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Where to Find Axles, Gears For Kinetic Sculpture?

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the man-you-don't-meet-every-day dept.

Hardware Hacking 267

sneakyimp writes "My brother is an architect and sculptor and wants to create kinetic sculptures powered by wind, steam, and sun. He wants to avoid electrical systems and keep this mechanical. He's prepared to cast metals for custom parts if necessary, but is hoping to find a cheap source of gears, axles, and bearings for the internal mechanical workings of these contraptions. We'll need things like miter/bevel/spur/helical gears, standard and thrust bearings, and axles." Read on below for more on the details of what sneakyimp is looking for — dismembered Capsela units won't do it.sneakyimpo continues: "These parts won't need to support much power or torque (probably less than 1 horsepower / 550 ft-lbs). Ideally, we could get a kit which contains a variety of bevel and spur gears, a few axles, and standardized connect interfaces — kind of like a box of Legos for tinkering and prototyping. I found the Stock Drive Products site and it looks like an extensive catalog, but one really needs to know what one is looking for and I don't think we're there yet. I've also found custom gear manufacturers and cheap plastic hobby kits but these are either too outrageously expensive or ridiculously under qualified for the job at hand.

I was wondering if any of you robot builders or mechanical engineers could recommend a good starter kit with an assortment of gears or perhaps a supplier that deals in appropriately spec'ed gears rather than industrial-strength SUV transmissions."

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Shop (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25474553)

It's called a metal shop.
They make these things in bulk.

You can often buy some of the more "standard" pieces fairly cheaply if you're friendly. Anything else will need to be custom-made, which they can also do, but for a much steeper price.

Mod parent up (0, Redundant)

ObiWonKanblomi (320618) | more than 5 years ago | (#25475011)

Mod parent up. It's especially disappointing people in this day and age don't know what a metal shop is.

Re:Shop (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25475063)

Posting Anon because its directly related to me. On most of the eastern side of the country Alro carries a wide variety of metals, plastics, and industrial supplies. All sorts of materials, shapes, sizes, cutting and processing. You can also view their catalog online. []

Re:Shop (1, Insightful)

brentonboy (1067468) | more than 5 years ago | (#25475505)

Posting Anon because its directly related to me.

What kind of reason is that? That doesn't make any sense at all!

The absolute best book (2, Interesting)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 5 years ago | (#25475263) []

It has mechanisms and mechanical ideas that you'd never have thought of to do all sorts of interesting movements - ideal for any dynamic sculptures etc.

And while you're looking for power sources, consider Stirling machines. Unlike steam, they don't use water so can't boil dry.

The Mother of all Supply Stores (5, Informative)

Powerbear (1227122) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474559)

Re:The Mother of all Supply Stores (1)

RecycledElectrons (695206) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474617)



Also, I used to drive to a place in Mansfield, TX called "American Bearing" - they were a machine shop that specialized in that kind of stuff. Don't call them, as they are a local (non-mail-order) business, but I'm sure there's an equivalent in your town. There's always an old state highway that runs through a part of town where every other business is a welding or tower fabrication place, and the rest are strip clubs. There's sure to be a bearing place there somewhere.


Re:The Mother of all Supply Stores (5, Informative)

veganboyjosh (896761) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474673)


Note: At first glance, the front page of their website looks like some kind of lame link farm. Click once or twice, or enter some search terms, and see the wonder that is mcmaster-carr. This may be the most "i'm not sure what i need, exactly, but i'll know it when i see it"-friendly website or hardware store i've ever seen.

Re:The Mother of all Supply Stores (4, Insightful)

Facegarden (967477) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474885)


also, i think they just went out of business but i'm not sure: []
i'm not sure where you're located though, you kinda need to be there to know what to get.
surplus places are good when you're making custom art-like stuff.

Re:The Mother of all Supply Stores (1)

LithiumX (717017) | more than 5 years ago | (#25475363)

Why do I get a "Virus Detected" from Avast when I try to go to that site? :)

Re:The Mother of all Supply Stores (1)

Facegarden (967477) | more than 5 years ago | (#25475455)

Why do I get a "Virus Detected" from Avast when I try to go to that site? :)

Really? Maybe avast is crazy, i don't get any errors and the company is indeed legitimate. Maybe their server got hacked but they are just a little surplus store, they wouldn't do any harm on purpose.
I don't really like AVAST anyway...

