Galileo's Bicycle is a kinetic sculpture designed by Clayton Boyer. I built this one as a wedding gift for my best friend, over a period of a few months. It can surely be finished in less time than that, but when you've only got an hour or two of free time per week to devote to it, it can take a while!

Here is the "official" video of Galileo's Bicycle in operation, from Clayton Boyer's website:

OK, so now you're thinking, "if the plans are being sold on the internet, why do I need an Instructable as well? Aren't the instructions that come with the plans good enough?" Well, yes and no. If you're an experienced woodworker, you probably won't learn much more from this Instructable than you already know. But what if you're at the beginner or intermediate level, and need a bit of guidance? This Instructable is for you! My goal is to throw a few tips, descriptions and in-process pics in your direction, to help you along. A bit of hand-holding, but only in a metaphorical way - never hold someone's hand while they're using a power tool.

I am writing this Instructable with the blessing of the designer - I asked for permission first! You won't find the plans here to download - you'll need to pay for them just like I did.

Galileo's Bicycle is probably one of Clayton Boyer's most popular designs. You'll find dozens of videos of it in operation on YouTube. It swoops and spins in a delightful manner, yet the design is actually quite simple when you break it down. This instructable will guide you through building it, though the lessons learned here can be applied to most of his other designs as well. I've also built "Simplicity," so I know of what I speak.

The entire mechanism is made of Baltic Birch plywood, maple, and brass. Oh, and some copper pipe as a counter weight, though you could use anything of sufficient mass.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Here is the parts list as printed in the plans.  I figure it's cool to reprint this, since you won't get any further than a pile of wood and brass until you buy the actual plans.  My additions to the parts list are in italics.

"Galileo's Bicycle" plans by Clayton Boyer (37 USD, in case you're wondering)

Can of Spray Adhesive - like Craft Bond (I used 3M Super 77)
1 - 2' x 4' 1/2" Baltic Birch for Triskele, Bobbing Arm and Wheels
1 - 12 x 12" 1/4" Baltic Birch Ply
1 - 12 x 12" 1/8" Baltic Birch Ply
    (Apple Ply may be substituted for Baltic Birch Ply)
46" - 1x6" Hardwood stock for frame (I used maple)
4 - 1/4" (inside diameter stainless steel) Flat Washers as Arbor Spacers
3 - 2" Wood screws (countersunk) for mounting Frame to Wall
2 - #4 x 5/8" Sheet Metal screws
72" #18 Nylon Mason's Cord
8" - 1 1/4" Copper pipe & Cap
4 pounds of lead for operation in Mode #1  (Lead shot works well)
2 pounds of lead for operation in Mode #2
6 ounces of lead for floaters
4 - 12" pieces of 1/16" stainless steel rod
1 - 12" piece of 1/8" stainless steel or brass rod (I used brass)
1 - 12" piece of 5/32" OD brass tube
2 - 12" pieces of 1/4" Stainless Steel Rod (I used brass instead)
2 - 12" pieces of 9/32" OD brass tube
1 - 3/8" wood dowel (these usually come in 3 or 4 foot lengths, you'll need a few inches)
48" 50 lb. monofilament fishing line for pallet arms (I used braided trolling line)
20" 15 lb. monofilament fishing line for bobbing arm
Quality wood glue - I used Titebond III
Sandpaper - 220 and 320 grit


The wood can be found at a well-stocked home improvement store.  I ended up buying my wood at a smaller dealer, however.  I bought the brass rods and tubing from a hobby store - just look for a "K&S Engineering" display, and you'll find what you need.  The lead shot and fishing line can be found at a hunting store or gun shop.


