Monday, March 15, 2010

Book: Practical Clock Repairing

Practical Clock Repairing
For those of you interested, here is a top-rated book on clock repair, ...

From the book description:
In this book, the author has dealt with the usual faults likely to develop in each type of movement in a clock's general use, from the lordly grandfather to the humble alarm. All the tools and equipment are described and illustrated, together with the ways of using them. The craftsman's most important and valuable tools of all — his skillful fingers — are shown in use in the clearest manner. Over 400 line drawings have been specially made from parts under working conditions.

Here's where to get Practical Clock Repairing (3rd Edition)

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Four solid wooden clock designs and plans

This clock with wooden works was the maker's FIRST attempt at designing and building a wooden clock. The gears were cut with a home-made CNC machine and finished by hand. The maker's extensive experience with 3D modeling software surely helped, but it is an amazing feat to have a working clock from the first design. He has gone on to design four other clocks. You can order finished clocks from his site. He also sells plans for 40 Euro.

Here is a link to four solid wood clocks by this talented craftsman in Italy.

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Sunday, December 06, 2009

Large-scale all wood "pocket" watch

Back in March of 2007, I posted about a real wooden pocket watch. The one shown here is also made of wood and also a pocket watch. The big difference is that this one isn't at pocket watch scale. It's actually 10-1/2" in diameter and 3" thick. Even so, this is a stunning demonstration of artistry and craftsmanship.

Some details on the watch:

The escape is a double-roller Swiss Lever with a half-second balance wheel. ...The escape has banking pins and a safety roller, so - like a watch - it runs in any position. You can even shake it or bang it around, and she keeps on ticking!

The balance wheel is in Teflon bushings and the escape wheel is on ball bearings. The pins on the balance wheel have small screws inside to adjust the poise. The cherry pallets are adjustable. The anchor for the "hairspring" (actually a very small clock spring) moves with an adjustment lever to regulate the watch. It keeps perfect time.

Here is a link to see more images of the wooden watch.

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Forest drinking king automaton clock

Justin Miller -- a fan of The Automata / Automaton Blog and collector of Black Forest clocks -- recently added a rare clock to his collection. He has been kind enough to share the piece with us. Made circa 1870 in the Black Forest, the clock features a drinking king automaton figure. Every 10 minutes or on demand the king comes to life.

The automaton's sequence of movement is as follows:

1 - The king's left arm holds a large beer. His arm raises the bottle across his chest above the glass. The wrist then tips the bottle to pour a drink.

2 - The arm with the bottle returns to his side.

3 - The right arm holding the glass is lifted up to his mouth.

4 - The mouth opens to accept the beverage.

5 - The eyes drop to the glass to confirm it is empty.

6 - The eyes return to looking ahead.

7 - The mouth closes as the glass is returned to resting position.

See this and Justin Miller's other wonderful Black Forest clocks on his blog,

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Another nice wooden clock, this one frameless

Here is interesting clock with a (mostly) wooden mechanism designed and built by Adrian Iredale. He says this design was inspired by Clayton Boyer.

I am going to have to step up and make one of these one day.

You can buy wooden clock plans from Clayton Boyer's web site.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Four free wooden clock plans to download

Four free wooden clock plans to download
If you have an interest in wooden clocks and clockwork, you will want to head over to Not only is there a lot of great information on the site, there are four clock plans that are free downloads. This is a great resource. Thanks to Brian Law of Wooden Clocks for making these available!

Check out the Wooden Clocks site.

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Friday, August 07, 2009

Art Deco Vitascope "Rocking Ship" Automaton/clock.

Art Deco Vitascope - Rocking Ship automaton / clock.
I don't get to point to automata from this particular era and aesthetic too often, so this is kind of a treat. Here is an Art Deco style "Vitascope" depicting a ship rocking on the waves. It is, obviously, also a clock. The case reminds me of a bread-box. Personally, I would love to own one of these.

