Renaissance Technology - Tools, Devices, Work Processes - 15th Century

15th Century

Cranked Archimedes screw

The German engineer Konrad Kyeser equips in his Bellifortis (1405) the Archimedes screw with a crank mechanism which soon replaces the ancient practice of working the pipe by treading.

Cranked reel

In the textile industry, cranked reels for winding skeins of yarn were introduced in the early 15th century.


The earliest carpenter's braces equipped with a U-shaped grip, that is with a compound crank, appears between 1420 and 1430 in Flandres.

Cranked well-hoist

The earliest evidence for the fitting of a well-hoist with cranks is found in a miniature of c. 1425 in the German Hausbuch of the Mendel Foundation.

Paddle wheel boat powered by crank and connecting rod mechanism

While paddle wheel boats powered by manually turned crankshafts were already conceived of by earlier writers such as Guido da Vigevano and the Anonymous Author of the Hussite Wars, the Italian Roberto Valturio much improves on the design in 1463 by devising a boat with five sets of parallel cranks which are all joined to a single power source by one connecting rod; the idea is also taken up by his compatriot Francesco di Giorgio.

Rotary grindstone with treadle

Evidence for rotary grindstones operated by a crank handle goes back to the Carolingian Utrecht Psalter. Around 1480, the crank mechanism is further mechanized by adding a treadle.

Geared hand-mill

The geared hand-mill, operated either with one or two cranks, appears in the 15th century.

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