihood, you restart the video to see it happen again, because it truly is that amazing.

Suzuki Kango is a 22-year-old senior student in product design from Zao City, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, close to Yamagata City, Yamagata Prefecture, where the university is located. After he posted a 16-second video of his completed clock in action on Twitter only a few days ago, his project has been featured in local and Japanese national news and television with proclamations of "genius," shared widely online, and his Twitter video has over 180,000 retweets and 220,000 likes, at time of writing. Suzuki says that he tweeted pictures and videos of his work just to show his friends and was totally surprised by the huge reaction online.

Art Student's 407-Piece Hand-Carved Wooden Clock Literally Writes The Time Feature Articles
"Plock" wooden automaton clock that writes the time by Suzuki Kango (Image credit: natukusa.com)

The project's name is "Plock," a portmanteau of the English words "plot" (as in, "to mark or draw") and "clock" (he also refers to it as kakitokei, or "writing clock" in Japanese). The mechanism consists of a clock unit and a writing unit, set in motion by dangling weights that slowly lower. The two units remain separate until the minute changes, at which point, the writing unit's lock is released, moving the arms programed to write the digits. The piece is still "incomplete," its creator says according to Yamagata News Online (Japanese), and he is still in the stage of final adjustments for the smooth operation of the gears. Once set in motion with the weights fully wound, the clock will run for one to two hours. Timekeeping accuracy is not known, but that's something we can easily forget about while watching this ingenious kinetic sculpture.

Art Student's 407-Piece Hand-Carved Wooden Clock Literally Writes The Time Feature Articles
Weights that power the Suzuki Kango "Plock"

"It is easy for a person to write, but how difficult is it to make a machine do it?" Suzuki says of his concept behind the project. "Expressing the time by writing out the numbers would allow people a different sense of the time than they have previously experienced," he said. The complete structure of Suzuki's "Plock" project stands 58cm tall, 60cm wide, and 20cm deep, but it is easy to get a sense of the clock's proportions from the pictures with its young creator standing beside it.

Art Student's 407-Piece Hand-Carved Wooden Clock Literally Writes The Time Feature Articles
Suzuki Kango "Plock" (Image credit: Twitter @tuadpd2015)

According to an interview in Natukusa (Japanese), "visibility," the ability to see all the parts in motion, was also a central concept. He says he was inspired by seeing automatons that could write, such as the The Writer by Jaquet Droz that aBlogtoWatch saw in person here. "I thought, wouldn't it be neat if there was one that wrote the time?" he says modestly. It is perhaps unsurprising that he is also a Japan MENSA member.

Art Student's 407-Piece Hand-Carved Wooden Clock Literally Writes The Time Feature Articles
"Plock" wooden automaton clock that writes the time by Suzuki Kango (Image credit: natukusa.com)

Asked what the most difficult part was, Suzuki gives a few answers between several interviews. There was the challenge of eliminating friction between the cams and the arms, he notes. But making the 407 parts individually and then making them work together correctly is a task difficult to even imagine. Suzuki formed the concept in April of 2015 and spent until August on making prototype writing structures, and then until October creating the design blueprints. Afterwards, it was everyday except Sunday, 8am-9pm using a coping saw and sandpaper on plywood to create each part by hand - a process he describes as mind-numbing.

Art Student's 407-Piece Hand-Carved Wooden Clock Literally Writes The Time Feature Articles
Suzuki Kango "Plock" project in progress (Image credit: Suzuki Kango @BellTreeNursing on Twitter)
Art Student's 407-Piece Hand-Carved Wooden Clock Literally Writes The Time Feature Articles
Suzuki Kango "Plock" - from his @BellTreeNursing Twitter account showing mistakes encountered during the development process.

Suzuki mentions that his professor did not even understand his idea at first until Suzuki actually made a writing mechanism and showed it to the professor. Suzuki says that although he used computer software for the design, the simulation of its motion was entirely in his head only, and that seeing it take shape was a major motivation. When the movement differed from his mental image or there was interference between the parts, he would return to the design and continue through a process of trial and error. Suzuki also mentions the difficulty encountered by wood's tendency to warp.

Art Student's 407-Piece Hand-Carved Wooden Clock Literally Writes The Time Feature Articles
Suzuki Kango "Plock" (Image credit: Tohoku University of Art and Design)

Suzuki says that he does not have any plans to turn the clock into a commercial product, as it is still in the prototype stage. However, he says, the designs are solid, so there may be the possibility for mass production. He says that he chose wood because of its ease to work with as well as low cost, but due to the material's properties such as hardness, the gears will be limited to a certain (larger) size. He adds that with metal, it would be possible to produce it on a much smaller scale, and that he thinks a table clock would be cool. Mr. Suzuki, we agree!

