Hand Operated Vacuum Cleaners

hand operated vacuum cleaner“The easiest way to utilize pump vacuums (picture below, left) was to have two people operate them. One person would pump the vacuum while a second would use the hose and wand or tools to clean. A common sight was a daughter pumping the handle while mom did the cleaning. Most early vacuum cleaners were expensive for the time. The well-to-do often would purchase the cleaning contraptions to ease the workload of their servants or housekeepers.”

Bellows operated vacuums appeared in several styles and shapes. Some early vacuums utilized a single bellows. This made the cleaner less efficient because there was no suction as the bellows closed. Suction was produced only as air rushed into the bellows as it opened. To make the machines more useful, bellows were installed in pairs and offset to allow one to open while the other closed.” Picture right: a bellow-operated Star Vacuum Cleaner.

Hand operated vacuum cleaner 1“In their day, wheel operated vacuums approached the cutting edge of early technology.  They exhibited a sophistication that was not present in earlier vacuum designs.  This style of machine provided powerful and continuous suction for its user.  The increase in vacuum even allowed for larger diameter hoses and bigger cleaning tools.  Typically, one person cranked the wheel while another cleaned with a wand or hand tool.”

Friction vacuum cleaners are based on an ingenious concept conceived by James Kirby. They utilize the driving force of the rear wheels to power the cleaner. This style of vacuum derives its power when the operator pushes it across the floor. The wheels contact the floor and turn the axle. This energy is transferred to the fan via a worm gear during every forward motion of the machine. The front wheels are connected to a brush roller to create a sweeping action. These machines look like an early electric upright vacuum, but do not need electrical current to run. As a result, they have no electric motor, cord, plug, or switch. This makes them lightweight, quiet, and cost free to use. Friction vacuums were popular well into the 1940’s in communities where electricity was not available.”

More: VacHunter galleries. Thank you, Adriana.

Pedal Powered FlatBed Truck

Pedal powered flatbed truck “Originally designed to serve the load carrying requirements of the Tri-Sled factory, the FlatBed Truck is a high-bulk load carrier. We use one of these for getting around our local industrial estate, transporting frames and fairings to our powder-coating and painting contractors, or picking up steel and other oversized materials.”

“The FlatBed Truck is far more convenient than carting large items to and from a car or van. With this maneuverable vehicle, you can simple roll straight in and out of your business or factory. It even serves as a handy rolling work bench for working outside on sunny days.”

“The FlatBed Truck is also incredibly easy to store. Just flip it up on its end when not in use, and use the rear rolling wheels to move it against a wall or into a small space. The rolling wheels also serve as a back bump stop.” Trisled FlatBed Truck.

Tricycle with Foldable Fairing

The Hase Klimax has won the Eurobike 2010 award. The Klimax is a recumbent trike with a foldable fairing and electric assist. Beats any electric city car in terms of efficiency.


Hase Bikes

Wind Powered Trikes

wind powered trike 1

Pterosail Trike Systems is sailing and cycling over 3,000 miles from coast to coast across the USA this summer. The Pterosail is a street-legal recumbent tricycle with sails. It can reach up to 40 mph in good winds. No wind? Pedal. See also, below: the Whike, a Dutch made sail assisted trike.

wind powered trike 2

Related: Guido Vigevano’s wind car / Sailing rockets / Kiteboating / Velomobiles.

Belgian Recumbent Tricycles

belgian recumbent tricycles

[Read more…]

Grinding the Wind: the Treadwheel Fan

grinding the wind the treadwheel fanI wrote about prison treadmills before. They were invented in England in 1817 by Sir William Cubit, who observed prisoners lying around in idleness and put himself to the task of “reforming offenders by teaching them habits of industry”.

Forty-four prisons in England adopted it as a form of hard labour that could also grind grain or pump water.

Prison treadwheel 2However, as it turns out, in at least one jail prisoners were only “grinding the wind”: they were walking a treadwheel that was connected to a giant fan built on the courtyard. By this apparatus the resistance necessary for rendering the tread-wheel hard labour was obtained.

The system is explained in “The criminal prisons of London and scenes of Prison Life” (1862), written by Henry Mayhew & John Binny. Starting on page 299, they describe the method of “hard labour”, and the technologies used for it: the treadwheel, crank labour & the shot drill. Great reading.

Human Powered Dredger (1859)

human powered dredger

Click on the illustration below to see the plan in high resolution. Source: “Mémoires et compte rendu des traveaux de la société des ingénieurs civils, Vol.12, 1859“.


Prison Treadmills

Prison Treadmill

The prison treadmill was invented in England in 1817 by Sir William Cubit, who observed prisoners lying around in idleness and put himself to the task of “reforming offenders by teaching them habits of industry.” Forty-four prisons in England adopted it as a form of hard labour that could also grind grain (although some treadwheels were only “grinding the wind“).

The punitive treadmill was then implemented in America for two long years, between 1822 and 1824, at Bellevue penitentiary outside New York. Prisoners stepped on the mill for 10 hours a day (with 20 minute breaks per hour), grinding grain, often with a large audience of jeering onlookers housed in a specially built viewing house. Read here and here. Picture credit. See more images.

Related: Human powered cranes and lifting devices.

Macho pedal power

Hennepin Crawler 5

Maybe artists and fantasy are a better foothold for the future than engineers and high-tech. The pedal powered Hennepin Crawler is capable of both street and railroad track cruising and can seat four people. It is comprised of approximately 90% recycled materials and has a sex appeal that can rival that of a Porsche or a Land Rover. Via Make 17. Related: Cycle Chics. More on railcars. More low-tech cars.