Watch out!

Today I want to showcase a homemade watch-winder.  I built this watch-winder for my self-winding watch. (Wait…What?) The self-winding watch is a type of watch that is usually wound through the normal arm motions while wearing it.  Self-winding watches are pretty fancy; generally I don’t wear it day-to-day, and as a result it loses track of time. Which is why I wanted a watch-winder for a self-winding watch. But instead of buying one, I decided to make use of my 3D printer and make one.  I printed the parts, assembled it, and wrote my own software for controlling it.

The watch-winder is not my own design.  I found the design at, which is a website that hosts designs that you can buy.  This particular design cost me less than $2.00, and I figured that was worth it.  What makes it work is the set of concentric rings. The rings provide a couple of degrees of freedom, each degree of freedom allowing rotation around an axis.  A motor is connected to an arm that spins in a circle. At the end of the arm is a bracket which is connected to the innermost ring. As the arm spins, the rings “wobble” in just the right motion to wind the watch. It’s a neat design and fun to watch. 

Which is the key to intergalactic travel and which is the watch winder?

The design also includes a base, which hides the electronics and motor.  I did need to modify the base design slightly, because I wanted the power to come through a proper power jack, rather than through some dangling wires. This Jupyter Notebook captures the steps I took to modify the base.  I used my 3D printer and PLA plastic to print model.

All of the electronic components were purchased from Adafruit.  I bought an ESP8266 microcontroller, a stepper motor, a stepper motor driver board, a power push button, power jack, and power supply. Before soldering the wires to the jack and push-button, I had to mount those parts to the base.  After they were mounted I could solder the wires. The board required soldering headers to connect the stepper driver board to the ESP8266 board.

To assemble the model I used a variety of on hand m3 screws, m3 hex nuts, and thin m3 square nuts.  Assembling the model was frustrating at times. The hole for the push button was a bit too small, making it difficult to insert the push-button. The nut traps, holes for the square nuts, were poorly designed. The nuts were difficult to insert and align with the screws.  The original model could use a few more design iterations, in my humble opinion. Despite the issues, assembling the model is pretty straightforward. Before closing off the base, I programmed the ESP8266.

Pictured: Me considering a redesign

The ESP8266 is a wireless capable microcontroller. It can be configured with an Arduino Integrated Development Environment to run the standard Arduino software framework. Using this framework opens a set of software libraries that considerably eased development.  I chose to use PlatformIO IDE instead of the Arduino IDE. PlatformIO provides the same Arduino framework, but in a development environment that I prefer. My code can be found on GitHub.

This was a fun and comprehensive project. I enjoyed building this watch-winder, and I believe it’s something you can do too.

Print It. Solder It. Code It.

Make It Dayton.

Life After Make:

Earlier this week, Maker Media announced it was suspending operations, and let go of all its employees. For the full announcement, see the TechCrunch article here.

In the 3 days since Josh Constine posted his article on TechCrunch, social media has been exploding with well wishes and happy #MakerFaire memories from Makers around the world.  MATRIX Labs (@MATRIX_creator) has even launched a GoFundMe campaign to try and bolster the Make: brand.

So, where does this leave the maker movement? Make: was (and may still be, if they can get back on a sound financial footing) one of the great centralizers of the Maker movement. They pushed for Maker education, and brought the idea of do-it-together to the forefront. Without that force, can we continue calling ourselves a movement?

Personally, and probably unsurprisingly, I think so. Making is an idea whose time has come; the desire to learn new things, shape the world with your own ideas and your own hands, and to revel in the joy of creating. And, speaking for the festival producers here in Dayton, that joy is something we want to spread.

I liken Make:’s troubles to early aviation (because, you know, Dayton). The fledgling field of aviation kept moving forward after Wilbur Wright died in 1912, because aviation was an important, world-changing idea. So too, the Maker Movement will not fail just because one of the leading voices of that movement has left us.

While Make: brought a bright spotlight to the Maker Movement, it did not create it. This movement even has roots all the way back to the Barn Gang here in Dayton.  Makers, inventors, artists and creators of all types find encouragement and inspiration by gathering together, and that will not change. Sharing our ideas, our passion projects and our love of making with each other and the greater community is important, and potentially as world-changing as aviation ever was.

So, for now, the community as a whole, and I personally will mourn Make: and Maker Media. But we won’t stop creating and sharing, because that was the point; we can carry the movement forward by doing-it-together.

In that spirit, Make It Dayton will still be hosting a 1-day celebration of making in the Miami Valley, called the Make It Dayton Festival this October.  For more details, visit