Most of us enjoyed the intricate drawings created by a Spirograph toy as kids. While it was easy to understand how to use it (just drag a pen along with the turning gear) the math behind the device was surprisingly complex. The series of hole filled gears created roulette curves technically known as hypotrochoids and epitrochoids. Now Portland-based toymaker and designer Joe Freedman has created a hand-cranked machine which puts even that complexity to shame. His Cycloid and PrimoGraf drawing machines are a pattern and geometry lovers dream come true.
Each wooden laser-cut tool harkens back to harmonograph tools from the 1880s that were far more complex than the plastic Spirograph:
While the harmonographs were infinitely adjustable, all the cycloid toys were simple and limited,” reads the Freedman’s website. “We resolved to correct this oversight by the long gone inventors. Our Cycloid Drawing Machine has infinite adjustments to allow for a fulcrum that rotates and moves. Gone are the simple rotary drawings of old. The Cycloid Drawing Machine allows for massively complex artwork. By allowing the fulcrum point to move and having a huge number of interchangeable gears our drawing machine is more like an engine turning lathe.
Like the Spirograph we’re familiar with, the Cycloid allows you to quickly create complex drawings right from the start. Just adjust the levers using brass hardware, insert a pen in the pen holder and crank the gears to start drawing.
We could talk all day about how these machines work, but the best way to learn is by trying. Thankfully Jim Bumgardner created an online drawing machine based on the Cycloid you can play with right now. It’s based on the laser cutting files so this is an exact digital replica. Have a try, then head to LeafPDX to see if the popular Cycloid or PromoGraf are back in stock.