Re:The Mother of all Supply Stores (1)

evanbd (210358) | more than 5 years ago | (#25475005)

Thirded. Between easy searching, excellent data on most of their parts, and a *wide* range of items, there's really not much more you could ask for. Prices aren't the cheapest you'll find, but they're usually competitive. You pay a mild premium for the huge inventory, fast shipping times, and truly excellent customer service -- but it's worth every penny, especially for small quantity orders.

For things like gears and sprockets and shafts, they won't have every conceivable size -- but the sizes they lack will be weird specialty ones. If you find yourself specifying gear sizes they don't stock, you should be giving serious thought to whether they know something you don't, and redesigning the part in question.

For the OP who doesn't yet know what to get... buy a few parts that look like they might be plausible, and try them out. Once you have a few parts in hand the question will become much easier. Just don't be afraid of ordering the wrong thing the first time out, and keep your initial orders small -- you'll be making more, after all.

Re:The Mother of all Supply Stores (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25475189)

McMaster has a quite superior online rendering of their old paper catalog coupled with an incredible search engine that works with generic keywords or also with a categorical and characteristic based drill down scheme that gets you to precisely the right part.

Everyone doing business online should look at how McMaster's website operates. It's truly superior. It's way better than Amazon for example. It doesn't hassle you with adver-clutter trying to upsell you more crap. The only site that comes close is newegg.

Kudos to McMaster!

Jason C. Wells

Re:The Mother of all Supply Stores (1)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 5 years ago | (#25475379)

Agreed, not-so AC. McMaster-Carr's website is a beautiful economy of design. It's so uncluttered when you first go there you think "this can't possibly be it." Their search engine actually works, too. And they don't just farm out the query to Google. It's their search engine.

I'm a hobbyist metalworker, and I buy from those guys regularly. Clean, easy to search catalog. Massive inventory of truly hard to locate stuff. Fast delivery. It's like the hammer-and-anvil version of Digi-Key. Love 'em.

Re:The Mother of all Supply Stores (1)

Normal_Deviate (807129) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474709)

I second this. McMaster-Carr gives magically good service. I routinely order items at 4PM for UPS ground shipment (Houston) and receive them the next day.

Re:The Mother of all Supply Stores (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25475033)

The whole point of McMaster is to get the part to you the next day. That is why they cost a little more.

Re:The Mother of all Supply Stores (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474937)

I would try something more along the lines of an industrial surplus store like HGR [] .

Re:The Mother of all Supply Stores (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25475067) [] Small parts has a lot of stuff that's not cheap, but can be bought in small quantities.
The modern toothed belt technology is quite good for power/weight precision and you can go back and buy more.

The other thing to do is look for a local old time hardware store or industrial machine shop supply store if you live in a decent sized city. And it never hurts to browse ebay.

Re:The Mother of all Supply Stores (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25475303)

Mcmaster is a great resource. Another wonderful company for automation components is Misumi.

Their parts are customizable. Order shafting cut to length, various end conditions. Washers, gears, bolts, aluminum framing. A vast array to choose from.

As a design engineer, I've tended to lean on musumi more than mcmaster because just how configurable all of their stuff is. The part numbers can be scary at first, but once used to them, its my #1 choice for components.

McMaster-Carr! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25474573)

should be what you need

Your toybox? (3, Informative)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474577)

I'm no expert and I didn't really read exactly what you were looking for, but what about going to places like Goodwill / Salvation Army Stores / Garage sales and disassembling some of the older toys that are likely missing parts. I'm sure an old music box has some good quality metal gears, etc. and you probably won't spend more than a few bucks.


Re:Your toybox? (2, Insightful)

evanbd (210358) | more than 5 years ago | (#25475023)

You have a music box with 1HP rated mechanical components? Now that sounds like an interesting contraption. Pics, please!

Goodwill!?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25475401)

Haven't you heard of the Cogswell Cogs outlet store? They just put one in at the Bespin Mall, and they stock it all.

