Woodworking Workshop
Cutting Wooden Gears with Ideal Grain

Understanding how the shape, type, and orientation of wood grain will change with temperature, weather, and age, and designing wooden objects to accommodate and even take advantage of those changes, is a lot of what separates a dabbler in carpentry from a pro.  Case in point, this article and series of videos by Ron Walters, hosted on Matthias Wandel’s legendary woodgears.ca.

Ron, who is a craftsman of wooden machines, has figured out that, to best withstand environmental changes, the grain in a wooden clock wheel should run in a circle around the circumference, and in radial “spokes” in the middle.  Real trees don’t grow that way, of course, so if you’re really serious about cutting wooden gears that will weather the seasons well, you need to cut them from blanks made up from a bunch of smaller pieces of wood arranged and glued so that the grain pattern, on the whole, is correct.

That, IMHO, is hardcore.  Click through below to see how it’s done.

Circumferential & Raidal Grain Solid Wood Wheels for the Solaris clock


I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

View more articles by Sean Michael Ragan