Build your own wooden mechanical timekeeping masterpiece
By Darren Quick
February 22, 2010
For most of us clocks are a purely utilitarian device. They tell us the time and we don’t generally give a second thought to their inner workings. But the mechanical wooden clock designs of Clayton Boyer put the inner workings of clocks on full display resulting in conversation starters that are not only functional, but beautiful as well. And, if you’re feeling up for the challenge, you can build your own.
As part of his philosophy of trying to spread joy in the world through creative woodworking Boyer has designed a range of wooden mechanical clocks, calendars and even planetary orreries. He sells the plans for these designs that include a full set of instructions and a materials list as well as full-size drawings of most of the parts that can be cut out and glued to the appropriately-sized stock for cutting. This same “No Measuring” technique also applies to the metal parts used as arbors and spacers. Just put the right-sized metal part next to the plans, mark and cut.
The clocks use either a pendulum as the timekeeping element or can be wound up, whereas the combination calendar and orrery rely on a lever that is pulled daily to keep up to date. The planetary orrery is hand-cranked to show the relative positions of the first six planets nearest the sun with each crank equal to one Earth season.
Boyer says some wooden movement clocks that are 300 years old are still in working order today. He says with some care and maintenance clocks built from his designs should outlast the builder and their children and become heirlooms as they are passed from one generation to the next.
As complicated as the clocks may look, Boyer says that, if one has the necessary tools, then just about anyone can build clocks from his plans.
“Skill is not as important as perseverance,” he says, “These are not difficult to build, but they do take some time”.
However, for those looking for a real challenge, Boyer also has a number of more difficult plans in his “Masochist’s Corner”. Unlike his other plans these don’t come with a set of building instructions or a materials list. To weed out anyone not up to the task, (and presumably cut down on pleas for help), anyone looking to test their frustration threshold with one of these clocks will need to provide a picture of a completed clock from one of Boyer’s easier designs before being able to buy one from this collection.
So if you’re looking for a hobby Clayton Boyer’s plans are available through his website. The majority of the plans sell for US$37, while his Celestial Mechanical Calendar and Orrery plans sell for US$72. The plans are drawn in CAD and are sent as paper patterns.
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