Simanaitis Says

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HERE’S AN ENTERTAINING pursuit emerging from a crowdsourced startup. UGears fulfills a dream of Denis and Gennady, two Ukrainians who hold fond memories of building mechanical models as kids.


Denis in the right foreground, Gennady behind him with the rest of the UGears team.

As described at their UGears website, “If our models came fully assembled, we would deprive the customer of a glorious feeling of creation. In the process of assembly, there is an important moment of ‘birth’–when the model shows the first spark of life.”

Crowdsourcing through Kickstarter allowed Denis and Gennady to add to their design staff and to release new models. UGears has already received an international license for a construction method it developed.

Today, in a suburb of Kyiv, Ukraine, the company has “a team of 20 enthusiastic people…. They invest the creativity and love of their craft, which you receive in each of the models.”

At the moment, UGears has 14 models. These are, in order of parts counts ranging from 48 to 443, a Dynamometer, Etui (Mechanical Box), Trailer, Theater, Pneumatic Engine, Tractor, Timer, Combine, Tram, Safe, Railway Platform, Rails, Truck and Locomotive.


This past Father’s Day, Daughter Suz gifted me with two UGears models, the Pneumatic Engine and, rather more complex, the Tram. Here are tidbits on building a working Pneumatic Engine.


My UGears Pneumatic Engine was good fun.

The Engine’s 81 parts are laser-cut on two sheets of 1/8-inch plywood. The kit also contains several spares, more than a required number of toothpicks for connecting elements and an 18-page booklet of illustrated instructions.

Version 3

Even the complex pieces were easily dislodged. I appropriated one of Wife Dottie’s nail files for smoothing any tiny burrs. By the time I was done, I also found uses for my small Swiss Army knife and a pair of wire snips.


A preface lists iconic symbols for measuring, cutting, checking for movement and lubricating parts with candlewax. (I use a birthday candle retrieved from our junk drawer).

There’s great opportunity for cross-cultural language practice: The preface is given in English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Russian. Spanish, Turkish and Ukrainian. The remainder of instructions are purely pictorial.


Assembling the basic frame is an early step. Below, a measurement jig is used to define correct lengths, clearances and alignment of parts.


Fitting what’s destined to be the engine’s offset crankshaft is a crucial point of assembly. I broke more than one toothpick before I got the proper perpendicularity of wheels and crankshaft.


Step 4’s perpendicularities are essential for a non-wobbly engine.

The Pneumatic Engine is operated by affixing a balloon to the cylinder head. (A balloon was not provided; a local supermarket had a pack with appropriate Smiley Faces.) A diagram shows the engine’s reciprocal action.


Though perhaps less elegantly, the engine can be operated by blowing directly into the “carburetor” atop the cylinder head.

Wife Dottie, armed with her smart phone, was able to document the Pneumatic Engine’s first test run.

I was disappointed with the balloon’s quick deflation and decided to apply some auxiliary engineering. A pierced bit of extra balloon material covering the engine’s carburetor slowed the air flow but still encouraged operation.

All in good UGears fun. Now, on to the Tram. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2016

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This entry was posted on August 27, 2016 by in Sci-Tech and tagged , .
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