Kinetic Sculptures, eh? (1)

Gizzmonic (412910) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474601)

Well, that's a very interesting question. I once had the pleasure of making the acquaintenance of a man who was very good at making kinetic sculptures. He was a patrician named Aquilius and he lived east of the Appian Way. This Aquilius had a stable of hardy Thracian slaves he employed to turn the necessary gears and mechanical what-have-you's to make the statues move. He had a particularly striking model of Venus cast in bronze, which could move her thighs in a most...injudicious manner. Ribald!

So, tell your brother to start with some Thracian slaves, I believe you can get them from the market in Ravenna or Florence. Lombards will do in a pinch, but they are of notoriously foul temper, so I would avoid them if possible.

American Science & Surplus (4, Informative)

Cliff Stoll (242915) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474603)

Re:American Science & Surplus (1)

spud603 (832173) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474799)

similar, if you're in Portland, OR, is Wacky Willy's. Amazing shop.
but oh, no! [] it looks like Wacky Willy's is gone. That is truly sad.

Re:American Science & Surplus (3, Informative)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 5 years ago | (#25475241)

If you're in Chicago, there's a joint called American Scientific and Surplus out on Milwaukee near Bryn Mawr.

Not only will you find all sorts of gears, axles, motors, bearings etc (really cheap), but also fresnel lenses, lab coats, powerful lasers, prisms, switches, bombsights from WWII-era bombers, jacob's ladders, lenses for telescopes, microscopes, lab glassware and about a million other cool things. Often, the use of particular objects in their inventory is not clear, but they'll sell it to you anyway. It's really worth talking to the guys (all guys) who work there, because if you think you know some geeks, you haven't seen nothin' 'til you've seen these dudes. Bubbles from Trailer Park Boys would seem normal compared to these fellas. But nice? they're all really nice and helpful and probably have everything you need to make a dirty nuke in the back. Oh, they sell lots of protective gear, too, which is helpful.

They've got a website and will send you a catalog, but you've got to actually go into the place for the stuff you want (or call them and talk to one of the guys who work there). I'd put a link here, but I'm being called to dinner.

Re:American Science & Surplus (2, Informative)

wiggles (30088) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474825)

And if you're within 2 hours drive, their store [] in West Chicago, IL is well worth the trip.

Re:American Science & Surplus (1)

interiot (50685) | more than 5 years ago | (#25475285)

I second that. My sister works at the one on N Milwaukee [] , and the place is a real hoot. Just be prepared to spend two hours there if you've never been there before. If you go looking for one specific part, you won't necessarily find it (since it's a surplus place), but sometimes they have 2+-feet-tall capacitors or other gems that make it worth visiting just in case. And if you don't know what to buy somebody for Christmas, they have a ton of geeky/silly/cheap stuff that are better than the old standbys anyway. (rare earth magnets, instruction books for making trebuchets, latex tubing for massive slingshots, and other borderline dangerous stuff that more mainstream companies would never want to see put in an excited child's hands)

reuse (1)

echo465 (574642) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474607)

Find a local computer recycler and fish through their pile of dot matrix printers.

American Science and surplus in Chicago. (2, Informative)

gdoggmoney (1285114) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474611)

Seriously, this place has a ton of random stuff. You would have to walk through there, but it is a nerd/engineer's wet dream. Anyone else know of this place? []

Re:American Science and surplus in Chicago. (1)

microcars (708223) | more than 5 years ago | (#25475225)

I am going to disagree with the American Science recommendation because:
A) I have been going there for years for things like this (hope springs eternal.... cross fingers they've got what I need....Nope!)
B) I have been very disappointed and end up buying from McMaster Carr Supply , Grainger or Small Parts Inc. to complete whatever bizarro project I was doing (usually for TV or Theater).

I USED to rely on Am Science, and there was a time when my shop was basically a mirror of the American Science & Surplus Store (I would overbuy, hard not to at those prices!) but over the years their stock of "stuff" has turned mostly to off-brand retail items and finding enough "things" that "work together" just does not happen.

McMaster Carr is really the best recommendation I've seen in the postings because they have 95% of everything IN STOCK and they take returns if what you ordered just is not what you need.

bikes? (4, Insightful)

spud603 (832173) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474615)

I'm not sure if this will fit your needs, but old used bicycles are cheap to find and full of cables, levers, cranks and gears -- all compatible with one another. (small wheels make good belt-pullies too)
I've seen some great and complex stuff made from bike parts.

