Home Mechanics
January 23, 2008 10:53 AM   Subscribe

Where can I find a site dedicated to modern or classic home mechanisms...

I am looking for mechanisms built in the home that basically use no electricity. Buttons that open doors and cabinets, rotating devices, etc. Having hard time explaining....Before technology took over the kitchen there were systems built with wood pieces and springs to make such things as kitchens more "high tech"...press a button here and a drawer would open from under your cabinets etc. I am looking to remodel my condo and want to find such mechanisms and see if I can incorporate them into my design....any help in the right direction would help...
posted by matthelm to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
What you are asking for is rather complex, because they didn't typically use off-the-shelf parts for those things, people built them up from simpler parts using their ingenuity.

E.g. button press on counter top rotates a wheel or cam that has a tension wire tied to the end of it such that pressing the button pulls the wire. The wire is threaded through or underneath the cabinets and connected to a spring loaded latch. pulling on the wire lifts the latch, releasing the cabinet door, whose hinges are set to have the cabinet door swing fall open unless something holds it closed.

Here's a google patents search of "spring loaded cabinet release", so you can get some ideas from there. Patents under 200,000 should have authentically pre-electrical mechanisms. You might also want to browse a Home Depot and ask yourself how one latch mechanism thing can be connected to another one some distance away.

But really, what you are talking about is more of a craft than simply buying parts and plugging them in.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:19 AM on January 23, 2008

Popular Mechanics and Popular Science magazines from the 50's were full of such "inventions".

"Cabinetmaking and Millwork" by J. L. Feirer (c)1967 has cabinet designs with slide-outs and some other 60's tricks.
posted by Fins at 11:23 AM on January 23, 2008

The air vents on steam radiators qualify. Before there was forced hot air central heating, there was gravity hot water and steam heat. Both forms of heating did not require any electricity. The air vents on the steam radiators were a mechanism for letting the air out of the radiators but keeping the steam in. Some of the vents used bi-metallic strips that would close the vent at high temperatures. Others had a water-alcohol mixture that boiled and extended a baffle at temperature.
posted by malp at 11:31 AM on January 23, 2008

Popular Mechanics and Popular Science magazines from the 50's were full of such "inventions".

Seconding. I have a full set of the Popular Mechanics encyclopedias that my mother bought for my dad years ago. We've been pinched for shelf-space, but I can never actually get rid of them. This is an ebay listing for the same set I have - I bet a scrounge through used book stores and thrift shops would uncover copies. They have some of the things you're looking for and tons of other retro-cool decorating/home-fix-it projects to boot.
posted by jquinby at 11:40 AM on January 23, 2008

You will want a copy of this book: Cabaret Mechanical Movement and perhaps want to play with this Designing Automata Kit.
posted by caddis at 1:12 PM on January 23, 2008

If you are near Detroit, Henry Ford Museum has a lot of devices like that on display- a lot of late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century stuff.
posted by Doohickie at 2:56 PM on January 23, 2008

Handy Farm Devices: And How to Make Them is one in a series of books about just the sort of thing you're after. This one is geared toward farms and workshops, but is worth having if you're interested in practical devices. It's certainly a starting point for finding information geared solely to the home.
posted by ewagoner at 3:25 PM on January 23, 2008

Good question! I love that kind of stuff. My friend's mom had one of those kinds of things it was a recipe/calendar holder. It was spring loaded, mounted under a cabinet.

Anyway, the poster who mentioned Popular Mechanics and Popular Science was right on. Also old woodworking magazines.

Somewhat related is this blog. Tons and tons of good, old stuff.

posted by gjc at 4:49 PM on January 23, 2008

If you are looking for the parts used to make these things, check out Van Dykes (don't bother with the website, send away for the catalog 'cause it's better), Rockler and Woodworker's Hardware. You'd also be surprised by what you find at estate sales and in salvage yards (Jan's Antiques in Chicago is a treasure trove of this kind of stuff).
posted by jeanmari at 8:23 PM on April 28, 2008

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