Art Student's 407-Piece Hand-Carved Wooden Clock Literally Writes The Time Feature Articles
Suzuki Kango "Plock" wooden mechanical automaton clock that literally writes the time (Image credit: Suzuki Kango @BellTreeNursing on Twitter)
Art Student's 407-Piece Hand-Carved Wooden Clock Literally Writes The Time Feature Articles
"Plock" wooden automaton clock that writes the time by Suzuki Kango (Image credit: natukusa.com)

The new graduate currently has plans to begin work in Tokyo as a CAD engineer in April 2016. Suzuki says that he was motivated by the desire to surprise people, and that he thinks he has succeeded. While computer aided design (or CAD) is used in a wide range of industries, we feel safe in saying that the luxury watch industry would warmly welcome Suzuki – and regardless which field he ends up in, we hope to see more from this very talented young engineer! The Suzuki Kango "Plock" will be on display at the Tohoku University of Art and Design campus for the Senior Project Exhibition until February 14, 2016, but there are apparently plans to exhibit it at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum soon where more people will have the chance to see it. tuad.ac.jp

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  • Richard Baptist

    Simply amazing!!

  • Dinkee, H. O.

    Looks like one of my weekend hobby projects.

    The HO
    Official Horologist to President Trump

  • awildermode

    Well, compared to this, my university project was a total waste of time.

    • iamcalledryan

      I’m going to burn my thesis tonight.

  • Willy Chu

    Mind boggling! Every bit of it. The concept, the design (with attention to symmetry and beautiful curves, no less), the handiwork in building it!

    He would have a great future in watch movement design, but I think his talents would better benefit mankind in other fields.

    • Sevenmack

      Definitely. Horology should be a hobby for him. I rather him put his talents to better use for our world. But as with watches, that’s his choice. And we will benefit either way.

  • Daniel

    No tentacle? By the way this is better than transparent plastic hublot posted before 🙂

    • Fady337

      RIGHTLY SAID

  • iamcalledryan

    Absolutely amazing. Bravo. i am sure it suffers a little in terms of accuracy but as a piece of mechanical artistry it is fantastic. Next stop – the watch!

  • Fady337

    Simply amazing

  • Simon_Hell

    Meh…too wooden. Whats the watch the guy is wearing?

  • Pingback: Not Your Average Wooden Clock()

  • Jaquet Droz people must be jealous. What an achievement!

  • TrevorXM

    A Blog to Watch should run a contest to see who can be the first to correctly name the watch he is wearing in the photos.

    • ShaBi

      Orient Star Retro-Future Road Bike WZ0011DK

      • Shinytoys

        Rock on, Brother!!!

  • Pierre Savard

    Wow! I’ll be eagerly awaiting the wristwatch version.

  • Boogur T. Wang

    Well Done Kango-San.

  • radikaz

    IMO, as soon as the new generation of Japanese watchmakers rise to helm over Japanese watchmaking & designs, the Swiss will most sweat start to sweat.

    • SuperStrapper

      Lol

  • ??????
    • ZL

      Haha well done!

    • iamcalledryan

      10 points.

  • WolverBilly

    I REALLY don’t need another, creative, brilliant young mind to show what a spec of poop in the universe I am. If I was rich, really reach, I’d have this guy make me one of these things. I’d probably pull it around in a wagon, and probably ignore my watch.

  • john coleman

    Shades of John Harrison – some of his early clocks were made from wood.

  • Marius

    What the article forgot to mention is that Mr. Suzuki`s mentor and adviser was none other than Jean-Claude Biver himself. As a result, this watch should be called the Big Bang in Tokio Biver edition.

    • Twinbarrel

      I was just going to mention this youg man deserves to be sponsored in a big way…

      • Marius

        Mr. Biver already sponsored him. Haven’t you seen the big pack of cheese sitting on the table?

        • Twinbarrel

          Yes, that’s what you said… I know Biver likes using different and unique materials to create timepieces but I’m not ordering 300 grams of Swiss cheese to tell me the time – lol
          Sweaty palms… Yuck. All tongue in cheek here of course…
          I’m sure there’s more than cheese offered to support this bright mind.

  • Shinytoys

    I am stunned. This young man is a genius…

    • Matthew Kline

      Considering that he’s in Mensa that may be a fact!

      • Shinytoys

        didn’t spot that, thanks!

  • DanW94

    Quite the upgrade from the “clock kid” that was written about a few months ago…..

  • SuperStrapper

    If he brings it to school in a suitcase and gets arrested, he’ll get to intern at jlc.

  • Omegaboy

    Accurate to +/- 10 toothpicks per day.

  • Mike Burdine

    What a brilliant young man. Nice time machine too.

  • Simon Mills

    This looks beautiful… Why do we only get a 16 second video shot on a phone (in portrait mode!)?

  • Michael Bauers

    It’s not trivial to build a wooden clock with CNC. Without CNC it’s harder. To add the ability to write down the time in mind boggling to me. Amazing!

  • 200 Fathoms

    Awe.

  • Yojimbo

    oh my god

    give that kid all the money he needs

  • Beefalope

    This is one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen in horology.

  • Sendilkumar Murugaiah

    Amazing!

  • CHWolfenbloode

    If he could make a clockwork clock write down the time, he can easily design and make automatons as well.