Orrery, continue inner planets gearbox - March 2019
I have the first arm clutch complete. It seems to be working well so I will
proceed with the other three. It took a little squeezing to fit in but is
better than doing it outboard on the outer arbours. The outboard method has
the danger that other planets could move when adjusting one.
The clutch is basically a friction design as represented by the wavy steel
ring in the center of the third photo. It is a design that has been used
dozens of times in this project.
The other three arms
are now prepared for Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars.
Here is the process of making a very thin spring washer out of steel shim
stock 8 thou thick
(six photos below).
First it is sandwiched
between two brass plates and drilled undersize, (first
diameter is bored out to the correct diameter using an adjustable boring
head, (second photo).
The washer is cut out with snips to roughly oversize and placed on a stepped
mandrill on the lathe. The upper piece of the earlier brass sandwich is used
to clamp it against the mandrill, (third
The tailstock live centre is used to provide clamping force to drive the
washer, (fourth photo).
The washer and everything else is turned to the correct outside diameter, (fifth
The completed washer and a few interesting leftovers, (sixth
The clutch washer is made wavy with the careful use of a pair of pliers.
The four clutches are now complete.
At this point it became apparent that the design by Philip Hahn did not
provide for the Earth to revolve. I had resigned myself to this fact since
the orrery was being built to the specifications provided by documents left
I have given the Earth rotation some thought. I have done a feasibility
study and recon I may just be able to take a drive from the Earth’s moon arm
which does one rev every 27.3 days and step it up by the correct ratio of 27
point something to get our world spinning with a tiny 3 pair gear train,
mounted below the moon arm, on the main earth arm. The Earth is so small and
weighs so little I think this is possible. I have checked on the max tooth
count possible with my smallest cutter in the space available and I could
fit a 90 tooth wheel in. It seems with a minimum wheel size of 10 teeth and
a max size of 90 teeth and 6 gears we could get an accuracy of about 1 day
in 50 million days. It will be a bit like a cherry upon the cherry on top of
the cake. We have about an inch disk of space that I can use so it will be
pocket watch gearing.
Once again Buchannan has shown ingenuity to solve a problem. In
this case a pretty difficult one since the solution must be worked into the
existing design and parts already created with little room to maneuver.
I have the Mars eccentric bearing and jewels ready and mounted and the Mars
gear spoked. Next are the arbour and the offset for the planet rod. I will
complete Mars, Venus (simple) and Mercury so that I can see what space is
left for the Earth gearing.
The calculations are a little funny for the earth gearing as I have to work
it out from the difference in angular velocities between the moon drive gear
and the Earth arm. Both which are rotating around the sun. Then I also have
to take into account what direction everything is turning. And finally
arrive at an earth that spins once a day in the correct direction.
The Mars armature is
now seen mounted to the inner planets gearbox.
The last set of dial
artwork is ready to deliver to the Chinese enamellers. Each has the paper
design as well as that design on a plastic ring that has been machined to
the curvature needed for the copper blank. Clockwise from upper left is the
corrected month/season dial, redone demo/international time dial and the
redesigned orrery dial ring.
The fact that these are the last dials to
be done is another indication that the Astro-Skeleton Clock project is
drawing to a close.
I have the bridge practically complete. It carries the sun arbour and is
attached to the bottom frame; it provides a central support to the centre
tubes as well. There is the cosmetic finishing to do. This is a steel bridge
just for contrast.
goes the extra effort to make the bridge from steel for visual contrast;
making the part from steel is more difficult to fabricate and finish than
from softer brass stock,
(see photos below).
The steel bridge has
been milled to shape from the stainless steel blank and is being cut from
the blank with the slitting saw, first photo. Next the bridge is separated
from the blank.
The first photo shows the rough bridge
checked for fit on the lower inner planets gearbox frame. Next the bridge is
within the frame, yellow arrow.
The first photo
shows the fitting for the sun arbor and the next photo with that arbor mounted to the bridge.
With the center arbor
fitted, the concentric tube assembly can be supported and in turn the four
planet armatures fitted. As has been done countless times in the past the
ungainly, flat rectangular blanks will later be machined into slender,
decorative parts. Buchanan writes:
I will now continue with the Venus and Mercury arms before I finally return
to the Earth arm. I want to maximise the visual appearance of the Earth
gearing and need to know exactly where the surrounding planets are.
