From Da Vinci to Furniture by the Shakers: Inventions that Changed Society

Most likely, any person reading this knows who the great Leonardo Da Vinci – full birth name Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (15 April 1452 – 2 May 1519) – is and his impact in the art world. Millions admire, study and mimic his work still. Being a constant procrastinator, perhaps only fifteen of his paintings survived. In addition to Da Vinci’s effect on the world of art, his ideas, drawings and inventions have also led the way for engineering machines in use today such as a wire tensile strength testing machine, the robotic arm (thought to be the first robot), an automated bobbin winder and self-propelled cart. All entered the world of assembling unheralded.

Later in life, Da Vinci recorded an “omen” from infancy of a kite with a tail of feathers dropping from the sky to hover over his cradle, noting the tail struck him several times inside his lips. He wrote that he saw this as a representation of his destiny leading to his great works.

Much like Da Vinci, Amish furniture has inspired carpentry of furniture makers throughout history. Renowned for its unstinting quality and distinctive, minimalist design, the same understatement and principles that first distinguished it so many years ago is still in use by many artisans today. Shaker furniture is void of excessive ornament because it encourages the sin of pride. Instead, the focus has always been on proportions, functionality and overall form, creative solutions such as asymmetrical drawer arrangements to add visual interest. Colors allowed are greens, blues, yellows and reds, and are strictly adhered to by Millennial Laws regulation.

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Ideas and Inventions

Robotic Knight

Da Vinci’s Robotic Knight was equipped with gears and wheels connected to an elaborate cable and pulley system. Several people have tried to invent robots that do things like clean or fix broken things and robotic arms are on assembly lines across the world. Much like the robotic arm, the self-propelled cart was built with “no labor” assistance in mind.

DaVinci Inventions – Robotic Knight
Famous Scientists – 5 of the Best Inventions by DaVinci Still Used Today

Self-Propelled Cart

Designed as a special Renaissance festivals attraction and baffling scholars until well into the 20th Century, Da Vinci’s self-propelled cart (the car) was powered by a set of coiled springs and equipped with brake and steering capabilities. The cart’s steering had pre-set angles allowing the cart to self-propel forward in multiple directions when releasing the brake requiring no further assistance to steer the cart. Some say this was the true first car leading to the modern car; much like the canvas and wooden parachute leading to the first skydive from an airplane.


After ignoring warnings from experts that the canvas and wooden parachute contraption would fail, British man Adrian Nicholas safely dropped from 10,000 feet in an Mpumalanga, South African field to the amazement of excitable children. Da Vinci’s “ahead of its time” idea not only validated his idea, but also set the path for parachute technology used today. The City of the Future idea was also as ingenious, fundamentally leading the way for future small towns and cities.

City of the Future

After a Milan plague had ravaged the city killing nearly one third of its population, Da Vinci created an ambitious city design. His city was far ahead of its time and much like the modern designs around the world today, if his city had come to fruition it would have connected as one providing better communications, canals, a sewage system and commercial advances. His hope was having such a city would have prevented plagues in the future. His idea and foresight of having men dressed in diving suits to cut holes in the ships invading upon the cities have been used historically and modern day.

Diving Suit

Conceived during the 15th Century in Venice, the diving suit was designed as a sleuth weapon to aid in strikes against invading ships. When compared to equipment manufactured today, the similarities are remarkable. His ideas of leather and cane tubes attached to the facemask and the use of steel rings to resist water pressure have been the basis in designs through history. The instinct to use steel for its resistance and strength is much like the foresight of ball bearings for transition capabilities.

Ball Bearing

Many things in use today benefit from Da Vinci’s invention of the ball bearing, including Davinci baby cribs. Baby strollers/carriages, chairs, baby machines and other equipment fit with drive shafts containing ball bearings have smooth movement and transition to prevent a child from falling over.

Museo Nazionale Scienza E Techologia Leonardo DaVinci – The Ideal City
Nursery Progress – Finding eco-friendly crib options.

Shaker Ideas and Inventions

Bedding Frames

Made with inexpensive woods available in the region, the intent of the frame’s design is simplistic functionality. Instead of using carvings, inlays or veneers as ornate features, long “finger joints”, ball and socket feet and round or square straight legs (often tapered) are used. These techniques mimicked through carpentry history are still in use today. The understatement inherent in bedding frames is evident in constructing of tables as well.

Dwelling in Happiness – Nursery décor on a budget can be a simple as painting a dark wood crib a brighter color. For example, turn the baby bed into a pink or white crib for a girl, or a blue or grey crib for a boy.
Kid’s Bedroom Decorating Ideas – Ideas for a child’s room as they grow.


Tables designed for communal living (used for an indoor room or outside space) can be large with mostly thick, straight legs; smaller tables have delicate, straight legs. Often compact and light for easy storage and portability, both large and small tables have drop leaves, legs that unscrew or are attached with wooden pegs (of the same species of wood to blend in) and have arrow, cylindrical or pear feet. Manufacturers use these same features in modern fine furniture and those for convenience, such as portable folding tables and furniture for small living spaces. The same painstaking artisan work is visible in their chairs.

Chairs/Rocking Chairs

Chair legs are straight and delicate, have extremely simplistic bracket feet or none at all. Legs may be round or square and have a gentle swelling in the middle or be tapered. The famous rockers (American Shakers) have done more for advancing the rocking chair than any other American chair-maker, and have been a heavy influence in postwar Danish designs. Production began shortly after 1800 and usually features four-slat, ladder-backs with an intricately woven seat. Manufacturers use these same details in modern chair and rocking chair designs found in homes and on porches across the world. Depending on the region and wood available, Shaker chairs are built of maple, chestnut, birch, honey pine and butternut material. The same ideals are in use when building cabinets and dressers.

The Craft Patch – The Nursery Is Done
The Happiest Home – Nursery Decorating Tips from a Mom Who’s Done with Babies


In a cabinet or chest of drawers, the Golden Ratio sets the drawers’ design. The bottom drawer is the largest with the others incrementally smaller as they go up. The Shakers used mortise-and-tenon joinery and dovetails extensively in making furniture. These same techniques are still in use throughout pieces and half dovetails for drawers being visible only when one is pulled out. Other characteristics include frame-and-panel structure, wooden pulls and ball-and-socket feet much like those found in modern furniture. Shaker cupboards and cabinets have immaculate detail and exemplify the commitment to tidiness and order with several functional drawers.

The Met – The history of the Shaker people and Shaker furniture.
Shaker Woodworking – Characteristics of the Shaker style furniture.
10 Nursery Tips Decorating on a Budget – How to decorate a child’s nursery on a serious budget.