In this post, I will describe my plans for creating a wooden mechanical carousel. The purpose of this project is to create a fun and whimsical laser cut puzzle that also aims to be able to move through the use of cranks and gears.

My Vision

I plan to design and create a mechanical wooden puzzle that is intended to resemble a whimsical carousel. All of the pieces will be laser cut and pieced together in a way where they can be taken apart and put back together while still maintaining functionality. The dimensions of this project will most likely be under a 12″x12″x12″ in order to fit comfortably on a shelf or desk. I wanted to choose to make a carousel for this design because it already has that whimsical nostalgia to it as well as being a mechanical moving ride. I think this will integrate well with my chosen aesthetics.

Chosen Aesthetics

The aesthetics I am going for with this project are steampunk and whimsical. I love the cross between these two aesthetics because it brings this wonderful “emporium” type look to them, like being a kid in a toy store. With the use of the steampunk aesthetic, I plan to incorporate the industrial aspect of gears into the mechanical elements of the piece. I hope to expose some of the inner workings so it has that mechanical look to it. I want to incorporate a whimsical aesthetic in the majority of the outer design of the carousel. I plan to do this by adding lots of details like curves, swirls, and ornamental pieces. Carousels by nature are typically very whimsical as they are targeted towards children. I do not plan on coloring my carousel to match the brass and metal textures of steampunk because I would rather have the wooden look to it to match the wooden puzzle theme.

Inspirations and Resources

My inspirations for this project are of course my aesthetics, but also from seeing these kinds of puzzles in real life. I like how they offer a challenge in the building process as well as a great reward when built and functional. They are also great tools to teach basic mechanical movements. Some visual inspirations come from mechanical wooden puzzles I have found online. I have found a variety of different ones ranging from a variety of different themes. Another inspiration for me was The Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Savory Feast Kitchen at Universal Orlando. I went to this restaurant once as a kid and it is safe to say that my fascination for steampunk sparked here. Each and every element of this restaurant is on theme and includes the whimsy of chocolate and candy.

One of the resources I plan to use to understand how I want the mechanical parts to work is a website called 507 Mechanical Movements. It has a wide variety of mechanical movements ranging from pulley systems to a range of gears. I have used this website before to design gears and other movements in CAD programs. It is definitely a useful site to get some inspiration. I have also found a variety of YouTube videos showing how to make spur gears in Onshape.


So far, I have made preliminary drawings to get the idea of what I want my carousel to look like. These do not include a lot of detail or design specifications, they were designed to lay out the general shape of my carousel and some elements I wanted to include.

Right now what I am working on is the CAD design. I decided to use Onshape for this because I have used it before to design gears and I feel that the program it uses to make spur gears is fairly intuitive. The process I am working on is figuring out how I want the mechanical frame to work before I start building the outside decorative part. My goal is to make it so the user can interact with the carousel by turning a crank that turns the base and makes the horses go up and down. I am still working on researching how to design gears and get this function to work. In addition, I have started to look into what material I want to use for this project. I decided that I want to use a 1/8″ plywood because it is a great type of wood for laser cutting. I found a few online, however I still need to finish my design in order to figure out how much wood I need. I am also still deciding if I want to stain my wood or leave it with the laser cut look to it.


As of now, I have already started the design process. Below, I have listed out a detail description of my timeline and when I plan on completing each part.

March 13: Complete the Design preview and start the initial drawings and CAD drawings. Have a clear vision of the design as well as the aesthetic or aesthetics of choice. Finalize what material is going to be used for the project.

March 22: Finish the CAD design. Completely design the piece in CAD, assemble, and test the gears within the environment. Additionally, prototype the gears using 3D printing to ensure that when they are fabricated out of laser cut wood they will work together. Figure out how much material needs to be purchased and either purchase it online or in store.

April 10: Create initial prototype. First, laser cut the pieces for the mechanical parts and ensure that they work together. Next, start to laser cut the other parts. This step is to make sure that all of the pieces fit together and that they can be assembled like a puzzle and work functionally. If necessary, make adjustments to the design.

April 21: Finalize the design. Have a fully functional prototype and rendered CAD design. Make sure that all of the pieces work and that it functions as it should. If there is time and I decide this is the look I am going for, I will stain the wood.

Alternative Aesthetics

I discussed in a previous post about some alternative aesthetics. I thought the ideas of a brutalist or mid-century modern carousel would be interesting. Brutalist is so different from whimsical that it would create a very boring, concrete design removing the child-like wonder. Mid-century modern would be interesting. I previously mentioned how this idea reminded me of some of the rides in Walt Disney World such as Space Mountain. While both of these aesthetics are cool, I have chosen to stick with the one I previously chose.

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4 Comments. Leave new

  • Hi Katie! Thank you so much for this resource! I have been looking into gear resources as I have a little understanding but I still have a lot of learning to do.

  • Jadin Zaccagnino
    March 17, 2024 11:27 pm

    This is a really cool project! I like your concept of creating a whimsical carousel that moves using gears; this should end up being a sweet desk ornament/decorative piece. When it comes to making the gears, the website has a gear generating program that allows you to print templates; I hope you can find this useful for making your plywood planetary gearset. I’m also curious: would you consider making horses or other elements that move up and down, or side to side, using a cammed linkage system? Although challenging, that could make this even more like a carousel you’d see at a carnival.

    • Hi Jadin! Thank you so much for the resource I will definitely look into that. I do want to make some horses. I am not sure if I will have them go up and down yet but I would love to try!

  • Katie Schutt
    March 14, 2024 9:55 am

    Hi Sophia! This project seems like it is the perfect scale; great for learning something new but also able to result in a final product before the end of April! I am also undertaking some mechanism design for my project. I’ve been looking a lot at this YouTube channel: It is a man from Vietnam who has modeled over 1500 mechanisms or so, it was a resource in my Design for Manufacturability class. A lot of them are probably overly complex for both of our cases but there are some interesting examples that are helpful for inspiration!


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