A decent scroll saw - I use a Dewalt DW788
A drill press (absolutely required for most holes)
A hand drill (for some awkward side-drills)
A vertical belt sander - makes sanding so much easier
A Dremel tool with metal cutting blade (as suggested in the plans) - also great for polishing the rods!
A band saw (I use a Sears 12" bandsaw) - alternative for cutting brass rods.  Also nice for doing the rough cuts.
Quality scroll saw blades - I used Olson PGT 5RG blades for most of this project.  Have lots on hand, because you'll burn through a few before you're done...
Quality drill bits - I used brad-point drill bits from Lee Valley, but ordinary split point bits should be OK.
A countersinking bit (use a regular large split-point bit in a pinch)
A few different wood clamps
A screwdriver
An X-Acto knife
Hi Jeff ! Thanks for your help, my work is currently in progress; i just have to adapt some materials and metrics for France, but with Clayton plan and your tips, this project is really a pleasure. Thanks for sharing :)
<p>Finish ! it was harder than i can imagine, but the final piece look nice.</p>
Nice advertisement for the guy selling the plans - complete with a link of where to spend your money. This is cool - but - not planning it and merely building it from plans only available from another source for money is more of a &quot;look what I did&quot; rather than an true instructable.
I must admit, I had the same concerns. Why should I write instructions for something that already comes with them? Well, my instructions are better for one thing. But there's one, basic rule when it comes to deciding whether to write an Instructable: the answer is always YES (Kiteman's zeroth law).<br> <br> Sharing information is always better than not sharing it. Am I showing off what I did? Sure. But hopefully I'm helping others build it too, to show what <em>they</em> did to their (impressed) friends and family.
I completely agree with you, jeff-o! Sharing your experience building this clock is very &quot;Instructables&quot; to me. <br><br>I think Clayton Boyer should be very grateful to you and to instructables, though. With this I'ble, you solve a problem that is caused by Clayton's lack of a proper manual... And you gave it to him for free.
Well hopefully it'll win me a contest or two and we can call it even. ;)
What contests? Contests for Clayton's works, or contests for cool stuff in general?
You really like winning contests, don't you, Mr. iPad?
What can I say? I build stuff that people think is cool, and I win prizes. It certainly helps justify all the time I spend on them to my wife... ;)
...and the kick of winning is enormous :-D
I'd be lying if I said I didn't like winning...
I've been sitting on instructions on how to build this very sculpture for over three years now. Clayton's instructions are a little vague when it comes to assembly and I was nervous to begin so I kept procrastinating. I'm not an expert woodworker or clockmaker either so to have one like this complete with photos covering the entire process and helpful tips (I didn't know there were sanding blades for scroll saws, for example) makes a fantastic instructable.<br><br>Every instructable is a &quot;look what I did&quot; thing. Look what he did - documented the entire process. Look what he did - simplified, expanded upon and published instructions better than Clayton's. Look what else he did - gave me the confidence to build it myself.
Thanks very much! That means a lot to me. :)
<p>Thank you Jeff-O...I love you.</p>
<p>Thats Great!</p>
Jeff-o, <br>I was wondering if people use cnc routers to make this or if its and effective time saver. I don't mean to sully the artisanship of this beautiful design. The only out I have is that I designed and built my CNC router from scratch. So it would be a second order hand build, sort of ... So, do you have any suggestion, comments, or recommendations on this? Any insights or comments would be appreciated greatly. I am fascinated by these kinetic sculptures and hope to design my own eventually. I believe the .dxf option for the plans is available from the seller. Will these digital elements work for basic conversion to cnc in a cam package? Thanks again for any help. <br> <br>Keith
You could indeed use a CNC router for most of it. There would be some inside cuts that are too narrow for the router, though. <br><br>You shouldn't feel bad about cutting anything out with your homebuilt CNC machine! Do what you like!<br><br>I know you can get the large main gear in DXF format, but not the whole thing. I don't think the seller wants his designs to get out into the wild in digital format! But, if you want to put the effort in, you could always scan the printed designs and manually convert them to DXF.
