Posts Tagged ‘making things move’

Train Coupler by h-kimura

Train Coupler by h-kimura

As a child bristling with curiosity about everything around me, I asked more than my share of questions. I suspect I drove my parents, teachers, librarians, and every other at-hand adult nearly to the limits of their patience. “What’s that?”  “Where does that come from?” “How does that work?” “How can I do that?”

A beloved important early reference for me was David Macaulay‘s The Way Things Work, a far more practical codex for my research than any of my grade school teachers. Macaulay’s book was my mechanical World Tour1 guiding me from the simplest practical machines through to complex electronic devices.

There were just so many machines in the world — and learning how they worked, how their parts fit together, didn’t diminish their magic but rather enlarged it. Sure, I dismantled my share of toys and appliances beyond my ability to repair them, but I learned enough to use the automation functions on the VCR, and repair any mechanical clock I encountered.2

Thingiverse Teaches Us How Things Work

It has occurred to me lately that Thingiverse is staged to be the The Way Things Work for the latest generation of the curious and tinker-inclined. Not replacing resources like Macaulay’s book, but expanding from the printed word and 2D diagrams into tangible, real-world objects.

I have been extremely grateful to members of the Thingiverse community such as h-kimura who invite us into their own investigations of the world around them by recreating interesting machines, parts, devices, and structures as models that we can then print out on our MakerBots. A month ago, h-kimura shared Mysterious wood joint that he described as a “type of joint used in a gate of OOSAKA castle in Japan.” This is a level of detail I probably wouldn’t have picked up from a photograph of the castle, much less a hurried tour. His latest model works out how train couplers function on Japanese passenger trains. Checking out his site3 I was thrilled to see even more investigations and recreated machines.

Lately, I’m very much the same curious kid again from my youth, learning about gear mechanics from syvwlchSkimbal, and stickoutrock, learning about math and geometry from George Hart, and learning a little bit about designing and distributing something called a “3D printer” from from my bosses and colleagues at MakerBot.

Error - could not find Thing 8409.
Error - could not find Thing 7387.

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  1. An experience I had again recently reading Dustyn Roberts’ excellent Making Things Move. []
  2. It might be more correct to say that I got them ticking again. []
  3. in Japanese — so I used Google Translate to investigate []
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Posted by on Monday, April 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

Make Your Own Gears by Dustyn Roberts

Make Your Own Gears by Dustyn Roberts

I don’t know about you, but I am continually envious of the really excellent designs up on Thingiverse that make use of gears.  Greg Frost, Emmett, and Whosawhatsis have been rocking Thingiverse lately with their incredible designs incorporating gears.  But, what’s a simple blogger with zero gear-knowledge supposed to do?

Well, Chris Connors, teacher and Maker-extraordinaire, recently posted about gears, motors, and attachments thereto over at Make: Online!.  His post referenced a gear tutorial by Dustyn Roberts, author of Making Things Move, all about gears.1

I learned more about gears in Dustyn’s first paragraph than I did after hours of trying to design my own gears from scratch.

One nice thing about gears is that if you know any two things about them – let’s say outer diameter and number of teeth — you can use some simple equations to find everything else you need to know, including the correct center distance between them. In this project, we’ll design and fabricate spur gears using free software (Inkscape) and an online store ( that does custom laser cutting at affordable prices out of a variety of materials. If you have access to a laser cutter at a local school or hackerspace, even better! You can also print out the template and fix it to cardboard or wood to cut the gears by hand.

Dustyn’s tutorial style to explaining gear mechanism is very nuts-and-bolts2 with lots of pictures, diagrams, and charts. 3 4

  1. Also, both were speakers at Botacon!!! []
  2. Pardon the pun []
  3. I think I hear some skittering spiders in our future… []
  4. Please don’t click that link. []
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