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What is a Hand Gear?

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  • Written By: M. McGee
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 23 August 2016
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A hand gear is any form of human-powered gearing system. These systems typically involve turning a crank to move a larger object. Hand gears have been around since early human machinery came into existence thousands of years ago. Even though a hand gear doesn’t have a specific power source outside of human strength, that doesn’t mean it is necessarily simplistic. Often hand gear systems are significantly more complicated than they would appear.

These early systems were often simple gears with basic functions. Some societies looked at them more as mathematical puzzles than as actual devices. As time went on, the hand gear became a staple of early technologies and weaponry. It became possible for one or two men to do the work of several when basic gearing was added into certain milling, construction or siege weaponry systems.

As time went on, the uses of the hand gear changed. Certain jobs that were done using a hand gear were moved to water power. On the other hand, technology had improved to the point where new areas of manufacturing and construction were performed using hand systems.

Eventually, nearly all major manufacturing processes were done with gearing systems. Some used steam or water as motivating power, but many machines used human strength. This was especially true in the textile industry, where massive looms and hand-operated sewing machines replaced the older methods.

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In modern times, a hand gear still has an important place. In some cases, they are holdovers from an earlier time. People see these hand gear systems as a connection to an earlier period when electronics and gadgets didn’t dominate the world. Hand-cranked gates are an example of this. These systems could be modernized to an automatic system, but the cranked gate systems have a nostalgia and class factor that many people enjoy.

Another common place for a hand gear is in in closely monitored systems. In many cases, humans can manually control pressure better than a machine. Humans can anticipate problems and create slight variances in pressure and motion that many automated systems can’t match. These types of systems are common in high-pressure variable conditions like sailing or construction.

Often a hand gear is much more complex than a corresponding machine gear. A machine can put strength that is much greater than human power to bear on the system. To compensate for their lower power, human power gear systems use complex gearing ratios to increase the pressure put on a work area. This results in a more complex system, often with a greater gear count.

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