Model Makers Create Magic With Elastic Bands

Wooden horses, cars, theatres, steam trains or roadsters—all moving without batteries and charges, nails or glue. Instead they’re powered by gears, cranks, rubber bands and gravity.

These Ukrainian made mechanical models are popular all around the world. Each part of the model is laser cut from a sustainably sourced board of wood.

Ugears was launched in 2014 and has become world-renowned after a successful fundraising campaign on Kickstarter in 2015.

The company raised more than $400,000 after asking for just $20,000.

Since then, the company has created more than 30 new models and sells thousands of them each year in more than 80 countries.

Ugears’ CEO and co-founder Gennady Shestak says the secret of success is quite simple.

“People get tired of everything, including gadgets. When working on a gadget, a person moves only one finger and it also becomes boring. People have a need to create something by themselves. In this, they want to have a ready-made solution. Our puzzles don’t need to be cut out, they don’t need glue, adjustment of details etc. The quality is really high. When buying our product the client makes the model by himself but without additional work like cutting out, sawing or sharpening. So we provide a ready solution from the beginning.”

Before they get to the stores, each model has undergone a long process of design and production.

“The idea (of new models) can be brought from different sources. Even our client can say what kind of model he wants. We listen to the views of clients. We develop the model’s conception, prototyping, create interesting mechanisms and always try to put something new into the model. After that we strive to make it beautiful as well,” says Ugears designer Stanislav Shevchenko.

The company started only three years ago with just a few employees. Today more than 200 people are involved in this process. Gennady Shestak is sure that they are offering the right product at the right time.

“Since very ancient times people have worked with wood. It’s normal. The second interesting thing is that rubber bands drive the motors here. This type of drive has probably been known since the middle of the 20th century or even earlier. I had Avia models and boats with rubber band motors in my childhood. It just makes people feel nostalgic. Electric motors or simple software could easily be installed here. But it wouldn’t be the same if that was done. It wouldn’t be that kind of so-called magic that we have in our models.”

One of the most popular models is this horse. It is almost entirely wooden and can move by itself. There’s also this musical instrument that plays the U.S. national anthem.

“This is the model of a musical instrument called wheel lyre or Hurdy-Gardy. It can be assembled by hand and it is also a true musical instrument. It has strings that make sounds if you turn the handle,” says Shevchenko.

In a Kiev showroom, hundreds of models are presented—from small colour wooden boards for children, to complicated assembly cars and trains. Every model finds its client.