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The Creativity of it: The Wizard's Pendulum Clock

I love clocks of all kinds. Not the modern electronic ones but the old fashioned mechanical ones. I have a grandfather clock and several cuckoo clocks. Nothing at all like them.

Anyway I have been rolling around the idea of making some sort of clock out of foam board. It wouldn't be practical to make it a full function clock. That's a lot of gears in foamboard and a very long project. But I still could do something that covered the major points of a clock> The pendulum , the escapement and the weight. This is the beating heart of any clock and it of course is what makes the ticktock sound.



Note that if you want to see the clock in motion so you can easily understand what I talk about you can watch the video at the bottom of the page. The first minute of the video shows the clock in action.



Davinci's clock drawingGalileo First noticed a peculiar thing about pendulums. No matter how big the swing they always took the same amount of time to make the swing. This is an interesting thing called isochronism. And many years later he came up with the idea that a pendulum, because of this very reliable swinging, it could regulate a clock. He never got to actually build one but he did design one.

And it is with this design that I started my project.










I built three clocks in developing this project. I have them arranged here chronologically. You can see the one on the left is quite different. It was the first one and I figured out a lot of stuff with that one. The one in the middle was my second clock. You can see it is very close to the final version. By this point I had figured out most of the big problems. I just needed to make one more clock to refine the various details and solve the final problem.

Quick overview of the problem solving process in three clocks:

Clock one: I experimented with gears and escapements. Gained an understanding of what to do and how all this might work. Scrapped a bunch of ideas.

Clock two: Used the single pin escapement to solve the pendulum problem. But I still had the problem of how to drive the moon wheel.

Clock three: I extended the pendulum upward and utilized that end of the swinging pendulum to drive the moon wheel.

The real challenge with this project was working within the limits of foam board. You can exactly cut gears that will take any wear. It is too soft a material. So I had to find some work arounds that didn't rely on stressing gear teeth.


I started tackling the problems and challenges.

The Pendulum - This is very easy. It is simply a length of foamboard with a weight on the end. And it pivots on an axle. A length of foamboard and a wooden dowel is quite good for this. I made one real quick and tested it. Good to go. It works just fine.

The Weight. Another easy problem to solve. A length of string with a weight on it. Simply tie this to a wheel and we have a wheel that turns as gravity pulls the weight down.

From here the only real challenge would be the escapement. This is the mechanism that gives a little push on the pendulum with every swing to keep it going.


So I made my first gear with foamboard and toothpicks. It came out pretty good but was unreliable! Lot of work for inconsistent performance. I couldn't ask my web visitors to spend all this time.

My thoughts ran to doing away with the gear. Could an escapement be made that doesn't use a gear?

A little research turned one up. A man named Charles Macdowell invented one in 1851. It is called a single pin escapement and it is perfect for this project.

Let's take a look.




The drive wheel spins in a clockwise direction. It is driven by a weight on a string.

As that drive wheel spins the drive pin pushes on the pendulum. This is shown by the white arrows. The drive pin pushes the pendulum to the left and as it continues to spin it then moves up into the top open area and then pushes the pendulum to the right.

Voila! We have a pendulum and escapement that works quite well and made out of foam board.





Ok! Part of the project is settled and figured out. But.... I still wanted the clock to do a little bit more. Not just be a pendulum! For all practical purposes what we have here is a pendulum metronome!

How do I add this final function to the clock?

I thought about what the function would be. How about a spinning disk that showed the changing phases of the moon? Seemed kind of neat. And not too complicated for our foam board clock.

My thinking was "how do I get a good motion that I can take advantage of and drive a moon wheel?

So I did a whole bunch of sketches and made a bunch of parts out of foam board. But nothing worked satisfactorily.




And the thought occurred to me "how about the other end of the pendulum? The top end where the pivot axle is? And that was it. I extended the pendulum up.


So this is what I ended up making.

Here is the upper portion of the pendulum.

I extended the pendulum in the up direction, making it longer so it would have a fair amount of swing.

Then I added a wire. This wire pushes a tooth on the disk as the pendulum swings. Then retracts as the pendulum swings in the other direction, resetting itself and getting itself prepared to push the next tooth.




Here is a series of pictures showing how the wire works in pushing the moon wheel forward:



The top of the pendulum swings to the right. The wire pushes on the flat of the tooth. This pushes the disk forward.









As the pendulum now starts to swing to left the wire rides up on the sloping side of the tooth. This leaves the wheel where it is without pulling it back.









As the pendulum continues to swing to the left the wire is released off that tooth and falls behind it.









Now the pendulum starts its swing back toward the right and the wire pushes up against the flat of this new tooth, pushing the wheel forward.

This whole process is then repeated with each complete swing of the pendulum.







And that's It! The creativity of the Wizards Pendulum Clock. It was an interesting learning experience for me and I am definitely doing more clock making videos. For now I have some resources for you: The tutorial on how to make this clock and an interesting video on how to repair a cuckoo clock.

Make the Wizard's Pendulum Clock

How to repair a cuckoo clock


Watch the video here:





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