I ran into Oskar the other day at Metrix and got to talk to him about his really neat project. He’s working on building his own gravity powered gear driven clock! For those of you not in the clock-making scene (probably most of you), this clock works just as a traditional grandfather clock would. It uses gravity to turn its gears, and then the time is derived by the position of the gears. This is one of the most simple forms of clocks. There’s no electricity, no motor, no batteries, only some elbow grease to wind it yourself daily. Just like with Dave Cole’s motor kits, bringing it back to the basics not only makes it easier to make, but also easier to learn how everything works!
Oskar started his project by purchasing a clock pattern online. It was created for people wanting to cut their clocks out with jig saws, but of course he’s going to be using the laser engraver instead. He’s been using the pattern as a mathematical baseline for creating the pattern in Inkscape. He didn’t have all his parts with him, but using the pattern booklet, he was able to explain to me the basics of these low-tech clocks. It was a little embarrassing to not know how a clock worked. I’ve been reading clocks for most of my life now, time is an incredibly important part of our society, and yet I knew nothing. Luckily he was willing to teach!
While we didn’t cover everything, there are a few key parts of clocks. A big one is the pendulum. The pendulum takes exactly one second to swing from one side to the other. This is connected to the “escape mechanism”, which releases one cog (but then catches the next one) when the pendulum reaches each side. This allows the gear to turn at a consistent pace. By tying different gears together, with specific mathematical relationships, you can deduce things like hours and minutes, as well as seconds. And then there is the weight. This is what powers the clock. Every morning you have to wind your clock, causing the weight to be carried to the top. The weight slowly falls throughout the day and moves the gears with it.
Oskar told me that one of the biggest reasons he’s making his clock is because of his fascination with concepts and perceptions of time. He said, “Time doesn’t really exist. Time is something that we’ve created to record the motion of our lives. There’s no such thing as an hour, a minute, or a second.” He said he finds it very interesting that people are so obsessed with something, that in his mind, isn’t real. Time is relative, sometimes things go fast, sometimes slowly. By building this clock, he is becoming part of the process of time creation, which I think is great. He said he was particularly interested in the type of clock he is making because they don’t work without human intervention. He has to wind it everyday, and it stops without humans. He sees it as a representation of the larger interaction between humans and time- without us, time wouldn’t continue to move either.
He was cutting out the last pieces when I talked to him (and engraving some of them with a beautiful Victorian pattern), and then just had to glue everything together. After this, he’ll probably make other clocks.
I think this project is really cool, and am glad he shared it with me. Have you ever had a project that helped you explore your reality?
If you have an interesting project that you’re working on at Metrix, and would like to be featured in the blog, email me- email@example.com.