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home : education : schools September 20, 2017

8/15/2017 1:45:00 PM
Sisters craftsmen build solar system masterpieces
Ed Beacham, right, and Gary Lovegren have made intricate and exquisite models of the solar system, known as orreries. photo by Erin Borla
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Ed Beacham, right, and Gary Lovegren have made intricate and exquisite models of the solar system, known as orreries. photo by Erin Borla

By Erin Borla

For the past seven months Ed Beacham and his long-time friend Gary Lovegren have been steadily working on a project to commemorate the upcoming solar eclipse. Beacham, using his skills as a master clockmaker, worked alongside his friend of over 35 years as the two developed their own orreries.

These complex structures, first produced in 1704, are mechanical models of the solar system used to illustrate or predict the motions of the planets and moons. Each serves as a complex type of planetarium, which represents the solar system, planetary alignment and Zodiac on any given day and year.

"They can be used as a scientific instrument to go back in time when there was some kind of seismic event that impacted the Earth," Beacham said.

Over the past several months the team of two have created 12 units - each designed as a coffee table. Both Beacham and Lovegren designed, engineered and created each of the 5,000 unique handmade gears and levers as well as models of planets and their moons for each of the 12 tables. Working on a platform similar to the workings of a clock - each unit uses articulated motion to represent the moons surrounding Earth, Mars and Jupiter.

Each planet and its accompanying moons are hand-painted by Lovegren's daughter Rachel Feriend using NASA photographs as guides. All 12 of the units have the ability to be hand-cranked to a specific day, month and year which will then represent the zodiac and planetary alignment of that date. The duo tried to make each orrery with as close a ratio as possible although due to size and weight on the gears they are only aligned to Saturn.

"These are representations of the solar system as Galileo would have understood it," said Beacham.

Beacham, known for his unique clockmaking at Beacham's Clock Company on Hood Avenue in Sisters, has been making clocks for over 50 years. He made his first in his high school woodshop. He is one of very few "complete master clockmakers" that can design and build an entire product.

When asked what his favorite part of this unique project was, Beacham simply said: "Working with Gary - he has good energy and he learns fast."

"I loved learning how to run the mills and the lathes," said Lovegren. "Writing the programs for making each gear - I've been a mechanic, so working with gears is nothing new; creating them was new.

"I love it here," he said. "I hope to make a clock next."

All of the original 12 orreries are already sold, but they still remain at Beacham's Clock Company as the duo finishes them. The public is welcome to stop in and view the work at any time when the shop is open. They will take orders for additional pieces.

Beacham's Clock Company is located at 300 W. Hood Ave.

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