If a Slinky can go down a flight of steps on its own, would it keep going forever on an escalator?
That's the question woodworker and YouTube vlogger Matthias Wandel set out to answer when he attempted to build a Slinky machine that would function as a small escalator. Why do this? Why not just go to a mall and set off a Slinky on an actual escalator?
"If I build a dresser, that's really useful but it doesn't get a whole lot of reviews," Wandel told Make, noting that interesting content for YouTube was his main goal. "One thing I've learned is useless crap on YouTube gets a lot of views."
So with some engineering know-how and a lot of trial and error, Wandel eventually figured out that his ideal step size would be a 10cm square block of wood. Next, he created a chained track — again, made entirely of wood — for the steps to attach to. The track would rotate endlessly, giving the escalator its motion.
Unlike a traditional chain or rope that might hinge on a round sprocket (like a pulley), Wandel made square sprockets for his chain, because it helped drive the chain forward. Initially he tried powering the track with a drill on a low speed setting, but it proved too difficult to control. A hand crank made it much easier.
Wandel posted a video on YouTube that shows him building the device and cranking the Slinky track, in which he manages to keep the Slinky going for an impressive 140 steps. You can watch it below.
Be sure to visit Matthias Wandel's YouTube channel for hundreds more videos of "an engineer's approach to woodworking."