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Intricate wooden clocks you can make yourself Answered

This crazy clock is one of several designs that Clayton Boyer makes and sells the plans for on his site. It may look pretty fiendish, but according to him:
"As far as skill level required, I would suspect that if one has the tools necessary that skill is not as important as perseverance. When I started building these, I had almost no skill whatsoever, but that always develops after getting a little sawdust into your lungs. These are not difficult to build, but they do take some time."
Anyone want to try making one of these? I'd love to hear some thoughts from others who have tried it.

Link via boingboing



8 years ago

I adore Clayton's clocks, and have completed three, Simplicity, Solaris, and Balance.  Currently, I'm working on the Calendar/Orrery shown at the top of this Instructable, as well as something out of the masochist's corner of his site, Upsy.  The only drawback to his clocks is that they're a single-day, 30-hour winding, which makes them pretty impractical as a primary timepiece (but very, very Green).  I usually only wind mine when I demonstrate them, but their sheer awesomeness  and beauty never fails to delight anyone who sees them in action.

I understand Clayton's philosophy, but when I get the paper plans, I sit down at the computer and re-model all of the pieces in Solidworks.  It's relatively fast (I can model 10 gears in the time it would take to hand-cut one), and allows me to play with gear angles and aesthetics while maintaining mechanical accuracy.  The gear interiors are excellent places to put in your own embellishments.  Once the pieces fit in a virtual assembly, they get cut on my cnc router (that I built myself - that's another Instructable).  I really can't imagine doing the gear cutting by hand, though there is a lot of hand-finishing once each part is cut.  Having the machine do it ensures smooth operation of the clock.  You can definitely do it by hand, but expect to spend hours and hours filing teeth to *just* the proper angle.

Why not just download a DXF?  As my high school English teacher said, copying a passage of text makes you intimately familiar with its construction.  The same idea goes here.  In the end, I am always stunned by the brilliance and sheer fun (ction) of these things, and the best little laughs to myself come in interior details that probably no one will notice.  I wouldn't see them either if I just loaded the file and hit "go."  But once I've got the files modeled, reproducing them is easy.  As an example, Solaris was made as a housewarming gift for my parents' new house (it looks great in their entry hall), but I liked it so much I had to make another for myself.  After having all the parts in the computer, it was pretty trivial to run off a second copy, and it only took about 10 hours to complete mine, versus nearly 40 for theirs.  While this may go against the spirit of the endeavor, I'll take the trade-off and spend extra time in the hand-finishing, rather than agonizing over gear pitch.

I suppose that laser-cut acetate or any other material could be used, but overall thickness and part clearances need to be adjusted for thickness.  This could get tricky, and I tend not to stray from recommended thicknesses just to make sure that the darn thing works once it's finished.  In the end, expect to spend anywhere from 25 to 100 hours to lay out, cut, finish, and assemble each clock, with some being much more complicated.  Upsy hasn't made it out of the first few drawings, and I can see that it is going to be a supreme challenge that may take a year to finish.  Where is Norm Abram when you need him?

In the end, these are some of the most challenging and rewarding woodworking projects I've ever undertaken. They are definitely not for newbie woodworkers.  I would classify myself as an excellent carpenter, but all other projects seem pedestrian compared to Clayton's clocks.  Someday I may design my own, but for now, I am glad to pay to have him set my mind on fire.  He never fails to do so.

By the by, this is less of an Instructable than advertising, but anything that raises awareness of Clayton's talents and keeps him in making designs is good for me.  Buy his plans, and best of luck in building them!

As Ed said, this is a forum topic, so please feel free to post links to your stuff!  Also, the next time you actually go through this, many of us would be grateful if you'd write an Instructable about your process.

That sounds fantastic. I'd love to see some photos of the clocks you've made.

Also, this is a forum post, not an Instructable. Here it's totally fine to share a link to a site that the Instructables community would appreciate.

Well said!  Your time estimates are very good.

And yeah, I do spend hours filing each tooth of each gear.  Runs really nice though.

I have a thing for clocks and watches,when I get time Im gonna give it a try.

 THATS BEYONG AWSEOME this guy is so talented, that would of taken ages to figure out how to make this from scratch

It's so awesome that you get to misspell and activate caps lock and nobody noticed it unitl now!

 yes- before you ask, i do find your life quite sad.

Oh, dear.  You forgot your capitals, and you paired a hyphen with a comma, instead of pairing two hyphens or two commas.

He still conveyed his point. That's all that counts.

(Allow me to introduce you to the British sense of humour...)

Actually, where I live "humor" is the accepted spelling...

Bah, I'm American. I don't spell that way. Never get between me and a bannabread muffin. Bad place to be.

I was serious-this thing is so awesome that you got to do that; most people are just so used to the caps and spelling errors on Instructables made by people who don't know how to us spellcheck or italics.

If we are going to be picky, I will correct you too: us(e spell check) or....



8 years ago

I've made two of these clocks (well, one complete, one in progress). 

The first few images are of Simplicity, which I made for my sister as a wedding present.  The second is work-in-progress pics of Galileo's Bicycle.

Expect an Instructable for Galileo's Bicycle eventually, if I can get the designer's permission.


Does Simplicity keep good time?

(If you don't include [useable] images of his plans, and link back to his site, he should be OK, surely?)

Oh - does he send you paper plans, or digital?

It only runs for about 30 hours on a wind, so it's hard to tell.  But, once calibrated it does keep accurate enough time throughout the day.  But really, the primary purpose it to be a piece of kinetic art, and a timepiece second.

And yeah, it should be fine as long as people still have to buy the plans themselves.

The plans are on paper.  You just glue them on the wood and start cutting.  Of course, I scanned every page beforehand just in case I messed up - and it's a good thing, because I needed a few reprints!

I wonder - if one had a scanner and a laser cutter...

Heh, yeah maybe.  You'd have to rasterize the cut lines though.  And, some of the pieces are half an inch thick so the laser cutter might have some trouble there.

CNC mill/router?

It would be nice if he had CAD files available for purchase/download, but he already answered that in his FAQ:

"My plans are drawn in CAD and can be scanned into a computer that operates a CNC machine, however, most of us don't have one of those. Another method that most of us don't have access to is a laser cutter, but both of these methods, the CNC and laser, create Perfect Parts.  Way too perfect for my taste, and anyway, how are we to get our Recommended Daily Allowance of sawdust in the lungs?"

I'd love to see this coupled with a true" time of day" clock. If anyone decides to offer cut parts, I'll be interested. Thanks

Hmmm,  not that they would look as good, but I bet that a 3-d printer could do most of these parts without need of the tools I "don't have"  :-) 

Oh, as attractive as the wood is, imagine these made out of laser-cut acetate sheets!

Clear Acetate?   That would be cool.

8 years ago

This clock is Spectacular!

These really are super, thanks for bringing the to my attention.


I've just spent a few minutes browsing his site.

His clocks are simply beautiful.  A joy to look at.

One day...