Dancing Ballerinas - For My Dancing Granddaughter

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Project by Pimzedd posted 06-03-2018 11:16 PM 2873 views 1 time favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Back in December 2014, John Hutchinson posted his version of Dancing Ballerinas that he made for his Granddaughter It was one of my MANY LJ Favorites. Well my Granddaughter began taking dance lessons a couple of years ago. So it was time for me to make one for her.

I started by trying to figure out how to make the gears. After some research I got smart. I discovered that John had written an article for Scrollsaw Woodworking & Crafts -Gizmos & Gadgets 2015 which included the plans. So being the smart man that I am or at least the lazy man, I purchased a back issue with the full scale plans, instructions and photos. The plans are excellent.

I don’t get in a hurry about much anymore so I started construction in February. Finished on Friday. Just in time for the Granddaughters recital on Saturday. By the way Friday was her 7th birthday so it was a recital/birthday present.

The box and gears are baltic birch plywood. The dance floor is maple. The plans called for the ballerinas to be made out of 1/4” plywood. I used 1/4” Sintra which is an extruded PVC foam stock. I wanted smooth surface and wanted the scroll sawed outline to show the detail. It worked well.

My only concern was finding decent dowels. Rather than buy them, I decided to make my own. I tried a version that used a jig to feed stock into the bandsaw. Worked but not what I really wanted. Kinda rough and needed lots of sanding. I then found a version by Mattias Wandel that used a chisel mounted like one of the old hand-held pencil sharpeners. I cut some square maple stock and knocked off the corners to make the stock octagonal. Mounted the stock in a hand drill and feed it into the jig. After a little tweaking, it came out straight and smooth.

Once I had the dowels, the rest just took time. When assembled, two of the gears needed at little adjustment. Once done, it cranked and played well.

I presented it to her at the party after the recital. As you can see by the smile on her face, she was pleased.

Oh yea John has a video of his operating at Mine works exactly the same.

-- Bill - Mesquite, TX --- "Everything with a power cord eventually winds up in the trash.” John Sarge , timber framer and blacksmith instructor at Tillers International school

9 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


118309 posts in 4916 days

#1 posted 06-04-2018 12:00 AM

That’s great nice work.


View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

27258 posts in 4445 days

#2 posted 06-04-2018 12:09 AM

That is a super gift for a gran daughter. It will be a family heirloom you can be sure!!

cheers, Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View Dutchy's profile


4294 posts in 3508 days

#3 posted 06-04-2018 05:33 AM

View recycle1943's profile


6251 posts in 2962 days

#4 posted 06-04-2018 10:09 AM

Jim is right, an heirloom to be passed on

-- Dick, Malvern Ohio - my biggest fear is that when I die, my wife sells my toys for what I told her I paid for them

View lew's profile


13488 posts in 5095 days

#5 posted 06-04-2018 01:01 PM

Wonderful gift! I know she will treasure it forever!!

Just as a side note, if you decide to make more gears, Matthais Wandel at has a nice software program for printing gear patterns.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View UncleBuck's profile


253 posts in 1420 days

#6 posted 06-04-2018 01:06 PM

my daughter is also a dancer very nice gift she will cherish all her life. great job

-- Terry Uncle Buck Carvins "woodworking minus patience equals firewood "

View K7SU's profile


36 posts in 1333 days

#7 posted 06-04-2018 11:31 PM

Very cool! You are a good grampa!

-- Kelly Klaas K7SU

View Nowa's profile


24 posts in 3420 days

#8 posted 06-05-2018 04:13 AM

Great project. Very inspiring! Can you share a web address for where you found the plans?

View Pimzedd's profile


645 posts in 5482 days

#9 posted 06-05-2018 12:44 PM

Thanks for all the great comments.

Lew, I knew that Matthais had his gear generator. I also knew of another that is free and tried to use it. I just was not sure about the ratios needed to make the music movement play at the correct speed while having the ballerinas dancing at a good speed. Therefore, I took the easy way out.

Nowa, i purchased the plans at As you can see, you get plans for several other items. May try the clock someday.

-- Bill - Mesquite, TX --- "Everything with a power cord eventually winds up in the trash.” John Sarge , timber framer and blacksmith instructor at Tillers International school

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