The artwork for the four planet arms is shown in the first illustration.
Next the beginnings of the mercury armature.
I cut the centre gear for Mercury (second photo). I increased the
length of the arm slightly and increased the tooth count from 57 to 72,
another 15 teeth. About a 0.15% increase in overall tooth count! I hope to
have Mercury arm complete and Mars gearing done next. Venus is a simple arm,
no gearing; its orbit is only about 1% out of round, far less than the Moon.
The staking tool is
used to push a large jewel into the center wheel on the armature for
Mercury. In the next photo one can just see it below the screw on the center wheel. The entire
armature is about 1.5” (4 cm).
Three of four armatures are complete, from he top: Mercury, Venus and Mars.
An exploded view of the Mars armature is shown in the second photo. Earth is next
to be made and presents more complexity due to the Moon as well as the
decision to make the Earth revolve.
All four planet armatures are machined to their curvilinear design and
displayed within the context of the entire orrery, the upper center planets
gearbox frame is removed.
photo shows the entire compliment of the orrery drive wheels along with the
two completed planets of Jupiter and Saturn. One can see how this module has
nicely filled out the center space between the two remontoire fly fan
One can more easily see the fit of the orrery within the rest of
the machine. The entire bulk of the module is within the vertical elevation
of the two upper dial sets, but just below the superstructure of the two
remontoire towers. The height also allows one to see the operation of the
upper section of the compound pendulums as well as their beat plates; this
is important since the lower section of the pendulums is largely obscured by
the base of the clock. The orrery is
close enough to the top of the machine to make it look like a continuous
extension of the wheel works. If the orrery were to be raised by even an
inch or so it would have looked ungainly; like it was mounted on a stalk
balanced over the rest of the clock.
is serendipitous since the superstructures of the remontoire towers would
have presented a serious obstruction to Saturn’s orbit. Making the entire
orrery smaller could have been done, but we are working in some areas at the
scale of a pocket watch, the limit of
tooling. Furthermore one begins to lose detail of the components when they
are too tiny.
of the earliest decisions made was that of the overall dimensions. In early
2006 there was some discussion about making it about one third smaller. We
were fortunate not to have chosen this as it is likely that the smaller
wheels in many of the complications could not have been made. But more
important we would have lost some of the ‘presence’ that the machine
commands from the fact that it presents itself to the viewer with detail
that is easy to discern without magnification. It reaches out to the
Here the orrery melts into the rest of the machine. Of course the dial ring
will bring definition to the space occupied by this module.
Buchanan now turns to the Earth armature to improve on Hahn's design
and make it revolve in both operational and demo modes.
The drawing above illustrates the new components Buchanan will create and
where they will be located to make the Earth rotate. All of the new
components are attached to the original Earth armature colored in yellow and
extending from the central stalk. Buchanan explains below.
The first photo shows
the meticulous hand alteration that
Buchanan makes to a standard jewel. The standard jewel is mounted to a
mandrel and is ground down on a copper rotating disk charged with diamond
paste. Nearly all of the jewel’s diameter has been ground away changing the
shape from a doughnut to a slim sleeve. These two sleeves are used in the
upper and lower sections of the cannon pinion shown in the second photo, (the moon
This is the moon sleeve and its drive gear. It also carries the 91 tooth
gear that still has to be spoked. The hole in the centre of the steel part
is for the earth arbour. I will also fit an end stone for the earth to stand
I am painting doors faster than floors some days.
I had a pinion practically complete (first photo), with steel pivots added,
and was machining the last pivot to size when the tool caught and you can
see the result, second and third photo. This pinion is just under 1/8
inch diameter and 16 teeth.
So I painted a door. There was just enough not damaged to be able to use it
in a new position, fourth photo. I moved it from one of the outboard arbours
to the earth arbour, fifth photo. No paint on my feet, but, mud on my face.
I have also spoked the two "large" 91 tooth wheels today, 5/8 inch diameter
.2 module, last photo.
I reply: I think that
damaged pinion would have given the clock that “antique look”.
The first photo shows a
steel pivot being cut just before parting from the steel rod blank. Next a
which will mate to that wheel is being prepared for cutting out of spokes.
