This section is from the book "Things To Make", by Archibald Williams. Also available from Amazon: Things to Make.

The reader may be interested in details of the apparatus shown in Figs. 168 and 170, made by the writer.

The Rectilinear Harmonograph, shown in Fig. 168, has pendulums of 5/8-inch wood, 40 inches long, suspended 30 inches from the lower ends, and set 10 inches apart, centre to centre. The suspensions are of the point type. The weights scale 5 lbs. each. The platform pendulum is provided with a second weight, which can be affixed above the suspension to slow that pendulum for 2:3, 4:5, 7:8, and higher harmonies.

The baseboard is plain, and when the apparatus is in action its ends are supported on boxes or books laid on two tables, or on other convenient supports. The whole apparatus can be taken to pieces very quickly for transport. The total cost of materials used did not exceed 3s. 6d.

The Twin Elliptic Pendulum of Fig. 170 is supported on a tripod base made of three pieces of 1-1/2 x 1-1/2 inch wood, 40 inches long, with ends cut off to an angle of 72 degrees to give a convenient straddle, screwed at the top to an oak head 3/4 inch thick, and braced a foot below the top by horizontal crossbars 2 inches wide and 1/2 inch thick. For transport this stand can be replaced by a flat baseboard similar to that of the Rectilinear Harmonograph described in the last paragraph.

The main pendulum is a straight ash rod, 33 inches long and 1-1/4 inches in diameter, suspended 13-1/2 inches from its upper end. Two weights of 4-1/2 lbs. each, made of rolled sheet lead, are provided for this pendulum. According to the nature of the harmony, one only, or both together below the suspension, or one above and one below, are used.

The weight of the lower pendulum, or deflector, is supported on a disc, resting on a pin passing through the bottom of a piece of brass tubing, which is provided with an eye at its upper end. This eye is connected by a hook with several strands of silk thread, which are attached to the upper pendulum by part of a cycle tyre valve. The stem part of the valve was cut off from the nut, and driven into a suitably sized hole in the end of the main pendulum.

The screw collar for holding the valve in place had a little brass disc soldered to the outside, and this disc was bored centrally for the threads to pass through. The edges of the hole had been rounded off carefully to prevent fraying of the threads. (Fig. 177.) The over-all length of the pendulum, reckoning from the point of suspension, is 20 inches. The weights of the lower pendulum are several in number, ranging from l lb. to 3 lbs.

A preliminary remark is needed here. Harmonies are, as we have seen, a question of ratio of swing periods. The larger the number of swings made by the more quickly moving pendulum relatively to that of the slower pendulum in a given time, the higher or sharper is the harmony said to be. Thus, 1:3 is a higher harmony than 1:2, and 2:3 is lower or flatter than 3:8.

The tuning of a harmonograph with independent pendulums is a simple matter. It is merely necessary to move weights up or down until the respective numbers of swings per minute bear to one another the ratio required. This type of harmonograph, if made of convenient size, has its limitations, as it is difficult to get as high a harmonic as 1:2, or the octave with it, owing to the fact that one pendulum must in this case be very much shorter than the other, and therefore is very sensitive to the effects of friction.

The action of the Twin Elliptic Pendulum is more complicated than that of the Rectilinear, as the harmony ratio is not between the swings of deflector and upper pendulum, but rather between the swings of the deflector and that of the system as a whole. Consequently "tuning" is a matter, not of timing, but of experiment.

Assuming that the length of the deflector is kept constant--and in practice this is found to be convenient--the ratios can be altered by altering the weights of one or both pendulums and by adjustment of the upper weight.

For the upper harmonies, 1:4 down to 3:8, the two pendulums may be almost equally weighted, the top one somewhat more heavily than the other. The upper weight is brought down the rod as the ratio is lowered.

To continue the harmonies beyond, say, 2:5, it is necessary to load the upper pendulum more heavily, and to lighten the lower one so that the proportionate weights are 5 or 6:1. Starting again with the upper weight high on the rod, several more harmonies may be established, perhaps down to 4:7. Then a third alteration of the weights is needed, the lower being reduced to about one-twentieth of the upper, and the upper weight is once more gradually brought down the rod.

Exact figures are not given, as much depends on the proportions of the apparatus, and the experimenter must find out for himself the exact position of the main weight which gives any desired harmonic.

A few general remarks on the action and working of the Twin Elliptic will, however, be useful.

Fig. 177. Suspension for lower weight of Twin Elliptic Harmonograph.

Fig. 176a. Hamonograms illustrating the ratio 1:3. The two on the left are made by the pendulums of a twin elliptical harmonograph when working concurrently; the three on the right by the pendulums when working antagonistically.

Fig. 177a. Harmonograms of 3:4 ratio (antagonistically). (Reproduced with kind permission of Mr. C. E. Benham.).

1. Every ratio has two forms.

(a) If the pendulums are working against each other--antagonistically--there will be loops or points on the outside of the figure equal in number to the sum of the figures in the ratio.

(b) If the pendulums are working with each other--concurrently--the loops form inside the figure, and are equal in number to the difference between the figures of the ratio.

To take the 1:3 ratio as an example. If the tracing has 3+1=4 loops on the outside, it is a specimen of antagonistic rotation. If, on the other hand, there are 3-1=2 loops on the inside, it is a case of concurrent rotation. (Fig. 176, A.)

2. Figures with a ratio of which the sum of the numbers composing it is an even number (examples, 1:3, 3:5, 3:7) are symmetrical, one half of the figure reproducing the other. If the sum is Uneven, as in 1:2, 2:3, 2:7, the figure is unsymmetrical. (Fig. 177, A.)

3. The ratio 1:3 is the easiest to begin upon, so the experimenter's first efforts may be directed to it. He should watch the growth of the figure closely, and note whether the repeat line is made in front of or behind the previous line of the same loop. In the first case the figure is too flat, and the weight of the upper pendulum must be raised; in the second case the weight must be lowered. Immediately an exact harmonic is found, the position of the weight should be recorded.

Interesting effects are obtained by removing the lower pendulum and allowing the apparatus to describe two elliptical figures successively, one on the top of the other, on the same card. The crossing of the lines gives a "watered silk" appearance to the design, which, if the pen is a very fine one and the lines very close together, is in many cases very beautiful.

Readers who wish for further information on this fascinating subject are recommended to purchase "Harmonic Vibrations," published by Messrs. Newton and Co., 72 Wigmore Street, London, W. This book, to which I am much indebted, contains, besides much practical instruction, a number of charming reproductions of harmonograms.

Before closing this chapter I should like to acknowledge the kind assistance given me by Mr. C. E. Benham, who has made a long and careful study of the harmonograph.

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