back to article The Register speaks to one of the designers behind the latest Lego Ideas marvel: A clockwork solar system

A clockwork model of the solar system has turned up in Lego Ideas*, combining some impressive Technic work with artistic whimsy. The model, by Chris Orchard and Brent Waller, is the result of 15 months of effort and shows the eight planets (sorry Pluto) in a roughly relative size. My latest LEGO Ideas project, a Clockwork …

  1. jake Silver badge

    I'll take two, please.

    One for me, one for my Granddaughter.

  2. imanidiot Silver badge

    Impressive. Not sure I'll be able to spare the cash for it. A set that big is likely to run a few hundred Euros/Pounds and I'm not currently convinced I like it that much. Bet let's see what comes out of it and whether it even gets approved (few do unfortunately).

  3. TWB


    With the rather limited range of 8, 12, 16, 20, 24, 40 teeth cogs* I wonder how they make the more 'complex' ratios that the solar system throws up.

    I hope they don't rely on Lego having to produce some more 'specialist' pieces - the range is too wide now for this old duffer... less is more!

    *Maybe there are more these days and I did not include the worm gears.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Intrigued

      Proof that not only is the Earth flat, it has 4 round mountains with Lego printed on them

  4. CrackedNoggin Bronze badge

    The Antikythera mechanism! But can it predict eclipses?

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      The video or mock up doesn't show the moon and I suspect that without this predicting solar eclipses (moon in between Earth and the Sun) just won't happen.

      Sadly I suspect the lack of the moon will be a major downside in this design - not that I could see how it could easily be done in Lego at that scale.

      1. W.S.Gosset

        The Transit of Venus, on the other hand, is a veritable piece of piss. Merely lean on the fast-forward button.

        If only Captain Cook had had this. He could have avoided all that messy sailing. Just stayed at home and played with Lego. "What are you doing, James T.?" "SCIENCE!!"

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          > The Transit of Venus, on the other hand, is a veritable piece of piss. Merely lean on the fast-forward button.

          The planets all appear to be on a single plane (i.e. no orbital inclination) so transits of Venus will be unrealistically frequent. Also the planet sizes and relative distances aren't to scale. :-)

          1. Dr Paul Taylor

            More to the point, the orbital distances are way of scale. Necessarily.

            The purpose of the measurement of the timing of the transit of Venus in Capt Cook's time was to discover the absolute scale of the Solar System.

            (How Johannes Kepler knew the distance for one of his laws, I have no idea,)

      2. TeeCee Gold badge

        Yup, I reckon that in Lego Technics, the concentric drive sleeves on the planetary arms for satellites moves from the "too hard" pile to the "bloody impossible" one.

    2. jake Silver badge

      "But can it predict eclipses?"

      No. It's more a toy than a tool ... but it'll sure be a useful visual aid when teaching concepts.

      And it'll look cool on a shelf here in the office (real reason I want one).

      1. W.S.Gosset

        On a shelf? Fie on you, sir! For shame! You're a grown man!

        On your DESK.

        1. jake Silver badge


          There might be a desk under this pile of .... stuff. Yeah, stuff. That's it.

          If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, what is the significance of an empty desk?

        2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

          Sir! Clearly you are a cad and a bounder with questionable taste. It should be on your drinks cabinet in your drawing room.

          Or for some of use, in the crayoning room.

          1. jake Silver badge

            But the drinks cabinet is up here in the office ... which is also the drawing room, seeing as it's where I keep the aging, yet serviceable, Win2K box that runs AutoCAD2K ...

            It's also our withdrawing room ... nobody's allowed up here but immediate family.

    3. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

      Difference engine.

  5. W.S.Gosset


    My home town! Woo!

    1. W.S.Gosset

      Brisbane, Australia

      I would assume and hope, therefore, that close examination of the planets in this Absolute Awesomeness will reveal that they are all upsidedown.

      1. phuzz Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Brisbane, Australia

        close examination [...] will reveal that they are all upsidedown

        That's SNOT!

