A Little Geneva Drive Made of Wood

MDF Geneva drive in action

Long ago, before servo motors and linear actuators were common, clever mechanical devices were what engineers used to produce the needed motion for their processes. The CNC-cut Geneva Drive may not be fit for industrial use, but this type of device has been used in everything from film projectors to rotating assembly tables. The constant rotation of the driving wheel is translated into intermittent motion by the [Maltese cross] driven wheel.

The drive and Maltese cross section of this particular drive are made out of MDF with the exception of a putty material that the motor shaft press-fits into. The article claims that this is the only Geneva drive in existence made out of MDF, however, we’d love to see that proven wrong in the comments!

If you’d like to make one of these yourself, CAD and G-code files are given for the hand-cranked version that this Drive is based off of in a separate post.  If you’re not familiar with how a drive like this works, or would just like to see everything in action, be sure to check out the video of it after the break!


  1. merriam webster says:

    ‘puddy’ –> putty?

  2. Alex says:

    Geneva drives are cool. I did a little searching and found this page, which shows 20 related devices: http://mechanicaldatahelp.blogspot.com/2011/02/20-geneva-mechanisms.html

  3. drew says:

    pointless yet still cool, nice

  4. Drew says:

    Oh, Geneva mechanisms are very cool if you like watches or automata.

    They mechanically translate rotary to intermittent motion, yes.

    Look up Geneva or Maltese stopwork for watch mainspring barrels. It was used by the swiss to stop their watch’s barrels from over unwinding past a certain point where the spring torque was too low to power the watch well. So they can be used as stop mechanisms too, with intermittent motion- just block one of the slots.

    Changing the size of the driving wheel with pin, or the number of slots on the Geneva/Maltese wheel gives interesting results.

    This is a very cool traditional mechanism, it’s been used by watchmakers, clockmakers, and automata makers for centuries. You can do a lot with it!

  5. Browse ALL the mechanisms! Seriously, it’s an amazing collection.

  6. Haku says:

    The video reminds me of this “gear porn”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mkQ2pXkYjRM

  7. tbjr6 says:

    In highschool someone made one of these in a 3D printer

  8. Big Dave says:

    I believe woodgears.ca has a few machines with similar drives. Mathias Wandel is very creative and I’ve seen his work featured here before.

  9. Malikaii says:

    “And for now reason at all, electroluminescent lights.”


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