Wooden Gear clocks

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Forum topic by fishbone posted 03-26-2012 08:20 PM 12770 views 2 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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25 posts in 3075 days

03-26-2012 08:20 PM

I’m looking for anyone who has attempted to make a wooden geared clock. My next shop project will most likely be one of these.
I have plans on hand from Clayton Boyer [website] for the Nautilus model.
It looks hard. I’m concerned that there are special precautions required so the darn thing actually keeps time when done.
Anyone with experience with these out there?

Look at the website…..some pretty cool stuff !!!

-- Sleep every morning till I'm done. Life is good. Habanero Hog Competion BBQ

16 replies so far

View ELCfinefurniture's profile


112 posts in 2559 days

#1 posted 03-29-2012 02:25 AM

Although I dont have experience making one I did get in an in depth conversation about them with lance Paterson the other day. They do work very well apparently but like you say they take great care to ensure they still function properly with wood movement and according to Lance (which is like gods point of view on clocks and most of the wood working world) it is impossible to eliminate all the play in the gears and the clocks do need to be frequently tinkered with to keep in shape. I also found this point interesting. As brass movements came out and began looking attractive wealthy owners wanted to show them off. Thus the small window on the sides of tall clock hoods was born. Antique clocks with wooden movements can very often be identified without even looking in by checking to see if there is a window.

-- {Current North Bennet street school student}

View dannelson's profile


194 posts in 2610 days

#2 posted 03-29-2012 11:50 AM

I did a scroll saw one a few years ago and scraped it .Im going to redo it again soon now that I have a cnc. Use quality plywood for the gears .For me hardwood had to much movement and bound from day to day. Re filed the cogs to stop the binding and screwed things up On the gears you have to take your time and do alot of file work to get things right. also a very important thing is to square your drill press before you drill any holes for the rods that hold the gears. A suggestion ,there is a simple plan on woodentimes web site for a (take tombo ) toy that flies that uses wood gears and its a free PDF to download. great practice to get your feet wet . Nautilus really ? for your first clock? Maybe put that in the files and send for the simplicity clock plans first.

-- nelson woodcrafters

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3 posts in 2491 days

#3 posted 03-29-2012 12:15 PM

Wooden gear clocks can be made to run very well and with reasonable accuracy. Quality Baltic Birch plywood for the gears, precise cutting, and careful construction should result in a very nice timepiece. I have not made one of Claytons’ clocks, but many others have. We have our own line of wooden gear clocks that we offer both as scroll saw patterns and as precut kits. Building an all wood-clock is a very rewarding project which combines woodworking artistry and craftsmanship with interesting mechanical ascpects.

Jeff Schierenbeck

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32086 posts in 3106 days

#4 posted 03-29-2012 12:18 PM

Those are beautiful clocks on that web site you sent us to. Thanks.


-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View fishbone's profile


25 posts in 3075 days

#5 posted 03-29-2012 02:17 PM

Thanks for the good comments.
A second look at the Nautilus does seem to have more going on in there. LOL
Having the axles square, accurately located, and precise cut gears should keep me out of trouble, I would think.
What I didn’t see in the plans was much info on tuning or where adjustments are made.
I was also surprised that solid wood gears would swell that much, causing binding. I think I’ll opt for ply instead of solid wood (I don’t like ply edges).
Wall mounting must be a challenge. What hardware is used; how is it attached to the clock frame?

-- Sleep every morning till I'm done. Life is good. Habanero Hog Competion BBQ

View fussy's profile


980 posts in 3290 days

#6 posted 03-29-2012 10:30 PM


Look at this Look ALL around this site as there’s a lot of information here.


-- Steve in KY. 44 years so far with my lovely bride. Think I'll keep her.

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Steve Peterson

395 posts in 3321 days

#7 posted 03-30-2012 10:31 PM

I have built most of a wooden gear clock, but not a complete clock yet.

Here is my advice.

