Introduction: Laser Cut Display Gears

Picture of Laser Cut Display Gears

Four interlocking gear wheels in a display case. Art and engineering in perfect harmony.

This project was originally published on

The parts of this project are cut out from three millimetre plywood using a laser cutter. In this case, and HPCLaser 3050. The plans for making this project are available for everybody to download for free. As well as the plywood you will also need a piece of dark coloured paper as a background and a sheet of one millimetre thick clear acrylic for the front of the box. One final addition, you will need three pieces of six millimetre wooden dowel. Two of them twenty four millimetres long and one eighteen millimetres long.

Step 1:

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The parts file is divided into two pages. The file is a pdf. As different laser cutters use different file formats I leave it to you to convert it to a format suitable for your machine.

The second picture shows the HPCLaser in action cutting out the parts.

Step 2:

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All the parts apart for the dowel pieces cut out and ready to go. The blue piece is the clear acrylic front with its protective film still attached. Having cut out all the parts follow the instructions below to assemble the gear display.

Step 3:

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Glue together the two eighteen teeth gears. Make sure that they are aligned precisely.

Step 4:

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Glue the outer ring to the thirty eight tooth gear as well as the centre hub. Again, make sure you are as accurate as possible with your alignment.

Glue the eighteen toothed gear to the hub. Use a spare piece of dowel to make sure the holes are lined up accurately.

Step 5:

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Assemble the twenty two toothed gear as shown using the pentagon hub.

Step 6:

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The thirty toothed gear has no hub. Carefully glue the secondary gear ring in place making sure that the teeth are accurately lined up.

Step 7:

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Glue together the three base pieces and fit the two longer dowels into place tapping them home with a hammer if necessary. They should be a tight fit and should not be free to turn.

Fit the various spacers into place as shown in the picture.

Step 8:

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Glue the eighteen millimetre long dowel into the knurled gear as shown. Make sure that it is sitting accurately square as the glue dries.

Step 9:

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Glue the dark backing paper into place. This paper provides contrast with the gears making them stand out visually.

Step 10:

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Fit the knurled wheel through the remaining hole in the base plate. It should turn easily in the hole. Fit the small gear into place on the dowel so that it just touches the spacer on the base. It should turn easily via the knurled wheel.

Step 11:

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Drop the largest gear onto the dowel. Check that it turns freely via the knurled wheel.

Step 12:

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Drop the final gear onto the remaining dowel. Fit the remaining ring over it so that it holds the gear down but still allows it to turn.

Step 13:

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Fit together the five main pieces of the frame. Use glue if you need too.

Step 14:

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Drop the acrylic front into place inside the box. Glue the two stops into place to hold the acrylic in position.

Step 15:

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The finished front cover.

Step 16:

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Fit the cover over the gear to complete the project.


maskeem made it! (author)2015-06-03

Thanks to Rob Ives because I really enjoyed make this "display gears". I made my own plywood with veneer. I didn't have lasercut so I used my scrollsaw.

robives (author)maskeem2015-06-03

That's beautiful! Thanks for sharing your pictures. Such patience cutting out the gears with a scrolls saw!

ThePropNerds made it! (author)2014-03-25

I had some time to kill at work today, so I made this out of some scraps. One acrylic gear box, complete!

Grampy104 (author)ThePropNerds2014-03-29

can i purchase a gear box kit with the blue gears? They reall look awesome and I have no way to make them myself.

ThePropNerds (author)Grampy1042014-03-29

I'm sorry, but no; it was made with scraps from my workplace. Perhaps you can edit the .svg in Inkscape or Illustrator and send it to That shouldn't be too expensive.

robives (author)ThePropNerds2014-03-25

Fantastic job! Thanks for sharing.

MerindaR made it! (author)2017-06-27

This was one of the first things I made with my new Glowforge laser cutter. I've been planning on this for a year. I
stacked the little hole cutouts and glued them into dowels. Results: not
incredible, but sort of functions. I will make again in wood or mixed media. I love it.

NataliaB42 made it! (author)2017-06-17

Thanks for the directions. Used This instructable timlearn how to use the laser cutter. Came out awesome!

DarrylS19 (author)2017-01-15


I have tried to download the PDF, but it comes up as file is corrupted? Can you help please? Others are downloading ok.

brian.burke.7330 made it! (author)2017-01-12

Made it. Nice gear set. Good desk conversation piece. Thank you for providing these free. Behind you can see the planetary gear set, also a nice build.

LauraMelnik (author)2017-01-07

I'm going to make this as soon as my 1:3 scale Vought F4U Corsair is done!

karin911 made it! (author)2016-10-28

Thanks I really enjoyed this work.

robives (author)karin9112016-11-14

Thanks! I'm delighted that you enjoyed making it

AitorS1 made it! (author)2016-11-14


robives (author)AitorS12016-11-14

Thanks for sharing the picture!

Mohammed Sabbah made it! (author)2016-01-26

I did it :D
I had issues with shafts, so I'll be glad for any advice. It's the 1st instructable that i made.

Thank u so much for sharing this design :))

郁蕭 (author)2015-11-25

hello??? if my material is 6mm thick ,will it cause the problem??