Re:bikes? (2, Informative)

veganboyjosh (896761) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474725)

I spend most of my non-working, non-sleeping time at our local bike cooperative. At last count, there are about 120 of these around the country. We take in old unused bikes in any condition, refurbish them, and get them rolling again. This is an awesome source of parts, if only to get the juices flowing or modeling, until you've got a more concrete design.

Check out the "directory" link at the bicycle collective website [] and see if there's one near you.

Small Parts, Inc (1)

e9th (652576) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474625)

Lots of cool stuff here []

car scrapyards (2, Informative)

inzy (1095415) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474627)

is the glaringly obvious answer

although it depends on the size he wants

there'll be plenty of parts there - differential, drive shaft, prop shaft, gearbox, flywheel, starter motor, steering will all have parts he can use, and from the last time i was in a scrapper they'll be pretty cheap particularly if he goes for the older cars.

might need some dismantling though, which isn't easy on a rusting heap

Re:car scrapyards (1)

inzy (1095415) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474665)

and the wrong answer. i really should RTFS properly. never mind

Meccanno? (2, Insightful)

plalonde2 (527372) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474643)

Meccano [] is made for small scale kinetic sculpture.

Off the top of my head (2, Interesting)

stubob (204064) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474651)

Spare bike parts. Should be cheap, strong enough for a couple hp, pretty standard. More chain drive than gear drive, but the idea is the same. Lots of variety in bearings.

An old self-propelled lawnmower should have a belt drive to satisfy your requirements as well.

Are blenders direct drive, or are they gear reduction? 500 watts is around 1 hp, so that could work too.

Mechanical. (4, Funny)

the_other_chewey (1119125) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474657)

He wants to keep this mechanical.

As opposed to...?

Magnetically stabilised plasma girders?
Holographical joints?
Fusion Axles?

Re:Mechanical. (1)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474815)

You seem to have inexplicably skipped over four words in the sentence you quoted.

Re:Mechanical. (1)

the_other_chewey (1119125) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474873)

You seem to have inexplicably skipped over four words in the sentence you quoted.

That was intentional. I thought about add ing "...", but considered it unnecessary, as it doesn't affect my point.
What exactly makes electricly powered kinetic sculptures "unmechanical"?

Re:Mechanical. (2, Insightful)

glwtta (532858) | more than 5 years ago | (#25475287)

That was intentional. I thought about add ing "...", but considered it unnecessary, as it doesn't affect my point.
What exactly makes electricly powered kinetic sculptures "unmechanical"?

Those were the four words that let you know that he meant purely mechanical, ie not electric/electronic. It's a perfectly common use of the term.

Pedantry is fun and all, but at a certain point you are just being disingenuous.

Contact a gear maker (1)

Speare (84249) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474671)

Here's a "interesting biz in our area" piece in my local paper. Contact them, or any other local design house:,0,6635443.story []

Re:Contact a gear maker (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25474775)

Custom stuff is always going to be expensive.

Junkyard (3, Informative)

theguru (70699) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474707)

Transmissions, differentials, and front wheel spindles on RWD cars ready for the crusher.

Re:Junkyard (1)

Kompressor (595513) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474905)


If you look into junked 4x4s, you can add transfer cases to the list of bits to strip off.

Re:Junkyard (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 5 years ago | (#25475395)

Transmissions, differentials, and front wheel spindles on RWD cars ready for the crusher.

Did you see the site he linked?
Car parts will be way too big compared to the examples he has used [] .

I'd say he's looking for anything from hobby quality RC parts (small) up to motorcycle & atv parts (medium).
So the place to look would be hobby shops and motorcycle/offroad repair shops.
I leave out bicycles because they won't have the range of parts he's looking for.

That said, I don't think he's going to find anything in the small-medium range which can handle 550 ft-lbs of torque. Most cars can't handle that much torque. But 1 HP shouldn't be a problem.

Re:Junkyard (1)

theguru (70699) | more than 5 years ago | (#25475491)

I did, I initially thought he was just talking about the smaller stuff for prototyping.

