Creating a Grasshopper system of designing clock faces?

We are working on a project where we want to create clocks using many different fonts. Specifically we found an older font designer (who has had significant health challenges) who, during his long career, has redesigned and digitized around 650 quite wonderful historic and stylish fonts. Is it possible to create a Grasshopper (or other) system of placing, rotating, resizing, etc. so that iterations can quickly and easily be developed using numbers and Roman numerals… Many of our current designs can be seen at These designs are made using Rhino, a ShopBot Desktop CNC router, and an Epilog Laser. Walter

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Hi Walter,

in general, almost anything you do manually can be automated with Grasshopper. The question is always how difficult it is to create the automation. From what you write, I see nothing super complicated.

If you already have these fonts digitalized (as curves or surface) you can read them in and transform them in any way you want. In 2d space, this should be quite easy.

I guess the lacking knowledge about Grasshopper is the bigger issue for you. But in general, I can only advise, that anybody using Rhino(or CAD in general), should dive into algorithmic modelling, because it really can help you in getting rid of all these boring CAD work you usually have to do.

An excellent way to start is to copy and paste each manual step in Rhino, and then trying to reproduce these steps in Grasshopper. Of course, you should learn some basic first. If you run into issues, make multiple and precise help-threads here in this forum. And I’m sure you will get lots of help.

Thanks for the quick response Tom. I have used Rhino for 15 years, mostly for 2D and simpler 3D designs. These are examples of two number orientations on bourbon barrel head clocks.

I haven’t tried working with Grasshopper so am ready to dive in. Here are the steps. Any suggestions for learning these processes would be appreciated.

  1. Take 12 different digital objects (outlines of numbers or Roman numerals) and place them evenly around a circle.

  2. Leave them in their normal X,Y orientation or rotate them so the base is oriented to the center.

  3. Adjusting the distance from the center

  4. Adjust size of the object.

Finally it is important that subtle adjustments to number kerning and location can be made in the final layout.

for instance this relies on finding a Rhino file with a layer called “numbers” that contains the numbers in the style/font you would like to use on the clock (text exploded as curves) and some rectangles (in red) used as containers

it treats numbers as curves, and recognizes which number is which depending on the red rectangle that contains it
number kerning is manual… it’s just a dirty sketch to illustrate a bit of possibilities GH might offer :slight_smile: (20.2 KB)



Thank you soooooooo much. That is exactly what we are looking for.


Thank you sooooo much. That is exactly what we are looking for. Did you create this?

Walter & Monica

yeah, that was just a brief sample, GH is awesome :slight_smile:

this might be a little bit more friendly, just put the numbers in the boxes that appear when you open the definition (17.5 KB)

the grid can be resized using the sliders, and can be moved around in the canvas area

hope you’ll have a nice journey with GH :slight_smile:

of course, this thing of having to manually put the numbers in the boxes is completely related to the assumption that you might have some custom numbers to put there, like curves you have drawn by hand in Rhino or similar
if you want to use an existing font for the numbers, then that can be fully automated in such a way you just chose the font you want to use froim a list, and the numbers appear in the right position using that font


You are amazing. Thank you so much. Monica and I went to your website and enjoyed everything we saw. Are you in Rome? We both have wonderful experiences in Italy. I will send an email to to continue our conversation.

Automation and custom elements will both be important. It would be great to set up the system to do both. Monica is doing calligraphy (see the sliding banners on our homepage) using an iPad and Procreate. She exports the image as a .jpg and then imports into Rhino with Vectorize. If we are making an actual object, adjustments are made and I export as a dxf into VCarve Pro and cut out with our ShopBot Desktop CNC router and/or an Epilog laser at a local makerspace.


You can use Text tag 3d and bake them (11.6 KB)

Thanks Seghier, Does this mean that the numbers can be made in 3D with, for instance, wood textures? I am not knowledgeable of this aspect of Rhino. Walter

Yes of course, you can convert text to 3d with extrude.
You need to learn more about Rhino to understand Grasshopper.

One thing to watch for if converting fonts into 3D: you may find problems like tiny self-intersecting curves that don’t matter to a text engine but do cause problems for nurbs solids. Be prepared to spend some time cleaning things up.

My primary use of Rhino is as a graphics tool, then turning 2D into 3D forms. I constantly extrude shapes. My goal is to “bake” my ideas into solid wood, metal, etc. as quickly as possible. The goal with the clock project, besides honoring an amazing older font designer, is to go directly to the CNC router, laser, etc. with any chosen iteration.

Just received 80 fonts from the 1800s that the font designer had digitized and cleaned up!!

If you haven’t already done so, check out what I make -


I have had no problems when saving outlines of fonts as dxf files. All the numbers on the clocks on our website were done this way. I have not spent the time rendering the designs since I can probably make the physical clock faster than doing a rendering. : )

Though it would be nice to automate the rendering process with Grasshopper. Is that possible?

If you want create 3d fonts with Grasshopper , try Fennec addon.
And you can use any font installed in the system. (17.1 KB)

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I really appreciate your information. Thank you so much. I have much to learn about using Grasshopper and all the great addons. Still haven’t been able to get it working on my computer with Rhino7. Probably beginners ignorance. My goal today is to get the systems working.

Thanks again, This is fun.


Seghier, I just looked at your work in ArtStation. Extraordinary. Check out our customized 1956 travel trailer. The ceiling and cabinet paintings are inspired by a mosaic in the Mosque of Cordoba in Spain. The floor has 10,000 pieces of wood. Walter


Very nice work, i love this mosaic and the traditional look

Inno, Seghier, Jeremy, and all,

I have been working on getting the GH system working on my computer. We spent some time with Japhy at Rhino tech support, who has experience with GH, and he made some adjustments with layers, etc. and here is where we are now.


  1. Is it possible to create finished renderings from each iteration? I can create, let’s say, 3 variations of face configurations/sizes and textures/woods upon which the numbers would be displayed. Still being a total novice, I have not figured out how to generate/show circles (face outlines) in relation to the numbers using GH.

  2. Using apps like OpenNest would it be possible with Grasshopper to lay out the outlines of the chosen numbers on specific sheet sizes to be cut with CNC router or laser?
    GrasshopperClocks.3dm (231.8 KB) (24.1 KB)

Thanks for your patience and input. Walter

this will take the scaled curves and fit them in the custom size sheet with Open Nest (22.8 KB)

one note, numbers like “10” are treated as two independent curves because the 1 and the 0 are detached from each other, so they will be nested as two independent things

while for instance 9, 11 and 12 are treated as a whole because they are build from the very same single curve