MeganC11 (author)郁蕭2015-12-30

The gears should match up just fine, but the notches that hold the box together will be a bit off. You could extend those to be 3mm longer, it could also double the depth the box needs to be though... Either way, I'm sure it would still be a fun thing to try.

ChiChiA (author)2015-10-12

what did you use to design the gears

Andrew Cleveland (author)2015-09-02

Thanks for the cool project.

masterURlaser (author)2015-08-12

Again... Another wonderful design! Thanks for being so generous with your amazing ideas!

tommychev made it! (author)2015-04-15

Such an interesting design

jinsheng (author)2014-04-19

What is the thickness of the ply wood?

rfairbanks made it! (author)2014-04-05

Modified the design a bit to use 1/8" Baltic Birch and added a larger radius to the spokes. Painted it in primary colors and added 7 mil Mylar bearings to help it turn freely. Added the steampunk themed art to the inside of the acrylic window.

robives (author)rfairbanks2014-04-06

Thanks for sharing! I've added this to a blog post on my site, hope you don't mind.

rfairbanks (author)robives2014-04-06

Wow, I'm honored, thank you!

ThePropNerds made it! (author)2014-03-31

So after I finished the blue one, my boss saw it and deman... asked me nicely to build another, this time with a few things added on. I figured you might like to see the changes that I've made!


robives (author)ThePropNerds2014-04-06

Nice modification! I've added pictures to my blog here.

ThePropNerds (author)robives2014-04-06

Super cool!!! Thanks!

Muniosi (author)2014-04-02

Looks really cool! I might make this and attach a motor so they spin on their own. That would be so cool mounted on a wall or on a desk!

katibear (author)2014-03-24

Lovely quality! love the subtle detail on the frame edges. wish i could make this!

robives (author)katibear2014-03-25

It would be worth checking if there are public access laser cutters in your area in a FabLab or Hackerspace

JimO (author)2014-03-23

Excellent project! The only problem is that it's almost impossible to convert the .pdf file into any kind of vector file. All lasers that I'm aware of need a .dxf or .ai file or something similar. I'm sure your laser did not cut from the .pdf file. Please share a vector version of the project file if you can. Thanks

askjerry (author)JimO2014-03-23

Actually the PDF files do contain vectors. I use Corel Draw to import them, but Adobe Illustrator and/ or CS3, CS4, and CS5 will open them as vector and can export them too. What software do you use for your laser?

JimO (author)askjerry2014-03-23

I normally do import pdf into Corel Draw x3 and then create the file format I need from there. This time the lines came in highly distorted which was unusual - see image attached. I use LaserCut which works great and imports .dxf, .ai, .plt and some others for vector work.

robives (author)JimO2014-03-24

Oh wow! Does it work okay with the .dxf files?

JimO (author)robives2014-03-24

Reread and maybe you were talking about Corel? Yes, it generally will import .pdf files OK but I rarely have to do that for engraving. Gotta look into the vector pdf thing since that's a new one on me! I also got a trial of a pdf to dxf conversion program that works well. Check out Print2CAD at Free trial that's fully functional from what I can tell. This program did fine on the page with all the gears but the .dxf it made of the second page has hatching and LaserCut won't import files with hatching. I did not explore deep enough to see if you can turn hatch off in the conversion.

JimO (author)robives2014-03-24

The LaserCut software will import .dxf, .ai, .plt and a couple of other file types for cutting and/or engraving and .bmp, .jpg etc. for engraving only. You can import multiple files to create a combo job created from several file types and it will run as one job. As with most software, speed/power is done with color layers. I cut a trial of your project last night and it came out nice. Only had 4.3mm ply so will need to modify the box depth etc. I'm planning to make one out of acrylic tonight and I'll upload a photo when it's done.

robives (author)JimO2014-03-23

Thanks for your comment. I've added a .dxf file and a .svg file both with all the parts on a single page. I hope this helps.

gravityisweak (author)2014-03-21

I imagine this with a tiny solar panel somewhere and a hidden motor to constantly spin the gears. Maybe the solar panel could even take the place of the black backing.

paqrat (author)gravityisweak2014-03-23

I think that would be very cool. Maybe instead of a tiny solar panel a bit larger panel with a larger set of gears and box? If its going to be protected from elements perhaps the gears could be made with foamcore? I think this would be way cool as something say 2X4 feet dimensions.

robives (author)gravityisweak2014-03-21

Yeah! That would be cool :-)

JimO (author)2014-03-23

Bravo! Thanks for uploading the additional files. I opened the .dxf file and it looks good.

As I said to start - Excellent project!!!!

robives (author)JimO2014-03-23

Excellent! Let me know how it goes!

robives (author)JimO2014-03-23

Excellent! Let me know how it goes!

craft-n-genius (author)2014-03-23

So cool! if I had the tools, I would make it in a minute! am SO voting for you :D

robives (author)craft-n-genius2014-03-23

Thanks! I really appreciate your vote!

CompulsiveBuilder (author)2014-03-23

Nice! I love all your work.


transistor2 (author)2014-03-21

how did u design the gears i can never get it right

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