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How to make a Water Clock

Water Clock

You must be familiar with the digital Wall clock, the beautiful cuckoo clock, and the common alarm clock but have you ever heard of a Water Clock? Having mentioned this, have you ever wondered how man measured time before modern watches and clocks were invented? Prior to the invention of battery operated watches and clocks, time-keeping was done quite differently. Sundials were the most common timekeeping method. But the disadvantage was that sundials worked only when there was sunlight. To overcome the shortcomings of the sundial, water clocks were invented. The oldest known use of water clocks was made by the ancient Greeks, and they called it a clepsydra. In this article, we will teach you how to make your own water clock using simple steps.

What is a Water Clock?

Water Clocks were used in the old days to measure time. Although early methods were surprisingly accurate for measuring long amounts of time, eventually man needed to know how to determine the short periods. Thus, the man needed a clock. The first clocks were, again, based on the movement of a celestial object; the sun. Sundial and obelisks used shadows created by the sun to mark time. In China and the Middle East, people created very elaborate water clocks. The most well known as the Sung Su Water Clock, built around 1090 B.C.E. Water clocks are of two types:

  • Outflow water clock
  • Inflow water clock

In this activity participants create their own water clock. Let us look at the procedure to make your own water clock.


  • Masking tape
  • Styrofoam cup
  • Pushpins
  • Clear jar
  • Stopwatch
  • Water clock (2)
  • Pen or pencil
  • Water clock sample


  1. Use the pushpin to make a hole in the bottom of a Styrofoam cup. Push the tip of the pin through the bottom of the cup from the inside out.
  2. Put a piece of masking tape straight up the side of a clear jar.
  3. Start at the bottom of the jar and make lines on the tape 1 cm apart.
  4. Fasten the Styrofoam cup to the mouth of the jar, either by inserting it into the jar if the mouth is big enough or taping the cup to the jar with the masking tape.
  5. Fill the cup with water.
  6. As the water starts to drip, use the stopwatch to record how long it takes the water to reach the first line on the jar. Continue to record the time for each line until the water empties from the cup.
  7. Decorate the water clock by using markers to create hieroglyphics much like the Ancient Egyptians did on their water clocks.
  8. Use the enclosed water clock to show a modern version of how water can still help tell time.

This is interesting, isn’t it? Find more similar interesting and easy topics with detailed procedure explanations by clicking on the links provided in the table below

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Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs

What is a water clock?

A water clock is an instrument that uses the flow of water to measure time.

What are the types of water clocks?

Water clocks are of two types:
  • Outflow water clock
  • Inflow water clock

Do sundials work only in the presence of sunlight?

Yes, sundials work only in the presence of sunlight.

State true or false: Water clocks work in the presence of sunlight.

False. Water clocks do not depend on sunlight to operate.

Give an ideal example of a well-known type of water clock?

An ideal example of a well-known type of water clock is Sung Su Water Clock.
Test Your Knowledge On How To Make A Water Clock!

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