Crazy Clocks
Written by Harry Fairhead   
Sunday, 10 March 2024

It's that time again when the clocks change and  time is of the essence and I indulge my interest in crazy clocks. I am always surprised that there are still new ideas for how to display the time - but there are and they never fail to delight. This time I have three marble operated clocks for you to consider.

My first clock is simple but no less clever for it. Take a wooden spiral and rotate it at just the right speed to allow a ball to move completely through it in 12 hours. Take a look at the video and the idea will be obvious:

The clever part is the way the time resets when the ball reaches the top of the spiral and rolls back to the bottom. The electronics are simple - an ESP32, a small stepper motor and driver. The only software problem is to get the ESP32 to step at just the right rate to complete a traverse of the spiral in 12 hours. The wooden parts were cut using a laser and even the spirals were scored so that they could be bent.


Our next clock can only be described as insane - in the nicest possible way. For one thing it is big. There is no way this is going to sit on a shelf. The next reason is that the construction is extravagant. Large marble tracks, lots of actuators and a lot of tuning to get it to work:

It still isn't finished and you need to call back to see the next part of the video to see if it can be made to work without glitches - this is what engineering is all about. I can't imagine having the time to devote to a project this large and its creator is very lucky to be able to have so much fun.

Our final clock is comparatively minimalist and it really should be called a ball bearing clock because the "marble" is metal. The idea is comparatively simple in conception. Take two spiral ramps and turn them with a motor so that the ball bearing moves up higher a the time ticks on. The ball also drags a metal time indicator up with it by magnetic attraction. When the top of the spiral is reached, the ball rolls back down and releases the time indicator:

For my tastes there isn't enough going on in this particular clock - the balls roll back down once an hour and twice a day. I think I would have liked more action but I can appreciate the tension as the moment to reset approaches.


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Last Updated ( Sunday, 10 March 2024 )