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.

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Thank you Jeff-O...I love you.

Jack Moran1 year ago

Thats Great!

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.

jeff-o (author)  keverett4584292 years ago
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.

You shouldn't feel bad about cutting anything out with your homebuilt CNC machine! Do what you like!

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.
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.
canucksgirl3 years ago
Very nice Instructable! Incredible detail.

Its a very long scroll with the new image layout, but it was worth viewing. :)
AltonB4 years ago
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 "look what I did" rather than an true instructable.
jeff-o (author)  AltonB4 years ago
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).

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 they did to their (impressed) friends and family.
ynze jeff-o4 years ago
I completely agree with you, jeff-o! Sharing your experience building this clock is very "Instructables" to me.

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.
jeff-o (author)  ynze4 years ago
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?
ynze jeff-o4 years ago
You really like winning contests, don't you, Mr. iPad?
jeff-o (author)  ynze4 years ago
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... ;)
ynze jeff-o4 years ago
...and the kick of winning is enormous :-D
jeff-o (author)  ynze4 years ago
I'd be lying if I said I didn't like winning...
iPodGuy AltonB4 years ago
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.

Every instructable is a "look what I did" 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.
jeff-o (author)  iPodGuy4 years ago
Thanks very much! That means a lot to me. :)
how long did it take for the plans to arrive??

I received my plans in five days!
jeff-o (author)  HTHMA_Engineering4 years ago
About two weeks I guess. Clayton lives in Hawaii so it takes a while to arrive.
Jandad4 years ago
I really want to try this, but I do not have a scroll saw. Do you think I could pull this still?

tjesse Jandad4 years ago
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.
jeff-o (author)  Jandad4 years ago
No. You will definitely need at least a scroll saw and a drill press.
tjesse4 years ago
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.
jeff-o (author)  tjesse4 years ago
Nice work!! It's for exactly that reason that I wrote this instructable, to act as a guide to the plans.
George says:

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" 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" wood for the outsides and 1/2" wood for the middle, for the groove. Doesn't this result in a 1" thick wheel instead of a 1/2" one? This, to me, would not work (clearances would not be there). I believe if you used 1/8" ply for the outsides and 1/4" for the middle everything would work out. Am I wrong?
jeff-o (author)  george.armour14 years ago
Good catch! And, I think you're right - it should be made of 1/8" sides and 1/4" 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.
Seiko1254 years ago
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
jeff-o (author)  HTHMA_Engineering4 years ago
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!

Very nice.
jeff-o (author)  bongodrummer4 years ago
Thanks! This project certainly made a ton of dust. ;)
I can only just resist plugging... :P
jeff-o (author)  bongodrummer4 years ago
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?
jeff-o (author)  Phsycoduckie4 years ago
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...
jeff-o (author)  Phsycoduckie4 years ago
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!
tjesse4 years ago
is Apple Ply the only substitute for Baltic Birch Ply?
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