September 8

Have not spent a bunch of time on the clock over the summer -for obvious reasons- but its now done! My clock is on the mantle and keeping time. I decided to scrap the electronics designed by Mr.Bye as it was drawing way too much current and having some issues with grounds. I decided to use an arduino to control the coils and as an added bonus I have the option of having a "test" or example button that will speed the clock up about 20 times the normal rate, then rewind it to the correct time. Its a novel way of showing people how everything works together. I have a few more hours to finish the last little bit of my fathers clock.

July 23

The hands and chapter ring are done!!! it actually looks like a clock now. There were some doubts at times. I have yet to finish the aluminium tubing that will hide the coil wires and make the base a little more appealing. Electronics have started. I made my first PCB the other night, and it actually turned out! TBC.

May 8

Steady progress this week with the magnetic wheels and the frames. I have completed both the frames (one for each clock) as well as the secondary frame supports. The "Great wheels" were completed tonight and its starting to be a nice pile of completed parts. I built a 1/8" Hex broach to complete the Hex wheel hubs that are needed on some of the magnetic wheels. Most of the CNC work is complete in regards to the mass production of parts. Now I will have to spend some time on the Lathe to make the bearing supports and shafts. This is where the big unknown comes in for me as I do not have much experience running a Lathe. I just purchased a lathe a couple months ago and its all relatively new. Magnets and the bearings required for one of the two clocks are in hand now although the cost was higher than I expected for the bearings. They are small, and only a dozen are needed for each clock, but at $5 a bearing it adds up in a hurray. Some additional photos have been added. 

May 3

Some good progress this week. Had a couple nights that I could get in the shop and make some chips. I have the main frame completed as well as some of the wheels. I am making two clocks at once so it takes a bit more time of course, but its easier to do it now than make a second run. I should have the magnetic wheels complete by the end of the weekend, or next week (depending on how much shop time I can cobble together). The bearings are waiting at the supplier and I have to pick-up a few more electronic components. Should have all the supplies on hand in the coming week. My wife came out to the shop on her way to bed to see how I was doing, she told me I was cheating....Awww come on! its not easy watching Netflix, programming G-Code and waiting for the CNC to finish its next cycle! :) She said my first projects were better since it took me longer. That's a hard one to argue. 

Elmer #37 Grasshopper engine

This was the first steam engine that I have ever built (That's a lie, I built a tiny little wobbler engine a few weeks before I started this project, but lets just say that it did not count). Anyway to the details!

When I first got my milling machine, I almost did not know what to do with myself. I had wanted one for many years and finally had one in the shop. What to do with this wonderful machine full of promise and mystery? I have never taken a class on machining apart from High School shop class, and we all know how much we paid attention in that class. Where to start? What should I do and not do? what tools do I need? How fast can I break a $10 cutter?

The answer's are: 

  • Reading LOTS
  • More don't than do's
  • At least the cost of the machine if not MORE!
  • Faster than you can utter a slanderous term.

First things first, why not dive into one of the more complex engines Elmer designed straight away! That's the ticket, "Everyone into the deep end!" So a month of drawing the model in solidworks and trying to figure out what part goes where, and how to convert everything from imperial drawings into metric got me pretty decent at the realization of how over my head I was. So I started to make the main frame parts and take my time to enjoy the process. I think I made most parts at least twice if not three or four times before they were not completely useless hunks of aluminium or brass. Trick for me was that I did not have a lathe and making round parts with a machine that really likes to make straight parts had me thinking quite hard. 4 months went by and slowly I had the engine ready for assembly. Took me a couple evenings to get it put together and I really had to tell myself to be patient. I had spent 2 to 4 hours a night in the shop at least a couple days a week for months just to get to this point, don't mess it up now! Once it was together I just sat and stared at it, most likely the biggest grin you have ever seen. When I hooked air up to the machine it did not turn over properly and I spend at least an evening trying to figure out the proper setup of the valves and stroke. Then it just came alive, started to turn and accelerate on its own. I literally ran into the house calling for my wife to come and see. The video shows it running like a clock and still puts a smile on my face. One of the more satisfying "things" I have ever made.


A couple years ago I came across a clock that would now be considered "Steam Punk". Really to me its a beautiful piece that I could not help but admire. Essentially it is a Cathode tube display but some refer to them as vacuum tubes. Technically they are not but they do look great! Before Christmas my wife asked for gift ideas, for some reason out of nowhere the Nixie tubes came to mind and I dropped the hint that it would be cool to build a clock for myself. A really good website for the basic parts is Tube Hobby. I went with the size 14 tubes due to the cost and availability. I did not take allot of photos from the build, alas I am not very good with a camera and just tend to forget to document my projects.   When I received the kit I was excited and anxious to assemble all the components. Assembly went well but when I fired up the clock for the first time, two of the 6 tubes had digits that would illuminate at the same time. The tubes were replaced by the supplier at no cost (excellent service BTW). No matter as I was waiting for the tubes to arrive I build my Solidworks model and tinkered with the look.   I decided to build the clock with a couple spare hardwood floor pieces, some nice Maple inlays. Interestingly enough my Father is a well accomplished carpenter, and he has tried to teach me when I was younger, but the wood working gene did not sink into me very well.    I eventually received the replacement tubes at about the same time the final pieces were made and prepared for assembly. The final look and "feel" of the clock exceeds my minds eye at the start of the project. I am quite happy with the finished product.


Original design by Weston Bye and published in Digital Machinist magazine in 2012. The clock has over 160 Neodymium magnets that eliminate the need for conventional gears and for that fact, enable the design to eliminate some features found on traditional gear movement clocks. I am building my interpretation of the clock out of mostly 6061 aluminium, and some 1018 Steel where required by physics and basic laws of magnetic forces. I have powder coated the hands to make them easier to read.

Of note on this unique design, none of the movements are in physical contact. The movement is regulated and initiated by a sequenced stepper motor arrangement of three coils 45 degrees apart that is energized individually. The initial step in rotation is dampened by a Eddie current disk, Cool! If you wonder what I am on about, drop a magnet through a copper pipe and you will understand. ;)

June 28

Bases have been built but I will embellish them a bit once the clock is nearing completion. Have not decided on the mounting of the electronics yet so I want to hold off until I have a better feel of the clocks presence. The bobbins are complete and wound. 34ga wire is quite fragile and caused a bit of trouble when completing the wiring. I found a digital counter online and built and setup a counter in order to keep track of the 2500 wraps of wire. Next steps will be to build the clock "face" and the hands for both clocks.

June 8

Most of the parts have been made for the two clocks. Assembly is starting gradually. What is left is for me to make the clock hands and "face", the base and mounts. Electronics and coils are the next item up for workshop time and it will be interesting winding my own coils. I have never attempted that before.