Retrotechtacular: The differential

retrotechtacular-how-a-differential-works

Any video that starts off with two minutes of motorcycle formation riding has got to be good. If the grainy black and white video didn’t tip you off that this was made in a different time the helmetless riders standing on the seats of moving motorcycles certainly would have. But there is a purpose to this exposition. A single line of motorcycles riding shoulder to shoulder as they go around a curve illustrates why a differential is necessary and soon after you’ll find out how one works.

Two wheels mounted on one axle need to turn at different speeds as a vehicle goes around a corner or one of the wheels must slip to accommodate the speed difference. The differential is necessary to allow for these different turning rates while still letting both wheels connect to the power train. We were surprised to learn from the video after the break that early automobiles got around this issues by powering only one of the four wheels.

This instructional video is a prefect compliment to the fluid coupling video we saw in the last installment of Retrotechtacular.

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Wooden machine belongs in Willy Wonka’s factory

Behold the wooden machine (translated) that is used for… well it does… it was built because… Okay, this is a case where asking what it does or why it was built is the wrong question. [Erich Schatt] began building the piece that he calls “Wheels” back in 1995. It took just seven years to complete, and is made entirely of wood. The video after the break shows a multitude of moving parts.

The chains were modeled after bicycle chains, which are used to transfer motion from the “rider” throughout the machine. The gearing for each segment was meticulously calculated, then perfected through trial and error. The complexity even calls for a differential and universal joints. It’s mesmerizing to watch and for that reason it’s made appearances at conventions and been featured in art exhibitions.

It’s also worth mentioning that this comes from a very humble-looking shop. [Erich] posted some pictures of his studio and aside from the abundance of bar clamps, it’s just your average garage or basement setup.

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