The jeweler’s saw blade passes through a 0.7mm hole to begin the cut.
Once the raw cut is
made for each sector, Buchanan finishes up by hand with a
micro-file. Next the same wheel is shown to the left. Its mate, to the right
is the same wheel shown in the second photo above.
The staking tool is
used to press-fit the two tiny wheels together with the result shown in the
second photo. The exacting attention to detail results in wheels less than
1/8”, (0.5cm) having spokes. I wonder how many other clockmakers would have
done this. These are amongst the smallest wheels in the clock.
The wheel pair is shown
in the lower right sector with other parts that will comprise the Earth
gearing, first photo. Next a depthing tool is used to check for proper meshing of
This is the layout for the frames for the Earth gearing. I have done the
test depthing of the wheels so I have the correct dimensions for setting
out the pivots.
There has been a lot of juggling to obtain a practical set of frames that
can be made and also fit into the standard arm design so that it does not
look like an add on. The process will become more apparent as I continue, it
is hard to visualize in my mind, let alone explain on paper.
These two photos show the counter-sinking and mounting of the steel foot
bush. There won’t be much of the flat foot left in the end.
I have got past the design bottleneck. I thought everything was all right
with my design but forgot to take into account the large middle idler wheel
that brings the drive out from the centre. So I had to go back and start
again. The sequence of assembly has to be taken into account as well as the
'pretty’s' and mechanical requirements.
I will send a final scan of the frame design. I have a main arm frame the
steel foot bush and a lower extension cock and finally a small bridge on two
pillars across the outer two gears. I think it will look good. Photo 605,
the last photo, gives a general
arrangement of wheels. I also want to include an age of the moon dial the
same way as the other planets have an eccentric orbit dial. I have a
mounting method worked into this as well.
The design illustration when compared with the one first
created for the Earth armature extends the curvature past the second ivy
spur detail to include five additional jewel pivots. This is the final
design drawing for the clock movement!
I am now working on the extension cock. There are different heights of
bearing and pillar pads to take into account, but I think the end result
Buchanan begins the fabrication of the frame work for the additional
components necessary to make the Earth revolve. In the first photo the steel
foot for the Earth is prepared. Next the mount is cut to fit the curvilinear
contour of the armature.
In the first photo one can see the scribed
outline of the ivy design for the armature. The two pins on either side of
the center tube will eventually be cut down to serve as location pins for
the frame that will hold the new components needed to make the Earth
revolve. Next an additional brass plate with several pre-drilled holes is
positioned next to the armature. The locating pins now run through this
plate ensuring exact positioning of the new plate to the armature. Along
with the steel foot, all of the new components are located on this plate.
These two photos show
various machining operations. They concern the fabrication of a cock for one
wheel set. Look carefully at the tip of the cutting tool in the second photo.
It is at the base of the nascent cock; note that it is fabricated from the
thick, solid plate piece and will not be a separately screwed in part as
would be in a standard design. There is not enough room both laterally and
height-wise to accommodate the cock’s foot and associated securing screw.
This requires additional machining and reflects the innovative way Buchanan
solves a problem that was created because there was an ad-hoc change in the
design and function of this component.
Further machining in done to make the
attached plate match perfectly with the Earth / Moon armature, first photo.
Next the new wheels are checked for fit.
In the first photo the
plate is cut to fit and extend the contour of the armature. The second photo
shows the new component frame and is all that is left of the original, thick
These two photos show
the new frame component and its compliment of bearing jewels. The three
empty holes seen in the second photo represent the two locating pins with the center hole for the
screw that will secure this frame to the Earth armature. The entire piece
will be substantially thinned as it is finished by hand to its final shape.
The first photo shows
the reverse side of the completed and mated frame and armature. The second
photo shows just how small all of this work is. The tiny wheel pair seen
earlier is located just to the left of the lower wheel’s pinion and is on
the scale of watch work. There is still an upper bridge needed to complete
The orrery center
planets gearbox as of March.
The Earth and the new
components to make it revolve within the context of the orrery, inside
The machine as of the end of march 2019. If one thinks there is room to
spare within the context of where the orrery is positioned, look carefully
on the left where Saturn is positioned.