Details from the eBay listing:
• Art Deco period automata electric clock in very good condition & perfect working order.
• The green bakalite case has naturally faded over the years on the front & left side in particular, the case has light age assosiated scratches but has no cracks, chips or repairs.
• It is in perfect working order, the ships rocks back & forth, & the backlight fades from dawn to dusk, it runs smoothly & quietly keeping accurate time.
• The ship has areas of discolouration as is usual with these clocks, but as they go is in excellent condition.
• The aluminium back cover has a lot of paint losses but the Vitascope trade label is still visible & the serial number:00597 is stamped onto the bottom.
• The light can be swithed on & off with the toggle switch & the red knob to the right of the light switch is turned to start the ship movement.
• Size:12 1/2 inches high, 10 1/2 inches wide, 6 3/4 inches deep.

Here is the eBay listing with many great picture of this Art Deco Vitascope "Rocking Ship" Automata / Clock

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Friday, July 24, 2009

'Clocks Revenge' automaton by Richard Willmott

The Clocks Revenge automaton by Richard Willmott
Horologist Richard Willmott in the U.K. created this automaton (shown above) called "The Clocks Revenge". He wrote a note explaining how he created this piece that was inspired by my own automaton called "An Interesting Specimen".

From Richard's letter describing the piece
I applied my twisted mind to dreaming up a similar model which would involve clocks and came up with the idea that over the years old clocks must have suffered terrible indignities at the hands of incompetent repairers. So my model would be "The Clocks Revenge". I had a 6 inch glass dome and in the local charity shop found a child's toy which had a musical movement that played the nursery rhyme Hickory Dickory Dock. A plywood box was made to take 3 aluminum shafts, one for the cranking handle, one to take the two lifter cams to operate the arms and one to operate the music. The musical movement needed to run at a speed slower than that at which the handle was cranked so a small gearbox was built using clock wheels and pinions from my scrap box. Loose pin and slot joints were used where the shafts joined the gearbox and the musical movement to cover for alignment inaccuracies in my construction. Now I built a clock workshop to go under the dome. The notice on the wall is based on one that I saw in a clock repairers workshop in the USA. From limewood I carved the figure of the clock repairer. It had arms jointed at the shoulder and operated by fine wires linked to levers operated by two four leaf cams in the box. The whole lot was then fixed to the box and the representation of a clock with an angry face was attached to the back with its hands (arms) holding down the glass dome. Finally a humorous verse to give some idea of what was going on was composed and affixed.

His note went on to say that if you are an automata or clock fanatic and live within traveling distance of Elizabeth City, NC he would love to see you when he visits the U.S. in the spring 2010. He can be reached by email at: dickytickers at

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Pendulum clock made entirely of paper

Marvel at this beautifully made working pendulum clock made entirely of paper.

Here is a link to the creator's web page with many additional photos and ordering information if you want to buy the PDF plans for the paper clock.

You might also consider the pre-printed book Make Your Own Working Paper Clock.

[ Thanks philsing! ]

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Tom Haney's long animated automaton clock

Tom Haney's long animate automaton clock
Here is a look at some of the latest work by automata-artist Tom Haney. According to Haney,this commissioned piece is "a site specific work -- a clock that is 74" long by 12" high. The clock face sits in the center flanked by 4 articulated objects including a flying woman that I am most proud of.

You can see several "in progress" photographs and four videos of the clock in action on his web site.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Time Machine table top rolling marble clock

The Time Machine table top rolling marble clock
The Time Machine is a mechanical tabletop clock that moves a set of chrome balls every sixty seconds. There is a track of accumulated balls to indicate the hour of the day and another to indicate the minutes. There is a even a second hand on top.

It comes with a custom acrylic display case that makes it look really retro-future cool (not shown here). Reports are that this thing is captivating. One note: because of the constant clacking of the chrome balls this isn't a clock you'll want to put in a library.

