Friday, March 4, 2016

My father's version of steampunk

They say that you should always spend time with your parents and every question you can think of while they are still here.  Of course, my father passed away last year, so when I find something unusual in his stuff, I can no longer ask him what it was for or how it worked.  I guess what they say is true.

My father had a bunch of electronic projects, mostly things that he wanted to explore and made something that allowed him to do it.  Naturally, all that stuff came home with me when we cleaned out his house.  Now, he never expected or intended for anyone else to be interested it his little projects, so there is no documentation and almost no labeling.  Imagine my surprise when I open up an electronics test box and find this funky looking electro-mechanical device.

As for me, I have no idea what it was for.  I've studied it for a while and I think I can describe some of it's function, but why you would do this is a mystery.  I am open to suggestions.

In the meantime, I just love the way it looks.  I guess all the brass got me thinking steam punk.  But it's also got a combination of Rube Goldberg and something hand made early in the 19th century.

Anyway, here is what I see happening.  To start with, there is a DC motor that drives a gear reduction and a shaft mounted in oil-light bearings.  I don't have any idea where the motor is from.  The gears and shaft are likely left over from our slot car days.

Then there are two commutators mounted on the shaft with home-made brush holders on each commutator.  Don't you just love the brass tube with one end folded over as a brush holder?  One one end, the commutator makes a circuit with several resistors that seem to step down (up?) in resistance as the brush connects with each part of the commutator.  The whole thing connects to the opposite commutator in only one place.

I'm stumped.  But it does look cool!