Clayton Boyer Clock Designs
Frequently Asked Questions
All the answers below are abbreviated from my usual long-winded email answers.
Do you sell kits or completed clocks?
I sell only plans so that other woodworkers can find the same joy building these wonderful mechanisms that I have found in creating them. I do not sell any parts, pieces, kits or completed mechanisms.
In what format are your plans, and what is included? Can I get a DXF
emailed to me?
Can I get a DXF emailed to me?
All of my plans are drawn in CAD and are available in two formats; dxf and paper. Both plan formats are presented in "page" form for easy printing which, once printed, gives the builder something to refer back to during their build. The dxf are generic to, and with a little individual manipulation to match the format, have been successfully used by all of the building and cutting formats; scrollsaw, cnc, laser and 3D printing.
Included in my dxf plans are full size drawings for all of the pieces and parts that make up these mechanisms. In the paper plans, almost all of the parts are shown full size, with measured drawings for only the very largest pieces. All of the major components, like the wheels, pinions, spacers, etc., are given as full size patterns. These drawings can be cut from the plans, glued to the appropriately sized stock, and cut to the line. This same “NO Measuring” technique applies to the metal parts used as arbors and spacers. Just put the appropriately sized metal part next to the plans, mark and cut.
All of my clock plans come with a full set of instructions and a materials list. Besides the separate instructions, each page of the drawings also has instructions for each of the parts shown. There are also a couple of pages that show the completed clockworks, so you can go back and reference these to see how all the parts fit together. These completed front and side views of the mechanism show all of the various parts and their location.
For paper plan orders, all of my designs now have their wheels, frame, and oversized parts available in dxf format available upon request. After placing your paper plan order, simply send me an email requesting the available dxf for your project. You will still receive the complete paper pattern of your design in the mail.
All plans are available in dxf format. On each design's ordering page, you are given a choice whether to order in dxf format and receive your plans via email attachment (usually within 24 hours), or in paper format delivered by U.S. Mail.
PDF of my designs are not available and you must have a CAD program to open and manipulate a dxf. Regular drawing programs, for example; Sketchup and entry level Corel, will not work correctly (the top end Corel used with lasers does work). If you do not have a CAD program, I recommend you look into www.deltacad.com It is a wonderful program, powerful enough for what we need, yet quite inexpensive.
Is your CAM program not accepting dxf?
If your CAM program is having trouble accepting the CAD drawings in dxf format it may be because the close vector tolerances in your CAM program are set to narrowly. For example, I have VCarvePro5 by Vectric and the close vector tolerances were originally set at 0.0002, which is ridiculously close for what we need, but great if you are building a space shuttle for NASA. After resetting the vector tolerances to a more reasonable 0.02, the CAD drawings are accepted just fine.
Click here for some helpful hints on working with dxf: Some Helpful Hints for Working with DXF
Which is the best clock design for beginners?
I always used to recommend my Number Six as the best clock for the beginner to learn about building wooden clockworks. It is a true clock with front and rear plates (frames), and her large wheels are not only pleasant to look at but are also very forgiving for the first time clock builder. Her large escape wheel, right out front, is also quite mesmerizing. I love my Number Six. Mine has been running over seven years and still she has never even given me a lick of problems or needed a cleaning!
Later I created my Simplicity...and as the name implies, she is even easier than the Number Six because of her "uni-frame" construction, and fewer wheels to cut. The song of my Simplicity is the first thing to greet me in the morning as I enter my shop. Yes! - she is still operating out in my shop where she has to contend with mounds of sawdust. Once the sawdust gets to thick on her and she stops, I simply take my compressed air and blow her off and she's ready to go out dancing again.
My simplest clock design is the Genesis. Genesis is probably the best beginner's clock to start your clockmaking journey. It is not only a simple build, but has the very best, most complete step-by-step set of instructions that I have ever written.
Kauai Time is also a wonderful design that is easy for the first timer to build. Kauai Time is a simple three wheel design with a large escapement and is very forgiving of the first time builder.
If you want to build an even simpler mechanism (notice I'm not calling it a clock) you could look at my Horologium. If you want some semblance of correct time, build one of the above, but if you just want a lot of movement and an approximation of time, the Horologium is about as simple as you can get. If you look up John Hilgenberg's Horologium on my Flicker link (on my main page) he says his keeps nearly perfect time. His is made of acrylic and is quite beautiful.
So, there you go, four choices depending upon what you'd like, but remember,
all of my designs are "build-able". It is just that some take
more time and tenacity than others.
How long will my plans take to arrive?
