A wooden roller bearing ? – A practical approach

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Every year in Artena, since 1992, takes place a big event which puts in competition all the contradas of the town. This event is called “Palio delle contrade di Artena” and is able to entertain several thousands of people challenging the contradas in rural games that recall the origin of Artena. One of the funniest games is called “La Carettella” in which every partecipant has to drive a kart entirely made of wood, down a hill, in less time possible. A guy, who is actually the captain of the contrada in which I live, came to me asking if it was possible to improve the performance by using some wood ball bearings. The idea seemed pretty challenging to me so I started googling around to find if anyone have ever had the same insane idea. Surprisingly I couldn’t find anything that wasn’t just a toy and unsuitable for such a stressful application . I spent several weeks thinking if it was possible to make a working bearing that was also reliable for a race plus several test session and ended up with the conclusion that the only way to know it was actually doing it. So I started looking for the wood with the best properties needed to be used for the volvent parts. My research lead me to Lignum Vitaean exotic wood with an extraordinary combination of strength, thoughness and density with the exceptional property of being self-lubricating. Actually it is also the hardest and heaviest wood on the earth, according to Wikipedia. Some really useful information such as elastic modulus, modulus of ropture, etc… can be found on wood-database.com. Of course these properties can change dramatically due to so many factors ( wood is not an isotropic material at all ) that they should be used very very carefully. 

Lignum vitae mechanical properties

Courtesy of wood-database.com

Because the rise of competivity year after year,  I can’t share my design and assumption because I’m pretty sure other partecipants are going to read this, but I hope the photos below, involving all the stages from design to manufacturing, could be interesting and inspiring for some.

Unfortunately my effort was not rewarded due to a non technical problem but I surely proved that it was a doable and performance-enhancing solution being the fastest vehicle. All the work was done in just four months and I want thank all the guys who helped me out.

2 thoughts on “A wooden roller bearing ? – A practical approach

  1. Pingback: Wood-Only Kart Race Inspires Fancy Wooden Bearings | 0-HACK

  2. Pingback: Wood only kart race inspires wooden bearing - BearingNet News

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