Cams and Cranks

Cams and cranks projects are amongst the most difficult D&T projects of them all but the end result after lots of hard work can be incredibly satisfying for pupils (and teachers of course).
one extreme is a mainly wooden model but with stuck on parts made from card which can easily be taken off and replaced by a variety of other designs. The other extreme is usually a cardboard box type model in which it is difficult to get the cam lined up with the follower and often doesn’t remain rigid enough to give the smooth action which is desirable.
My favourite is in between the two. A plastic foam model with wooden dowel axles, smooth plastic tube cam, paper roll tube follower and characters or moving scene made from card.


Octopus with moving red eyes

Video clip
Ship rising and falling on the waves

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Waving and moving eyes aliens

Penguin jumping up
out of the sea


Close up showing wooden crank,  plastic tube cam and wooden follower. The frame is made from hardboard and mdf which has been nailed and glued.

Demonstration foam model bird with flapping wings and moving head

cam0011 w

In this gambling lamb model the wind turns the windmill and this turns a crank. The crank pushes and pulls the lamb via a connecting rod. The grass at the base is made from card pinned on with paper fasteners.
it really works when the wind blows!

wind powered lamb w cams0006

This wooden cams model has a central follower which is moving up and down but has also had an extra cam fitted at the side to make an arm move out and in. The idea is for a marching soldier and it is being designed and constructed by a year 5 pupil.

This school has a basic workshop room with 10 ‘workmate’ benches and a basic set of craft tools including hand-drills.

Squirrel cam toy video

Here is an amazing cam toy made by a year 5 pupil.

It has 3 cams. One cam raises and lowers the squirrel head which is made from wood collected in a forest from fallen branches.

Two more cams operate followers which rise and fall with leaves attached.

As the crank handle is turned the squirrel head rises and the leaves part to reveal the face.

squirrel toy
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This is one of my favourite cam toys.

It’s an ‘eco-ranger’ super hero. She flies through the air weaving up and down amongst the clouds. Her aim is to raise awareness about recycling and other ‘green’ issues.

One cam operates the eco-ranger and another moves the cloud.

Both cams are on the same axle which is turned by hand using a ‘crank handle’.

The two white paper tubes you can see are the ‘followers’ which rest on the cams and move up and down as the cams rotate.

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