Picture of The Moon Machine

UPDATE ( 17-04-2014 ) 
Thank you all for the very nice comments. They really mean a lot!
I've attached the file I used to laser cut the parts in a couple of different file formats, so you should be able to open at least one of them. Some of the parts are redundant because I changed the design a bit after I had it cut.
It's going to take a while for me to get a video of the machine, but in the meantime I've made this animation

The gears are all programmed to move as they do in real life, so it's pretty close to the actual thing. 

My older brother turned 30 recently, and I decided I would make a special present for him.

He practices biodynamic farming, a field (no pun intended) where the phase of the Moon is considered important in deciding when to plant and harvest crops.

I figured a clock that displays the Moon's phase would be a fun thing to make for him. That would, however, be far too easy. I therefore gave myself the challenge to make a machine that would also show the rise and set times of the Moon - a Moon Machine.

This is my first instructable so please bear with me as I unfortunately forgot to take any pictures during the making of the machine. I suppose illustrations will have to make do.

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shaman51884 months ago
Engineering is safe as long as artisans like you construct such beautiful machines. Outstanding work 10/10
blarcher10 months ago

Amazing ! I love to lookaround at instructables and find this kind of work, there are a lot of things that I would like to give a try, but where I live, there are no "techshops" or no way to get the parts... This is one of the bests things I've ever seen.

Congrats !

jhall30 blarcher10 months ago

you could look into or and see if they'll ship to you, depending upon where you are. There are also often other small shops that will take on small cutting jobs if you look around.

jamesb2111 months ago

your pdf is also missing the gear with 25 teeth

Testudinidae (author)  jamesb2111 months ago
That might be an issue with the program you ude to view it because it's there when I open the PDF.
melvinkat11 months ago

Very nice project!! Thanks for sharing it.

GrantLevy11 months ago

Can this device be driven by a standard clock motor? Do you have the gear ratios worked out for the gear train that will replace the planetary gears?

Testudinidae (author)  GrantLevy11 months ago

Driving it with a motor would be problematic: The input is designed to be incremented in steps of full rotations. The continuous rotation from a clock moter would mean that the rise and set times would change over the course of the day.

It's only the center planetary gear that could be replaced, the other two would still be needed. I haven't worked out the exact ratios, but you would need a gear train that devides the input by 27.32. It would also require a major redesign of the support structure to fit in all the new gears for this train.

imperio11 months ago


works even in leap years!

The line thickness can make your holes/cuts skewed if not set correctly.
When you laser cut do you make sure to set your line/ stroke thickness to 0.001 ?
I usually use adobe illustrator to make my laser cut files and print with a vls printer/program - works great. Let me know maybe I can help!
jdahl211 months ago
Wow that's a piece of art you made there. Wonderful
pthibault11 months ago

one thing to add though is the .dxfs and .pdfs or the .dwg files, NONE of them have the shaft holes on the frame panels, any chance you could add those and i can get em from ya?

Testudinidae (author)  pthibault11 months ago

I'm afraid I don't have them. I had some issues with the laser cuts not coming out in the exact same scale as in 3D model. So I opted to drill the holes by hand to make sure everything lined up properly.

ok ill just extrapolate the holes from the gears and what i can from the files. THANX!

pthibault11 months ago

I am currently standing next to a water jet and im going to try doing this from steel, THNX FOR THE POST!!

Thanks for the animation! It looks awesome!

jmarie2611 months ago
You are brilliant!
Beautifully made and explained :)
balloondoggle11 months ago

My first thought was to motorize it, then I realized that would pretty much ruin the aesthetics of it. Plus, if you're planting by moon phase, you probably have an interest in turning the crank every day instead of automating it.

Gorgeous machine, and a fun way to apply math.

robi_ncc11 months ago


tlaminty11 months ago
Stuff like this makes the internet a wonderful place.
Thank you.
mosmond11 months ago
Ive been on instructables for a while, and although I've yet to publish my own "ible", I've spent countless hours browsing through others' generous submissions. I've seen a lot of wondeful instructibles, but this one may be my all-time favorite. I love everything about this project: the craftsmanship, the nerdy math, the playfully "frivolous" purpose - all of it is just perfect! Thank you so very, very much for making and sharing this wonderful object!
Dio77211 months ago
Your machine is a work of art.
Bill Hooper11 months ago

Beyond Excellent! I'd really like to create this with a 3D printer. At least the first one. Then maybe by hand since I don't have access to a laser. The 3D printer should be able to do this nicely. Different gears in different colors. There is a 3D printer at our local library I'll have to see what kind of format it needs to create the parts.

Thanks for a GREAT project...

jackthursby11 months ago

are you going to publish the laser cutter files ?

voltski11 months ago

fantastic... this is the most detailed project I have ever seen... you are a genius !

AuralVirus11 months ago

Very impressive.

As you say this in brass would take it to the next level. This is art.

I'd love to be
able to buy a kit of this or even the mapping for a 3d printer to
construct as I haven't the time, skill or tools to build this myself.

Is there such a thing?

reminds me of the antikythera mechanism.

Gadisha11 months ago

I love it!

GPlatek11 months ago

Great design and Idea! What if the gears were laser cut from acrylic? Then the teeth wouldn't splinter off. Thanks!!!

stechi11 months ago

Brilliant project. Thanks for sharing it.

Syncopator11 months ago

Very well conceived, explained and constructed. First class.

kjlpdx11 months ago

what a cool project for a cnc router. I've seen this software to create elliptical gears. "gearotic". agreed, gears cut from plexi would be gorgeous, especially if they had spokes machined in them. I would love to have a .DXF file, although you have given enough info to figure it out, but why reinvent the gear? :-)

graham64111 months ago

This is the stuff I love to see here. Applied mechanics, thoughtful application and the skills to make it. Congratulations on your first instructable. It was clear and understandable for a technically challenging application. I surely hope to see more of your creativity.

apalacios211 months ago

Awesome! Please, say you have plans for an Antikythera!!

Viali Jones11 months ago
Wow, what an amazing project! I commend you on your patience and skill - and I'm sure your brother will be thrilled to receive this.
I8mAll11 months ago

That is amazing,

Thank you so much. Your work is so well explained and laid out. It is a joy to see such kindness in sharing. Jolly well done.

Now how about a clock like that of Hampton Court.

pcoyle11 months ago

I would love to see a video of the thing working if possible. What nice work you have completed. +1 from me. I noticed you used a laser to cut the timber.

I'll second the vote for a video. :)

MercuryCrest11 months ago

Duly voted.

This is a fantastic project and I'm looking forward to making one and putting my own "spin" on it.

Well done!

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