Monday, March 21, 2016

Gwen's Gems: Use Stencils and a Vinyl Record to Make a Clock!

Hi everyone, it's Gwen back again today with the March installment of Gwen's Gems! This month, I was inspired by a clock made from an old vinyl record that I saw in an Etsy shop. I actually put it in my cart, but I kept looking at it thinking of all the ways I'd want to change it after I got it. At that point, I thought - wait... maybe I can do this myself! I did a little experimentation and discovered that I could! Once I knew that I could make it, it was time to make my clock - with stencils, of course!

Here's the finished product:

Want to learn how to make your own? Here's how I did it.

Step one, gather all of your materials. I went to a thrift store and picked up a few vinyl records to play with and I ordered a fairly inexpensive clock kit from Amazon. To do the cutting, I pulled out my Walnut Hollow Creative Versa-Tool and put in the hot knife tip, then I got a glass mat (the hot knife will ruin a self-healing one.) I went through my stencils and pulled out a few different designs that would work for the idea that I had. The stencils I used here are: Sprout Friends by Flora Bowley, Nature's Promises by Roxanne Evan's Stout, and my Ornamental Petals Screen stencil. To stencil the designs onto the record I used a white Stabilo All pencil - it will write on the vinyl, then it will wipe off with water when you're done.

Heat your hot knife up as hot as it will go. While I was experimenting with this idea, I tried working at lower temperatures and eventually had to crank it all the way up in order to cut through the vinyl.

Step two - while my knife was heating, I used the stencils to put the design down onto the record.

If you notice, I didn't trace the images exactly as they come on the stencil since it wouldn't fit right in the space I had - you can always move the stencils around and change things up to work for your project. In this case I wanted more leaves, so I shortened the space between them. For this type of cutting, it works best to choose an open stencil without a lot of detail, or just outline a more detailed image like I did with the butterfly.

Step four, it's time to use that hot knife. A few tips I learned while I was doing this (although I'm by no means an expert!) Work in an area with a lot of ventilation. I worked in my kitchen for this part so I could open the french doors and get air circulating. If you're especially sensitive, I'd use a mask or a respirator or some kind. You're melting vinyl here, so there are fumes! 

Second tip... be VERY careful with your hot knife. Do not pull or tug it as you cut - you just want to put a bit of downward pressure on it and kind of let it move itself through the vinyl - I guided it with my free hand by moving the record. I did NOT want that knife jumping out and burning me, especially at that temperature! Also, make sure your free hand is never behind the knife, and be patient. It takes time, so you may want to take a few breaks here and there. Be extremely careful about putting the knife back on its holder so that the cord doesn't drag it off your surface or anything like that. Keep away from children and pets, etc... anything that could come along and grab the cord or accidentally touch the knife.

Okay, safety lecture over, time to start cutting! I started with the bottom where I wanted the stenciled image to leave negative space. I cut out the entire branch in once piece so that I could save it and use it later.

Next, I moved to the top where the stenciled areas became positive space and I cut away everything else.

I also widened the hole in the center just a bit so that it would be big enough for the clock post to fit through later. Just a note... the vinyl can be very sharp and brittle. Be very gentle while taking the cut pieces out - both so you don't break the part you're trying to keep, and so you don't cut yourself. You can use a metal file to get rid of any jagged points and edges.

If you wanted to, you could stop and add the clock kit at this point. Of course, this is way too simple for me... must embellish!

I took my cut out record up to my studio for the next part. First, I thought it would be really cool to turn the cut out section in the bottom into a window with inclusions, so I put that section on a silicone mat and filled it with Diamond Glaze, then added chunky gold and turquoise glitter. I didn't completely cover the area with glitter since I wanted to be able to see through part of each leaf.

I moved the entire thing into another room for several hours so it could sit undisturbed. The air here in Utah makes it so paints and glazes dry very quickly, so yours may need to sit overnight. 

Once the glaze was dry to the touch (on the front at least, the back was still a bit wet so I left the mat in place while I worked,) I brought it back to add more to it. I did some stenciling on a scrap of painted paper and added a diecut frame that I aged to look like rusted metal and put these in the center as the background for my clock face.

Adding dots is a requirement, I'm sure no one is surprised by this. 

Once the back was dry enough for me to handle it, I assembled the clock and set the time.

Of course, you could call it done at any point during the embellishing process, or go in a totally different direction! (Wouldn't the top half look cool backed with a printed transparency?) 

After this, I just grabbed a tack and hung it up on the wall in my studio. I kind of really love it! Theoretically, this will also help me keep track of time so that I don't end up still playing at 2am and then exhausted the next day at work. LOL.

As a little bonus, I thought I'd also share the project I made with my first experiment cutting a vinyl record - my proof of concept for my clock. I used an old 45 I had on hand just to test it out. Since it was smaller than I wanted for a clock, I embellished (perhaps over-embellished in this case,) and turned it into an assemblage piece. I've added some screws on the back so I can attach picture wire and hang this on the wall as well.

For this one, I used the Garden Swirl and Floral Swirl stencils by Terri Stegmiller.

As you can see, this technique isn't just for making clocks! I can also picture a very cool handmade journal cover... hmm. Might have to try that!

That's it for this month! I hope you've enjoyed today's project and tutorial. 

Have you ever used your stencils to do something like this? We'd love to see! Also, if you make your own clock or other project based on this tutorial, make sure to link us up!

Until next time, happy stenciling!


  1. How clever!! And cool - i love it!

    1. Thanks so much Sue! It was lots of fun to make :)

  2. You come up with the most wonderful ideas! Love both of these.

    1. Thank you Denise! I'm never quite sure what I'm going to do, but luckily this idea kind of hit me over the head :D

  3. Gwen, for me, this is your most creative and inspirational artwork so far -- your earlier work was really hard to top, but here you've done it with pizzazz! I love outside-the-box thinking, especially when it comes to using stencils -- and this piece is a prime example! Kudos!

    1. Aw, thank you so much Cecilia! I love finding new ways to use stencils - always on the lookout for ideas!

  4. I envy how far you are able to think outside the box and how incredibly it all comes together!

    1. Aw, thanks Carol! Mostly I just keep an eye out for things I could do with stencils... so it's definitely not totally original ;)

  5. Wow what creativity you have! Wonderful.

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