Build your own wooden mechanical timekeeping masterpiece


February 22, 2010

Clayton Boyer's Celestial Mechanical Calendar and Orrery - are you up to the challenge?

Clayton Boyer's Celestial Mechanical Calendar and Orrery - are you up to the challenge?

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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.

Via boing boing

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

Amazing pieces of work. I could see myself building one if I had a kit but I don\'t think I can manage to build one from plans alone. :)

Raum Bances

It is interesting. In My Town (Nellore, Andhra Pradesh, India) about 50 years back one SEMI EDUCATED person designed a wooden clock which was 8 meters in diameter. This worked not in hours, minutes and seconds but in THITHI and NAKSHATRAM(Panchangam) based on celestial motion. How he got the idea and skill to design and demonstrate was a mystery. Near his house there is a famous Hindu Temple. During special festive occasions thousands visit the temple and everybody visits the UNIQUE CLOCKMAN\'s House to see the clock working. Unfortunately before his death, the person destroyed the whole system so that nobody else will duplicate it and get name and fame! It is unfortunate that such a great design was buried once for all. A famous watch company like OMEGA had it been known about this WONDER CLOCK might have adopted the famous technology. It is the irony in India such great ideas and workmanship are lost as they were not documented properly since there were not such things as photocopying, CDs etc.,

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India


@Dr.A.Jagadeesh: That\'s such a sad story. One has to wonder if he didn\'t have relatives fighting over who would get it when he was gone, and this is how he decided to \'fix\' it. Still, most people would prefer to leave something that wonderful behind to remind people of oneself. I wish I could have seen it.

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