November 2012 Project - Mechanical Eclipse for Travelers
Prototypes #1 - #4
Patent pending
For more information, or to say hello, you can leave a comment on the blog, or send email to eclipse@machinelevel.com.

This compact machine was designed and built specifically for travelers going to observe the November 14, 2012 total eclipse in Australia and New Zealand.

There are clock hands inside the machine, and a map etched into the surface with coordinates of a specific time and place. One machine is set for Port Douglas, Australia. The other three machines are set for a location in the ocean North of New Zealand. The times are set to reflect the event time in each location.

When held up to the light, the eclipse in the center matches the view of the sun as seen from a traveler standing at exactly that time and place.

The machine works by using two sets of planetary gears, in order to keep the center unobstructed for the eclipse display. The first provides a conversion from the moon's travel across the sun to the fast-moving minute hand, which must spin through about 2.5 rotations during the event (total eclipses last about two and a half hours). The minute hand is attached to the central gear of this planetary set.

The second set of planetary gears conveys the rotation of the minute hand to the hour hand, stepping it down by a factor of twelve. The hour hand is attached to the triangular planet carrier of this set of gears.

The outer rings of both planetary systems are used to set the event time for the given location, and are fixed in place when the machine is built. A more complex version of this machine can display multiple eclipses, either full or partial.

Design of the machine was done using notebook, a great deal of coffee, and custom gear-machine-design software.

Previous Projects

Ariadne's Thread - A 3D Printed padlock, made of steel and gold

Mechanical Biorhythm


We build custom mechanical devices in our secret workshop in San Francisco.

All of our workshop furniture and serious lab equipment was built by BecauseWeCan, because they could.
Some parts for our machines are built using laser cutters at TechShop, and also 3D printers at Shapeways and Ponoko.
We're also often inspired and motivated by the folks at Instructables.

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