this is probably off topic as it's not "home improvement", but still, it's DIY, so, here it goes:

I want to build a mechanical clock. I've read technical things about how they work, this is not my problem.

What could be good materials and tools for me to build it?

I am an inexperienced DIY'er, but I am pretty comfortable with paper, cardboard, balsa wood. I also don't have many specific tools aside from x-acto knives and scissors, but I think I can manage to not chop off a finger with more advanced tools.

I believe wood or some kind of soft metal would be better for this, but I am not sure what kinds to use, or what tools I need. Remember, the clock will have moving parts, gears, axis, etc.

In summary, for a beginner to build a mechanical clock:

  • Tools (Dremel? small hand saw?)
  • Materials (hardened balsa? tin? brass?)

Also, please take into account the cost, gold; although pretty cool, is probably off my budget.

  • just for curiosity: i was inspired by this project: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clock_of_the_Long_Now – JoséNunoFerreira Jun 28 '11 at 12:14
  • Are you building a case for the clock, or the internal parts as well? – Tester101 Jun 28 '11 at 16:22
  • my main interest is the internal construction of the clock! – JoséNunoFerreira Jun 29 '11 at 18:51
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    So you want to make precision parts with hand tools, and no experience? I would start with the cheapest materials you can find, you will likely have loads of scrap until you get used to your tools. And don't expect your first contraption to work [well or at all], it will take a bit of time to learn the finer points of any hobby like this. Good luck. – Tester101 Jun 29 '11 at 19:48
  • yep, that seems like a good idea. – JoséNunoFerreira Jul 2 '11 at 13:38

I would invest in:

  • sheet brass (Various thicknesses, for the mainspring, gears, hands, housing, etc etc; it's generally easy to work and looks good polished)
  • A Dremel or similar precision rotary tool/spiral saw (for finish work and other fine detail)
  • A scroll saw (for basic cuts; you can also use it for most of your woodwork if you have a steady hand or a guidestop)
  • Myriad springs, machine and wood screws, nuts, bolts, and other fasteners.

I would invest in plans for a known working design rather than trying to reinvent too many wheels here. Patience is key, like a lot of precision work hobbies, and don't be surprised when your first assembly doesn't work quite right.

As far as kits, you can buy mechanical movements pre-made, but not pre-assembled. I would seriously consider this as a first step in your foray into clockmaking; clocks' tolerances are REALLY fiddly, and must be very exacting in every part to get anywhere close to a usable clock, to say nothing of an accurate one.

  • The idea is to build a simple pendulum clock, i know what's involved in its workings, and have plenty of patience! – JoséNunoFerreira Jun 29 '11 at 18:56
  • Is it feasible to use the dremel tool to cut brass/wood parts? I am not much concerned with the finishing part, but mainly with the cutting and assembly of the gears. They need to be solid enough so they won't break with regular use, and i need to be able to cut them. also, i don't want to buy any kits. the challenge is to build it from scratch! – JoséNunoFerreira Jun 29 '11 at 18:59
  • It is; you can buy very precise carbide bits or composite cutting wheels that will go through brass like butter. Even if you don't want a kit, I would buy plans, preferably including life-size patterns for gear-cutting; there are very fine tolerances required just to make the thing work at all. – KeithS Jun 29 '11 at 19:10
  • thanks. how expensive is brass? and should i get a cheap dremel, or invest in the more expensive ones? i read dremel tools don't last that much. – JoséNunoFerreira Jul 2 '11 at 13:44
  • My father has Dremel that he's had longer than I've been alive. Get a good Dremel and it will last you a lifetime. – KeithS Jul 4 '11 at 23:19

You can buy clock kits that come with the movement (the mechanical bit) pre-assembled. Then you build all the other pieces--the case, the face, the hands if you want, and so forth. This is a great way to get started on the basics.

After that, the question becomes what kind of mechanical clock you want to build. Spring-wound? Weights? Pendulum? These have very different constraints.

I had a friend who build a clock entirely out of wood; it never kept very good time, as it's incredibly hard to keep the tolerances close, and wear and tear from normal operation made pieces change size. I wouldn't recommend it, though it was an impressive tour-de-force. I can't find a picture but here is his guide for making the gears...

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    I think the OP wants the nitty-gritty tour-de-force experience of building the whole thing from scratch, regardless of its accuracy. – KeithS Jun 28 '11 at 17:25
  • @KeithS absolutely right. I really don't care if it keeps correct time or if it degrades over extended use. And i'm not much interested in the case, i am fine with displaying it bare, with gears in sight :) – JoséNunoFerreira Jun 29 '11 at 18:55
  • Okay, you just want to build the mechanism! Fun stuff. What kind of mechanism? – Alex Feinman Jun 29 '11 at 19:03
  • probably a simple escapement (deadbeat escapement) and a pendulum. Of what i read, these seem like the simplest ones. but i plan on experimenting quite a bit, if i can work well with the materials/tools i choose. – JoséNunoFerreira Jul 2 '11 at 13:42
  • You might consider building it out of something easily reconfigurable like LEGO, while you learn how all the pieces work together... – Alex Feinman Jul 4 '11 at 13:40

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