I try my best to turn around all the orders within 24 hours, excluding weekends and holidays. I send all my orders out USPS First Class or Air Mail to foreign countries. Here is the schedule my post office says to allow for delivery of my plans:
HOWEVER, I find that my packages usually arrive in about half of the time listed above.
I don't have any woodworking tools. What is the minimum amount of tools required to build your clocks?
Basically there are just four tools needed to build any of my mechanisms:
What are the approximate finished sizes of all your clocks?
For approximate sizes of finished mechanisms, click here
What is your copyright info? Can I make and sell your designs commercially?
I do not grant my permission for use of my designs for commercial or institutional use; you may not sell works made from my plans for profit.
Reproduction of part or all of the contents of any pages is prohibited except to the extent permitted below.
The source of this copyright notice https://lisaboyer.com/Claytonsite/Claytonsite1.htm must appear on each copy.
These pages may be downloaded onto a hard disc or printed for your personal use without alterations. No use of these pages or the parts or mechanisms contained therein is permitted for commercial or institutional purpose.
These pages or the parts or mechanisms contained therein may not be included in any other work or publication, or be distributed or be copied for commercial or institutional purpose except with the explicit permission of the author.
No part of this product may be reproduced in any form, unless otherwise stated, in which case reproduction is limited to the use of the purchaser. The written instructions, drawings, designs, projects, and patterns are intended for the personal, noncommercial, non-institutional use of the retail purchaser and are under federal copyright laws; they are not to be reproduced by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, including informational storage or retrieval systems, for commercial or institutional use.
The information given in this product is presented in good faith, but no warranty is given nor results guaranteed.
What skill level is required, and how long does it take to build a clock?
far as skill level required, I would suspect that if one has the tools
necessary that skill is not as important as perseverance. When I started building these, I had almost no
skill whatsoever, but that always develops after getting a little sawdust
into your lungs. These are not
difficult to build, but they do take some time.
I try to counsel the people that ask about how long it takes to build a wooden clock to remember they are creating an heirloom that will outlast themselves, and hopefully be handed down through the family for generations...each generation, of course, cussing that old coot that built the silly thing.
With that in mind, please don't hurry through the process. Take the time to make it right, and it will last - which leads to the next reason people vary in the time it takes to make their particular clockworks - mistakes. Mistakes take a lot of time. I spend some of my best woodworking time making them. I've got a whole box full of "Lessons Learned" (so that's what I've named the box). It's not my favorite part of the shop...but it has been helpful, in its own way.
My friend, Adrian Iredale, has created a wonderful video on the process of wooden clockmaking. You can view his You Tube video by clicking on this link:
The Wooden Loon's Tutorials are filmed using the Number Six Clock parts, but the techniques apply to all wooden geared mechanisms:
How do you cut the teeth?
are many ways to cut out the wheels. The olde tyme clockmakers used a hand
saw and cut each tooth individually. That's why, if you look at
many of the old wood movements, the teeth are all a little different.
My plans are drawn in CAD and can be scanned into a computer that operates a CNC machine, however, most of us don't have one of those.
Another method that most of us don't have access to is a laser cutter, but both of these methods, the CNC and laser, create Perfect Parts. Way too perfect for my taste, and anyway, how are we to get our Recommended Daily Allowance of sawdust in the lungs?
Some people use a router, mounted to a jig, that runs along a bunch of wheels mounted in a lathe. These wheels are indexed for the correct number of teeth needed. I've tried that method and don't like the limited tooth profiles available to me - even though you can produce a lot of the same wheel at one time. Great for mass production. See Fine Woodworking January and March 1986 for Wayne Westphale's article on wooden clockmaking. They show two methods of using a router to cut teeth on wheels.
Not being interested in mass production, I use two wonderfully slow methods to cut out my wheels and pinions. It depends upon the type of tooth profile I want to create.
I want a square bottom tooth profile I will use the band saw to remove
most of the waste between the teeth, and then take the wheel over to the
bench top belt sander and sand the rest "to the line".
Inclination, Vortex, Number 6 and
If I want a swoopy, or curvy tooth profile, I use a scroll saw to cut out the teeth being very careful to cut the bottom, concave, curve of the tooth as precisely as I can. The top of the tooth can always be cleaned up at the bench top sander. My Swoopy and Bird of Paradise are of this type of tooth profile.
Almost everyone that sees my clocks asks about how long it takes to cut out all those teeth (as in, "Don't you have a life?"). In reality, I spend far more time on the rest of the clock than I do cutting out the wheels and pinions. To me they seem the easiest part. By far, the hardest, most excruciating part for me is designing the frame to put the wheels into.
More on cutting teeth…
Tooth profile is a huge topic, and for each individual project it is also a choice.
