Pile Driver

From Leonardo da Vinci, Codex Atlanticus, f. 1018r; L Manuscript, f. 33v; B Manuscript, f. 70r.


Bridge foundations, buildings, river barriers and doors.

Manual or with a winch.

In the drawings from engineers of the Renaissance we find traces of various types of pile drivers, most have a vertical frame along which the striker is operated with a rope and pulley. Leonardo’s models are distinguished by the refined automatic release striker system once it reaches release height.

Interpretative issues
Dimensions: vary based on the length of the pile to be driven in the ground and the weight of the striker. Leonardo wrote that the striker in the model drawn in Manuscript L is as a high as an arm (about 60 cm) which makes the machine about two meters tall. From Leonardo’s indications we deduce that the striker’s weight could reach about 100 kg if made out of iron.
Reconstruction: the drawing of this pile driver (Codex Atlanticus, f. 1018r) is not clear and does not make it possible to give it a definitive interpretation. Leonardo focused on the technological details of a release system, whereas the overall drawing is approximate and leaves the traction system indefinite. The explanations proposed up to today (Museo Leonardo da Vinci, Milan’ Museo Leonardiano, Vinci) explain what appears to be the apparent presences of two ropes, one for lifting the striker and the other for changing the height of the release point.


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