One book that changed my life forever was “Any Bright Boy can build a Motor”. I was about eight years old, living overseas, and the dusty cover stared back at me from the Embassy library racks, calling out my name: “Psssst! Tim, try me — you’re a bright boy!”
The materials required to build the motor included a large cork, a wooden block, some wire, two iron nails, and a dry cell battery. One nail was to be driven through the cork such that an equal portion protruded from each side of the cork, onto which wire was tightly counter-wound in opposing directions. This newly wound cork armature sat impaled atop the center post and was supposed to spin “furiously” when the wires were hooked up to the battery.
Each attempt failed miserably, and when I approached Dad for help he suggested I first read the directions, and if that didn’t help, then he’d join in and help.
Maybe I wasn’t so bright after all.
I had made no progress a week later. At best, the motor sat and vibrated nervously. Finally, Dad offered his assistance. His first step was, of course, to READ THE DIRECTIONS. Several times, in fact. But each time he rearranged the wiring and hooked up the battery, the motor failed to spin. And each time I mimicked out loud: “Read the directions!”
This approach did not go over well, but it made me feel much better about myself. Eventually, Dad agreed: the book was, unequivocally, incorrect, and that we had every reason to feel justified in venting our mutual frustrations.
Success became a nightly undertaking, a father and son mission. A meeting of the minds. A quest. About a week later — through a brutal process of trial and error while sipping Mom’s lemonade — we successfully built a functioning motor. And sure enough, the spiked cork whirled “furiously” around and ’round and ’round. But it was way more than that: it was — redemption.
We placed the whirligig on a kitchen counter and let it spin for several days until the battery gave out. It was a wonderfully slow demise. Dad and I enjoyed every minute of it.
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Tim says: here’s a link to a set of up-to-date cork motor directions.