Interesting Facts About a Wheel & Axle

Written by daniel zimmermann
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Interesting Facts About a Wheel & Axle
Wheels have various shapes and sizes. (roues dentées image by rachid amrous-spleen from

The wheel and axle system operates on an interesting principle. It has many applications and a long history.

The Principle

A wheel and axle system will augment either force or speed. If the ratio of the circumference of the wheel to the circumference of the axle is five to one (5:1), applying force to the wheel will rotate the axle with a force five times as great as the force applied to the wheel, and applying force to the axle will rotate the wheel with a speed five times as great as the rotational speed of the axle.


Beside the wheel and axle systems of such vehicles as tractors and jeeps, other common devices possess a wheel and axle system. In a screw driver, the handle is the wheel, and the axle is the part on the bottom that turns the screw. In the old-fashioned windlass to draw up water from open wells, the wheel is the rotating crank-like handle and the axle is the cylinder around which the rope winds as it draws up the bucket of water.


The first pictorial evidence of a wagon with wheels occurs in a picture on a ceramic pot from the fourth millennium B.C., discovered in Bronocice in south-central Poland. The Sumerians invented the potter's wheel even earlier and used the wheel regularly on wagons at least by the third millennium B.C.

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