About this project
Way before there were plastic drawing toys like the Spirograph® there were wood and metal drawing machines. Some were elegant harmonographs from the 1880s. Others were simple wooden epicycloid toys like The Marvelous Wondergraph from 1906. While the harmonographs were infinitely adjustable, all the cycloid toys were simple and limited. We resolved to correct this oversight by the long gone inventors. Our Cycloid Drawing Machine has infinite adjustments to allow for a fulcrum that rotates and moves. Gone are the simple rotary drawings of old. The Cycloid Drawing Machine allows for massively complex artwork. By allowing the fulcrum point to move and having a huge number of interchangeable gears our drawing machine is more like an engine turning lathe.
Is it Math or is it Fun?
I think the answer is YES! Simple patterns are pretty easy math problems. If the turntable has 150 teeth and the drive gear has 50 teeth then you'll get a pattern that has 3 nodes. When you start adding gears and have the fulcrum positioned on another gear then the math gets kind of scary. Some of you can probably compute it easily but I prefer to think of it as 'fun'. I feel less encumbered by trying to figure out what kind of pattern it will make. Better to just turn the crank and see!
Here's an example showing the complexity of the pen motions:
Simple adjustments make Big Changes
This movie shows two different drawings. The outside drawing was done first. The inside drawing was made after the fulcrum on the side has been moved up.
Improvements over the last century
Looking back at the classic epicyclodic drawing toys we had a few goals when designing our new Cycloid Drawing Machine:
- Bigger drawings: 9-inches in diameter!
- Ability to move the fulcrum onto gears
- Portable and able to be stored easily
- Mixing and matching the gears to allow for infinite number of variations
Motors? Electrical Requirements?
No motors. No electricity. Just crank it by hand. There are lots and lots of gears. They are held in place by brass screws and brass knurled nuts. You operate the machine by cranking the gears.
Setup can be as easy as adding one gear and taping a piece of paper onto the turntable. No tools are needed to set this machine up. Every part is easily tightened by hand. By moving the fulcrum point--also a brass knurled nut--you will make radically different drawings. The penholder length can also be moved by changing a knurled brass nut. You can make a variety of beautiful drawings with just one gear. Different colored pens can be used and multiple drawings can be made on a single piece of paper for even more dramatic effects. (Three pens will be included in each set.)
An extensive instruction book will be provided but figuring it out for yourself is more than half the fun. The instructions will detail a few basic setups to get you started right away. More complicated setups will also be explained with easy to follow photographs.
What's in the box?
The basic Cycloid Drawing Machine package consists of:
- the base
- 2 geared turntables (120 and 150 teeth)
- 12 wooden gears (32, 34, 40, 50, 58, 60, 72, 74, 90, 94, 98, and 100 teeth)
- 3 connecting rods
- 2 extender rods to lengthen gear diameter
- newly designed maple penholder
- 50 sheets of round 9-inch diameter heavy paper
- 100 sheets of hexagonal test paper
- chipboard template of the hexagonal paper so you can cut your own from standard 8-1/2 x 11 copier paper
- 3 colored pens (black, red, and blue)
- roll of 3M Magic tape
- 4 fulcrum holders of varying heights
- brass screws and knurled nuts
The deluxe set adds a 144 tooth turntable and five additional gears (30, 36, 48, 66 and 80 teeth).
Lots and lots of very small parts!
Setup is very easy but please be aware that there are many small parts--we provide extra screws and knurled nuts--so this toy is not appropriate for children to play with on their own. It is best to work together and see what they'll come up with. After you are done playing, the Cycloid Drawing Machine can be disassembled in minutes and put back into the box for storage. It all lives in a 19 x 12 x 4" box.
Design and Materials
After a year of work and many prototypes we're finally able to say that we're done. We've revised our penholder design, added a mechanical bearing (skateboard) to the turntable for less friction and easier spinning, and added more gears to the mix. The Cycloid Drawing Machine is carefully crafted using laser cutters. All the production of the drawing machines will be done in-house. We will be doing all the gluing and assembly ourselves.
We will be using Appleply FSC plywood made here in Oregon for the base and the turntables. The rods and the penholder will be made from maple hardwood harvested and milled in Michigan. The gears will be made of basswood also from Michigan. The washers and bearings are walnut. All the hardware will be brass. Our goal is to build a toy that will provide tons of fun and last for years.
Risks and challenges
We've completed three successful Kickstarter projects. We have already finished the design of the Cycloid Drawing Machine. We will be laser cutting all the parts of this project in-house so we will not be at the mercy of any outside supplier. All our wood is produced in the U.S. so there will not be any difficulties in getting the material. The only part of the project that will be outsourced is the diecutting of the paper. This service is available from several local vendors and we do not anticipate any difficulty in selecting one.
We will limit the quantity so we will be able to handle the workload.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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