Introduction: Hand Filed Decorative Brass Gears for Steampunkers And????

Picture of Hand Filed Decorative Brass Gears for Steampunkers And????

this instructable is for the steampunkers out there needing brass gears for projects, not acurate or functioning, purely decorative. My next gear project I will spend more time with the dremel tool instead of files and hopefully fab up a working gear set, using thiner brass stock.

Step 1: Find Suitable Image

Picture of Find Suitable Image

google search gear images, found adding "silhouette" to my search found more stensil worthy images.

Step 2: Crop and Print

Picture of Crop and Print

i use arcsoft photo studio5 for most of my images, or paint works too.  then place image in your photoshop or paint, crop and print to the size you want to make..

Step 3: Cut Brass Bar Stock to Size

Picture of Cut Brass Bar Stock to Size

i found some 2inch by quarter inch bar stock at home depot, and cut it at 2 inches for a square piece to work with.

Step 4: Time to Start Drilling a "few" Holes

Picture of Time to Start Drilling a "few" Holes

moving toward "stock removal" i began drilling numerous holes along the inside edge of the stensil where i wanted to remove to create the gear spokes. i used a one sixteenth bit. smaller bit less filing, bigger bit more filing. i used a drill press on two of the triangle openings, and a cordless drill on the third opening, and a hand drill on the inside of each tooth. i used the 3 different drills to prove to my self that even one with limited tools can make these gears.

Step 5: Chisel Out the Opening to Create the Spokes

Picture of Chisel Out the Opening to Create the Spokes

after drilling series of 1/16ths holes as closely as i could, i ground a standard screwdriver bit into a chisel. laying the brass stock on the flat anvil part of my bench vise i hammered the chisel along the drilled holes on both sides weakening it. placing the stock over the jaws of the vise opened just a little wider that what i was removing i used a punch and hammer and knocked out the triangle shaped cutouts.

Step 6: Drilling the Teeth

Picture of Drilling the Teeth

time to drill the teeeth of your gear, not the ones in your mouth. same drill bit as used b4  1/16th , with any drilling device you wanna use. previous pics show where i drilled. pictured is the 1st gear i started when my girlfriend asked me if i could do "the one that looks like the nuclear symbol one" CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!!

Step 7: Hacksawing and Rough Filing

Picture of Hacksawing and Rough Filing

at this stage its time to cut away everything that is OUTSIDE of the gear stensil. clamped in the vise i cut the corners away with the hacksaw as close to the stensil as i could creating an octagon shape, then filing the rest away with a coarse-cut file making it round. the larger gear pictured i put a bolt through the center and spun it in my drill press. using my coarse-cut file and drill press as a lathe. the smaller spoked gear was done by hand filing to prove it can be done by people with limited tooling.

Step 8: Ugh....more Filing and Hack Sawing

Picture of Ugh....more Filing and Hack Sawing

clamping the round chunk O brass i have created in my vise, i hack saw slots frm the outside to the holes i previously drilled for the gear teeth. with an assortment of needle files or jewelers files its time to finish it into something that looks like a gear. half round files, small flat files and triangular files are the ones i used. take your time here, filing too fast can remove too much material, and/or clog your files because brass is soft. note that filing in the corners of the openings with a multi-sided file will file two sufaces at once, and change the shape if you are not carefull.

Step 9: Finishing

Picture of Finishing

filing the tooth slots are done in stages, sawing slits opening up the 1/16th holes, then using a flat needle file to enlarge the slots, and finishing to a gear tooth shape with a triangular file. cleaning out the opening of the spoke was all done with the half-round needle file. i then debured it all and finished its face with 320 grit wet, but you can step up to finer grits if u want a more polished shiney gear. oh...i think i may have spent a total of 3-4 hours for both gears....thnx 4 reading ...hope u liked my instructable. anything that might be unclear, plz feel free to ask.


