Intern’s Corner: Building the Geared Candleholder

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Intern’s Corner: Building the Geared Candleholder

MAKE: Intern's Corner
Every other week, MAKE’s awesome interns tell about the projects they’re building in the Make: Labs, the trouble they’ve gotten into, and what they’ll make next.

By Eric Chu, engineering intern


Building the Geared Candleholder by Benjamin Cowden in MAKE Volume 21 is one of my proudest builds, but it was no walk in the park. I wouldn’t say it’s the hardest project I’ve ever built, but it was definitely one that tested my patience. I think building the Geared Candleholder took me around 50 hours. It involved long days of filing, sanding, and sawing solid aluminum — mostly filing and sanding to make the gears, body, arms, and legs.

Making the gears and body were the toughest parts. Drilling the many holes that formed the gears’ teeth was easy — our drill press came to save the day for that. But then sawing and rounding all the gears out by hand took a lot of patience and time, and a bit of skill.

After cutting the rough outline of the 2 body pieces, all the curves were filed. To file the concave curves, a round file is a must. By this time, I yearned for a CNC mill so I could cut the parts out perfectly, but alas, I had no money for that, and it’s my job to build the projects the way the author built them, to make sure they work. After I made all the parts, I sanded them to give them that brushed-aluminum look.

The magic really happened when all the parts were assembled and I turned the knob for the first time. It worked! The gears clanked as they meshed together and pivoted the arms up and down. It definitely put a grin on my face!


Geared Candleholder on Make: Projects
Here are some pictures to give a better sense of how the Geared Candleholder is assembled.

And here’s a video of it in action:

YouTube player

It’s really a beautiful project, just to admire standing there, or to operate, raising and lowering the candles to change the light with the twist of a gear you made from scratch.

6 thoughts on “Intern’s Corner: Building the Geared Candleholder

  1. Shadyman says:

    Cool stuff :)

  2. Gareth Branwyn says:

    It really is a beautiful piece. I got a chance to play with Ben’s original at Maker Faire and was really jazzed by it.

  3. SteveDB says:

    My old German business partner told me that as part of his technical school training he had to hand file a square steel billet (about 1x1x6 inches) into a cylinder and was judged by the teacher who used calipers to verify that the diameter was consistent to better than 0.5 mm over the entire length.

    That’s probably why we still value German craftsmanship and you should consider yourself an honorary German machinist.

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