Trammel of Archimedes (aka Ellipsograph or Nothing Grinder)

by pbloom, published

Trammel of Archimedes (aka Ellipsograph or Nothing Grinder) by pbloom Apr 18, 2011
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6992Views 1787Downloads Found in Mechanical Toys


This is a classic toy that demonstrates some interesting principles of geometry and mechanical motion. It is sometimes called an "ellipsograph" because it traces a perfect ellipse.

Here is a detailed description from Wikipedia with an animation of the "grinder" in action:


This is my own design, but it mirrors many well known versions that have fascinated kids (and adults) for thousands of years.

Note that the handle has a hexagonal hole underneath that allows you to insert a cut-down pencil for ellipse drawing.

The motion is hypnotic and I hope you have fun printing and playing with this version of the Nothing Grinder.

Note: This model was designed for a printer with support material capability (Stratasys BST). The handle, rail, and rivets can be printed without support material. Only the base requires support and could be easily modified to facilitate printing on a printer that does not incorporate support capability.


The Nothing Grinder is very easy to assemble.

Just print 2 copies of the rail, two copies of the rivet, one handle and one base.

Slide the rails into the base. Position the handle so each hole clicks on to the corresponding rail. Insert the two rivets in the handle holes to lock the handle to the rails.

You are now ready to play and/or start drawing ellipses!

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this thing is very kool, i am a bit curious why it is called a grinder? i could see it used as a pump of sorts. atleast it has the kool factor going for it lol. may print it if i can figure out what its purpose is.

Thanks for your feedback! If you insert a pencil in the handle (hexagonal hole is provided) then one full "grind"'draws a perfect ellipse. I call it a nothing grinder because it's so hypnotic to use during long, boring conference calls. It does nothing but provides soothing distraction. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do...

ok , well now i simply must have it.lol but seriously i was pondering a bit and i am going to try to incorporate it into a perpetual motor as i never thought about a elips instead of o perfect circle. using this it will travel a shorter distance and possibly give the effect im looking for to keep the motor spinning free. using magnets of course and gravity. alot of people have experimented but never vertically using gravity to push past the eddy from neg side of the magnet all i have ever seen was horizontal motor setups i almost have it so i hope this may help. though i am sure i need to also find the best way to make this function friction free as much as possible. thanks for posting inspiration!

Great and perfect timing. I'll incorporate this into my Trig paper due in one week! {Can you believe I have to write a paper for a Trigonometry class?} DONT_KNOW