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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