Horseless Carriage Education

Technical Articles

Hand-cranking A Brass Car

Author: Harold & Jo Sharon

Spectators who watch the hand-cranking of a brass car always seem to know you shouldn't put your thumb across the crank handle. Even though most of these well meaning folks have never cranked a car, they seem to "know" this. I always ask them to explain the reason for this grip, and the explanation either fades away or comes out as an oversimplification; something about breaking your arm. If you are cranking fairly slowly and the crank kicks back, it will leave your hand so briskly that it will feel like the crank was whacked out of your hand with a hammer. Yes, it may sting a little, but it will be the same regardless of where the thumb is placed. The injury of some significance will come if the crank arm flies around full circle, and whacks the back of he forearm.. This fracture is named after Dr. Colley, who characterized is when people fell off a horse and broke the fall with outstretched arms.

However, if one PUSHES the crank, from approximately the three o'clock position, and the crank kicks back, a thumb which straddles over the crank handle will get dislocated. Also, if the hand (the right hand, we will presume), is in the lazy man's position, with wrist bent backward, this might dislocate the wrist joint. Keep the wrist in a straight line with the forearm if you must push on the crank. Assuming a traditional clockwise cranking direction, the left handed person is at an advantage when a kick back occurs when pulling the crank. The forearm is inherently outside the crank swing, and will be clear of getting hit. Similarly, a right handed person cranking a one cylinder Cadillac (counterclockwise) is also in a safe position when pulling the crank.

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