Lawrence Wahlstrom began building his complex “Do Nothing Machine” in the late 1940s. After coming across a surplus WWII bomb sight containing a complicated cluster of gears, he got it working again. This would be the start of a continually growing project, with no immediate end in sight. The machine eventually included over 745 gears and mechanisms all moving at once to produce, well, nothing. Even so, it is fascinating to watch in action. Variously called a “Flying Saucer Detector” or a “Smog Eliminator” by its inventor, the machine achieved a level of fame in the 1950s being seen in magazines like Life, Popular Mechanics and Mechanix Illustrated. It was also featured on TV appearing in shows hosted by Garry Moore, Art Linkletter and Bob Hope. After the inventor passed away, the machine was picked up at auction by Earl Wolf, who maintained and displayed it at shows after 2003. The late Mr. Wolf’s family donated the Do Nothing Machine to the Miniature Engineering Craftsmanship Museum in his honor, where it is on permanent display. Below is a video of the Do Nothing Machine in action at the museum.

Exhibit added: March 19, 2013 - Last modified: December 16, 2023

Presented by The Joe Martin Foundation for Exceptional Craftsmanship