Introduction: Miniature Revolving Solar System

Picture of Miniature Revolving Solar System
I am not sure exactly where this idea came from. It started with a hollowed out light bulb that I had lying around and thinking that it would be neat to put a miniature solar system model inside.  Then I thought it would be even better if it actually moved. 

I became inspired when came across some images of orreries.  Orreries are mechanical planetary models that revolve at relative speeds using gears. Unfortunately in my own model the planets revolve at the same speed, but I designed it with fake gears and a plate indicating months, seasons and astrology glyphs to resemble a real orrery.

Step 1: What You Will Need

Picture of What You Will Need
  • Light weight clay
  • Lightbulb
  • Small clock
  • Brass wire
  • Bamboo skewer
  • Hard drive platter
  • Stand
  • Glue: PVA, Super Glue, and hot glue
  • Printer and paper
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Sharpie pens, gold and copper model paint, nail polish

Step 2: Make Your Planets

Picture of Make Your Planets

I measured the diameter of my light bulb, as you can see I used a globe sphere which is rounder than your average bulb.  I determined how large I could make the planets and how far apart to space them. I cut eight pieces of wire making sure that they were long enough to wrap around the skewer.  I then bent up one end for placing the planet on.

Step 3: Make Planets

Picture of Make Planets

I used La Doll Premier Lightweight Stone Clay which is super light weight and ideal for this project.  If the planets were much heavier it would likely unbalance the skewer and effect the rotation.  I rolled out the little balls for the planets, they are obviously not to scale.  Mercury was the smallest and Jupiter the biggest, and of course I added the ring for Saturn.  I stuck them on the wire and let them dry overnight (it is an air dry clay).

Step 4: Paint the Planets

Picture of Paint the Planets

Once the planets had dried I coloured them.  Sharpies work well with this type of clay.  I made Mercury grey, Venus yellowy-white, Earth blue and green, Jupiter yellow with brown and green stripes, Saturn yellowy-white, Uranus green and Neptune blue.  The colours turned out really vibrant which didn't quite suite an orrery. So I mixes some gold paint with a pale pink nail polish and covered the planets to give it an antique-like appearance.  When the paint had dried I glued the planets to the wire with super glue (unfortunately the glue seems to interact with Sharpies and cause Saturn to bleed a red colour).

Step 5: Create the Sun

Picture of Create the Sun

As you can see from my pictures I had intended to use a marble for the sun. It turned out to be a bit too heavy to work properly.  I ended up making the sun from the light weight clay.  I stuck a piece of wire in it so that I could hold it while I painted it.  I coloured it with orange and yellow sharpies and then painted it over with a mix of gold paint and nail polish.

For the rotation/revolution of the planets I was using the second hand mechanism on the clock.  The way the hand fits into the clock mechanism seems to vary from clock to clock.  For the one I had, the hand fit in with a pin.  I was able to fit the pointy end of a bamboo skewer into the slot and have it rotate freely.  I used that to hold the planets and the sun.  I formed a little pedestal for the sun to fit on the skewer with the light weight clay, painted it with copper paint and glued it to the pedestal.

I then glued the sun to the pedestal and painted the bamboo skewer with gold paint.

Step 6: Preparing the Lightbulb

Picture of Preparing the Lightbulb

I hollowed out the the light bulb using the following instructions. To make the bulb safer to work with  I put hot glue around the glass edge of the opening.  I added a circle of cardboard painted with copper paint and glued it around the opening to cover the unevenness of the glass.

Step 7: Preparing the Stand

Picture of Preparing the Stand

I  had a stand lying around the house that was perfect for my imitation orrery.  When I placed the clock on the stand and put the  hard drive platter on there was a bit of a gap.  The gap seemed a perfect place to add some gears.  Unfortunately, I didn't have any large gears lying around and I didn't know how to make them.  I wandered around the aisles of a dollar store and came upon a cheap Spirograph toy which of course had little plastic gears.  I painted them gold, I also had to trim a few so that the clock will fit and then glued them to the stand with PVA glue. 

