Sunday, August 2, 2015


I've started a new project this weekend.  Okay, I'll admit reality I've been working on this one for several years, collecting the pieces and materials.  But I finally started construction on my own brass and silver Orrery, and I have to admit I'm pretty excited about that!

What is an Orrery?  It's a model of the Solar System--the Sun and planets--that uses clockwork-type gearing to simulate the relative orbital motions of the major bodies around the Sun.  They've been around for centuries (more on their history in a later post) and vary in complexity and accuracy, but they all function by displaying the Solar System in a mechanistic manner, miniature planets swinging around a tiny Sun.

Naturally, I am fascinated by such simulacra; I can remember that the first time I ever saw one (long ago at a planetarium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana) I stood rooted in front of the display for many minutes, absorbed in the motions of ball bearing-sized terrestrial worlds and marble-sized gas and ice giants.  I remember thinking then that I would someday have such a machine of my own.

And now I do.  Or, I should say, I shall, once I finish construction of the brass-and-silver beauty before me!  I've waited forty years, so I plan to take my time on this project, and enjoy...

My Orrery kit is from Britain, where it was sold about six years ago as a "part-work".  These are hobby kits published as part of a magazine (either via the news-agent or subscription), with a different part or group of them released each week during the year-long run of the magazine, for a total of fifty-two issues.

This publication, called "Build A Model Solar System", completed its run quite a few years back.  The guiding principle of part-works magazines is to draw in subscribers or weekly purchasers by insisting that it would be impossible to acquire the magazines or parts if you missed an issue, and unfortunately they are pretty solid on this policy.  So solid, in fact, that when I heard of this project it was far too late to jump on-board!

So...for the past six years I've been haunting EBay and other online emporia, scooping-up the part units and magazines when I can get them.  Yes, a part-work that released the components for this Orrery over one year has taken better than half-a decade to catch up with, but a few weeks back I secured the final, missing piece to this rather complicated puzzle and, as mentioned above, the fun part--building it!--has begun.

I've completed the first two steps for construction of my Orrery, so as of now it looks rather naked.  In fact, in my photo you can see the Sun (big brass ball) and two inner planets, Mercury and Venus.

Here is a link to the promotional video for the original part-work, just to give you an idea of what we're aiming for, here!

Model Solar System TV Ad Video

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