Category Archives: Making

Is that Cuckoo a 1-day clock, or an 8-day clock?

Because of the economics of cuckoo clock repair, you can easily find old, dirty cuckoo clock movements on eBay for a fraction of what a new movement costs. These movements come with no documentation, so you get to work out which chains, weights, and bellows (cuckoo whistles) are right for them.

In this post I calculate the run time (1 day vs. 8 day) of a cuckoo movement I recently bought, and the Links Per Foot of the chain it uses. These two numbers tell me what parts to buy to make a clock case for this movement.

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Calculating a clock’s Ideal Pendulum Period, The Sequel

In an earlier post I calculated the ideal pendulum period for the Korean clock by counting its wheels’ teeth (outer teeth) and pinions (inner teeth). This post is an update based on the errors I made while attempting to do the same for my second clock: the Ansonia kitchen clock.

What follows is a more detailed “how to” for calculating the pendulum period based on gear ratios.

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Loosening Antique glue Using heat

As I said in my previous post about the Ansonia Derby clock, it seems that long ago part of the upper gingerbread broke and the owner sawed off the rest, reducing the upper gingerbread to a simple arch. I’d like to create new gingerbread for this clock. To do that I need to unglue the original, cut remnant and glue my to-be-designed gingerbread in its place.

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Geometry, Gothic Architecture, Rose Windows, and Christmas Ornaments

(first published on in 2007)

I find the rose windows of Gothic cathedrals awe-inspiring. From the rigid formalism of Chartres to the flamboyant explosion of Tours, their marriage of geometry, philosophy, and aesthetics with stone and glass is awesome. Built at a time when science and spirit weren’t as divided as today, each window is a statement of the beauty, order, and harmony in the world. Using only a pair of compasses (dividers) and a straight-edge (an unmarked ruler), the Gothic architects created myriad lace-like designs, making stone hang in the air and glass sing.

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Collaboration is not Part of Making; it’s the Heart of Making

This post is about what I’ve learned about Making through the Robotic Glockenspiel project.

Even at the beginning of the project, I was “standing on the shoulders of giants“:

As I learned things, I’d document them for others:

  • I blogged at major points in the project. I could have blogged more frequently.
  • I tweeted synopses of the blog entries, to point to the blog
  • I made YouTube videos from the very start, of the little soldering projects I built to relearn how to solder
  •  Once the software was (mostly) working, I put as much as I could think of on GitHub:
    • my Glockenspiel Arduino sketch
    • my Midi file reading library
    • my SD-card simple persistent settings library
    • The circuit diagram, in Fritzing format
    • the Bill of Materials (parts list)
    • the public domain MIDI files of the Christmas carols, as well as the Aria Maestosa source files for the carols.

Sharing shaped my thinking and the structure of the project:

  • Blogging made me imagine what someone like me would like to know about robotic instruments and glockenspiel construction.
  • Making YouTube videos made me think about how the project demos well or badly, and pulled me out of the technical bits into the user experience.  Trying to make a video of the glockenspiel playing showed me how unacceptably loud it was.
  • Tweeting made me think about how to get the word out about what I’d done so far, and what media to use to connect with like-minded people.
  • Open-sourcing the project on GitHub seriously changed how I organized the software (I created the libraries and examples of how to use them), and stretched my ideas of what a Git repo was for (e.g., Bill of Materials). It made me think of reusability of the code.

Sharing sends many messages

At work, Jessica and I discussed what Sharing Making says, and came up with these ideas:

  • The foreground message: “how to do what I did”. You’re giving people a recipe, that’s hopefully complete enough to be useful.
  • It’s a resource list: “Here are links to the sources I used to get where I am with this project”. It lets people find more detail and the people who created those details.
  • “I appreciate the work people put into the resources I used” – making a resource list gives kudos back to the authors.
  • “How I got here”. It’s a journal, showing your process of creation. Not just the recipe, but a guide to how to be a chef who creates recipes.  This is the big reason you want to share your project as you go rather than when it’s “finished”.
  • It shows authority: “Now I know how to do this.” “I’ve got chops”
  • Advertising that you’re a resource: “I’ve shared this much; ask me questions about problems you run into”
  • An advertisement for collaboration: “These are areas I’m interested in” “Contact me if you want to work together in an area”
  • Most importantly: if you only share the demo – what you did – you’re only saying “look at how great I am and you can’t be”; if you share how to duplicate the project, you’re saying “I’m nurturing the community”. I’ve seen how when people only post a photo or demo, the first comment on it is “So, where’s the source?”

So far, I’ve only written; I haven’t actually participated in a community

  • I’ve blogged, tweeted, youtubed, and githubbed, but I haven’t heard from anyone who’s used this info, and I haven’t offered changes to anyone else’s Open Source project – yet.
  • Everything I’ve said about “sharing” is just speculation at this point. I look forward to actually collaborating (in some way) with other people who are into music technology.
  • I need to “advertise” the project so people can find it. Once it’s more complete, I can put it up on the Arduino Blog, Sparkfun’s site, etc. I can also do more exercises to make the libraries I’ve created more useful.
  • Life is all about creating long-term, mutually-beneficial relationships. Linda says writing isn’t about one fantastic book; it’s about continually writing  wonderful new books for your growing audience. In the same way, Making isn’t about one cool project; it’s about building relationships to Make stuff that’s so much more wonderful than you can make alone.


Cutting and Tuning Robotic Glockenspiel chimes

Cutting Glockenspiel pipes from 1/2" EMT Conduit
Cutting Glockenspiel pipes from 1/2″ EMT Conduit

After a few weeks of experimentation, I think I can now write sensible notes on how to cut and tune the chimes for a glockenspiel (metal xylophone) out of metal conduit. This is the first step of my Robotic Glockenspiel project, which I hope to end with a network-connected, Arduino-controlled set of chimes that can play Christmas carols.

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