Step 8: Preparing the Plate

Picture of Preparing the Plate

Most orreries I've seen have a plate or dial on the base depicting astrological symbols, months and seasons.  I design my own on my computer to fit on the hard drive platter. I wanted it to have an aged look so I aged the paper first  with tea.  I glued it to the hard platter with PVA and then added more glue over top as a varnish (decoupage).

Step 9: Securing the Clock

Picture of Securing the Clock

I painted the top of the clock mechanism with gold paint. Then glued it to the back of the hard drive platter. I also taped the back with duct tape.  I added a small nut on the clock mechanism around the hands to provide stability for when the skewer is placed in.  The plate and clock fit snugly between the gears on the base.  I didn't glue it on since I need access to the battery.

Step 10: Attaching the Planets

Picture of Attaching the Planets

This was the really tricky part. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to fit all of the planets into the bulb. I started by adding Mercury,  which was placed closest to the sun and near the top of the skewer just under the pedestal. I wrapped the wire around the stem, trimmed off the excess wire and tightened it with needle nose pliers.  I added Venus and Earth next and placed them further out.  At this point I could still fit the sun and 3 planets into the bulb.  With the remaining planets I had attached them while holding the planets in the light bulb. I did this by wrapping the wire around the skewer, trimming it and then sliding it up the skewer moving the planet into the light bulb and tightening the wire when it is correctly placed. Once all of the planets are on I slotted the skewer into the clock mechanism and put the battery in the clock. 

I wrapped a bit of wire on the base of the skewer to give it a bit more stability.  As you can see from the video the movement isn't very smooth, some times it skips or stalls and has an occasional wobble.


Wumi (author)2016-07-15

I hope to use this as my school art project. Hope it turns out cool. thanks guy you saved m head.

i am trying this too but its hard to balance all planets.

Yes, that is the tricky part.

bathsheba_everdene (author)2015-06-20

You mentioned light pink nail polish but in the picture it looks white. Exactly what was the name of the shade?

Sorry, I don't have it any more. I believe it was a pearly colour with a little bit of pink.

Om Gupta (author)2014-06-26

Hey man !! can u tell me how do you balanced the planets with bamboo skewer

ChrysN (author)Om Gupta2014-06-26

The clay I used to make the planets were really lightweight ( I just spaced the planets out somewhat evenly around the centre and they were okay.

Om Gupta (author)2014-06-26

Hey man !! can u tell me how do you balanced the planets with bamboo skewer

Om Gupta (author)2014-06-26

Hey man !! can u tell me how do you balanced the planets with bamboo skewer

just me and my pup (author)2014-01-18



just me and my pup (author)2014-01-18

That's amassing how did u think of it

OjoeMDC (author)2014-01-10

best instructable I have ever seen in my entire life!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tarun Upadhyaya (author)2013-03-24

I have one word to say. AWESOME :)

ChrysN (author)Tarun Upadhyaya2013-03-24


GorillazMiko (author)2013-02-28


ChrysN (author)GorillazMiko2013-02-28


J-Five (author)2012-12-27

It's a small world after all!!!

J-Five (author)2012-12-25

Out of this world!!!!

Do you consider Pluto a plantet, well I do

ChrysN (author)J-Five2012-12-26

Thanks! They are calling it a dwarf planet now, though I was tempted to include it in my solar system.

azharz (author)2012-11-30

Congratulations for being the finalist in hack it contest, I am sure you will win one of those prizes.

poofrabbit (author)2012-11-27

Hey congratulations on being a finalist in the hack it contest! Good luck to you! (I really do adore this, I am pulling for you, not that I have any

ChrysN (author)poofrabbit2012-11-28


ynze (author)2012-11-10

Love it! And, as already said in the comments, it would be great to expand this with different rotational speeds and some moons... Or make one of an imaginary solar system, with freaky little planets and a double star sun :-)

