MAKING A WOODEN GEARED CLOCK #1: Getting started, day 1

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Blog entry by stefang posted 11-14-2015 10:05 PM 3571 reads 4 times favorited 34 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of MAKING A WOODEN GEARED CLOCK series Part 2: The Frame- Day 2 »

I have been wanting to make a wooden geared clock for some time now and I finally got around to buying some plans for one. I bought them from a German named Christopher Blasius from his website Holzmechanik. Sorry about the bad photo. Iphone problem.

Reducing the fear factor
I wanted to blog the build for fun and for those who have been thinking about building a wooden clock and who would be interested in seeing what is involved and how difficult it might be. This isn’t a tutorial, but I will do my best to document how I produce the parts, including any errors I’m sure to make along the way.

Even though this is my first wooden geared clock, after seeing several posted on LJ and many videos and some websites offering plans, I have become aware that no advanced skills are necessary to make the very simple plan I have selected to get started.

Materials used
The clock will be made mainly from Baltic birch ply and some brass rods for axles, some lead weights (buckshot?) and some threaded rod. Most wooden gear clock aficionados prefer to use solid wood gears and frames as it looks much better than plywood, but solid hardwoods can warp so much care has to be taken with moisture content, wood grain direction, etc. while plywood is not subject to this problem and therefore lets you concentrate on just cutting out, drilling and gluing the various components. That should be enough of a challenge for a first clock as far as I’m concerned.

First component ‘Winding barrel’ – 5 parts
This is part is driven by a cylindrical weight at one end and a handle at the other. The handle is pulled down to ‘wind’ the clock, that is to pull the weight on the other end to it’s highest point. This is the component that powers the clock. This seemed like a good part to start with to get a little practice with my scrollsaw before cutting out the the more difficult gears.

Getting started
My first problem. Each of the 5 required winding drum parts calls for 3mm ply and I could only get 4mm thickness. I was able to reduce each side of the 4mm ply by 0.5mm on each side using 120 grit sand paper on my drum sander. So here is the ply and patterns ready to go. I then used spray adhesive to attach the patterns and then cut the workpieces on my miter saw.

Scroll sawing the pattern
I haven’t used my scroll saw much lately, so I was pretty rusty at the start, but I got a lot better and faster after awhile and everything went well except for the first one which I managed to mess up a little and it even separated on the outer rim. I think I can repair it fairly easy, so no big deal. I got all 5 parts done and I put them together to show you how it will look after glue-up. As you can see there are 2 tracks for the string to run on. The handle on one end and the weight on the other.

It would have been a lot faster and a bit more accurate to glue the 5 wheels together while centering them with a drill bit and then cutting out the inside spaces all at one time. This was suggested by the designer, but I did them individually to get some cutting practice, which I’m glad I did.

That’s it for today. I am doing the work sequence in an order to suit myself. I can make whatever components I want and then assemble them at the end. There are still 4 more components that will be part of the winding wheel, but with different ply thicknesses.

I am using a lot of different tools, but this clock can be built with a bandsaw and a saber saw for example, although a disk sander is also very handy trimming outside gear edges to perfection.

Thanks for joining in and I hope you find it a worthwhile read.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

34 comments so far

View SPalm's profile


5338 posts in 5099 days

#1 posted 11-14-2015 10:14 PM

Neat. I have always wanted to build one.
This will be fun to watch.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View CFrye's profile


11352 posts in 3057 days

#2 posted 11-14-2015 10:20 PM

Following along, Mike. Looks like fun, and maybe demystifying! Thanks for the blog.

-- God bless, Candy

View a1Jim's profile


118200 posts in 4794 days

#3 posted 11-14-2015 10:21 PM

Looks like a very interesting project and a challenging one,but I’m sure you will knock it out of the park Mike. I look forward to following your blog.Thanks for sharing this with us.


View sras's profile


6331 posts in 4346 days

#4 posted 11-14-2015 10:29 PM

A wooden gear clock is on my “someday to build” list. Thanks for taking time to share your journey – I’m interested!

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

26657 posts in 4323 days

#5 posted 11-14-2015 10:54 PM

Hi Mike. I have often thought I’d like build one to, but the though of cutting all those teeth with our a gear hog in the mill kept me away. I’d like to see your progress and approach to the teeth cutting.
I’m wondering if the gear banks could be turned on the lathe on a center bolt and then using the index head to mark the tooth centers ( but it only has 24 divisions and I know there are more teeth than that on the big gears. 0

cheers, my friend!!....................Jim

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

View kaerlighedsbamsen's profile


1375 posts in 2930 days

#6 posted 11-14-2015 10:55 PM

Interesting project! Looking forward to follow your work

-- "Do or Do not. There is no try." - Yoda

View johnstoneb's profile


3175 posts in 3390 days

#7 posted 11-14-2015 11:49 PM

They are fun to build just take your time. The clocks I built I used baltic birch for the gears and actual clock frame.There are two big reason for that.
1. stability as you pointed out you want things to stay straight and moisture really affects the clockworks.
2. strength the clock teeth can have a big strain on some of them and if grain direction is wrong the teeth can break off. You need that lamination.


-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View kiefer's profile


5852 posts in 3884 days

#8 posted 11-15-2015 12:39 AM

That looks like a nice challenge Mike .
I will be watching your progress .


-- Kiefer

View Brit's profile


8391 posts in 4060 days

#9 posted 11-15-2015 12:40 AM

This is going to be good. Looking forward to seeing it progress Mike.

-- Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View shipwright's profile


8748 posts in 4015 days

#10 posted 11-15-2015 12:49 AM

This will be fun to watch Mike. I am also among those who have always thought about building a wooden clock. Years ago one of my boatbuilding apprentices built one from his own design. It worked not badly for a while but wasn’t quite stiff enough and had sag problems. I think he went on to redesign and rebuild to fix the issues. Anyway it struck me way back then as something I’d like to do but when it came to picking my battles, as alas we all must do, it ended up on the cutting room floor.
You just may get me interested again …..... I will be watching. :-)

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

View doubleDD's profile


10639 posts in 3260 days

#11 posted 11-15-2015 12:51 AM

I will follow this till the end of time. Interesting.

-- Dave, Downers Grove, Il. -------- When you run out of ideas, start building your dreams.

View hunter71's profile


3558 posts in 4404 days

#12 posted 11-15-2015 02:09 AM

I have had many comments about “patients” in the building of my trucks and such, but I think this requires more than I use. I’ll be watching Mike.

-- A childs smile is payment enough.

View tomd's profile


2222 posts in 4987 days

#13 posted 11-15-2015 03:11 AM

I’m in on this one too.

-- Tom D

View Dale J Struhar Sr's profile

Dale J Struhar Sr

522 posts in 4347 days

#14 posted 11-15-2015 03:13 AM

It will be neat following this project. Thanks in advance Mike.

-- Dale, Ohio

View NormG's profile


6508 posts in 4221 days

#15 posted 11-15-2015 05:45 AM

I love these clocks, great start and will follow your progress

-- Norman - I never never make a mistake, I just change the design.

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