Instructions on how to make simple machines

Written by jeremy cato
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Instructions on how to make simple machines
The screw is just one of the six simple machines. (screw image by Dariusz Urbanczyk from

The six simple machines (screw, lever, wheel-and-axle, inclined plane, wedge and pulley) are used to make very large, complex machines, like cars, dishwashers and aeroplanes, that are now essential to daily living and are commonly used by people every day. It is important to understand how these simple machines function. One way to do this is to create each one using basic household materials.

Things you need

  • Package of 75 by 125 mm (3 by 5 inch) index cards
  • Roll of invisible tape
  • Sheet of lineless paper
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • 4 pencils
  • 2 empty thread spools
  • 305 mm (12 inch) long piece of yarn

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  1. 1

    Make an inclined plane. Take one index card and fold over one of the short sides so that the card looks like an upper case 'L.' Place the open end of the 'L' down on a table. You should have a slope that suddenly drops off at the end.

  2. 2

    Make a wedge. Take one index card and fold it in half widthways (fold the 5-inch sides in half) so that the card forms a 'V'. At the top of the 'V', fold the two sides down by one-half inch and bring them together to close the 'V' and form an upside-down, equilateral triangle. Tape the triangle together at the area where you folded the two sides down so that it does not open.

  3. 3

    Make a screw. Draw a circle 75 mm (3 inches) in diameter on the paper. Inside the circle, draw a spiral. The spiral should not be tight, but spaced about a quarter-inch (measured with the ruler) between the lines of the spiral. Cut the circle out of the paper, then cut along the line, following the curve of the spiral. When finished, you should have a stretched-out curl. Tape one end of this curl to the top of one pencil. Tape the other end of the curl to the bottom of the pencil above the tip.

  4. 4

    Make a wheel-and-axle. Insert the other pencil through the hole in the centre of one of the spools. The spool acts as a wheel and the pencil is the axle that it turns around. When you rotate the pencil, the attached spool moves as well, exactly like the wheel on your car.

  5. 5

    Make a pulley. Wrap the 305 mm (12 inch) string around the spool one time. Pull the ends of the string so that two equal lengths of string are on each side of the spool. Insert a pencil through the centre of the spool. The pencil can be held up so that the ends of the string can be pulled to operate the pulley.

  6. 6

    Make a lever. Take another index card and poke a pencil through the centre of it. The pencil can be pulled forward and back like a lever. This is like the gearshift on your car

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