You'd be surprised though at some of the smaller parts you can get from a junkyard. Don't overlook speedometer heads, angle drives to drive a speedometer, power seat motors, power and manual window mechanisms, wiper motors, tape decks...

Torque... (2, Informative)

actionbastard (1206160) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474715)

550 ft/lbs is one helluva lot of torque. Try your local car recycler.

Re:Torque... (1)

Timmmm (636430) | more than 5 years ago | (#25475119)

> 550 ft/lbs is one helluva lot of torque.

No it isn't. 550 ft-lbs might be! Nm is a much more sensible unit though.

Re:Torque... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25475161)

It's ft*lb, not ft/lb.

Re:Torque... (1)

mollymoo (202721) | more than 5 years ago | (#25475283)

Indeed it is a hell of a lot of torque. That's the kind of torque you get from a supercharged 6 litre V8. SUV transmission is precisely the kind of thing you would need, and not from a small SUV either.

The power thing doesn't much matter, it's torque which moves things and breaks driveshafts. An engine more powerful than 1hp but still with 550 lbs/ft would just turn faster, not with any more force. (power = torque x rpm)

Re:Torque... (1)

mollymoo (202721) | more than 5 years ago | (#25475385)

Gah, bloody stupid non-SI units. lbs.ft, not lbs/ft. Strictly, lbf.ft (pounds force x feet).

Re:Torque... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25475421)

550 [ft lbs] is one helluva lot of torque

Second that. The submitter isn't going to find any kit of gears rated for 500 ft lbs. That kind of torque will shear the teeth right off a 2" steel spur gear: 500 foot pounds is 3 tons at 1".

Stepper & servo motors are usually rated in ounce inches (ie: 0.005 foot pounds), and ordinary power tool type motors deliver about 3 ft lbs per HP. Submitter says "1 HP/550 [ft lbs]" So my guess is he's either working with a low speed steam engine or he needs to re-evaluate his needs. (2, Informative)

msauve (701917) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474719) [] has a selection, but not really cheap.

Sun-powered without electricity? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25474727)

Unless you're planning on using thermal expansion, good luck running something with sun power and no electricity.


flea market (2, Informative)

OglinTatas (710589) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474749)

old clocks are chock full of brass gearing and bearings. steer clear of antique shops though, since you will definitely pay way to much for something you are planning on destroying anyway.

Also, kinex and lego mindstorms have nice stuff, but I think you are talking about much larger structures?

Bicycle repair shops come to mind for stuff larger than clockwork.

hobbyist organisations no doubt have resources to check. Check out Make magazine's forums for people who do what you are planning []

Try a junk yard (4, Informative)

techess (1322623) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474751)

If you are looking for parts try a junk yard. You may have to do some driving to find the right "kind" of junkyard. Some specialize in parts that can be re-used in vehicles as originally intended. These junkyards are expensive. Look for a yard in a small town or in the country. I've been to junkyards that will sell you stuff by how much you can carry or how much you can fit on a cart. These are the best because you can get a lot of stuff pretty cheap.

Bring a good set of gloves, make sure your tetanus shot is up to date, and have a ton of fun digging through the junk.

Works for me (1)

Ieatsyou (1383005) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474759)

Talk to your city/county waste removal company. They DO recycle and they DO sort out that kind of stuff and some of the time they're glad to get rid of some of the junk. Also try a local scrap yard. I'd say junk yard but that is mostly car parts. Scrap yards have a varied assortment of old metal odds and ends.

How about a bike shop? (2, Interesting)

Steel Shepherd (755314) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474763)

Meshing gears are far more expensive than chain & sprockets and require greater precision when installed or they'll wear out quickly. They also need more protection from the elements and do not like at all to be dirty. As for axles, I assume your friend can weld a shaft onto a standard spindle. If you can afford timing belts and toothed sprockets, you can maybe eliminate the need to regularly lubricate the thing - so long as you use sealed bearings. If you insist on gears, try Boston Gear and they'll tell you who your local vendors are.

junkyard? (2, Informative)

mikeee (137160) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474767)

An automotive junkyard might be a good bet for some of that sort of stuff - not just transmission bits, there are plenty of other motors and gears (windows, starter, various pumps) you could strip parts from. You'ld probably need a pretty good idea of what you want exactly to go that route, though.

use creators' newclear power to avoid gadgets... (-1, Offtopic)

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Bike co-ops (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25474821)

Check out your local bike co-op. Bikes are chock-full of bearings, axles, and sprockets designed to handle the moderate amount of power a human being can put out. Bike co-ops are shops that recycle old donated bikes, and thus will have all manner of bike parts available cheap or for nothing.

