Getting Started on Clock Building...
  • Having just received the kit for Septimus, I thought this would be the appropriate place to start a new discussion. (Thanks David)
    What are some of the methods used to separate the pieces from the machined backing plate? Obviously, I don't want to cause any damage to the parts, but I also want to retain their original shape and style.
    Those people who have successfully put their clocks together have already accomplished this feat, can you share your experience here?
  • Laser cutting is not "the magic answer". It leaves a burnt edge with can be sanded off, but this takes time, patience and reduces the size of the component. You can of course live with the edge and possible stain the rest of the component to match. This off course applies to wood based materials, lasing acrylic of course leaves a nice polished edge, but acrylic can be susceptible to stress cracking.
    Don't forget lasers do not cut totally perpendicular, due to beam diffusion, focal length setting etc they produce an angled cut, and through holes can be a particular problem. But of course as a non contact cutting operation they do produce seperate discrete conponents.
    However, lasers are a great tool!

  • Thanks for your feedback, Darrell and Chris. It seems that it is not easy to separate the parts - and yet the the tabs are needed to hold the board together during machining.
    Its one of the features of Vectric software that these tabs are 'generated' during software creation as the drawing is interpreted.
    But as Darrell points out, the use of some 'peelable' adhesive could be another option: one that would impose machining restrictions of cutting feed rate, etc. If the wood were to move at all under machining loads, the loss of time, material, or worse, having an imperfect part would render the entire enterprise useless. If only wood were magnetic!
    So, there has to be a way of 1) removing the part from the board, and 2) cleaning up the daggy bits of woods left on the part.
    Would a needle file or small fret saw do the job? Allowing lots of time...?
    Thanks for your input Darrell and Chris - the spider climbing the wall would not last long in my house - even though virtual....

  • Hello Peter, it seems as if you have opened a can of worms with this discussion :-)

    Take a look at the Quartus-Making of video

    Which explains how to cut out the parts and also remove the tab rest from the part, as it says in the video it is important to cut the tab as far from the part as possible, and obviously you need a sharp knife.

    The tabs are very important , they hold the parts securely in the sheet during cutting, as the router cuts through the wood it pushes against the plywood in cut direction. If I were to use double sided tape it would have to be very strong to hold the pieces during routing, so that it would be very difficult to remove them after.

    As far as laser cutting is concerned, I think Chris has said it all.

    I test build all of my kits before I sell them, using exactly the same parts sheets, it allows me to control that all pieces are the correct dimensions and work in the clock. I use tabs on everything I router, and after a lot of clocks, I can honestly say I have not damaged a part by cutting the tab, and I also only use a sharp knife.

    I have sold literally hundreds of kits and when I do get feedback it has all been of a very positive nature. Darrell and his friend were the first to mention problems with the tabs, I take all comments and especially criticism very much to heart, and in consequence I have tweaked the tabs to reduce them to a bare size minimum, although I see this as improving and not correcting.

    I very much regret that Darrell had such problems with his Quartus, as the build should be as pleasurable as the finished clock.


  • Hi Folks...
    I have used the double sided tape method to hold parts down for routing, it does work if the tape is strong enough, but it can then be a bugger to remove the parts from the spoil board. I have broken parts doing this, and damaged parts by trying to slide a knife under the part to pursuade it off the tape.
    Also where the cutter cut though the tape it brings up a sticky reside and deposits this on the cut plywood edge surface. This can be tricky to fully remove.
    No one system is perfect, there are always compromises............

  • I found this was the most frustrating part of building the clock - getting the parts out of the sheet without damaging the parts - especially the gears. I think if I build another one, I will try drilling small diameter holes of of the surrounding material, rather than cutting through the tab directly, and instead file it down. It would have been easier if the tabs/spacing was larger - it would have been easier to breakthrough the wood without splintering. I found using just a 'sharp knife' to be really quite difficult to achieve.
  • pgh3: I found that getting a set of half-decent diamond edged needle files was a godsend in smoothing out and filing down the tabs left on the parts.
  • At one stage, I thought I would use a small cutter in a handheld motor driven device similar to a 'Dremel', but decided it would be too severe and I would not have the right amount of control to prevent ruining the part.
    So, I then decided to take my time with the diamond coated needle files (as said by Wembley, above) and enjoy the therapy that this construction would generate.
    From what David has shown in his videos, I can see that time, care and patience would head the list of requirements for putting these devices together.
  • The tabs have to be on the outside to hold the gear onto the sheet and the sheet is attached to the spoil board on the cnc table.
    There are ways around this, vacuum jigs and fixtures can be built, but they cost!
    Like everything, there is a compromise, cost, time and practicalities!
    With care these tabs can be cut, filed off and the gear wheels finished off correctly with experience and care.
    Must admitt my prefered method is double sided tape, but I have broken parts removing the components off the tape, and removing all tape residue off the gears and teeth does take time!

