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Handmade Wooden Wall Clock Keeps Surprisingly Good Time

Craft & Design Woodworking Workshop
Handmade Wooden Wall Clock Keeps Surprisingly Good Time


While cleaning out an old laptop’s filesystem back in October, David West discovered a few videos he took of a mechanical clock atop the South Ward Meeting Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

Years before his digital find, he worked in that very building and became so interested by the clock’s movement that he recorded several videos capturing the intricate design. With his passions rekindled, West set out to (in his words) “Do something about it!”

The results are impressive. West, using only a scroll saw and pattern, creates kinetic sculptures that keep “pretty good time.”

YouTube player

Having no experience building clocks before, West did what anyone seeking information does in 2015, he sought answers online. With little hassle, he found detailed clock making instructions by Clayton Boyer and set out to adapt those designs to his own preferences.

West’s process is straightforward enough. First, he renders the gears using a software package on his computer, next he prints out the pattern and applies it with spray tack to wood. Then — and brace yourself — he uses only a scroll saw to cut out the highly detailed teeth of each gear.

West cuts each gear by hand
West cuts each gear by hand.

Because the choice material for West’s work is wood, he reports that each clock takes about a week to acclimate to its surroundings. Once adjusted the clocks maintain fairly respectable accuracy, with as little as one minute of drift per week. That’s not too bad for an all wooden mechanism.

West’s Kinetic Sculpture booth is a good example of how you shouldn’t simply walk by a booth at Maker Faire. Rather, to get the most out of the event, you should take the time to converse and engage with as many Makers as possible. Honestly, it would have been exceptionally easy for me to assume West used a laser cutter or CNC to produce the clocks in fractions of the time scroll sawing takes. I’m glad I stopped and asked him to tell me how he makes them.

A work in progresss
A work in progresss.

14 thoughts on “Handmade Wooden Wall Clock Keeps Surprisingly Good Time

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  7. Antron Argaiv says:

    John Harrison did it first (in 1720, at age 20!) :-)

    …and the one at Brocklesby Park *still works*.

    1. dwest says:

      i know! that guy was amazing! and because of him and his work i have been learning how to make my own balance-type of escapements. i want to do away completely with the pendulum based mechanisms. very interesting stuff. if you were there at the Maker Faire, thank you, if not, then i hope to see you next year!

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  10. dwest says:

    four months later i’m seeing this for the first time and ugh! the typical “nervous zit” just before a big event where a gazillion people are going to see your face. gross. next time i’ll stop at CVS and get some blemish cover up or something.
    thank you for including Clayton Boyer’s website link, he really deserves the credit for designing the clocks. that said, once you learn how it’s done you can easily design your own clocks. thanks again

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I love to tinker and write about electronics. My days are spent building projects and working as a Technical Editor for MAKE.

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