Thanks Jeff. <br>I appreciate your comments and I think scanning these in might be an option... depends on the res. of my scanner and the file type it creates. However, the file conversion is not likelyt o be an insurmountable problem. One problem i forsee is cutting the narrow pieces. Routers will put additional stresses on thin elements that band saw or scrool saws won't. I'll probably need to do the final cutout by hand because of the need for stablizing bridge elements in the design. Still it should be easier than doing it all by hand! Thanks again for your input. <br>Keith
Very nice Instructable! Incredible detail.<br> <br> <sub>Its a very long scroll with the new image layout, but it was worth viewing. :)</sub>
how long did it take for the plans to arrive??<br><br>thanks
I received my plans in five days!
About two weeks I guess. Clayton lives in Hawaii so it takes a while to arrive.
I really want to try this, but I do not have a scroll saw. Do you think I could pull this still?<br><br>
I bought one just for this project at Harbor Freight for $55. It was on sale for 69.99 and I used a 20% off coupon from Popular Science ad. It got good reviews in a woodworking website I found and I must say I find any excuse to use it. <br>http://www.harborfreight.com/16-inch-variable-speed-scroll-saw-93012.html
No. You will definitely need at least a scroll saw and a drill press.
Thanks for the help! The plans were not as helpful as your instructions. For the weight I used pvc filled with rebar and sand. I didn't have a sack o' lead laying around. Other then that I followed it to the letter.
Nice work!! It's for exactly that reason that I wrote this instructable, to act as a guide to the plans.
George says:<br><br>I have just received Clayton's plans and noticed that you may have an error in your instructable. You make your wind wheel with three pieces of wood instead of Clayton's method of routing or using a table saw on a 1/2&quot; piece to make the groove. I think your method will be much easier, but I wonder if your dimensions are correct. You say to use 1/4&quot; wood for the outsides and 1/2&quot; wood for the middle, for the groove. Doesn't this result in a 1&quot; thick wheel instead of a 1/2&quot; one? This, to me, would not work (clearances would not be there). I believe if you used 1/8&quot; ply for the outsides and 1/4&quot; for the middle everything would work out. Am I wrong?
Good catch! And, I think you're right - it should be made of 1/8&quot; sides and 1/4&quot; for the middle. This would explain why I had to add extra washers as spacers when I was building mine. I'll correct my instructions.
Very cool, I'd like to make this over the summer, but I do not think I have the time or patience to build it with precision.
how much did you spend on all the material? we are trying to do it for a school project and we are just wondering. thanks
Hmmm, I'd budget $60-$70 for materials. You'll need the wood, brass, string, copper pipe, and lead weight. Of course, that's how much I paid, the materials where you live may be more or less expensive.
Jeff-o, you are the daddy-o! <br><br>Very nice.
Thanks! This project certainly made a ton of dust. ;)
I can only just resist plugging... :P
Plug away! My reference was intentional...
I know, know. Thanks for that. A cryptic plug is more fun than a blatant one anyway ;)
Does the weight have to touch the floor?
No, but it's a safe and convenient resting place for the weight when the string has run out. Otherwise, there would be pressure pulling on the wheel all the time.
Hm. That sucks I really wanted to do this but I have no idea where I would put it. I do have a big place on my wall of my room but thats reserved for a mural my dad's going to let me make. So I would have to find room somewhere. I really want to make this. But knowing that I cant...
Well, you could make one of Clayton's other designs. Most of the clocks don't take up as much space width-wise, and are just as impressive to see. They aren't much harder to make, either. There are more gears, but once you've made one gear the rest aren't harder - it just takes more time!
is Apple Ply the only substitute for Baltic Birch Ply?
Sometimes it's also called Russian Birch plywood. However, you could make the whole thing (except for the click gear and clicks) out of any suitable hardwood. Baltic birch is just much easier to work with, generally stronger, and cheaper than solid hardwood.
wow amazing talents you have
Thanks! Practice and patience is usually all it takes... :)
thank you it is good jop<br>
Thanks, glad you like it!
How big does it end up being?
It's about 32&quot; wide by 36&quot; high. The weight extends all the way to the floor when it runs out.

About This Instructable




Bio: By day, Jeff is the Jack of All Robots at Clearpath Robotics. By night, a mad scientist / hacker / artist / industrial designer wannabe!
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