Here's the link for more info on the Time Machine Tabletop Clock

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Saturday, May 09, 2009

Big Book of Wooden Clocks: Projects & Patterns

Big Book of Wooden Clocks: 25 Projects & Patterns
Here is a new book on wooden clocks scheduled to be released in July of 2009.

The book compiles a number of projects from Scroll Saw Woodworking & Crafts magazine.It looks pretty good -- especially the wooden gear clock depicted on the cover and detailed in pages 120 to to 134. Those 14 pages alone were enough to convince me to pre-order it.

Product Description from Amazon
Featuring some of the most popular projects from sold-out issues of Scroll Saw Woodworking & Craftsmagazine, the projects in this collection include a wide range of clock styles, such as grandfather clocks with intricate fretwork, classic pendulum clocks, and whimsical desk clocks. Detailed plans for more than 25 projects cover the entire process with step-by-step instructions, complete materials lists, instructions on buying and inserting clock parts, cutting the clock using a scroll saw, assembling the pieces, and applying finishes.

Here's more information on Big Book of Wooden Clocks: 29 Favorite Projects & Patterns .

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Skeleton Clock with chronometer escapement

I'm no authority on clocks or clockworks, but you just have to love a large skeleton clock with all the exposed metallic mechanical finery. Here is a good example of what I mean. This clock happens to use what is known as a 'chronometer escapement'.

Here is a book on various clock and watch escapements with detailed instructions for making all types of escapements and for locating and correcting problems with them.

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Beautiful wooden tower clock with wood gears

Here's a nice video of a beautiful wooden tower clock. The clock was designed and built by Adrian Iredale, who was inspired in part by Clayton Boyer's wooden clock designs.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Laser Pistol Digital Alarm Clock

The alarm goes off, you go for your laser "gun" and shoot a target to turn it off. What an interesting way to wake up. I guess it will train you secret-agent and special-ops types to jump from a dead sleep to battle-readiness.

Discipline. And a laser pointer. That's what it takes.

Here's the product page for the Laser Pistol Digital Alarm Clock.

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Astrolabium Clock - Time, Earth, Sun and Moon

Astrolabium Clock
Here is an impressive reproduction of the an 18th-century wonder known as the "heaven machine" built by the clock-maker Philipp Matthaus Hahn -- creator of the first mechanical calculator.

The top of the clock features a model of the earth, which both rotates around its own axis and revolves around a sun made of brass. A gear train allows the moon to rotate the earth -- always presenting the same face to earth-bound observers. (I know! Think about it.) While it might not be to scale, the various revolutions are in accord with real time.

Among the exotic materials in this astrolabium are cherry wood, crystal, abalone, green agate, jade, and mother of pearl. I'll take two, please.

Here is a link for more information about The Astrolabium Clock.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Vaporizer / Condenser Unit Winds a Spring Clock

Clock with a Vaporizer / Condenser Unit that winds the clock's spring
I'd like to say "What will they think of next?" but this novel method for winding a mechanical clock has been around since the 1930s. Shown here is the back of a Jauch and Schmid clock with a vaporizer/condenser winding mechanism.

The winding key axle of a fairly conventional clock is fitted with a set of connected glass tubes and vials filled with alcohol. A heating element below the lower-most vial causes the liquid to vaporize and move up to the opposing upper vial. Now separated from the heat source, the alcohol cools again to form a liquid. The orientation of the heavy liquid filled vials on top causes the winding axle to rotate. Perhaps a bit of a fire hazard -- heat, glass, alcohol, bare wires and 220 volts...Yikes! Not exactly "set it and forget it" to my way of thinking, but ingenious nonetheless.

From The Watchismo Times and found via

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Saturday, October 04, 2008

Two Ingenious & Elusive Mechancial Alarm Clocks

The Flying Alarm Clock
Have trouble getting out of bed in the morning? Here is an alarm clock that will force you get out of bed.