You won't be able to get miter gears or the like, but there are plenty of axles, bearings and races, and chain drive parts from one.

Steampunk supplies (3, Informative)

Authoritative Douche (1255948) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474831)

Google suppliers of steampunk stuff. Lots and lots of gears and widgets to be found in weird places.

McMaster-Carr (1, Redundant)

Goldsmith (561202) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474839)

Perhaps the greatest company in the world [] . McMaster has a huge inventory, reasonable prices, quick delivery and an easy to use website. If you want gears, machinable material, welding supplies, or anything else a kinetic sculptor would need, you should find it there.

Re:McMaster-Carr (1)

ericzundel (524648) | more than 5 years ago | (#25475255)

A hint: If you know exactly what you are looking for, use the website, but use the dead tree version of the catalog and you will learn a lot about the range of parts available.

Old Printers... (1)

Christopher_Olah (1317943) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474891)

For smaller parts, I'd take apart old printers, photocompiers, fax machines, et cetera. They have lots of pieces to help move the paper... (They're also a great source of ports, general electronics, and lots of stepper motters.)

Consider other devices you're throwing out (toasters, harddrives, et cetera).

Golf kart parts (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474923)

Reasonably heavy duty, cheap, and readily available.

Find your local heat treat shop. (5, Interesting)

phrackwulf (589741) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474935)

Your average heat treater is going to have gears and pieces that get screwed up during nitriding or other operations. Since you are doing sculptures, its quite possible you don't need the case hardening that a regular customer needs. See if you can find a shop that does a lot of pinion and sun gears for example, then offer to buy on the cheap things they can't fix in re-work. Since its a sculpture, you probably don't need to go custom on some of the sizes.

Don't Tell ANYONE +1, PatRIOTic (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25474941)

With war as the ONLY industry left in the U.S, you can find plenty of parts in Iraqistan [] .

Don't forget to write.

Kilgore Trout

Grainger (1)

phoenix0783 (965193) | more than 5 years ago | (#25474957)

Grainger [] is an industrial parts supplier. A lot like mcmaster.

If you can use plastic gears, try broken printers, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25474973)

If you can use plastic gears, try broken printers, copiers, scanners, CD and DVD drives.
Lots of nice stepper motors in them too . . .

Junkyards, craigslist, thrift stores (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25474985)

I have been working with found materials for the last 8 years or so in my own work and have found that if you are patient and have room to collect objects, nearly anything you want can be found second hand--it requires as i said above patience as well as space, additionally you have to really consider each object as you look at it--what i mean is that sometimes you will know that you need a specific item and your mind gets into a rut, looking for that one thing--if you allow yourself to think of the way the item you need functions and not the item yourself you may find a better/cheaper/simple/more elegant solution exists where you least expected it.

Surplus (1)

Darth Cider (320236) | more than 5 years ago | (#25475001)

Lots of surplus companies sell that kind of stuff. Check out surpluscenter [] for instance.

Re:Surplus (1)

Nerrd (1094283) | more than 5 years ago | (#25475085)

yeah, surplus center has great random industrial parts on the cheap. Also maybe get to know the local steel scrap recycler.

Re:Surplus Center (1)

Migraineman (632203) | more than 5 years ago | (#25475155)

They have a good selection, and are quick to ship. We purchased many parts for our entry in Baltimore's Kinetic Sculpture race. []

If you're looking for a good selection of gears, dig down into the Power Transmission / Transaxle section, and take apart one of the 2-speed Peerless transaxles. There are bevel gears, a differential, and several nice spur pairs on shafts. Sometimes this transaxle pops up for less money, but not much less.