THEMONEY (author)2017-08-19

buck2217 proves that money can't buy class. Personally, I don't have the dough to buy a lathe and I REALLY appreciate the insight into working with hand tools to make something AWESOME (WHICH YOU DID!) Thanks for the lesson!

buck2217 (author)2015-06-25

Get a Life (sorry meant lathe) and do it LOL :-) Seriously it looks great but a lot of work per cog!

abstracted (author)2013-06-26


eielofview (author)2013-06-25

very very nicely done!

Darkwave5urfer (author)2013-01-13

What exactly did you use to give it that nice metallic colour? Can I use that pain on Brass too??

its raw brass....just used files and sandpaper.

paqrat (author)2012-06-28


Nerdz (author)2012-03-04

Is there any particular reason why these gears Arent Functional? Im sure with enough time, and maybe a vertical mill, these could probably be made to work. Im sure they wont be as good as "real" gears that were cut and shaped precisely but they though probably be good enough for say...a wind generator.

ironsmiter (author)Nerdz2012-03-04

Think back. WAYyyyy back.
That very first mill.
Guess where the gears for it came from.

Yep, you guessed it. Some blacksmith somewhere spent a bunch of time filing those gears to their finish.

Even today, with high end computer controlled machines... if you want a PERFECT fit and finish, it's usually hand finished. That's one of the reasons race engines, and high end super cars are all hand fit and assembled. The machines just aren't precise enough :-)

Check out "Wheel And Pinion Cutting In Horology" A historical and practical guide, by J Malcolm Wild
if it's good enough to hand make pocket watch gears...

Nerdz (author)ironsmiter2012-03-04

I wanted to add this:

its a gear template maker :)

abstracted (author)Nerdz2012-03-05

checked it out....better than the templates i used. an up and coming project for me is going to be a large mechanical iris porthole on my front door and i want to over complicate it opening by using a hand crank and a bunch of unnessessary gears.

ironsmiter (author)abstracted2012-03-06

The Color of Magic
min 55:20 of part 1.

you MUST either, rent, buy, or netflix it.

abstracted (author)ironsmiter2012-03-15

is that a movie?

ironsmiter (author)abstracted2012-03-15

abstracted (author)ironsmiter2012-03-16

i saw the trailer on youtube...not sure the canadian version of netflix has truely sux in comparison to the us version frm wut ive heard.

ironsmiter (author)abstracted2012-03-21

Uploading a 2-part clip to youtube for you now.
Should be live in about half an hour.

Sorry to hear netflix is even worse for you up north.

abstracted (author)ironsmiter2012-03-21

all good...thnx i`ll check it out. will have to see if the local vid store has it....i mean hell...wizards, magic....steampunk....i should OWN it lol

I've seen this 'ible before but I am only now bothering to read the comments!

I must say I REALLY need to watch that movie! Terry Pratchett is one of my favorite authors!  Reminds I do believe there was two (video) games based off of the Discworld...

Anyways, back to the 'ible! I must say that I am very envious of your metal working skills! Though I am curious where you got your brass stock... I haven't any luck sourcing locally (Northeastern US).

I thought originally the brass was bought frm home depot, but later found out it came frm a "steel supply" company here. i was 1st purchaced to make bus bars for a bank of batteries in a car audio install. i have found brass round stock in home depot but no bar stock. any metal supply place can probally order it for you.

abstracted (author)ironsmiter2012-03-05

i remember way back when....ugh i`m getting old, i works as maintainance, at the local YMCA and i hand filed a piece of steel into a ninja sword, two days later they bought my department a bench grinder lol. it was then that i realized how ummmm "powerful" a quality file can be. i`ll check that out thnx.