You see, when the digital alarm clock goes off at the prescribed time it launches a rotor into the air that flies around the room as the alarm sounds. The clock will not stop ringing until the rotor is returned to the alarm clock base.

Here's where you can learn more about the The Flying Alarm Clock.

The Runaway Alarm Clock.
Does this seem like the kind of thing you need but you don't want a propeller flying about your room? No problem. Here is the terrestrial equivalent. This little bugger rolls off your bedside table and and hides. It continues to emit a random pattern of beeps and flashes until you get up to shut it off.

Here's where you can get the The Runaway Alarm Clock.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Incredible Grasshopper Clock - The Corpus Clock

Incredible Grasshopper Clock - The Corpus ClockThis mechanical clock was unveiled at the University of Cambridge last Friday. Cosmologist Stephen Hawking was there to introduce what is know as "The Corpus Clock".

The clock was created by horologist John Taylor. He designed the timepiece as a tribute to English clock maker John Harrison, inventor of the first viable marine chronometer. If you want to learn more about Harrison, I recommend Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time.

The Corpus Clock has slits cut into its face behind which blue lights indicate the hour, minute, and second. On top of the clock is a mechanical grasshopper-like creature named "chronophage," meaning "time eater". The creature eats away the minutes with its moving jaws as the minutes advance toward it.

Here is an article on the clock. Here is another article on The Corpus Clock at Wikipedia.

Here is a video of the Corpus Clock.

[ Thanks Art! Thanks Aaron! ]

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Reuge Musical Alarm Pocket Watch with Automata

Reuge Musical Alarm Pocket Watch with Automata
Take a look at this beautiful pocket watch by famed music box maker, Reuge.

This entirely mechanical pocket watch features the an alarm that uses an internal music box to play "Oh what a beautiful morning". The face of the watch also features three moving automata.

The man on the horse moves his arm up and down, the horse lowers its head to drink the water and the lady operates the pump. In a very nice bit of detail, the water itself can be seen flowing from the pump into the basin.

The watch comes with its original box and key -- a Breguet ratchet style and is used to wind up the music box. There is also a button on the back that will start and stop the music and automata.

Here is the complete eBay listing with many more nice photographs of the musical alarm pocket watch with automata by Reuge

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

French Quarter-Chiming Wizard Automaton Clock

French Quarter-Chiming Wizard Automaton Clock
Here is another stunning piece going to auction on August 23rd, 2008.

From the eBay listing by Skinner Auctioneers:
"Rare French Quarter-Chiming Table Clock with Wizard Automaton, c. 1870, the black marble case with bronze figure of a boy dressed as a wizard, his right arm articulated at the shoulder for lateral and vertical movements, standing before a nest of four bells, which he strikes with a hammer on the quarter hours to play a tune, with six-inch dia. silvered brass dial with Roman numerals and pierced latticework, gilt bezel with beveled glass, brass ball feet and eight-day, spring-powered, three-train movement chiming quarters and striking the hours on a gong, ht. 25 in."

Here is full eBay listing for this French Quarter-Chiming Wizard Automaton Clock.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

Antique Vienna Jaquemart Automaton Clock

Vienna Jaquemart Automaton Clock
The bidding is heating up on this Viennese clock dating to around 1830. The clock features two small Jaquemarts (or "Jacks") who hit the bells when the clock chimes. If you like antique clocks, this looks like a beauty.

Here is the full eBay listing for the Vienna Jaquemart automaton clock

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

German Clock-Maker Matthias Naeschke

German Clock-Maker Matthias Naeschke
If the sight of polished brass gears drives you insane (is it just me?), then you must to pay a visit to the web site of German clock maker Matthias Naeschke. I don't know how to read German, but I can tell you this: the pictures are beautiful. The site navigation is fairly deep, so keep clicking!

I am told he is one of the last makers of high-end flute clocks.

Visit the web site of Clock-maker Matthias Naeschke.

Update: I didn't realize this initially: they have an English version of their site.