  • As others have said, having no tabs at all sounds like a rather challenging technical problem - personally, I'd have just been a lot happier if the tabs were considerably larger (in the direction away from the axis) on the gears - it would have given me room to get someting else in there - wire snips, for instance, would have probably done a better job than whittling away with the stanley knife.
  • The tabs do need to be on the outside of all parts, which of course also means placing tabs on teeth.
    A vacuum table is unfortunately not a viable option as the surface area of the parts is very small, which reduces the holding effect to such an extent that they they would move during routing, even under a very strong vacuum, and even the smallest amount of movement could render the part useless.
    It would be wrong of me to say that there is no alternative to tabs, but as far as I have researched they are either impractical or not commercially viable.
    Plus tabs allow me to produce whole sheets of parts which, in combination with the sheet maps, make identification of the needed part very easy, if the parts where just a bag of individual pieces then that would cause more problems than it would solve, as some of the parts vary only slightly.

  • Sounds like I was lucky. I read the instructions in typical (for me) style by looking for where the 'real stuff' started, so I completely missed the bit telling me to watch the videos - my fault and not the instructions. So I blindly took a Stanley knife to cut the pieces out. On one cog I got a bit close to a tooth and lost a bit of the outside ply so from that one on I kept as far away as I could. I then just used a small file to get rid of the excess.
    As I say, I may have been lucky in my 'ignorance is bliss' approach but other than the one close shave, I had no problem getting the bits out. It did take more than one sanding to get rid of the excess well enough not to cause friction.
  • I have gone away from double sided tape to a method as Darrell describes. However you can easily get double sided taped jobs apart if you nuke the sheet in the microwave until it gets hot. Not hot enough to burn your fingers but hot. The tape leaves a residue which is hard to remove and is not satisfactory for small pieces
  • What Petec writes is a typical experience, that with care and cutting away from the part, it is no problem to separate the pieces from the sheet.
    I can only repeat that I have a lot of very satisfied customers, and many who have bought several of my kits, and in all the years I have been offering my clocks, I have had no complaints about the tabs, neither have I had any requests for replacement parts, until now.
    It is true that the tabs must be carefully cut and the part sanded to remove the rest, but that is an integral part of building one of my kits, where would the sense of achievement be if it was only a case of tightening a few screws.
    I will continue to use tabs as they do their job, and I will not change a system that obviously works and presents little or no problems to all my other customers.

    Please note, I will be moving this discussion to the CNC part of the forum as it contains some good tips for CNCers who are cutting their first clock, and it no longer has any relevance to the discussion title.
  • @darrell: I have no affiliation to this site nor with Dave (only have bought a Sextus and I'm just starting its building). But I must say it hurts my eyes this kind of comments.

    I think that has been extensively explained the reasons of that construction system not only for Dave but for other users. I understand the reasons he does it that way even when I'm also having some difficult times getting a part some cogs of the kit, but its part of the trip mate. I think that if you want that easy live, you should go to the shop to buy a completed and beautiful wall clock, as the clock kits are not for you, I'm afraid.
  • it will hurt your pocket to when you got to send for more bits when you bust them getting them out . i thought this site was for helping to get over problems!!!!!!. I SOLVED THE PROBLEM. would you expect to cut the pieces out of any other flat pack kit you buy,no of course you wouldnt.some people are a glutton for punishment.
  • As a kid I expected to remove the parts for my Airfix kits and trim the stubs that were left. Don't see any fundamental difference here. I found it perfectly possible to remove the clock parts without breaking them.

    As for being a glutton for punishment, I would rather have done more of my clock for myself than have it handed to me on a plate, but I wasn't sure if I could even manage a kit never having done any woodwork. The fiddling is part of the enjoyment for me and in no way a punishment. Having to work a bit harder to get the clock working gives me a greater sense of satisfaction when it is still ticking when I come down in the morning.
  • For those of you who have been following this discussion, I would like to make clear that it was Darrell who removed his comments, which is just as well as his before last comment was very personally insulting.
    As you can imagine, that was not what I had in mind when I started this forum and in consequence I have banned him.
  • My sincere apologies, David for any upsets my question caused.
    Since I recently received my clock kit through the mail, I was excited about building this up and I wanted to know how to separate the parts; I thought asking others would be the best way for me and also to let others know as well.
    As you said above, with your video above, I had opened a can of worms.
    From all the comments, I have worked out a plan of action and will follow it through.
    As an aside, I intend to wear gloves whenever I handle the wood, since the oils from my fingers will leave marks on the wood, never to come out.

    Again, I'm sorry for opening a door for the negatives to come out - Your work and diligence is inspiring and I thank you for that.
  • Peter
    There is absolutely no need whatsoever for you to apologise, and at the end of the day you found an answer to your question :-)

    I may know a lot about wooden clocks, but I would be an idiot if I said I knew everything. And reading through the comments that have already been made throughout the forum, I have been able to answer some questions and also have learnt a thing or 2 that I did not know before.

    And that is what this forum is all about, a chance for all of us to learn something more about that slightly crazy hobby of building wooden clocks!

    So lets get back to it.

  • The method i use to remove tabs is a mod on a fret saw blade. I glue two coffee stirrer sticks to a blade with pva and clamp in vice overnight. Then glue two strips of fine wet and dry to the sticks. I find it perfect to remove tabs left after cutting with NEW stanley blade and will cut back at perfect 90 degree angle.
  • I cutted the tabs with a blade, with the cutting edge always directed outside the profile, than I used a half-round file to remove tabs.
    Beware the small cogs: a very small residual on a small cog can stop the clock, especially if it belongs to the end of the gear train.