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Types of Simple Machines

Updated on December 9, 2012
These household items are types of simple machines.
These household items are types of simple machines. | Source
Flagpoles are a type of Pulley.
Flagpoles are a type of Pulley. | Source

By Joan Whetzel

Simple machines provide mechanical advantage, that additional force or power necessary to perform specific tasks. Simple machines help us push, pull, or lift items, or change their direction of motion, which we wouldn't be able to do otherwise. The simple machines fall into 6 categories: pulleys, levers wedges, wheels and axles, inclined planes, and screws. Some of the tools that we use everyday fall into more than one category of simple machine, because they are used in more than one way or because the use more than one simple machine in order to operate.


Pulleys typically use a rope, belt, or chain which wind around a grooved wheel. Pulley's apply a lifting force so that heavy objects can be raised with less human effort. Pulley systems are produced in two formats - a single, fixed pulley (flagpoles) and multiple pulley systems (cranes).

Types of Pulleys:

  • · flagpoles
  • · window blinds
  • · shoe laces
  • · water wells
  • · washing machine drums
  • · extension ladders
  • · cranes
  • · exercise equipment using weights at the end of a pulley
  • · sails on sailboats


Levers make use a fulcrum to provide pushing and pulling forces. The fulcrum acts as a pivot point between the pushing and pulling forces. Levers come in three classes:

a) Class 1: The fulcrum is in the middle.

b) Class 2: The fulcrum is at the end farthest from the human operator, where the force is applied.

c) Class 3: The fulcrum as at the end nearest the human operator.

Types of Levers:

  • · scissors
  • · teeter totter or seesaw
  • · hammer
  • · shovel
  • · pry bar,
  • · wheelbarrow
  • · bottle opener
  • · human forearm
  • · fishing pole
  • · baseball bat
  • · staplers
  • · nut crackers
  • · tongs for serving food


Wedges, like their cousin the inclined plane, are triangular in shape, with one side that lays on a flat surface a second side that angles upward, and a third side that is perpendicular to the flat side and supports the far end of the angled side. Wedges are used to exert a pushing force, such as a door stop, which pushes against a door to keep it open, or a shim which pushes window and door frames in the desired direction in order to make them plum.

Types of Wedges:

  • · shovel
  • · pry bar
  • · axe
  • · knife
  • · chisel
  • · rubber door stop
  • · shims
  • · forks
  • · nails

Wheels and Axles

Wheels rotate around an axis point called the an axle. Wheels use lifting force (as part of a pulley system) to lift objects as well as the ability to move objects around (anything with wheels) and carry things over great distances. So wheels and axles work in both the vertical and horizontal directions.

Types of Wheels and Axles:

  • · car
  • · bus
  • · airplane
  • · wheelchair
  • · roller skates and roller blades
  • · dolly
  • · flagpole pulley
  • · crane pulley
  • · doorknobs
  • · pizza cutter
  • · Ferris wheel
  • · carrousel or merry-go-round
  • · ship's wheel
  • · steering wheel
  • · rolling pins
  • · pencil sharpener
  • · windmills
  • · record players or CD players

Inclined Planes

Inclined planes are the same basic shape as the wedge. The sloped side is used to move objects upward with less force. Unlike the pulley, which moves objects straight upward, the inclined plane moves objects at an angle and requires more distance to move the object than a pulley system. The sloped side is generally a flat surface, though it can be a stepped surface, like a staircase or a ladder.

Types of Inclined Planes:

  • · loading ramps
  • · highway entrance and exit ramps
  • · wheelchair ramps
  • · chisel
  • · hatchet
  • · plow
  • · carpenter's plane
  • · wedge
  • · staircase
  • · stepladder
  • · driveway


Screws make use of a twisting force known as torque to push two objects together. The screw looks something like an inclined plane that has been wrapped around an column, like a spiral staircase wrapped around a support column. Screws with wider spacing require more pushing force to make them work. Tighter spacing takes less pushing force.

Types of Screws:

  • · a jar lid
  • · a light bulb
  • · a bottle cap
  • · a clamp
  • · a wrench
  • · spinning stools (drills)
  • · key rings
  • · screws
  • · bolts
  • · drill bits
  • · motors
  • · corkscrews


Beacon Learning center: Simple Machines Made Simple

Learner Resources: Online Lesson Plan --- Simple Machines

Utah State Junior Engineering: Simple Machines

Scholastic: Dirtmeister's Science Reporters --- Investigate and Report on Simple Machines

Brain Pops Jr.: Simple Machines

Atlantis: Simple Machine Learning Site

Michigan State University: Science Made Simple by Tanya Trombley

Internet 4 Classrooms: Simple Machines --- Elementary Science

Wiki Answers. What Are Examples of Pulley's Around the House?

Beacon Learning Center. Examples of Pulleys. The Three Classes of Levers.

Enchanted Learning. Levers. Downloaded1/2012.

Math and Science Activity Center. Wedges.

Callahan, Rob. eHow. Examples of Wheel and Axle Simple Machines.

Math and Science Activity Center. The Inclined Plane.

Wiki Answers. Things Examples of Screws

Simple Machines

Simple Machines

Simple Machines with Bill Nye


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    • Abid Ali 111 profile image

      Abid Ali 

      13 months ago from Pakistan

      Nice hub and I am pleased to learn this basic information such an interesting and simple way

    • profile image

      jonny a 

      2 years ago

      thanks a lot

    • profile image

      deez nuts 

      2 years ago


    • profile image


      5 years ago


    • grumpiornot profile image


      6 years ago from South Africa

      Excellent summary, even for those of us who are not mechanically minded. Thanks!

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 

      6 years ago from Arizona

      What an interesting idea for a hub. I loved reading it.

    • joanwz profile imageAUTHOR

      Joan Whetzel 

      6 years ago

      thank you.

    • Michele Rubatino profile image

      Michele Kaasen Rubatino 

      6 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Outstanding article!


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