Contrivance, a modular mechanism machine

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Project by Derek Hugger posted 12-29-2014 02:19 AM 4420 views 21 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Contrivance is a modular wooden mechanism machine with a virtually endless amount of configuration possibilities. This mechanical demonstrator is more than just gears; it has nine different mechanisms to mix, match, and move. It’s a do-it-yourself Rube Goldberg machine.

Contrivance began as a “what if.” The idea started several years ago when my friend Chris and I were looking through Henry T. Brown’s book, 507 Mechanical Movements. “What if someone made these just for fun, just to have a bunch of mechanical demonstrators?” we asked each other. “What if they could be designed to all work with a common interface? And, what if they could chain together Rube Goldberg style?” We both thought it would be fun if somebody made this toy-like device for grown-ups someday.

Fast forward to someday. After finishing my Merlot sculpture, I wanted to take a step back from designing larger, complex systems and focus on something smaller, something that didn’t take quite so much time and effort to engineer and build, something a little simpler, and something really fun. Thinking back to my conversation with Chris, I decided to build a DIY mechanism machine. Contrivance is a project that was enlightening to design, fun to build, and a blast to play with. Every time I walk up to it, I make something new.

Plans for Contrivance include detailed patterns and assembly instructions for:
1. Three different size spur gears
2. Elliptical gears
3. Kooky gears
4. Geneva wheel
5. Scotch yoke
6. Linkage
7. Ratchet
8. Hypocycloid Reducer
9. Tourbillon

A video of all the pieces working can be seen here:

Woodworking plans for Contrivance are available on my website:

A sample of the plans can be downloaded here: Contrivance Sample PDF

15 comments so far

View triviasteve's profile


198 posts in 1904 days

#1 posted 12-29-2014 03:31 AM

That is awesome. fantastic project there!

-- You know I'm on the level 'cause my bubble's in the middle.

View Rick S...'s profile

Rick S...

10913 posts in 3236 days

#2 posted 12-29-2014 04:34 AM

WHEW!! I Like That!

-- I Chose "The Road Less Travelled" Now I'm Totally Lost! (Ontario, CANADA)

View majuvla's profile


13386 posts in 3071 days

#3 posted 12-29-2014 07:23 AM

This is beyond any imagination. First of all I appretiate the effort made. This whole mechanism looks great.

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View Eli Adamit's profile

Eli Adamit

728 posts in 3493 days

#4 posted 12-29-2014 07:26 AM

Nice work.

-- Eli Adamit, Israel

View mmh's profile


3677 posts in 3926 days

#5 posted 12-29-2014 02:29 PM

VERY COOL! Can I drive?

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

View kaerlighedsbamsen's profile


1252 posts in 1917 days

#6 posted 12-29-2014 04:53 PM

Wow thats a great toy. Watched the video together with my son (8) and are not sure wich ofus that wanted to try the most..
Inspiring work. Thanks for sharing!

-- "Do or Do not. There is no try." - Yoda

View hotncold's profile


784 posts in 1748 days

#7 posted 12-29-2014 05:04 PM

Utterly AMAZING!

-- Dennie - Tennessee

View Julian's profile


1400 posts in 2894 days

#8 posted 12-29-2014 05:51 PM

You did a fantastic job.

-- Julian

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1238 posts in 2039 days

#9 posted 12-29-2014 09:15 PM

Phenomenal, I love your work. This is truly and inspiration to get me to try my hand at this type of thing.

-- Rob - Indianapolis IN - Learning... one mistake at a time...

View InsideTheBox's profile


119 posts in 1877 days

#10 posted 12-30-2014 01:21 AM

Dear Derek;
Can I come over to your house and play? Please?!?

-- There's no such thing as a mistake; only a quick change of plans.

View Mork's profile


298 posts in 2978 days

#11 posted 12-30-2014 12:33 PM

Fantastic adventure, thanks!

View exelectrician's profile


2328 posts in 2631 days

#12 posted 12-30-2014 08:03 PM

This tickled my imagination – Wow!!!

-- Love thy neighbour as thyself

View PhilosopherSteve's profile


43 posts in 4289 days

#13 posted 12-30-2014 08:49 PM

I totally love this. The work is just amazing. I wish I was playing with it. I’ve had some ideas like this in mind and I made a much (and I mean “much”) simpler version as a christmas present one year. I find the workings of such mechanisms totally fascinating and mesmerizing to watch.

View Derek Hugger's profile

Derek Hugger

41 posts in 2161 days

#14 posted 01-03-2015 07:26 PM

For anyone interested, I’ve documented the math governing the motion of some of the mechanisms. Free PDF documents are available on the Tools page of my website:

View Derek Hugger's profile

Derek Hugger

41 posts in 2161 days

#15 posted 01-14-2015 02:15 AM

A few people have been asking me for more videos. Here’s one that shows each mechanism being tested:

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