Junkyard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25475059)

Junkyards, transmissions

Reid Supply (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25475069)

Try Reid Supply or WMBerg. WMBerg has lighter duty components. Both have online catalogs with good selection and can get rather expensive. But, as stated above, I'd start with McMaster-Carr.

Depends on size (4, Insightful)

WillRobinson (159226) | more than 5 years ago | (#25475109)

As others have written there are a several places to get good parts. Of course it depends on the size of the sculpture, and weight of the pieces.

I build pick and place robots for a living, excellent resources are always good to have.

Besides Granger, McMaster there is also:

Standard Din sizes, and also american []

another good one stock drive products []

And If you need to handle larger loads, as I expect your sculptures to need. Seek your local power distribution company (as in gear boxes).

This is one of many (Motion Industries) []

for a large list click below []

Re:Depends on size (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25475499)

Shaft drive motorcycles for bevel gears? Smaller than the bevel gears in cars. Many motorcycle dealers have a bone yard in back.

Also, Don Lancaster has some useful stuff in his links section []

Amazon's Scientific and Industrial section (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25475113)

They have stuff.

machine shops and welders (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25475129)

Check the scrap-steel dumpsters outside your local welder and machine shops. You'll be amazed what gets thrown out.

check the KSR community (4, Informative)

steveha (103154) | more than 5 years ago | (#25475135)

Look up Kinetic Sculpture Racing: []

The guys who do this build wacky and weird human-powered contraptions. These are supposed to go on land, water, sand, and mud, and be only human-powered. (Some vehicles fail in one or more of these categories; but they can avoid being disqualified by providing sufficient bribes to the Kinetic Kops. In plain sight of all onlookers, of course.) Vehicles that can do all of the above, without any "pilots" leaving the vehicle to adjust things, get the "ACE Award" for good engineering.

One of my favorite kinetic sculpture vehicles is a behemoth that carries four people, each of whom provides power to one wheel, and one of whom has the steering wheel and brakes. I have also seen a vehicle that carried eight people, all powering a common drive train.

Anyway, these races have been happening for decades, and you can find the discussion lists where the KSR community discusses where to get parts, how to make things strong and reliable, etc.

For the glory!
steveha (1)

asdfghjklqwertyuiop (649296) | more than 5 years ago | (#25475137) has things along these lines and I've ordered various hardware from them in the past.

Obviously... (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 5 years ago | (#25475147)

Auto junkyard.

The Black Hole [] if you're close enough.

Most any plant has a pile of junk. Many gizmos in there.

Make your own (4, Interesting)

uqbar (102695) | more than 5 years ago | (#25475173)

Eric Freitas [] is an artist/clock maker that makes all his gears, screws, etc. by hand. He has step by step photos showing his techniques on his site if you want examples on how it's done.

Small Engine... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25475197)

Your request sounds suspiciously like you need parts from small engine equipment. Look for wrecked lawn mowers/snow blowers. That stuff fits in the range of your power requirements, and generally has gears and axles. There is lots of junked chain driven equipment. Also, sometimes you can find junked industrial machines/automated equipment. Anything that drives a belt will have the parts you are looking for.

Build a scale model (1)

reg106 (256893) | more than 5 years ago | (#25475249)

The right place to start is with a scale model. Typically a project, especially a visual project, doesn't work out quite perfectly on the first pass anyway, even if you are familiar with the capabilities of your mechanical components. The experience you gain by prototyping is invaluable. A scale model let's you test out ideas inexpensively (where plastic gears and parts are sufficient) and see what works and what doesn't before committing to the (much more expensive) final design.
Fail early, succeed sooner.
It frightens me that you think that 1hp isn't much power. That's plenty to shear off fingers during development. And even if a system is low power, that doesn't mean it will be low energy unless it is adequately damped. (I know people who have been cut up by a wind powered kinetic sculpture when there was very little wind. They underestimated the effects of mass, speed, and a non-smooth surface. )

Think about similar hp applications to find answer (1)

osjedi (9084) | more than 5 years ago | (#25475275)

I'd approach it this way. Ask yourself what applications require similar power transfers. The first two things that come to mind are riding lawn-mowers and agricultural food handling. A transmission off an old riding mower would give you a great start. Forward/reverse, and several ratios. Also don't rule out belt driven systems. They are cheap and easy to work with. Go to your local 'motor, pump, & power transmission' shop where you'll find an endless supply of axles (custom made & off the shelf), pillow-block bearings, and pulleys (but call them "shivs" or the guy behind the counter will know you're a noob)

W.M. Berg (2, Informative)

Hefner (1391827) | more than 5 years ago | (#25475307) [] McMaster is definitely good, but I've found that WM Berg has more to offer in the area of pulleys, belts and the like. They may not qualify as cheap, but they can also be used as a reference...