[ Thanks Falk! ]

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Video Tour of Clayton Boyer Wooden Gear Clocks

In this video, wooden clock designer Clayton Boyer takes you on a tour of his wild and beautiful assortment of clock designs.

See all of his designs at Clayton Boyer Clock Designs.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Simon Schaffer on the History of Mechancial Clocks

Standing beside a reconstructed wooden clock, historian Simon Schaffer discusses the development of the first purely mechanical clocks in Europe in the late 1200s and early 1300s. The clocks in question used an escapement known as the Verge and Foliot, which can be seen above and below the bell to his left.

Read what Simon Schaffer has to say about automata in his article on "Enlightenment Automata" in the book The Sciences in Enlightened Europe.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Massive Wooden Gear Clock By Brendan Reilly

Clock designer Brendan Reilly created this wooden clockwork sculpture for the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.

Massive Wooden Gear Clock By Brendan Reilly
The craftsman used black walnut, red oak, African blackwood and laminated Baltic birch for the gear mechanism.

This is a large clock, indeed: the large wheel is three feet in diameter, the dial is six feet five inches in diameter, and the pendulum is fourteen feet long!

The escapement mechanism is a variation of the "grasshopper" escapement invented by John Harrison. Harrison also developed the marine chronometer -- a fascinating story told in a book I highly recommend called, Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time

Visit his site to see more of Brendan Reilly's wooden clockworks.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Intriguing 19th Century Automaton Pocket Watch

19th Century Quarter Hour Automaton Pocket WatchWith an estimated value between $4,000.00 - $6,000.00 USD, this tasteful pocket watch is described as a mid 19th Century quarter-hour automaton repeater pocket watch with male and female bell ringer figures. The listing says that the watch is probably Swiss-made and that it comes with the attached winding key.

If it is Swiss, I am a little confused by the Chinese or Japanese characters on the back side of the key (see second image on eBay). Intriguing.

The watch is being sold on eBay on May 20th, 2008. Here is the listing for the 19th Century Quarter Hour Automaton Pocket Watch.

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Friday, May 02, 2008

French Mystery Clock of Woman Figure circa 1870

French Mystery Clock with Woman FigureThis is a beautiful mystery clock made in France around 1870. Typically, a mystery clock functions as a clock but the mechanism is hidden or obscured in some way. Here the sort of mystery clock I am talking about.
I am not sure what particular mystery this one performs. I'd love to know -- especially with an estimated value of roughly $5,000 to $10,000. This clock is a double-mystery, I suppose. They mystery of the mystery.

Here is the eBay listing for this French Mystery Clock to be auctioned on May 11th, 2008.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Match-Lighting Automaton Alarm Clock on eBay

Match Lighting Man Automaton ClockThis 10 inch tall man is both an alarm clock and an automaton.

Here's the really clever part: if you put a match in the man's hand and hit a switch, the hand sweeps up, rubbing the match against a piece of metal -- thus lighting the match! That's pretty slick.

The creator was even thoughtful enough to integrate a match storage box on the base and the man's hat can hold the spent matches.

Check out a bunch of other photos of the Alarm Clock Match Striker Automaton on eBay.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Morbier/Comtoise Barber Shop Automaton Clock

Morbier/Comtoise Barber Shop Automata ClockHere's an interesting automaton clock currently on ebay.

The clock measures 17" high and 13" wide. As the barber shaves, a boy peeks in a window then disappears as the barber's arm moves up and down while shaving the customer. The motions of the characters are regulated by the swinging motion of the clock's pendulum. Cool.

Here the ebay posting for the Automated Morbier Wall Regulator Clock.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Huge Automaton Clock Sculpture @ London Zoo

Master mechanical artist Tim Hunkin has created a giant automaton clock for the London Zoo. This amazingly complex kinetic sculpture is base on the theme of Victorian Era attitudes towards the animal kingdom.

