gary's clocks

Getting Started

clock front view Things to consider before making sawdust

some history...........

An article on wooden clocks by Wayne Westphale from Fine Woodworking magazine 1986 intrigued me for years. Back then I was enjoying myself in a machine shop and was still intimidated by the method. The article suggested cutting wood involute gears with an indexing head, metal lathe and router. Yikes!!! Too much like work.

All of the kudos in the world go to Wayne but there had to be an easier way.

I highly recommend getting a hold of a back issue of Fine Woodworking from January and March 1986. Some excellent tips in the article.

Gotta love the Web

Reid, a fellow woodworker from North Carolina e-mailed me with the info that

Taunton Press 1-800-477-8727

will copy the two articles by Wayne Westphale for free and send them to those who request them.

Wayne must have been a huge influence on many woodworkers around the world judging from the number of wooden clocks similar to his you can find on the internet.
I've seen two working clocks that must of been made from Wayne's plans in various places close to where I live.

  • Saw one in the lobby of a machine shop. Natch. Who else has access to all the machine tools?
  • Saw one for sale at a fancy boutique downton. (Don't get excited here. There is no money in this game.)


    Spent a few years playing around as a machinist until 1988 when my job involved drawing machine parts. First on the drafting board and later on the computer using Autocad.

    Around the same time I bought a scroll saw to try my hand at Intarsia.

    Intarsia is where pictures you might find in a colouring book are used as a scroll saw pattern to make a 3D wooden picture.

    intarsia plans

    1. Transfer the image using carbon paper or simply glue the pattern to the board
    2. Cut the pieces out using scroll saw
    3. Sand to shape
    4. Reassemble and glue to backing board


    Intarsia Dolphins

    hi-tech or what

    There are a few woodworkers out there making clock gears using computer controlled routers, lasers and other far out methods.

    A guy I work with brought in a sample aluminum gear that he saw cut on a computer controlled water jet machine. The operator read the tool path directly from the CAD file and cut the gear out of a 1/2" thick piece of aluminum in less than 2 minutes. Pretty sure this would work with wood too.

    The plans are available in DXF form for these cutting edge guys. (If you have to ask what DXF is then DXF is not for you)

    back to reality

    Reality for some (actually quite a few judging from my e-mail in-box) might include laser beams in their garage workshop but for most of us we'll settle for a scrollsaw and piece of sandpaper.

    The scroll saw method for making the gears is similar to intarsia.

  • Glue the full scale cad drawings to the wood
  • cut the gears out with a scroll saw

    What could be simpler?

    scrollsaw cuts gears doesn't look so hard

    Full scale patterns are also used for the front and rear clock faces. Cross hairs at the shaft centers take away the guesswork in the critical positioning of the shafts.

    Try a pair of test gears using masonite and the plan templates. A little practice and you'll be spitting out gear trains in no time.

    The scrollsaw method makes this a project the whole family can get involved with. My 10 year old son and 11 year old daughter helped me with the scroll saw cutting, sanding and some of the lathe work. I took care of the table-saw, lathe and router jobs.

    Some design philosophy

    There are only a few slight deviations in this clock design from the one described by Wayne in Fine Woodworking in case you were trying to use the info from this website to complete the clock from the magazine plans.

    As soon as I finished the clock I wished there were many more variations (improvements) from Waynes design.

    The ACAD plans you can download from this site are the same ones I used without any improvements.

    Before you charge into making your first clock be sure to check out some of the many different clock designs you can find on the internet.

    Consider some of the suggestions on the Engineering page.

    Feel inspired to make some changes to the design by at least changing the clock carcass.

    You'll feel better.

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