NOW WHAT? Machine + Video

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Project by johnhutchinson posted 12-16-2013 01:37 PM 1047 views 1 time favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

The NOW WHAT? Machine is an experiment with a new kind of ball gear (to me, anyway) that I first noticed on the Matthias Wandel website. Someone was using it in a jig mechanism as an alternative to right-angle bevel gears. I used Matthias’s gear generator program to come up the general diameters, and then winged it from there. Here’s a link to the program …

For the small gear “teeth”, I used wooden beads from a local art supply store. I then used sections of 1/8” dowel through the prebored holes for attachment pins.

I thought the mockup would be the first in a series of trial-and-error experiments, but it worked perfectly right out of the gate. YES!!! And since it ain’t broke, I ain’t gonna fix it. :) 

I liked the rough model so much that I slapped some paint on it, mounted a question mark on the top, and dubbed it my NOW WHAT? Machine.

So now what? I’ll be using the mechanism for future tabletop whirligigs/automata. It’s just what I need for my Menacing Octopus.

And since I’m into making stop-action videos, I couldn’t resist.

-- John - Central Ohio - "too much is never enough"

8 comments so far

View Diwayne's profile


265 posts in 2109 days

#1 posted 12-16-2013 02:46 PM

Ive been wanting to do some of the automated designs Ive been seeing lately. this gives me a few ideas. nice project and good detail.

-- What one man can do, another man can also do.

View hoss12992's profile


3809 posts in 1312 days

#2 posted 12-16-2013 04:27 PM

This is really cool. Great job and thanks for the video, and sharing

-- The Old Rednek Workshop

View Rick M.'s profile (online now)

Rick M.

7696 posts in 1799 days

#3 posted 12-16-2013 06:05 PM

Does the ball gear have any advantages over cut teeth or dowels?


View johnhutchinson's profile


1171 posts in 1048 days

#4 posted 12-16-2013 06:47 PM

Rick—The ball gear is a lot more “forgiving” than a cut-tooth gear in this right-angle configuration. I was pretty sloppy in my first attempt, but it works like a champ. I found out by accident that only the bottom half of the balls want to engage the rounded-tooth spur gear, and then only the outside half of those teeth. In other words, you don’t want to bury the balls.

The other advantage is that they look cool and it’s something that no one has ever seen. :)

-- John - Central Ohio - "too much is never enough"

View Philip's profile


1275 posts in 1958 days

#5 posted 12-16-2013 09:36 PM

Fantastic project. Loved the video, I don’t think I’d have patience to do a stop action video. Hat’s off for that!

-- I never finish anyth

View johnhutchinson's profile


1171 posts in 1048 days

#6 posted 12-16-2013 10:05 PM

Thanks, Philip. Making the video was really no biggie. I set the machine up on my kitchen countertop, took a series of 16 photos, and then looped and reversed them in Windows Live Movie Maker. If you have a PC, the same software probably resides in your computer.

-- John - Central Ohio - "too much is never enough"

View hunter71's profile


2695 posts in 2606 days

#7 posted 12-17-2013 11:17 AM

Pretty cool John. What for?

-- A childs smile is payment enough.

View johnhutchinson's profile


1171 posts in 1048 days

#8 posted 12-17-2013 02:59 PM

Excellent question, Hunter! The best answer I can think of is … “What would you use it for?” It’s been a big hit with my grandson because he’s had the opportunity to suggest ten different uses. And when he leaves, I ask him to think of ten more and make a list.

Here’s one that I came up with for a tabletop whirligig. After removing the question mark, I can put another big gear at the top with four smaller gears at the corners. A circus master revolves on the center platform with four circus animals spinning around him.

As Diwayne said in the first comment … “I”ve been wanting to do some of the automated designs I’ve been seeing lately. This gives me a few ideas.”

-- John - Central Ohio - "too much is never enough"

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