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I've been interested in gear transmission for a while, and decided to play around with the idea using laser cut wood. My original inspiration came from this project on thingiverse, which I adapted into what you see in the second gif above (and fifth + sixth images above). I found the spinning gears really calming to watch, and made a few for friends to keep them entertained at the hospital or when studying for exams.

Since they were quck to design and easy to personalize, I ended up building my own gear trains and cutting out a few as early holiday gifts. My friends really liked the pleasing "clicking" sounds as the gears mesh with each each other so I decided to explore with more designs and share this tale: in which I make great toys to fiddle with.

Step 1: Materials

Basic materials needed for creating the gear trains:

  • plywood (I used eighth inch plywood -- I think it was a good thickness, considering that quarter inch would be bulky and sixteenth would be too thin.)
  • (optional) acrylic makes nice gear trains too if you happen to have any!
  • laser cutter (I used a Universal laser cutter at my school)
  • nuts and bolts (I used half-inch long 8-32s so my files are designed for that, but you can adjust the sizing for your hardware. I go through the tolerancing for the holes in Step 3)
  • superglue to keep the nuts fastened to the bolts

Optional for if you want to design your own gear trains:

  • graphics software (I always use Adobe Illustrator as my weapon of choice, but Corel Draw, Inkscape, etc. would do the same job)
  • gear generator (You can use free softwares like this or google "gear generator" for more, plus Inkscape has a gear generator extension, but I used Solidworks to show 3D images of it and really plan out where the gears would go.)

More optional materials to consider:

  • acrylic makes nice gear trains too if you happen to have any!
  • wood stains for color (or see Step 13 for using food coloring and rubbing alcohol, or even sharpies)
  • sandpaper to get rid of scorch marks
  • washers to reduce friction between all the wood rubbing together (nylon or metal...)
<p>Very Cool! I have been looking for some inspiration.</p>
<p>Glad to have helped you gain inspiration. :) </p>
Hello! I'm finally back. (I left a comment weeks ago asking how much you'd charge to make a gear fidget, remember?) So, yes, I'd love to have one like the 'clockish' looking one at the very beginning of your 'ible - fully assembled, please. If you were to send me gears, bolts, washers and nuts, along with the most complete set of instructions I'd probably end up with something like a frog plucker!<br> If I can request color I'd like maybe walnut as the bottom layer then oak and repeat those alternating as the pieces are nearer the viewer. If that doesn't work (because there are more layers in some of the gear sets than others) then add a 3rd color - something between the walnut and oak - mahogany maybe? You see what I'm hoping for - colors that are different enough that each layer is seen. (I'm not particularly fond of redish stains though.)<br> Now that I've convinced you that I'm a picky bit...um, person let me assure you I'm not! I just fell in love with your clocky creation and, should you actually make one for me, it will be one of my favorite purchases.<br> So - purchasing. How much? (I've forgotten.) How do I get the $ to you? etc. Is there a way to send a direct message on Instructables? I'm not comfortable giving my address - physical or email - here. Is Facebook an option? That messaging seems secure.<br>Hope to hear from you.
<p>Check your FB; sent a message. </p>
<p>Thanks for this amazing Instructable. I will reference this in the future.</p><p>Congratulations on being a finalist in the Wooden Toys Challenge!</p>
<p>Thank you for your kind comment! </p>
<p>this is so cool! </p><p>Could you make a clock where you can see all the gears turn? That would be so cool! </p>
<p>I'm glad you enjoyed this project. :)</p><p>I'd love to make such a clock, and it's definitely in my sketchbooks for later. Until then, there's a few commercial options like this, if you're interested -- try <a href="http://stemfox.com/mechnical-wooden-clock-kit">this link</a> for a mechanical clock kit, or <a href="http://holzuhr.keller-de.eu/Fotos.html">this link</a> for more inspiration. </p>
wow that is cool :)
<p>This was my first instructables project, and it was awesome! Thanks for sharing this and for the time you put in documenting what you did.<br><br>My experience: I used 3 mm plywood for all the designs, and about 25 min of laser cutting machine (at a dutch university) costed me a little less than 20 euro. It was my first experience with the laser, so I did not know what to expect for the small cogs. For my next project, I will indeed make use of bigger ones that seem to rotate and interlock much more smoothly and they appear more durable. Maybe because of the quality of the wood/cut, for the smaller trains the minimalist frame design allowed too much wiggling that in turn prevented the cogs from rotating properly. Another problem is the wood-wood friction, maybe to be solved using metal rings to be put between the wood layers (after modifying the design a little). Because of the friction, after a while the nuts get loose. (suggestions about how to solve this problems are welcome!)<br><br>I used this project as a test for the materials and tools involved, as I plan to design (and share) my own gear trains. I absolutely recommend this!</p>
<p>Nice job -- I'm glad you enjoyed the project! </p><p>The simple frame design definitely leaves room for improvement due to the wiggling, as you mentioned. They do work fine after some breaking in. In gear train 0 (middle one of your first picture), the gears are all completely constrained, plus symmetrically oriented, so that one spins the best -- might want to keep that in mind for any gear trains you design. </p><p>The wood-wood friction could definitely be fixed with washers. Nylon ones work really well, though metal ones should be fine too. To handle the nuts problem, I used superglue to keep them fixed relative to the bolts (make sure you don't over-tighten the nuts before the glue dries, though). Alternatively, you could try lock nuts. </p><p>Hope this helps, and I'd love to see pictures of any that you design yourself when you get the chance!</p>
<p>Woot! Love mine &lt;3 The awesome little clicking sounds they make are as soothing as the fidgetability is relieving-- and are a great alternative to pacing when needing to get wiggles out :D</p>
<p>&lt;3 Glad you enjoyed them!</p>
<p>You are an awesome modern day Antikythera designer/maker! Most of us have to satisfy ourselves by simply watching! La$er cutters and $olidworks --- someday they'll become affordable to the rest of us!</p>
<p>Thank you for your kind words! Solidworks is completely unnecessary for this project; any graphics software will suffice (Inkscape is free and perfect for this). Online gear generators can be used to create the gears, and cutting can be done via ponoko.com (my rough guess-timate is $50 tops, unless anyone else has ponoko experience?). So in essence, this is a roughly $50 project for just the laser cutting, as design software could be completely free assuming computer and internet access. </p><p>Hope this helps! I definitely understand that cost is sometimes a deterrent, but I try my best not to let it get the better of me: do favors for a friend in exchange for software access, work at a local makerspace in exchange for lasering time, I've done it all. ;)</p>
Thank you for providing alternate fabrication resources that would be inclusive to more makers!
<p>This is absolutely gorgeous and I wonder if it could be made into an actual functioning clock. I'm so tired of Digital Arduino/Pi etc. clocks but this would be so nice on my Office Desk or if larger hanging as a wall Clock.</p><p>If there were a pointer at the top and your top ring would rotate counter clockwise that would do it. Maybe the gears don't work in a way that would allow this without some mods but you could easily sell these as Clocks.</p><p>Mark me up as your first purchase of both a desk and wall clock version.</p>
<p>@Technogeek-CA: Many thanks for the kind comments and suggestions. It's an interesting idea that I'd definitely want to try out in the future. </p><p>@cordorsc: Good point; I think mhanse11's link provides beautiful examples of what you're referring to. </p><p>@mhanse11: Thank you for sharing! </p>
<p>The main problem would be energy transmission, converting coil spring energy to rotary energy. There are only two choices- an escapement or a weight-driven system, like a grandfather clock, but of course smaller.</p>
<p>If you are looking for a wood made clock have a llok here:</p><p><a href="http://holzuhr.keller-de.eu/index.html" rel="nofollow">http://holzuhr.keller-de.eu/index.html<br></a></p><p>Have fun. Michael</p>
Absolutely beautiful! I love the wood!
<p>Thanks! I enjoyed playing around with the staining patterns. :) </p>
<p>inkscape has a nice gear extension from here:</p><p>https://github.com/jnweiger/inkscape-gears-dev</p>
<p>Oh, thanks for sharing! </p>
<p>Wow this is amazing! </p>
<p>Thanks, Emily. :)</p>
Super
<p>Thank you. :) </p>
<p>Actually I was thinking more along the lines of a small DC Motor that would likely need to be powered from an AC Adapter. This would keep it small enough to sit on top of my desk. The Unit is so nice that plugging it in to AC would not detracted from it's beauty at all.</p><p>Thanks </p>
Love the look of your pieces - especially the &quot;clock&quot; piece. I don't have access to a laser cutter so I have to ask - how much would you charge to make that particular design?
<p>Very well done Instructable. Thanks.</p>
<p>Glad you enjoyed it. :) </p>
<p>Nice use of the materials you had at hand. I think I will try to make these in the spring as well. I especially like how you used different materials in your designs. It must have been so satisfying to turn your gears on the first one you made, even though you knew it'd work.</p>
<p>Thank you for your kind words! Spinning them was indeed satisfying, although it did take some breaking in, actually. Had to adjust the size of a few small gears since the laser tolerance made them a bit too small.</p>

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Bio: In which I turn the thoughts from my head into objects in my hands
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