Nerdz (author)ironsmiter2012-03-04

Im tempted to use the metal stock (or even Acyrlic) I have on hand to make some small gears. This is awesome. I dont mind spending time on it either as i like working with my hands.

abstracted (author)Nerdz2012-03-05

i made a change on the last paragraph...the pair took 3-4 hours, not 34 . i never even thought about making them functional, but after making these two, i think with over 200 dremel bits and a flex shaft i can cut more acurate gears. i work as a custom car audio installer....slower time of year, so they were built at work between installs and were theres heat.

abstracted (author)Nerdz2012-03-04

i dont have a mill, but as a slow working mechanical (steampunk) device, the gears would work. i made the bigger gear for a new oil lamp project (pictured here) base design. the smaller one may be ending up as a keychain.

ironsmiter (author)abstracted2012-03-04


did you brass plate the bulb base?

abstracted (author)ironsmiter2012-03-05

no i did not plate the bulb base...assuming you mean the threaded part. the colored bulbs all had the brass threads. i made the larger of the two gears with the intent to make another oil lamp base, the brass wire holder is a bronzing rod. so with a gear base, and another bronzing rod i will make another with a red bulb.

ironsmiter (author)abstracted2012-03-06

nice :-) all the lightbulbs I've seen(even the fancy one's) around here are simple grey sheet metal.

abstracted (author)ironsmiter2012-03-15

the clear bulb oil lamp i built had the grey crappy threads, and because i used brass fitting to hold the wick, i painted the threaded part with gold paint and was a great match. i think the colored ones with the brass threads were a lucky find. I have a couple more bulb projects on the go, and a few gear ones as well. a light bulb terrarium, and a viking ship in a bulb....stay tuned. i am cursed with "one thing leads to another" though prossess, and have many projects on the bench. boat is screaming for a teak strip floor and deck, motorbike season is hear and my "gearheadz" for my bike boot are my priority now. plus a lits of welding projects since i got a neat lil wire feed for xmas this past year. the girlfriend is really gonna start hating my awesome workshop. "shrugz" LOL

abstracted (author)ironsmiter2012-03-06

same here...just lucked out with the coloured bulbs being brass threads

abstracted (author)Nerdz2012-03-05

no mill here....but the gears actually mesh n work with each other...dumb luck? after no measuring...tracing a patern and "eyeballing"

padeutsche (author)2012-05-14

Here is something to think about too, It provides a more uniform work and nicer finish and very precise as well
they used these from the 1800's through into the 1900's, these were found in almost all mechanic(machine) shops at one time, and in the mid 1900's they were mostly found in places where hand precision was needed.
people thinks you need all of this big heavy powered machine shop equipment or a CNC, but for over 200 years they were producing highly close tolerance components and all with hand powered equipment.

abstracted (author)2012-03-23

the bike boot gears turned out awesome ( of course my oppinion is a tad bias)

pfred2 (author)2012-03-04

Wow your hand made gears look amazing! I think instead of chiseling out the insides I might have used a little fret saw or something. But hey it seems to have worked for you so I can't argue with success. You say you bought that brass at a Home Depot? I didn't know they stocked anything like that.

I just got done doing a little fret job here but it is nothing like what you just did. I had to make a driving flange for a circular saw I bought without one. I made it out of steel though, I also do have a milling machine. I still had to finish it up with files though.

What I made basically looks like this:

abstracted (author)pfred22012-03-05

thanks...and nice have a milling not sure i like you any more lol. people tend to forget how our great grand fathers built stuff.

pfred2 (author)abstracted2012-03-05

My great grandfather was pretty tooled up. He was a shoemaker and the few of his tools I have of his leads me to believe that he was pretty setup in his day.

What you're doing reminds me of how I used to work before I got some tools myself. I have to say you're having more success than I ever did too. I still couldn't make such good looking gears as you have here today, even with my milling machine. I don't have any involute gear tools for it.

Really gears are cut on horizontal mills, if they're not hobbed out on lathes. I don't have any of that stuff. So if I need a gear I'm going to have to call you to make it for me!

I never understood any of that Steampunk stuff. Even though I've read the book, being a big Gibson fan. I actually read it before the trend became popular in fact. It isn't one of my favorite books of his. I'm going to say that your talents might extend beyond the purely decorative. You might think to begin to apply yourself in that direction.

