The History of the Spring: From Clock to Torsion Springs
The earliest springs were not coil springs like we think of them today. Ancient people used flexible branches and plants to act like a spring mechanism to trigger traps and other simple devices. In the Bronze Age, people began making simple metal springs, such as tweezers and metal leaves that could act like a spring inside padlocks and even to power machines like catapults.
In the Middle Ages, springs became more sophisticated. Villard de Honnecourt invented a water wheel that maneuvered a pole back and forth to automatically cause a saw blade to rub back and forth. In the 1500s, the first clock springs were invented. These springs were the first to use the coiled design that we now think today when thinking of a spring, however, the clock springs were made from flat, rather than rounded, metal.
However, it wasn’t until the 1800s that springs became common for other materials besides clocks and compasses. The invention of factories and assembly line production made is possible to make springs faster and better than ever before. With the invention of many machines, including trains, cars, and mass-produced furniture, factories started making springs for a variety of uses from keeping a door open to absorbing shock in a car or train.
Today’s springs are made from a variety of materials from plastic to heavy steel. Springs use a variety of sizes and shapes to perform different mechanical tasks. Tension springs have tight coils that keep an object in place, such as a trampoline. Compression springs give bounce and flexibility to an object, such as a sofa base. Flat clock springs are still used to this day in clocks. Torsion springs help doors open and close quickly, and power many drawers, latches, and other items.
Even though springs have come a long way since the Bronze Age, it is still amazing to think that we still use such ancient technology as the base for so many modern inventions.