This geared two-wheel south-pointing chariot was originally designed in ancient China to assist with land navigation. A set of gears attached to each wheel measures the differential in wheel travel when the chariot turns. The figure on top is set to point south at the beginning of each journey. On roads with a decent surface, the gears will always keep the figure pointing south. Birk injected his typical sense of humor by replacing the figure of a pointing emperor with Daffy Duck. According to Birk, this model was built with the wrong gear ratios, so while it demonstrates how the principle works, it doesn’t accurately maintain a constant direction.

Birk Petersen created a vast array of projects over his lifetime, ranging from miniature engines to hand-cranked animations and more. When Birk passed away in 2015, his family graciously donated over 150 items from his collection for display at the Miniature Engineering Craftsmanship Museum, where they are currently on display. We thank the Petersen family for sharing his extensive collection, which demonstrates the broad interests and many talents of Birk Petersen.

Exhibit added: May 7, 2016 - Last modified: January 24, 2024

Presented by The Joe Martin Foundation for Exceptional Craftsmanship