Wooden Antikythera Mechanism is Geared for Greatness

[Dave] builds custom wooden orreries, which are mechanical models of the solar system. It’s no surprise then that he’s interested in the Antikythera Mechanism—a small geared device discovered off the coast of the Greece in 1900 that is believed to be the first analog computer and one of the oldest known geared systems, built partly to predict the positions of celestial bodies in the solar system as it was understood in ancient Greece.

wooden-antikythera-mechanism[Dave] decided to build a wooden version of the Antikythera Mechanism as a proof of concept that it can be done in wood rather than the brass of the original. He also sought to incorporate all the modern theories of the device’s gear train. The entire system is made out of 6mm birch plywood that [Dave] cut by hand on a scroll saw. That’s right — no CNC or lasers here. This has as much to do with replicating the craftsmanship of the original as it does with practicality. Besides, the pitch of the gear teeth is too small to be effectively cut with a laser.

There are no motors, either. The gears are centrally connected to nested brass tubing and the mechanism is actuated with a hand crank. The six pages of forum discussion are worth combing through just to see the pictures of [Dave]’s progress and all of those meticulously hand-cut gears.

It took [Dave] the better part of two years to complete this work of art, and you can see it in motion after the break. With the first version complete, he has begun Mk. II which will feature all of the spiral dials and pointers of the original. If you’re interested in exploring the Antikythera Mechanism further, here is Hackaday’s own in-depth look at it.

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Machining an Orrery


What in the heck is an Orrery? If you’re looking at the image above we’re sure you’ve already figured it out (kudos to the big brains that knew the word). For those that don’t get it, an Orrery is a mechanical device that represents the movements of planets and moons. We never thought of building one ourselves. After seeing the machining process for what’s shown above we’re not sure if we’re excited, or scared off by all the work that went into it.

You might want to bust out the Chromecast and hit the sofa for this one. There are dozens of YouTube videos showing the build. From cutting sheet stock into round slugs, to making teeth, teeth, teeth, and more teeth it’s not just the gears that go into this one. You’re also going to needs the orbs themselves.

We have fond (perhaps scary) memories of the first time we saw an Orrery as a part of the set in The Dark Crystal.

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