Page updated Dec 19

One day, for no apparent reason, I decided I wanted to try making a clock.

I had no idea how a clock works, no real woodworking skills and no experience with building anything like this before so I knew it would be a challenge.
If you would like to show your appreciation for this info please feel free to buy me a drink:

Direct links to my clocks:  Clock1 - Clock2 - Clock3 - How-my-clock-works


After deciding I wanted to make a clock I had a look on the Internet and soon discovered some free clock plans by Brian Law HERE which seemed like a good starting place, so I set about making myself one.
Note - Click on pictures below for larger versions / I was into archery at the time which explains the arrow based clock hands

Clock1a clock 1b

I built all the parts, assembled the clock and it ticked along for a few seconds, I was very pleased and felt sure a few minor tweaks and the job was done - I could not have been more wrong!
I soon discovered that getting a clock to run for more than a few seconds without stopping is the real challenge of clock making.
The gears have to be made extremely accurately or they just jam up and the clock stops dead - as you can imagine this is not an easy task especially when working with wood.

I ended up having to scrap and re make every single gear wheel on this clock and spent many, many hours figuring out what the problems were.
but it eventually was running pretty reliably and kept surprisingly good time :-)

Anyone considering having a try at making one I would highly recommend it - its very interesting and very rewarding when you finally have a working clock.  But don't underestimate how accurate you have to be with the gears and how free running every bearing has to be - the slightest almost imperceptible problem with a gear tooth or bearing and the clock will just stop.

I have some software for designing gear wheels which I then print out, glue on the plywood and roughly cut out on a bandsaw.  I then have a small vertical belt sander which I use to get the final accuracy on the gears.  This is a time consuming task but does a pretty good job.  If you can get access to a laser cutter I suspect this would be the ideal way to make the gears.
BTW - Don't forget you also need to make sure the centre hole in the gear is very accurate otherwise you will hit real problems - I cut the centre hole before gluing the template on and cutting the gears.

Before starting on making your first clock I would suggest you first make a pair of gears, mount them on a peice of wood and whilst putting slight resistance on one turn the other very gently and feel for any very slight resistance - it needs to turn reliably without the slightest hesitation - this way you will start with a good feel for how accurate you need to get the gears of your clock and can avoid some of the mistakes I made.

I used this clock for a good while but I have now replaced it with clock number 2 (below).

Clock 2

This clock is completely my own design; I watched a flying pendulum or Ignatz clock on YouTube and thought I just have to try making one of these!
I had no plans or anything more than a few pictures of these clocks, so I first set about making the escapement just to see if I could figure it out, then when this seemed to work I  started adding the rest bit by bit until I had a finished clock - I think it turned out surprisingly well considering the lack of any real planning.

I had the idea in my head of how the top horizontal gears would take the drive towards the back of the clock but had no idea how I could make the bevel gears, I then had a flash of inspiration - I bought some Mechano bevel gears from eBay and used those ;-)
It was then pretty simple working down the clock with the next 4 gears (I know the smaller ones are actually called pinions, but you know what I mean)
I then spent some time figuring out how the next part would work and had another flash of inspiration - If I put the drive pulley in the centre of the hour hand gears this would save me having to make extra gears for the pulley.
It had now all fallen into place and I had a working clock ....


I have always said that the Ignatz clock is famously inaccurate (more a novelty than a time keeper) and they often don't even bother fitting a minute hand for this reason, mine was no exception.  But recently I finally got round to looking at tweaking my clock as the weight was sometimes striking the centre bar.  I lightened the weight a little and I have been amazed at the result, I think this had been upsetting the time keeping far more than I had ever imagined.  This clock is now keeping surprisingly good time :-)

This clock has been in use since Apr 09 with no major problems, Occasionally I have to replace the string on the flying pendulum as it gets a bit frayed.

Although it looks pretty complicated I think this type of clock would actually be a better first try at clock making as I found it easier to get running reliably as the escapement of the Ignatz tends to keep things moving as it pulls the gears along as it swings where as the more usual escapement tends to stop the clock then it is up to the gears to start moving again on their own accord.
I finished this clock in Apr 2009 and it has been in constant use ever since, I had expected the gears to soon start wearing/breaking especially with them being made of the cheapest plywood but so far there are no visible signs of wear at all and it is still running fine, in fact it is extremely rare for it to even stop.  It can keep reasonably good time when adjusted (these escapements were never going to be very accurate) but this seems to vary a lot with humidity changes, I keep meaning to try some different thread as I suspect this is the cause...

I don't have any plans for this clock as I designed it as I went along, but if you email me I can send you the files I used to create the gears etc..

 How this clock works

Clock 3

I did plan to make another clock similar to clock2 but this time use some decent quality wood and spend more time on getting a decent finish as the one I have was more of a prototype and not great when you look at it close up - but I will probably never get round to it?

I have recently got interested again in playing with electronics (something I did many years ago but never really did very well with it), I then discovered the Arduino microcontroller which makes it all so much simpler....I was never very good with analogue electronics with all the maths etc. but with the Arduino this side can be kept very simple and everything is done just by programming it in a version of C so you can easily create some pretty impressive things with it.

I have built myself a CNC router and this looks like the ideal tool for making gear wheels, it can cut one out in under a minute which by hand would take me hours. If more info. on this would be of interest please let me know as if there is enough interest I will supply details of how to build one cheaply and the easiest way to use it. e.g. To make a gear I draw one using Inkscape (it has a built in gear wheel tool) then use Laserweb to convert this to the required gcode for my cnc router.

If you are interested in making things, take a look at my Arduino page HERE

Bruce Aitken - Maker of excellent wooden gear clocks - based in Matlock, Derbyshire

Supplier of gears - wmh-trans


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