Gear Box

Gear Box

Material: Mahogany, Ebony, Pink Ivory, Cherry with Copper Leaf
Size: 3 1/2" Diameter, 4 1/2" Height
Completed: Spring 2010
Price: n/a
Owner: collection of Harvey Fein

A locking mechanical box with a unique opening mechanism made entirely of wood with the exception of the magnets use for the locking. There are 44 distinct wooden parts in the construction of this box.

This one has been in under development for a while, when I created “Safe Box” I was disappointed that the combination lock was actually just a single position latch. I have been trying to design an actual lock using the same magnet based concept as in “Safe Box”. This is the result. I can thank Keith Tompkins for putting the idea of a planetary gear set in my mind 3 or 4 years ago when I first showed him “Safe Box”.

The locking mechanism consists of a planetary gear set where each of the planet gears remain locked in place until the correct combination is set, one digit for each gear. Once the combination has been dialed in, the planet gears can rotate freely. At that point, the box is opened by spinning center handle which is attached to the sun gear, this action causes the threaded lid which caries the sun and planet gears to slowly unscrew. The ring gear is attached to the box. The picture to the right shows the lid about halfway unscrewed.

Every box should have some intrigue or mystery – I made the hole for the handle just large enough to give one a tease as to what’s inside. You can just see part of the gears and knobs, the indicator plate has copper leaf applied to provide a little sparkle when glimpsed through the cover.

Mahogany will darken considerably over time, for this reason I chose to detail the outside of the box in copper leaf. I am quite fond of patterns that appear to be woven or knotted. I used an Islamic knot pattern on “Safe Box” and I wanted to carry that idea forward with this box – the lid pattern is derived from another Islamic style knot. For the sides of the box I chose a Japanese pattern that I was particularly attracted to. I liked the way the outline forms ‘Y’s that appear to be woven and the way the increased density of the small triangles creates a contrast that almost makes it appear as if the wood in the triangles is lighter.

I suspect that there were other subconscious right brain reasons for choosing this pattern. When I got to the point of making the handle and adding the indicator, I realized that the exterior pattern can also be seen as a reference to the three dials, particularly the view through the cover where you can only see a small sector of each. The dial indicator plate is also represented in the exterior pattern. At this point I decided to carry this theme just a little bit farther by adding the pink ivory detail to the handle – it has the same “Y” shape of the exterior. I would love to claim that this was all the result of careful planing but it is more a matter of being present during the process of creating.