When I began making wooden clockworks I had a Craftsman scrollsaw (need I say more?). Every time I turned it on it would rattle the stuff off of shelves two rooms away. I'm lucky to still have teeth. So I avoided making tooth profiles that had to be cut on a scrollsaw.
All of my early designs had teeth that are more easily cut on a band saw and then the space is expanded by sanding to the line on a 1" bench top belt sander. Thus I went with the more flattened tooth profile.
Since I started in clockmaking with the band saw method, I actually prefer it. I find it faster and more accurate, and when I am making a prototype of a clock and need to cut gears fast, I always go back to the square tooth profile.
One note, however...I do always knock off that sharp little angle at the addendum of the tooth. In other words, I round over, ever so slightly, the ends of the tooth.
The only reason I do that is because, early on, when I was less skilled at gear making, I would occasionally make a pair that would hit at the tip of the tooth (they are NEVER supposed to do that). And rounding over got rid of my problem. Now I do it out of superstition more than anything else.
You can cut the teeth on Number 6 with a scrollsaw, or a hand saw, or whatever you'd like, but I find the band saw method works best for me.
When I drew Swoopy I started with the idea that I wanted NO straight lines in her design, which, of course, meant that the tooth profiles were to be "swoopy" also.
I have just finished two new clock designs and one has the swoopy, scrollsaw teeth, and the other has the square, band saw tooth profile. It's just a preference. Usually small and medium wheels go pretty fast on a scrollsaw, but large wheels are better done at the band saw. Large wheels are just too difficult to maneuver at the scrollsaw.
Sanding the inside of the wheels:
As for sanding, I do almost all the sanding of the inside of my wheel cut-outs by hand. There are special products you can order from Woodcraft that take the place of the blade in your scroll saw. They look great, but I've never used them.
You can also just cut and fold over a piece of wet-dry sandpaper and clamp it between the arms of the scroll saw. That I did once. Too much set up for me though. From then on, I just sanded by hand. Anyway, the cut-outs aren't the important part. That would be the teeth...For the concave surface between the teeth I try to be as accurate there as possible when I scroll saw in there. A little touch-up with a roll of sandpaper and it's done.
Finish on the Wheels:
However, if you would like to have a finish on your wheels without getting any between the teeth, here is a simple trick: spray the ply with finish before you apply the paper pattern. Cover the lacquer finished ply with blue painter's tape, then apply the paper pattern to the tape. The pattern can now be cut out and there will be no finish on the all-important tooth surfaces. The blue tape then simply peels off removing the paper pattern with it.
I now, almost exclusively, use spray lacquer on my frames. Before spraying the frames I plug each of the important arbor holes with a piece of paper towel wrapped around a toothpick. That protects the inside of the arbor hole from getting any finish in it.
Why doesn’t my clock run?
When I put a clock into beat and it has a good, even balanced 'tick, tock', and yet only runs for a few minutes, the first thing I do is start marking teeth and pinions. I go through the train marking each set of gears where they have stopped together. Then I start up the clock again and when it stops, see if any of the pairs match again. I have lots of pencil marks on my clock wheels.
Eccentric wheels are another very common cause stopping new clocks. Rather than using the original drawings in the plan, people use Xerox copies of clock plans, and the copy machines don't always copy true, leaving them with egg-shaped wheels. I never use copies.
When looking for what's stopping a clock, I ALWAYS start at the escape end of the train and work down. Very little stops the weight end, but it takes very little to stop the escape end. So, those are the three things I would check first, proper tooth mesh, out of round wheels, and internal friction. There are, of course, a few thousand other possibilities, but those three are the most common reasons for a clock that wants to stop.
Just thought of another...are you applying any finish between the teeth? If you are, I have a suggestion - don't. The application of any finish between the teeth increases internal friction of the clockworks dramatically. Finish not only makes teeth gummy, it also takes up critical space between the teeth. A clock that works great dry, will, many times, stop dead when finish is applied. It's happened way too many times, and now when I finish a clock I spray it - and try to keep the spray out of the teeth and just on the faces.
poly finishes never really dry. In the fluctuating humidity here
Rarely do I stain anything.
The only stained mechanism I've ever built was my
Follow the Depthing instructions
provided in your Instructions for every set of wheels and pinions.
Use the frame as a depthing tool. Here's how... Take all the
wheels out of the frame, and just put back in the first two arbors and put
the frame back together. Now gently blow on the big wheel.
Does the big wheel and its pinion move easily and smoothly? If 'no'
find out why and get it to work perfectly. If 'yes', take the frame
apart and remove arbor 1 and put in arbor 3. Now you are testing the
next wheel and pinion set. Gently blow on the big wheel. Does
it turn easily? Do this for all the wheel/pinion sets.
