Gear Coasters

My friend Rick is a talented craftsman and tinkerer.  Among other things, he’s made a career out of  making artificial rocks.  I know!  Who woulda’ thunk you could have a career making fake rocks!  If you’ve been to the New Orleans Zoo you’ve seen his work.  A few months ago we started an inventors club.   Really it’s just some time set aside each week for experimenting and tinkering.  Lately I’ve been working on Rick to get him excited about CNC routers.  A CNC router is a router that is controlled by a computer. You can use it to very accurately cut out 2D and 3D shapes that are drawn on a computer.  Think of it as a wood cutting robot.

I built my own homemade CNC router a few years ago and I’ve just barely scratched the surface of its capabilities.  I knew Rick would have some interesting ideas of things to make with it.  He was a little skeptical at first but once he got on board the ideas just started flowing.  One of the first things he wanted to make was a homemade spirograph.  Spirograph? OK, why not?  Whatever gets him hooked.  He bought a computer program that generates drawings of gears of any size.  We figured we could use it to  make a set of interlocking gears to make the spirograph.

gear making program

First we drew a test gear to see if we could get from the drawing to a cut out gear.

Gear in Rhino

I exported the gear drawing into Rhino 3D and set up the instructions to tell the CNC machine how to cut it out. We cut a sample first in cardboard.  After a few false starts we had the program worked out.

cutting out gear coasters

Feeling confident, we tried a version in plywood.  It looked just like a wooden gear.

I brought it into the house and had it sitting on my desk to look at and think about what to do next.

gear coaster!

Molly stuck it under a glass.

Ah-ha! Gear coasters!

You can see that I fiddled with the design a little to make it look like a bicycle sprocket.


I liked them so much that I made a bunch. The spirograph is still in the works but the project had it’s intended result.

HEE!  HEE! HEE!… Rick is completely hooked on CNC routers.  Now we are in the process of designing and building him a CNC router of his own.

More on Rick’s router as it progresses…

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  1. Posted October 31, 2011 at 1:20 am | Permalink

    If only you could make musical instruments with it.  Then you could start a company and call it CNC Music Factory!

    They were a band.  In the early 90’s.  A long time ago.  

    “Everybody Dance Now!”

    • Posted October 31, 2011 at 6:49 am | Permalink

      Who could forget C&C Music Factory? With lyrics like, “I’m just a squirrel trying to get a nut, to move your butt to the dance floor,” or “Gonna make you sweat til you bleed.” Classic!

    • Posted November 3, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

      I’ve now got that song stuck in my head- Thanks dude!

  2. Posted October 31, 2011 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    I love these. You could spray paint them metallic colors. I think it’s time for a steampunk project!

  3. Natalie
    Posted November 5, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    So Mike, is that process what you might call low high-tech? Whatever it is, it’s cool.

    • Posted November 8, 2011 at 7:17 am | Permalink

      “low high-tech” exactly.
      CNC machines are like sewing machines. Supposed to be time savers but most projects are 90% fix the machine 10% get stuff done. Somehow the results keep you going back for more.

  4. goat_girl
    Posted November 5, 2011 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    I just keep seeing these as holiday ornaments…must be the weather talking!

  5. Mehtab Manzoor
    Posted December 2, 2011 at 6:27 am | Permalink

    give me the programe for
    gear making on cnc milling…please

    • Posted December 2, 2011 at 8:43 am | Permalink

      Done! Added the gcode to the end of the post.  Post some pics in the comments if you make some.

2 Trackbacks

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    […] making the gear coasters I decided I’d better get into the holiday spirit and the snowflake coasters were […]

  2. By Ravioli Daze - Mike and Molly's House on January 16, 2012 at 6:49 am

    […] first version I made from wood.  Here’s the CNC router in […]

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