ChrysN (author)ynze2012-11-11

Interesting idea making imaginary solar systems or maybe making one from the Star Wars universe or other fictional solar systems. I'm sure you'd be able to find star maps of the Star Wars one.

ynze (author)ChrysN2012-11-11

To be continued... :-)

porcupinemamma (author)2012-11-11

P.S. I voted "winner"

ChrysN (author)porcupinemamma2012-11-11

Thanks you! I made the paper with the months and season on my computer (my handwriting is not very neat).

porcupinemamma (author)2012-11-11

Astounding! A real keeper! Perhaps I've missed this...did you free hand draw the summer /autum... paper?

EducationSmellsSweet (author)2012-11-05

I am in love with this, I would love to have it on my desk! Time for me to raid my husbands tools I believe.

Onyx Ibex (author)2012-10-17

Love it! I broke my light bulb so I will just have to wait until the next one burns out to try again...

ChrysN (author)Onyx Ibex2012-10-17

I found hollowing out a light bulb to be the hardest part. Not to mention dangerous too, I got a few scratches from that.

BluesBayou (author)2012-10-17

This would be a great addition to the Mad Scientist lab, desk.... :) Good job!

ChrysN (author)BluesBayou2012-10-17

Yes, it would! Thanks.

lbrewer42 (author)2012-10-07

Out of this world!

OK, so I like corny puns :)

Great project - I like the concept of it being in a glass globe.

I wonder if drilling small holes in the skewer and inserting/gluing the free end of the wire-holding-planet into the holes would work easier than trying to wrap the wire tightly?

I also wonder if painted beads of the "right" sizes might work well for planets (with painted highlights).

Amazing concept and I really like the add on gears and other embellishments.

ChrysN (author)lbrewer422012-10-07

Thanks, the beads are a good idea, though I was worried that they might be a bit heavy, the clay I used is really light.

lbrewer42 (author)ChrysN2012-10-07

This makes sense!

Exocetid (author)2012-10-07

Wow! Sort of disappointing. I thought the planets actually moved correctly like an Orrery. It is doable, inside the bulb, which is great BTW. Making it work would be non-trivial, but the gears would be for real. 

Concentric shafts is the key and construction not unlike a ship in a bottle.

ChrysN (author)Exocetid2012-10-07

Yes, that's why I didn't call it a real orrery, I don't have any experience making gears, I guess you can design it on a computer and print it out in 3d or cut them on a laser cutter.

trrydms (author)2012-10-07

super cool!

waterbaby (author)2012-10-04

Kiteman beat me to the comment: absolutely brilliant!

ChrysN (author)waterbaby2012-10-04


jmray (author)2012-10-04

Wicked is right.

mikeasaurus (author)2012-10-03

This is great! I love orreries, they always held my interest when I was in school.

I know at this scale it would be incredibly difficult, but if the glass bulb was a little larger there may be room to put the inner planets on the seconds dial with the outer planets on the hour dial, giving to different rotational speeds.

ChrysN (author)mikeasaurus2012-10-03

I think if you make it without the light bulb you could do this easily, you could probably put Jupiter and Saturn on the minute hand and Uranus and Neptune on the hour hand. Most orreries models aren't under glass anyway.

krysteanuh (author)2012-10-03

Omg this would be a sick Christmas ornament! I'll make one as soon as I have time!

Kiteman (author)2012-10-03

Oh, my word, that is brilliant!

iceng (author)2012-10-03

Circularly CooL.


MoustacheCat (author)2012-10-03

Another awesome use for a clock :D

Pixie Puddle (author)2012-10-03

thats wicked, :)

About This Instructable




Bio: I like sewing and crafts,and trying new things. I'm vegetarian and always looking for new recipes. My cat's name is Mirko and ... More »
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