Setting the Pallets and Escape Wheel
Now when you get to the escape wheel, put the wheel in with the pallet arbor. When the pallets are in proper position, gently restrain the pallets with your finger on the arbor. Now turn the escape wheel. It should first push one of the pallets out of the way, and this will cause the other pallet to come into contact with another escape wheel tooth. Keep turning the escape wheel and the pallets should gently rock back and forth. If the tooth on the escape wheel misses the second pallet, you need to add some wood putty to the pallet and build it up (or make a new pallet). If the tooth hits too soon, you need to sand some off of the pallet until the pallet gently rocks back and forth under each escape wheel tooth. You must hold the pallet arbor though because you can be fooled into thinking the pallets are too long if gravity pulls the pallets down into the escape wheel. In some patterns the pallets are not sitting directly above the escape wheel, so gravity wants to pull that top pallet into the wheel.
If both pallets miss the escape wheel while depthing, you should cut a new pallet with longer pallet arms. I would not recommend putting wood putty on both pallet faces to build them up. I think that might eventually sand down the escape wheel teeth since they would be sliding across those roughened surfaces with every tick.
I get a lot of questions about accuracy of these clocks. I find that interesting because, as you know, they are primarily kinetic art. Just getting a piece of a tree to move all day and all night is amazing, but having it tell the correct time is nearly unbelievable.
The accuracy of any pendulum clock depends upon the stability of the pendulum - NOT the gears (if they are cut properly). All of my pendulums are made of wood, and wood moves with the weather, making for slight daily variations in the time.
you want a clock that tells the exact time, you can go to Wal*Mart
and pick up one of those "Atomic Clocks" that are reset each
evening by the Mothership in Fort Collins, C
I have a fellow that buys my plans and doesn't even put the hands on his clocks. He says that when he wakes up in the morning and hears the clock ticking, it reminds him that he's still alive, and that's good enough for him. I worry about him on very humid days.
I have one clock that's dead on accurate every day, and another clock that's dead on some days, and some days it'll be off 15 minutes. Just depends upon the weather.
These clocks are just as accurate as the "State of the Art" clocks made during the American Revolution. As a matter of fact, my Lolli is designed after one of these Revolutionary clocks.
How long can I expect a wooden clock to last?
Some wooden movements that are 300 years old are still in working order today. With some care and maintenance, these clocks should out last us and our children. Hopefully, our clocks will be passed down through the family as heirlooms.
A little secret about half laps...start with a scrap the width of the stock you'll be using for the frame and set the table saw blade just shy of the height you think it should be cut to make the half-lap joint. That height would be just a little less than half way through the stock. Run the scrap through the saw blade, flip it over and run through again, there will be a bit of wood left between the kerfs. Raise the blade slightly and run the scrap through again - nibbling away that bit of wood in the center of the kerf until there's just a skin of wood left. That's the height for the half lap.
On half laps I always cut the cross pieces first since they will be behind the upright piece, and their front edges will be seen, and then I cut them just a hair shy of the proper width. It's always easier to sand a little off of the sides of the upright piece so it fits perfectly into the cross piece. With this method any imperfection will show to the back of the frame. And then if there are any gaps in the front, I just get out the filler putty and large spatula and start spreading.
Solid Wood Wheels
When making wooden wheels, I first wait for a neighbor's tree to fall down. All of my solid wood wheels started that way.
solid wood wheel clocks (Upsy, Behemoth,
When I make solid wood wheels, they are all glued up and laminated from pieces, but however you choose to build your solid wood wheels I would highly recommend you use ply for the escape wheel and pallets, and at the weight end of the clock, the only place ply is truly necessary is at the click gear. I've ripped out too many solid wood click gears to go that way again. But besides that, the weight end of the clock is the end with the most tolerance to mistakes, improper craftsmanship, etc. As you move toward the escape end, the tolerance levels of the mechanism decrease almost to zero. The Escape end needs to be perfect, and still it's going to take a lot of fiddling to get the clockworks to run right. Logically then, it follows that if your clockworks is having any trouble running, start looking for the problems from the escape end and work down.
What is the "Frustration Quotient?"
may determine your own personal Frustration Quotient by taking the quiz
below. This scientific test will
determine if you are ready to build your own wooden clockworks.
If a person's ability to endure Frustration is in the Very Low to Low Normal range, they are not good candidates and should not even contemplate making wooden clockworks.
one’s ability to endure Frustration falls within the
If they can sustain the High to Very High Frustration range, a person may actually attempt to make a wooden clockworks, but should not anticipate actually hearing it tick at any point.