Starter kit (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 5 years ago | (#25475327)

What you really want is a Berg [] breadboarding kit. This is the pro version of a Mecchano set. Expect to pay something in low four figures for a full kit, although you can buy parts separately.

The usual suppliers are Stock Drive Products, Small Parts, Inc., Berg, Boston Gear, and McMaster. The first two mostly stock miniature parts; the last two offer larger sized components. Incidentally, if you haven't worked with gears that carry significant loads, go to the Boston Gear site and work through their "Gearology" online course.

If you're going to do kinetic sculpture, go to MOMA in New York and see what from the 1960s is still running.

University Surplus stores (1)

awilden (110846) | more than 5 years ago | (#25475339)

Many universities have "surplus" stores where all their old equipment goes to die. You usually can wander around at your leisure and often times even look inside things to see what you're getting. Especially old scientific equipment has large amounts of salvageable stuff in it, and if it's broken it's even cheaper. At the university surplus store here there are many artists who get their sculpture parts (though I don't know of any doing kinetic sculpture in particular).

McMaster, all the way (1)

Hans Lehmann (571625) | more than 5 years ago | (#25475381)

Ditto on McMaster-Carr. They have hardware, gears, electrical goods, tools, etc., that your local Home Depot won't even think of stocking. Need weird materials like sheet brass, Bakelite tubing, solid nylon rods for machining?, they'll have it. I work in Los Angeles; here if you get your order in before you stop for your first cup of coffee, it'll frequently shop up that very same day. Heck, one time, just as I was about to click the Submit button on their web site, the UPS guy tapped me on my shoulder, order already in hand. It's spooky, I tell 'ya

c20m (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25475437)

Your own towel in inventing excuses itself. You can't the developer don't be afraid Found out about the architecture. My if you don't and sling or table big deal. DeCath of FreeBSD Usenet dim. Due to the in posting a GNAA noises out of the goodbye...she had had at lunchtime for successful insisted that BSD fanatics? I've Things in The bottoms butt about half of the bring your own list of other and personal developers many of us are smells worse than a standards should There's no Users. BSD/OS it wiil be among megs of ram runs crisco or lube. thing for the Than a fraction a productivity lead to 'cleaner parts of you are playing so it's very distracting to of business and duty to be a big Words, don't get []? Are you

For custom stuff: (1)

HiVizDiver (640486) | more than 5 years ago | (#25475449) []

AGMA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25475453)

Maybe try searching for an AGMA (American Gear Manufacturer Association) gear manufacturers.

Old motorbike gearboxes? (2, Insightful)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 5 years ago | (#25475485)

And also bits of old garden machinery.

Casting parts (1)

Verdatum (1257828) | more than 5 years ago | (#25475523)

Just a quick note, casting metal is a gigantic pain. Low temp metals (pewter) are way too weak for machine parts, and high temp metals like brass require crazy equipment. Molds are only good for a single use and you still have to grind away all the flaws, assuming the pour went alright. Starting with like block aluminum and Machining the parts gets you a more consistent and precise result. (particularly if you have access to a CNC machine). If you have a prototype piece and you need lower strength perfect copies, molding in silicone and casting in polyurethane resin is glorious; Not difficult, perfectly detailed results, and a lot of fun if I do say so. If you use the right grade resin, (possibly doped with aluminum powder), it can get pretty sturdy. In the US, Smooth-on and Polytek are the two companies to look into to do that sort of thing (Smooth-on is more lay-person friendly, but in my experience polytek costs less for higher quality analogous products).

Jake (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25475527)

550 ft/lbs. - Sounds like you need to start with SUV transmission and axles and move up from there. That is more torque than most V8 engines put out.

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