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Make: Like The Pioneers by The Editors of Make:

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Chapter 12. Da Vinci Reciprocating Mechanism

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Figure 12-1. Recreate Renaissance tech to convert rotation into a square wave.

By Alan Federman

Last year I was blown away by the clever mechanisms displayed in the Leonardo da Vinci exhibit at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose. I was especially taken by da Vinci’s simple mechanism for powering a sawmill with a water wheel. I made my own tabletop model of the mechanism, and it never fails to gather a crowd when I show it off.

The typical mechanism for converting between rotation and reciprocal motion is a flywheel and a crankshaft, like on a steam locomotive. But da Vinci’s simple device starts ...

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