Category Archives: cereal box clock

Gears and Gravity, Day 1: Best Scissors for Cardboard


The first task we tackled in class was to determine which which set of shears worked best for each student to cut double-thick cereal box chipboard. To my delight nearly everyone had strong opinions about the best and worst. I’m so glad I did this as most of the class prefers a pair that I don’t really like and they hate my favorite.

However, I was not surprised to hear their disdain for the #1 pair pictured above. These are your basic cheap-o-always-on-sale craft scissors and they are generally awful for anything other than opening bags of chips.

#2 are an older version of the Fiskars 9911 “Softouch Multi-Purpose” scissors. Even after years of use in my studio these were still a strong favorite.

Though the #3 Fiskars 12-9936 work great for certain things (Lexan for example) I think the blades are just too short to be efficient for the task of cutting cardboard.

I really like the #4 Fiskars 12-7927 “Titanium Nitride Ultimate Craft” scissors. Like the #2 and #3 thease are a “Softouch” spring return set of shears. They feel good in my larger than average hands so I was concerned that they would be too big for the students but they seem to love them.

I thought that they would also love #5, the Fiskars “Premier Quick-Release Multi-Snip” but for reasons I still don’t understand, they hated them. I’m going to leave them around the class room and see if I can catch anyone using them. They are a little smaller than #4 and seem to have a little bit better leverage due to curved blades. Perhaps this curvature is what they don’t like.

#6 was also initially panned by my young reviewers. These very thin blades tend to flex considerably when cutting thick material but they do work well for trimming little bits of the edges. #8 is basically the same set of blades molded into “Softouch” handles.

The #7 Clauss blunt-tip 6″ trimmer was by far the favorite. They are wicked sharp but also fit smaller hands the best. They are a bit strange in that they have very coarse serration close to the pivot which can leave a ragged edge on one side of the cut but most of the students don’t find it comfortable to open the shears that far so it hasn’t been a problem. I ordered two more pair for the class. As for myself, these shears don’t fit my hand very well and I prefer the spring-opening action of the rest.

Items #2-4,6,8 can be purchased at (excellent prices and service).

Items #5 and #7 are from McMaster-Carr (items 3512A21 and 3610A12 respectively).

I found item #1 in the bottom of a forgotten box of glitter and pipe cleaners. A few days into the class the handles broke and we threw them away.

Cereal Box Clock: Working Prototype

I’ve spent perhaps 150 hours working on this in CAD and less than 30 in the studio prototyping. Once all the patterns are printed and stuck to the double thick cereal boxes I think my students will have a shot at building their own in 12 hours of class time.

Materials include cereal box chip board, corrugated cardboard, wood dowel, hand-rolled paper tubes, recycled #1 plastic sheet, and brass grommets. Hot glue and quick set white glue are used for bonding as well as spray adhesive to mount the patterns. Tools include scissors, utility shears, snap blades, flush trim side cutters, sand paper, and a pull saw to cut dowels and paper tube. Class begins on Monday.

Cereal Box Clock

I finally have a complete design. There has been a lot of back and fourth between CAD and studio: design an element, build a prototype, redesign, tinker, second prototype, sketch, think about it for a while, third prototype. So even though I have yet to build a complete clock I do have some confidence that it will work.

But first a vacation back to the Fatherland to celebrate my Dad’s 70th Birthday!





Wire and Cardboard Escapement Mechanism


Moments after I took this video the escapement stopped. Then I made “improvements” which made it worse. Likely the whole thing needs to be scrapped but it only took me 30 minutes to make so no big deal. You can’t get too precious with cardboard.

Super Simple Gear Geometry

This June I’ll be teaching a summer camp class to 4th and 5th graders titled “Gears and Gravity.” In my proposal I claimed, “We will explore the history and science of time keeping (horology) by hands on experimentation with simple machines and then construct our own real working mechanical clocks from paper and wood.” Now I have to design said clock.

My first challenge is to design a gear train (“going train” in horology parlance) with the simplest possible tooth profile that is easy to cut out and error tolerant.

Did I mention that my class budget is $125?