I have two projects ‘in the oven’ which are on hold while a friend makes time.  Those would be the guitar electronics design project and the acoustic guitar project.  So I embarked on something else – the coolest thing I have ever attempted.

An orrery.

An orrery is a mechanical model of the solar system and most of them simply display the motion of the planets around the sun and everything else is pretty much decorative.  The planets for example can’t really be to a realistic scale since the sun would be huge and mercury would be a tiny speck.  In my case, I found some plans for sale on the internet that control the planetary motion with a series of gears which not only move the planets realistically but look extremely cool.  To that end (coolness that is) I have chosen to leave the base open to the air so the gears can be visible.  The designer made his gears on his scroll saw but I have a friend with a CNC router so I am in the process of drawing most of the pieces in AutoCAD so that my friend’s machine will do all the hard work for me.  If we draw the parts well, the machine will produce a kit that I can simply put together.

I’m quite excited about it since it looks so awesome (at least in theory).  The larger gears have spokes so you can look down through the thing and see through to the gears below which give the whole thing a very Victorian, early industrial revolution kind of look.  It looks like something Jules Verne or captain Nemo would have in his study.  You turn a crank on the side and the planets begin to move in a realistic way which, unfortunately, means that Jupiter and Saturn barely move at all and Mercury spins like crazy but that’s the way of the solar system.

I’m pretty pumped.  I can’t wait to get all this to the machine and start cutting but these things take time.  Machines have limitations that we don’t think about when we start so there will likely be at least some hand work – mostly correcting things.  The machine cuts with a round bit so you can’t have any square inside corners.  There are a number of other similar things we have to think about.

I will have to make some planets and this is something I truly thought I could find on the internet but haven’t.  You can certainly buy solar system models but the planets usually look pretty poor; made of foam and usually of the wrong size.  I’d like something photo-realistic because that’s the image I have in my mind but I don’t think I can paint a little wooden ball that well.  I did find one awesome looking set but it said “OUT OF STOCK” as well as being $85.  So two strikes right there.  I’ll have to be satisfied with solid colors in the interest of getting the thing done but I do wonder how the awesome planet guy paints his Jupiters in order for them to look so good.  I look forward to showing some photos of my progress.

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