        (A Lego building technique for hiding the studs, abbreviated from Studs Not On Top).

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Brisbane, Australia

        An elderly friend from NZ has lived in the UK since his university days. The Earth globe in his house is mounted upside down.

    2. Scott 26

      Re: BrisBricks

      One holiday in your fine city, we (BIL, SIL, myself) took my nephew to a BrisBricks Expo.... of course taking the nephew was just the excuse 3 grown men needed to wander around in amazement.... ;)

      1. Andy 68

        Re: BrisBricks

        Your brother-in-law, your sister-in-law and you.... three grown men.

        Apart from the fact that this sounds like one of those "My brother's father is my aunt's cousin" puzzles, there is a whole host of stories underneath those few words....

    3. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: BrisBricks

      Shame, I'd hoped BrisBricks was a group for Lego loving mohelim.

  6. Luiz Abdala

    Take My Money.

    That would turn into the nicest night lamp ever.

    For kids. Of course.

  7. Neil Barnes Silver badge


    Just the thing for retrograde summer!

  8. Just Enough


    It's rubbish. Totally not to scale. The arms for the outer planets should be several hundred metres long and the sun should be a giant beachball.

    I want My nephew wants one.

  9. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker

    A suggestion to LEGO: sell 2 models

    One provided with the motor as designed and a second re-worked with a hand crank.

    The hand crank may require more parts but is likely to be the cheaper set. (That's the one I'd want.)

  10. Chris Gray 1
    Thumb Up


    I just went and supported this. I don't buy many Lego sets anymore, but this one is a must.

    I see comments here that range from "Lego will make more specialty pieces" to "It's not accurate enough" (paraphrased). Well, given that the pair built an actual version, clearly it can be done with the current range of Lego pieces.

    I would guess that to do this properly, Lego would have to produce the balls for the planets and the sun with painted-on detailing. You can't do that with decals. If they have to do that anyway, they *might* introduce a new ball size, but that would involve creating a new mold, and they likely wouldn't do that unless other upcoming sets could make use of similar pieces.

    I wonder what the gear count is - looks pretty high, from the video.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Supported

      "Lego would have to produce the balls for the planets and the sun with painted-on detailing. You can't do that with decals."

      You can, however, mass produce them with a printer.

      1. PerlyKing

        Re: Detailing

        Either way, hopefully (?) they'll re-attach California to North America :-)

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Detailing

          Sadly, contrary to popular opinion, we're not unattached to the rest of North America. Some might say we're somewhat disconnected, though.

          That's OK, they'll catch up with us eventually. They always do.

  11. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge


    Do they give optional instructions to add Pluto?

    1. AndrueC Silver badge

      Re: Pluto

      That'll be in the Kuiper belt expansion pack.

      All being well there Oort to be a third expansion pack as well :D

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Pluto

        @AndrueC You are not a very nice person!

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Pluto

        It's gonna be expensive as it is, so brace yourself for the belt add-ons!

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Pluto

          That'll be a pain in the asteroids.

          1. AndrueC Silver badge

            Re: Pluto

            I get the feeling that we're all going round in circles here.

  12. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    Now then, who is up for a Meccano version?

    1. jake Silver badge

      Pretty much the entirety of ElReg's commentards would be my guess.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      My No2 Meccano set in a large wooden chest had a beautiful set of brass gears. My father bought it at an auction room in the 1950s. Wish I still had it. The price of the individual gears on ebay now makes me shudder.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      A range of options here

      Plans only (so you will have to dig your old sets out of the loft), and the shop is currently down for a bit. At least that will give you time to decide which one to build first.

  13. Kane

    The instructions for Ecto-1 can be found on Waller's site... well as a store selling a variety of Minifigs.

    Currently the only Minifig on offer there is the Exterminator 800, which, whilst impressive does not constitute "variety".

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Seems to me that Arduino (YMMV) controlled stepping motors could solve some of the gearing problems. The internal stepping motion usually goes through a reduction drive.

  15. marceluitNL

    It has been done an odd 250 years ago.

    Whithout lego!

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