Can someone explain about the mechanism in this folk toy:

enter image description here

See Video here: A "penny toy" of around 1900.

It has a spring and it converts linear motion in to rotational motion ( that drives the acrobat). Further the rotational motion is possible both anticlockwise and clockwise.

What exactly is going ne? I believe the mechanism is not uncommon and someone from this background could throw some light.
Thanks in advance for your help.


1 Answer 1


"The penny toy works by friction on the pin against a piece of rubber tubing." The quote is from the audio introducing the toy.

As the main cylinder moves in and out, likely with a compression spring at the top of the main cylinder, the pivot of the toy character, which is another cylinder, presses against the main cylinder and is forced to rotate.

This is the equivalent of a rack and pinion without gear teeth, but using friction to operate.

A video explaining the gear-based rack and pinion can be found on The YouTube with the distinction that the toy uses rubber in place of the teeth of the gears. I believe that the rubber portion could be on either the linear rod or on the rotating portion, or both.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your answer. with my non-mechanical background it is becoming difficult for me to visualize the thing. Is there a video or an image that can describe what you are saying? $\endgroup$
    – gpuguy
    Nov 14, 2018 at 5:13
  • $\begingroup$ I've placed a link in the answer that may be helpful. $\endgroup$
    – fred_dot_u
    Nov 14, 2018 at 10:18

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