The artist has a section of his site devoted to the London Zoo Tropical Aviary Clock. The pages show his photos and sketches (he's also known for his cartoons) of the automaton, rejected design ideas, technical aspects of the piece, and various other factors that influenced him along the way.

It is wealth of information, a fascinating look at one kinetic artist's creative process, and very entertaining. The video is a few minutes long, but only because the sequence of the automaton is so elaborate. Well worth it!

Here the page devoted to the London Zoo Tropical Aviary Clock. Here is the page about the design of the clock.

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Wooden Gear Clock Plans: Clayton Boyer Designs

Wooden Clock PlansMy recent post on a video about making a wooden gear clock drew some attention from the MAKE magazine blog. I received a several emails and comments asking where to get the plans for the clocks shown in the video.

I found out that the two clocks shown are both from Clayton Boyer Clock Designs. The two clock models in the video are the Swoopy and the Solaris. Shown here is the Vortex.

What exactly do you you get when you order these plans?
All of these clock plans are drawn in CAD and sent as paper patterns (no electronic files or transfers are included).

Included in the clock plans are full size drawings for most of the parts. All of the major components, like the wheels, pinions, and spacers are given as full size patterns. The drawings can be cut from the plans, glued to the appropriately sized stock, and cut to the line.

All of the clock plans come with a full set of instructions and a materials list. Each page also has instructions for each of the parts, and there are a couple of pages that show the completed clockworks.

Visit the Clayton Boyer Clock Designs for over a dozen different wooden clock plans.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Book: Make Your Own Working Paper Clock

I remember seeing this book at a friend's house when I was a teenager. Neither he nor I had the patience to undertake the project. Years later, this books seems like an amazing way to learn about clocks, clock-making, mechanics, paper engineering...and patience.

The reviews on Amazon about the book/kit/project are illuminating. Among some of the tips I read were the following:
  • Consider getting two copies in anticipation of needing to make/remake certain pieces
  • Use glue sparingly
  • Try a tacky type of glue
  • Use an X-acto knife and many X-acto blades
  • Work in many short sessions over time
  • Work when you are up to it and can be careful
  • Have small clips, weights, clamps, and cross-lock tweezers
  • Be especially careful when constructing the main gears
  • Certain parts might benefit from a hardening coat of white glue or Mod Podge
The comments reveal that the people who were happy with this project were the ones that really savored the process of building. It is clear that this not an afternoon project. If it is approached as a challenging, educational exercise -- you cannot really fail.

Order the book Make Your Own Working Paper Clock

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Wooden Gears Supplier Online

I've been reminded by fellow automata-maker Dan Torpey over at Barking Dogs Automata that wooden gears can be purchased from Patriot Mill Cogworks in New Hampshire, USA.

I ordered some of these a few years ago, but had lost track of their website. I'm glad to have found it again and to share it with my readers.

The cherry gears I ordered have mineral oil finish and are still beautiful. Look closely inside my piece A Boybot and his Dogbot and you will see three of these gears. (This is only piece I used them on to date.)

Though their site features educational kits composed of wooden gears, axle pegs, and pegboards, I believe you can order individual gears, as I did.

Happy Cranking!

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Clocks with Wooden Mechanisms Roundup

With the recent post about the wood pocket watch, I thought I would share some information about wooden clock resources I've found online.

While not strictly automata, the mechanisms and material make wooden clocks a worthy topic in my book.

If you know of other sites, leave a comment or send me an email and I'll add it to the list.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Amazing Pocket Watch with Wooden Movement

I have seen many nice all-wood clocks, but this was beyond my imagination...a pocket watch made entirely of wood.

I am not talking about the face or the case, but nearly all of it -- gears, escapement, ratchets.

They were apparently made in Russia around 1900. I wish I knew more about it, especially the size, type of wood, how many were made, and if it still works.

I learned of this amazing bit of artistry via a long series of links. In order of discovery they were: to...

The Watchismo Times blog to...

Odd Watches

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