Get yourself a nice lathe. I bet even with just a little 7x10 you could make some amazing things!

abstracted (author)pfred22012-03-05

your words are too kind...good thing i dont have an EGO...i just happen to LOVE how AWESOME I am. LOL seriously i was doubtful of my success when i desided to try this. think my next set will hide the fugly "harley" crest on the side of my bike boots (dont ride harleys, just a vintage yammy) and who knows what else...its fun and addictive....gearin up!

pfred2 (author)abstracted2012-03-05

You could probably get thinner sheet stock to make your decorative gears out of. Might be a little easier on your filing arm, and easier to wear around too. You'd still have to be plenty careful making them though in order for it to come out as well as your first pair of gears did. Oh, here is an idea, glue some thinner sheet together and make your gears, then when you're all done unglue it, and have more gears! Krazy Glue comes right apart if you hit it with some acetone.

Stack cutting is a common trick when hand making multiple parts. The best thing about it is your parts come out exactly identical too. Leaving everyone who sees it wondering how you made all of your parts so perfectly identical. Well, getting more parts for about the same effort isn't such a bad deal either I suppose.

abstracted (author)pfred22012-03-06

stacked stock....great idea!

pfred2 (author)abstracted2012-03-06

Not mine, it is like I said an old trick to make multiple parts. But it cuts down on the number of repetitious hand operations you have to perform.

abstracted (author)pfred22012-03-15

the newest set of gears i cut the teeth out and the general round shape with my craftsman band saw, had a metal cut blade made up for 10 bucks, and both 2" squares of aluminum were transformed into acurate gears in unfer a half n hour. tested said bandsaw on my brass stock n some steel, and ate into it effortlessly WINNING!

pfred2 (author)abstracted2012-03-15

I like my band saw for cutting metal.

I measure its speed in beers I can drink sometimes.

abstracted (author)pfred22012-03-15

lol i used to time stuff with a cig i just estemate. nice saw...mine is just a wee bench type frm caftsman...but damn it does a nice job. next is to weld up some stands to free up space by getting rid of the bench in the back of my shop. you can see the chopsaw...metal cut blade in a miter saw, scroll saw, drill press, and the band saw is behind the ladder.

pfred2 (author)abstracted2012-03-15

I love work space pictures. Thanks. You can check out some older pictures of my garage here:

Then some other articles I've posted on this site deal with individual details. I'm all about the work space, so I'm always making little improvements.

abstracted (author)pfred22012-03-16

mmmm stuff ...drools a lil...mmm tooolz, ill do more shop pics after unwinterization. to think, early last fall i could barely ride my bike in there. in the winter, no heat, it is mostly indoor parking and a drop zone frm collecting other peoples junk.

pfred2 (author)abstracted2012-03-16

My garage is pretty jamb packed with junk anymore too. But I have my spots where I can work in it. One man's trash is another man's treasure! Trash collecting season is just about to start for me soon this year too. Last year I got a ton of junk. The saw I mentioned in my first post, the one I had to make a new drive flange for was an early find. I think the season is really going to open for me next week, or the week after. It really depends on the weather.

abstracted (author)pfred22012-03-16

around here around the end of april, we have "good neighbour day" where ppl put there junk (my treasures) out curbside for all us UPCYCLERS.

abstracted (author)pfred22012-03-15

my next gear set project is being done with 1/4" aluminum, same design as the larger brass gear pictured. they are being made to hide the old harely crest "buckle" on my boots. with skull head bolts. hears a b4 pic of the boots

Kiteman (author)2012-03-04

Goodness me, that must have taken hours!

abstracted (author)Kiteman2012-03-04

actually, most people dont realize that a well maintained quality file, will remove stock very effectively.

Kiteman (author)abstracted2012-03-04

I meant the whole job - cutting, drilling, filing, polishing...

abstracted (author)Kiteman2012-03-04

it should have read 3-4 hours to do the pair

About This Instructable




Bio: Custom car audio install, fabricator and collector of the unusual.
More by abstracted:"GEAR HEADZ"  change the look of your boots or whateverhand filed decorative brass gears for steampunkers and????uni-ocular enhancement device
Add instructable to: