Making Clock Gears

Gears aren't just for clocks, nor are they just made from metal.

Carve your own wooden gears for wooden clocks or decoration.
You may love gears because you enjoy building or engineering. You may love gears because you're a steampunking aficionado. You may just want to try your hand at building your own clock. Any and all of these reasons are perfect reasons for creating your own clock gears. Though traditional gears are metal, you can make them from wood using standard woodworking tools. .

Adjust your mathematical compass to the radius of the gear you want to draw. For instance, if you want to draw a gear with a 4-inch diameter, adjust your compass to 2 inches. Place the point of the compass on your grid paper where two perpendicular lines cross and draw a circle.

Adjust your compass to 1/4 inch beyond the radius of your gear. In this case, the compass should be at 2 1/4 inches. Draw a second circle around the first circle. The space between the smaller and larger circles is where you'll draw the teeth for your gear.

Place a ruler vertically over your circles, bisecting them in half with a straight line. Draw a horizontal line that separates the gear into even quarters.

Draw a squared-off "tooth" 1/4 inch wide and centered on the tip of your vertical line. The tooth should be located in the space between the larger and smaller circles. Draw another tooth the same width on the bottom of the vertical line.

Place a protractor on your drawing so its curve lines up with the curve of the inner circle. The 90-degree mark on your protractor should line up with the vertical line running through your gear. Draw a line sticking straight out from the edge of your smaller circle every 10 degrees. Repeat all the way around the circle.

Draw a gear tooth around every line sticking out from your smaller circle. Cut out the big circle first, then snip out the spaces between your gear teeth. This creates a template for your gear.

Place the paper on a wooden board and trace around it. Keep the tip of the pencil as close to the edge of the paper as possible. Press the tip of the pencil to the center of the paper template hard enough to leave a small dent in the wood.

Drill out the spaces between your gear teeth with a 1/4-inch wide drill bit. Drill through the center of the gear also. Cut away additional wood beyond your pencil marks with a jigsaw. Work slowly and keep the gear moving to avoid mistakes and scorch marks.

Gently file the corners of each gear tooth with a wood file. The tip of each gear tooth should taper very slightly so the gear can latch onto other gears with ease.

Things You Will Need

  • Mathematical compass
  • Grid paper
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Protractor
  • Wooden board, 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick
  • Electric hand drill
  • 1/4-inch thick bit
  • Jigsaw
  • Wood file


  • Make things easier by getting protractors in several sizes. This way, you can make gears in many sizes without any guessing.
  • Try making your own all-wooden clock from your new wooden gears. You can get the rest of the parts from your local craft store.
  • Use your new wooden gears as templates for longer lasting metal gears. All you have to do is trace.
  • Create delicate, thin gears from metal flashing, thin cardboard or 1/8-inch thick wood for steampunked jewelry and household embellishments.