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Alexander's fish

a-fish-2.jpgWaldorf education is a bit of an anachronism in today’s world.  If you look around a Waldorf kindergarten you won’t find posters with letters and numbers.  Rather than being an academic environment, Waldorf kindergartners get to play.  Inside and outside.  A lot.  The grades, rather than a regimen of high stakes testing, have a strong artistic, musical, and language component in addition to the math and sciences.  All grades involve lots of hands on learning, starting with yarn work in first grade, cooking, building, and gardening in third grade and continuing with woodshop and blacksmithing in the upper grades and high school.

I mention all of this because today’s gadget is a mechanical segmented fish that my son built in his 7th grade woodshop class.  Every week, when he came home on woodshop day, he would fill me in on the progress of his fish.  I had a hard time envisioning it until he came home near the end of the woodshop block with the mechanical marvel shown in the pictures.

a-fish-3.jpgThe five segmented fish is hinged between each segment.  The head is mounted on a dowel that is held in place by the frame, and which is connected to the rest of the mechanism.  In the second photo you can see that the rest of the mechanism consists of a handle that turns a shaft, upon which is mounted an eccentric wheel.  The eccentric wheel causes the follower to turn back and forth, turning the fish dowel and causing the head to move in a periodic back and forth motion.  Since the remaining body segments are hinged, they follow the head in a graceful wavelike motion.  It actually looks like a fish swimming when you turn the crank.

The whole thing is built with hand tools such as saws, rasps, and carving gouges, with the exception of a drill press used for the holes.

Steve Ravet

Design News Gadgeteer

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