Laser Cut Wooden Chain and Sprocket

chain-a12The first version of the Colonel Rutherford model used a chain drive to transfer the drive from the motor to a gear rotating an airmail aeroplane above the model. I originally used a plastic snap-together chain that I bought from eBay. It worked well enough but some of the links were a little stiff giving the motion an uneasy, jerky look. Visuals are as important as how well the models work in these automata so I set about making an improved chain drive, this time using laser-cut wood. Here’s a rig showing the end result in action

chain-a01I cut out lots of little pieces on the laser cutter to construct the chain. For simplicity each link of the chain is constructed from four identical pieces.


Two of these pieces are glued together for each side of each link. A cocktail stick through the small holes is used to ensure everything is lined up properly then the pieces are clamped up and left to dry .

chain-a03Lots of links are needed!


The cross pieces of the chain are made from 10mm lengths of  9mm dowel. I drilled the dowel through the centre making a pilot hole for the screws. The screws are fitted using appropriate washers and tightened just enough so that the links are flexible.chain-a06

The sprockets are made from three layers of 3mm ply glued together.I sanded the side of the sprockets off to help guide them into the centre of the chain.chain-a07

Here’s one of the finished sprockets showing the tapered teeth.chain-a08

This version of the chain drive is a test bed to ensure that it works properly. I’ve mounted the two sprockets onto an MDF baseboard and added a handle. Looking good!chain-a09

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