The simple sketches on a Spirograph have entertained for years – but an engineer from Saltdean has created a fully automated machine to create the intricate patterns.
The Meccanograph took Brighton Museum and Art Gallery warden Les Chatfield, 62, of Longridge Avenue, 21 months to build and consists of about 750 pieces, not including nuts and bolts.
Mr Chatfield said: “It’s quite a common type of machine for Meccano enthusiasts but there aren’t many as sophisticated as mine, in my opinion.”
It works by rotating one table above another, causing a pen to follow a series of mathematical movements to create extraordinarily intricate patterns.
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The Meccanograph was popular with visitors to Mr Chatfield’s stand at the Modelworld 2014 exhibition at the Brighton Centre last month.
His other models included a fully working five foot Sikorsky R-4 helicopter – which could be flown if he could find a tiny enough pilot.
Mr Chatfield, who was an engineer for 36 years, caught the building bug in 1963 when his father brought home a tea chest full of Meccano. What appeals to him is the similarity to real engineering.
He said: “I’m often asked why I don’t do Lego.
“With Lego you’re not using engineering, you’re using artistry.
“You’re building something that’s shaped like a bridge or a crane but it wouldn’t be built like that in the real world.”
Mr Chatfield was offered £2,700 for a four foot Bristol Bulldog fighter plane replica he built, but had to decline the offer and like most of Mr Chatfield’s models it has since been returned to the parts box.
He said: “It’s a bit of a wrench to take them apart.
“If I had unlimited space and a house the size of a smallholding it would be nice to keep them all as some Meccano modelers do.”
But he added that the Meccanograph will be spared: “It's proved so popular I really can't bring myself to take it apart.
“And of course it's got this infinite capacity to produce patterns. I haven't explored them all yet.”
See more of Mr Chatfield’s work at www.flickr.com/photos/elsie.