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What is a Wedge?

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Author: Erin Bjornsson

What is a wedge? Wedges are triangle-shaped objects or tools that can be used to make work easier. The small pointed end (which can often be blunt, not sharp) can be used to lift and separate objects. One example of a wedge that performs this task would be a screwdriver. Other wedges help hold things in place, like a doorstop. Can you think of other wedges that people use on a regular basis?

Objective: Use wedges to do mechanical work.

Materials

  • Small block of soft wood (like plywood)
  • Nail
  • Bolt
  • Screw
  • Knife
  • Adult helper
  • Hammer
  • Screwdriver
  • Book

Procedure

  1. Lay the wood block on a flat surface.
  2. Take the nail and gently try to hammer it into the wood. What happens?
  3. Now take the bolt and gently try to hammer it into the wood. What happens?
  4. Take the screw and try to screw it into the wood with a screw driver. What happens?
  5. Find a clear spot on the wood and use the screwdriver’s tip to make a mark. Why does this happen?
  6. If the wood has any splits, use the screwdriver to try and pry the two sides apart.
  7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 with a knife. Be careful! Ask an adult to help you.
  8. Lay the book on a flat surface.
  9. Use the end of a screwdriver to slide under the book to lift it off the table. What is helpful about this?

Results

The nail will go easily into the board with the hammer, and the screw with the screwdriver, but the bolt will not be hammered into the block. The screwdriver will be able to make a mark in the block. If there is a split in the wood, you may even be able to break the wood apart. The knife will make a mark in the wood.

The screwdriver will also act as a wedge to left the edge of the book off the table, making it easier to pick up.

Why?

You may be thinking, “Is a ramp a wedge?” While ramps are triangular in shape, they are stationary (they don’t move), so they are considered inclined planes. Wedges are objects that can be moved to do work.

Wedges have been used for centuries to make lifting and securing objects easier. Wedges make things easier by transferring a force applied in the direction of the “point” to its slope. Concentrating an applied force on a small point is far more efficient that trying to spread that same force out over a wider area.

Other commonly used wedges include sewing needles, axes for chopping wood, forks, knives, and scissors.

You may be thinking, “Is a ramp a wedge?” While ramps are triangular in shape, they are stationary (they don’t move), so they are considered inclined planes. Wedges are objects that can be moved to do work.

Wedges have been used for centuries to make lifting and securing objects easier. Wedges make things easier by transferring a force applied in the direction of the “point” to its slope. Concentrating an applied force on a small point is far more efficient that trying to spread that same force out over a wider area.

Other commonly used wedges include sewing needles, axes for chopping wood, forks, knives, and scissors.

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