Being able to tolerate Frustration beyond the Very High range is a wonderful place to begin making wooden clockworks, but out of Baltic Birch Ply only.
Beyond the Very High range one begins to enter into the Masochistic realm and needs to seek professional help - especially if one is anticipating making their own solid wood wheels.
I am a professional - and I am here to help.
Do you have plans for the MoonPhase clock?
I get a lot of email about my MoonPhase clock. It truly is NOT a starter clock. That clock had to be modified so many times to get it to run correctly. If you could see those connecting rods up close, you'd see where I had to drill those things many times before they would work right. It was a seat-of-the-pants project that got out of control. If you wanted to build one, I would recommend you start with just making the escapement first (the thing the pendulum is attached to) and then, once that is working properly, build just the minute wheel, and the wind wheel. Then you'd have a working clock!!! AND a lot of clock building experience.
The stuff to the left of the minute wheel was all added on later because I had all that extra wood over there, but if you'd just build the first three wheels on the right side, and get the basic clock working, you'd be ready to build the rest.
The most important thing to remember in clock building is that the minute hand (or in this case Minute Wheel) must go around one time per hour. Everything else is easy. These are 17th century technologies we are recreating today. I used to say that this is not rocket science, but since a fellow from NASA bought a set of my plans, I can't say that any more.
Here is a little clock theory as related to my Number
First off, the gear ratios on the Number 6 are not exact for a “seconds” clock - in other words, I fudged them a little for symmetry. But it was a sweet fudge, you’ll see what I mean. Here's what I did...
The main purpose of a clock is to get the minute hand to go around one time per hour. With a "seconds" pendulum beating one time per second, that would make 60 beats per minute (bpm), times 60 minutes per hour = 3600 beats per hour (bph).
The exact way to create this using all 8 leaf pinions is to have a large center wheel of 64 teeth, a middle wheel of 60 teeth, and an escape wheel of 30 teeth. Here is it in equation form; 64/8 x 60/8 x 30 (2) = 3600 The 30 is the escape wheel and it is acted on once by each pallet per revolution, therefore the 30 x 2. Not much symmetry in that arrangement, and in the end, symmetry is what I was shooting for.
To maintain symmetry I changed those numbers around a bit. My numbers for the Number 6 are; 62/8 x 62/8 x 30 (2) = 3603.75bph.
In other words my mechanism would be off by almost 4 beats in an hour, however about a 10th of a turn of the little nut holding the bob on the bottom of the pendulum shaft takes care of those 4 seconds - which means my Number 6 clock does not beat exactly one time per second. It has to beat a little faster to make up for those extra 3.75 beats per hour required by its mechanism, so it actually beats at 1.001042 and that takes care of the additional 90 seconds in 24 hours.
Isn't theory great!? I don't have enough confidence in a chunk of moving tree to believe it's going to keep that good of time. I think that's why clockmakers eventually went to making their clocks out of metal, and then to quartz vibrations and then to the vibration of the nucleus of a cesium atom. The fun is in the building, and the experimenting, and in the wonder of actually taking a tree and making it kinetic - not in the accuracy.
I always tell people, if you want accuracy, go to Wal*Mart, plunk down your $4.98 and get an atomic clock that resets itself every evening from the Mothership in Fort Collins, Colorado, but if you want to have fun, build your own.
Can I make the clock wheels larger?
Leveling the table on your drill press
Because building these wonderful mechanisms requires fairly precise drilling,
we want to be sure our drill press' table is perfectly level so we are
drilling our arbor holes in our frames and wheels at perfect 90 degree
Advice from a master clockbuilder
For many years, John Hilgenberg has built many of my designs, and created expert designs of his own. Here are some of the ways he approaches building a wooden clockworks. Some of his methodologies are identical to mine, and some may vary from my recommendations – but he has been kind enough to put his methods down on paper, and I present them here for your perusal and hopefully some of this information, from his vast store of clock making knowledge, will work for you, too. See his helpful advice here: John Hilgenberg's Tips
If you have already read my book, Practical Guide to Wooden Wheeled Clock Design, another wonderful source is a book called Modern Clock by Goodrich. It is mainly written for metal clocks, but all the information is transferable to wooden clocks as well. It will give you more than just a basic idea of how clocks work. Mine is well thumbed. Click on the "Recommended Reading" link below for ordering information.
Can I tour your workshop/gallery/shop/museum/dusty garage?
I used to have people over to visit my shop and see my mechanisms, but I was soon overwhelmed by requests and found that it began to inhibit my creativity and productivity. For this reason, my gallery is only available online. You can visit my blog here: www.claytonboyer.blogspot.com