The Mechanical Beauty of Gears in Motion - You don't need to be a gearhead to appreciate this

Pat Conkle's mechanisms in motion

Pat Conkle's mechanisms in motion

Pat Conkle was a retired machinist and he created this amazing display of gears, levers, cams and pistons in his shop while his wife, whose health was failing, sat nearby. They were able to spend this time together as he built some very impressive mechanisms that can be appreciated by anyone, though the more technically inclined you are, the more you'll see.

Pat Conkle's mechanisms in motion

Pat Conkle's mechanisms in motion

Watch the video below to see this display in action and pay attention because there's a lot going on. Toward the end of the video there's a pretty sweet part of this display with a series of cams that makes a fun series of sounds as it runs.

This display is now all together and running through the efforts of Pittsburg State’s Kansas Technology Center and Pitsco Education.

Every now and then I like to point out displays like this that demonstrate mechanical transmission of power and motion. The fact that he built this all himself makes it even better. Very neat.

via Make Magazine


  1. Old Guy says

    Forty five or so years ago when I was about 18, I completed a series of aptitude tests from a business machine company called Olivetti with the idea of becoming a repair man. The exams took, as I recall, about three or four hours and consisted of several hundred questions and drawings portraying mechanism’s similar as what Mr. Conkle has built shown here. Mr. Conkle is to be commended for creating and preserving what used to inhabit virtually every device or machine out there before the days of solid state and sealed throw away parts.

    These displays reminded me of what used to be and one of the reasons why I still have a lifelong passion for motorcycles, old cars and machinery, and enormous stationary engines. We actually had people who had to understand and be able to repair mechanical machines, concepts and skills slowly being replaced today. My generation had repairmen and mechanics with hammers, screwdrivers, and wrenches, not technicians with inductive current meters and laser probes. Components had bolts and screws, not rivets and epoxy glues. Motors had replaceable bearings and brushes, engines hyvo chains and steel backed babbitt. You had to understand the difference between four strokes and two, reed valves and poppits, overhead and push rod. I cannot say as to whether what we had then was any better or worse than what the manufacturers are offering today. But I can say that it was a h*ll of a lot more interesting (and fun) to work on than plugging in a computer and letting it do the diagnostics and instruct you which component to replace. When you grass roots build or repair something it leaves you with the feeling of mastery and accomplishment. Many of today’s devices needing repair just leave you and your wallet feeling empty as you just change out a portion without knowing what it does or how it does it. Will those clanking, rattling and vibrating assemblies of former years ever come back into use? Probably not, unless of course we have an E.M.P. in which case those individuals left might find use for them as transistors and circuits will be fried. Progress and change are inevitable.

    Did I get the job you might ask? Well, the examiner was impressed with my results and did offer me a position as an intern. I didn’t take it though. The salary was dismal so I followed my Father’s footsteps and became a welder/mechanic instead and I’m still fixing “stuff” today…..LOL. I have little to complain about though as each and every new project requires that I learn new skills, hone my existing ones and serves to remind me just how little I really know……….

  2. David Duarte says

    This makes me wonder if anyone has tried, in lieu of a chain or belt, a connecting/main rod from the front sprocket to the rear sprocket, like on a steam locomotive. I’m sure there’s probably a good reason why it’s never been put on a production motorcycle, but it would be neat to see someone try. I wish I had the time, equipment, and requisite machine shop skills to try it out myself.

    • GenWaylaid says

      Well, you’d have to put the final gear-down at the transmission output so both ends of the connecting rod rotated at the same rate. For balance, you’d need two connecting rods 180 degrees out of phase. Steam locomotives tended to “hammer” the track, something that would be quite unpleasant on a rubber-tired motorcycle. Finally, connecting rods probably weigh quite a bit more than a chain, as they also have to work in compression. Still, for a custom build there’s no reason why it couldn’t be done.

    • Bob says

      The rear wheel of the first production motorcycle ( Hildebrand & Wolfmüller ) was directly driven by connecting rods.

  3. Raymond Roberts says

    Suzuki 650 Burgman final drive is a gear drive from output shaft to rear wheel.