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Indie makers RLT Industries of New Braunfels, Texas, sells this lovely wooden model kit of the classic “south-pointing chariot” mechanism. Set the chariot down with the vane pointing in an arbitrary direction — south, north, whatever — and a geared differential connected to the wheels will keep it pointing the same direction regardless of which way the chariot turns. Their version went through eight prototypes to get the gearing just right and seems like a helladeal at $59.

Sean Michael Ragan

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c’t – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.


4 Responses to New Review: South-Pointing Chariot Kit

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  1. Pingback: Make Ultimate Kit Guide

  2. If anyone knows a reason why this exists, please give a response. My curiosity is looking for one shred of a reason.

  3. The Chinese used this in their armies to keep direction on the march.

  4. :-) You mean ancient Chinese armies. While the ancient Chinese discovered the compass (lit. named “point-south-needle”), operating the (then) top-secret delicate tool was limited to close group of high/senior level officials, so the “on the march” army is given such a chariot so that the mid/low level military warriors can carry out the Emperor’s mission without getting lost along the way. The said chariot is probably calibrated in the forbidden/secure Imperial palace’s “R&D” compound before being handed to the army.

    :-) As a fun side note, the 3-claw dragon is a symbol of the Japanese emperors of ancient times, the Chinese Imperial Dragon have 5 claws. Cheers!