Replicating an Ancient Pump Drill

Art & Sculpture Craft & Design Metalworking Woodworking
Replicating an Ancient Pump Drill

If you haven’t seen Chris from Clickspring’s Antikythera Mechanism videos, I cannot recommend the series highly enough. Chris is a virtuosic fabricator and watchmaker. In the Antikythera series, he is re-creating the Antikythera Mechanism, the astonishing analog computer from ancient Greece, likely built sometime between 150-80 BC, and discovered in a shipwreck off of the Greek coast in 1902.


In the series, Chris fabricates not only the components of the mechanism, but the tools that were likely used to fabricate it in the first place. To try and better understand how they drilled the many precision holes found throughout the device, he sandcasts and turns the bronze and wood components to create a push drill and the type of bits it might have employed. As in previous videos, any tool that is still similar today to ancient tech (save the power source), he uses the modern equivalent when fabricating the tools (e.g. using a modern, powered lathe).

I find these videos absolutely mesmerizing. Watching Chris work is to look over the shoulder of a master fabricator. The resulting tools and objects that he fashions are breathtaking works of art, as you can see in these sand-cast bronze flywheels he made for the drill. And, check out how beautifully the resulting push drill actually works.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn


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