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Being Creative: Horrery


I've been interested in Horology (the art and science of clocks and watches) for a long, long time. In High School I hand-cut clock wheels out of plastic, made barrel pinions and assembled a few short gear trains. It never got close to being a clock thought, I lacked the skills and, more importantly, the tools (lathe, tooth cutter). Lately I've been thinking about time display a lot. I have a number of different ideas in varying stages of development. The first one I've taken to completion, if only as a "prototype", is what I'm calling the Hororrery, Horrery or perhaps Ornery (thanks Terry!). It's losely based on the look of an orrery, "an apparatus showing the relative positions and motions of bodies in the solar system by balls moved by a clockwork" [Merriam-Webster]

I painted hemispheres on some polystyrene balls and stuck them on thin balsa-wood struts glued to the hands of a quartz clock mounted in a wooden box.
It's about 7:15
My time display ideas are all based around quartz clock movements. I'm no fan of quartz, they are completely artless, but they are convenient. The movement I used here is pretty standard, it takes a single AA battery and expects to be driving nothing more than a set of hands and probably only while in the upright position. I chose not to use a more expensive "high torque" movment, hence the very light materials.

The outermost sphere, painted blue/red is attached to the hour hand, the next sphere (yellow/green) to the minute hand and a small grey sphere to the second hand. A larger black/white sphere is fixed in the center. My first version lacked the fixed sphere and second sphere was the same size as the hour and minute ones. However, this arrangment unbalanced the second hand and caused a very loud tick. More importantly, it meant the clock didn't function as a time-keeper because the time couldn't be read.

The idea is that, in the final configuration with the central fixed "sun", the time can in theory be read from any angle. By noting the "phase" of the fixed sphere (the ratio and order of the black and white parts) the viewer can determine their orientation relative to 12 o'clock (for example seeing white on the left half and black on the right corresponds to statnding at 3 o'clock). Noting the phases (and hence the orientation) of the other spheres makes it possible to deduce the time. I added a key to the box to distinguish between the hour and minute hand colour schemes. Even so, I'm not saying it's easy. The time shown above is about 7:15.
This is only a prototype, or a proof-of-concept. What would be really cool is to paint the spheres to look more like planets (ha!); perhaps a light/dark green Earth (hour) light/dark blue Venus (minute), a red Mercury (second) and a yellow/white Sun. Or perhaps something based on astrology's planet/metal association: Moon/silver, Mercury/quicksilver, Venus/copper, Mars/iron, Jupiter/tin, Saturn/lead, Sun/gold. It'd be desirable to have each sphere a different size too.