Use good quality baltic birch plywood. This is the easiest way to get flat gears that will not expand and/or warp. If you don’t like the look of plywood, then attempt a solid wood version for your second clock.

Many plans are stuck on the concept that a wooden clock must be made out of 100% wood including the pivots (axles). If you do this, you will end up with much more friction and then your clock either needs a huge weight or else it only runs for 8-10 hours before needing to be wound. I say to ignore this rule and make all the visible parts out of wood. Make the pivots out of brass or steel. 1/8” steel pivots will have significantly less friction than 1/4” wood and they will also last longer.

The escapement is the most difficult part for me. It is also one of the most critical parts for consistent operation. If one tooth is out of shape, then it will stop working. Get the pendulum and escapement working with a small weight first. The rest is mostly just gears.

Good luck and post progress.

-- Steve

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25 posts in 3075 days

#8 posted 03-31-2012 02:18 PM

Good feedback, Steve. That’s what I’m looking for; the Gotcha Points.
Which clock design/model are you working on?

-- Sleep every morning till I'm done. Life is good. Habanero Hog Competion BBQ

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Steve Peterson

395 posts in 3321 days

#9 posted 03-31-2012 11:52 PM

There are several wooden clock plans available on the internet. Most of them are very similar which makes sense because they are all doing roughly the same thing. My partially completed clock is my own design, but is roughly equivalent to clock1 at

-- Steve

View Milo's profile


869 posts in 3558 days

#10 posted 04-02-2012 01:22 AM

I would LOVE to try one of these, I saw an incredible Grandfather Clock at the Atlanta Woodworking Show last month.

But I want to start simple. Any suggestions?

-- Beer, Beer, Thank God for Beer. It's my way of keeping my mind fresh and clear...

View stan3443's profile


301 posts in 2515 days

#11 posted 04-02-2012 03:20 AM

there was a good article in fine woodworking a couple years back i’ll try to find it

-- If your not supposed to have hair on your face......why does it grow their

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36 posts in 3557 days

#12 posted 04-02-2012 04:08 AM

I’m sorry but I don’t have any idea where to find the specs but I do have one that I’d like to part with. I bought it at an auction and have had it several years. It uses 2 rocks (one big/one small) I like the sound it makes when it’s running – the wooden “gears” etc. I can post pics if you’d like. I don’t pay much attention to whether it keeps time. I believe it’s missing a small piece. My grandson likes to “wind” it by pulling the rock down.

-- Karen W., KS.

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Steve Peterson

395 posts in 3321 days

#13 posted 04-02-2012 10:52 PM


The grandfather clock you saw at a woodworking show was probably from the kit that woodline sells. You can find it at

It is a super easy method of cutting the gears. The kit includes templates, plywood, hardware, and a pin router. You simply screw the templates onto squares of plywood and trace around using the pin router. I doubt that there is any simpler way to get started.

-- Steve

View jschmitz1949's profile


56 posts in 3300 days

#14 posted 04-03-2012 02:29 AM

You may want to contact Charles Maxwell: if you want info on wooden clocks. One of the resident experts on clocks IMHO.

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17 posts in 2385 days

#15 posted 07-10-2012 11:20 PM

Yes, I have built one of Clayton Boyer’s clocks. I made the “Simplicity” clock. I highly recommend it. It was fairly easy and a joy to make. I cut the gears on a band saw and used a scroll saw for the cut outs in the wheels. I did the tooth profiling with a 1” belt sander and I made sanding strips for my scroll saw by gluing strips of sandpaper to old scroll saw blades. This worked very well.

here is a link to a video of my competed clock.

This is the first clock I have made and really my first major woodworking project. I’m not very experienced in woodworking.

Use the recommendations that come with the plans. I used Baltic birch ply for all the wheels and poplar for the frame and clock face. It runs great on four pounds and likely could run on less weight as it has a bit of overswing on the pendulum. It ran the first attempt and I did not have to remake any parts or do any fiddling with it other than setting the depths of the pallets on the escapement.

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