Simple Working Models Of Historic Machines

Simple Working Models Of Historic Machines

By Aubrey F. Burstall

Hardcover $10.00 T
Paperback $20.00 X £14.99





Designed for the mechanically curious and venturesome, this book presents descriptions and model plans for a great variety of ingenious tools, devices, and engines invented over a span of history ranging from prehistory and antiquity to the Renaissance and recent centuries.

The author writes that his book “is intended for all those who like to experiment and make things work, from the schoolboy upwards. It will help them to experience the pleasure and satisfaction of making things with their own hands.

“Simple instructions are given for making and putting to work models of scientific and historic significance, while suggesting their place in the advance of technical progress through the ages.”

Photographs of built models and drawings of historical examples animate the descriptions of some of the machines, while for each of the 35 machines a full-page scaled drawing of the model to be built is provided. Although fully adequate, these plans purposely do not specify dimensions and materials in such detail as to prelude inventiveness and machine-shop ingenuity on the part of the builder. The models are not meant to be exact, scaled duplicates of particular historical examples, but rather abstractions of their working essence.

In the process of learning from experience the techniques of good mechanical craftsmanship, the model builder principles of the science of mechanics. Because they embody these basic principles in the simplest ways, most of the mechanisms described in the book are still in use, either unchanged in primitive hands, or refined and incorporated into sophisticated devices.

The 35 machines are divided into six general groups: ancient machine tools, lifting devices, mechanisms, machines for pumping and water raising, blowing machines, and heat engines. Among the more famous of the machines are Leonardo's lathe, the screw generating device, the coin-in-the-slot machine, Foliot and verge escapement, the Archimedean snail, the Ctesibian pump. Hero whirling Aeolipile, and the Arabian grappling device.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262020527 80 pp. | 8.5 in x 11 in


$20.00 X | £14.99 ISBN: 9780262520362 80 pp. | 8.5 in x 11 in


  • This book will be a delight for anyone who is interested in the history of science and is mechincally curious. Isometric and a few oblique drawings are presented for working models of 35 machines.... The model maker is allowed sufficient leeway for his own improvisation.

    Library Journal

  • The pages present succinct descriptions, drawings and photographs of about three dozen marvelous gadgets from the heroic history of technology, all realized as working models. There is no attempt to follow scale, materials or finish in authentic detail; the aim is to abstract and exhibit the 'particular go' of each machine. Most of the devices are to be made at the woodworker's bench, with some sheet-metal, plastic, rope, or hardboard parts. A number call for machined metal gearing that is beyond amateur skills; one can criticize the absense of much effort here to help young people take advantage of the rich marketplace of manufactured parts in our technological era. The book is nonetheless a pleasure and a challenge. Who would not like to see working models of the device used to generate screw threads without copying any existing thread; of the Chinese spoon-tile hammer, an automatic water-power scheme still familiar in Japanese gardens, or of the Cornish man-engine, a vertical moving belt of miners, forerunner of the mine hoist?

    Scientific American