I had great fun designing and building this gearboard for a four-year-old who has become intensely interested in how things work and in carefully fitting Legos together.

It’s made of 3mm Baltic birch plywood. The board is two layers thick in the middle and a third layer forms the boarder. It’s 445mm wide by 355 mm high, about 17.5" x 14". As you can see, I’ve made the board from pieces that fit together like puzzle pieces and have alternated the direction of the grain checkerboard style. The border is pinned to the rest of the board using bits of 3mm dowel, just because.

The gears are also two layers thick. They’re fitted with 5mm Delrin rods for axles in the center and “skid pads” near their circumferences so that they turn smoothly and easily. They’re colored on the top surfaces using alcohol ink, and all the surfaces were then sealed with clear lacquer. In person, they – and the board itself – are quite chatoyant due to the grain in the wood and the lacquer.

I hope the recipient learns as much from playing with it as I did working on it!


That’s super cool!


Very fun project. I would love to give it a whirl.


That is awesome! I am all about starting to get kids interested in science young!!


What a great project! Not only as a learning toy, but also as a work of art. Well done!


Looks great!

Now you just need to add some non-circular gears (like some of the ones here:

I tried before to make some by hand in Inkscape. It’s very difficult. You pretty much need a program to make non-circular gears.


aw that is so cool. I would love playing with that as a grown up!


Wow! That Ralph Steiner video is amazing… (link

Rec’d for the word “chatoyant”. I love wood that exhibits this light-play.

Hmmm. I don’t want to overload the the recipient. She’ll be doing pretty well if she can figure out circular gears with weird gear ratios! (The ratios here are 6:11 between the small ones and the big ones – necessary to get them to fit together on the diagonals.)

But in a different context, non-circular gears sound like fun. I particularly liked the “alien” gears. And, yes, I agree, using a program is essential. Just getting the circular gears with involute curves on the teeth requires a program.

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Next step - spirograph!


Cool project … nice to make something tactile for learning.

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