Friday, January 11, 2019

UGEARS Mechanical Models Kits (Review)

My love for mechanics and engineering started at a young age. Any time my father was out working on the car or building something I was always right by his side. With his help, I built a truck practically from scrap as a teen. I loved learning how each part of an engine worked together to generate power or how the parts of a guitar come together to make music. All of this was absolutely fascinating for me.

As an adult, I don't have anywhere near the time I would like to tear apart and rebuild engines or to design and 3D print models (my biggest current passion). I do, however, have a little spare time each week to myself to do things that I like.

One day while goofing around online I came across a company called UGEARS. And these things looked incredible. They had all kinds of model kits made of wood. I thought these could be fun as a little side project until I started to look a little closer and realized these were working models with mechanical moving parts!! There was a windmill, a motorcycle, a car, even a musical instrument.

I had to know more.

The creators at UGEARS are based out of Ukraine and ship their products world wide. They use what appears to be a form of multi-layered balsa wood which is laser cut to create the individual parts of the model. 

The end result is a beautiful and intricate model with a steampunk feel to it that is sure to be a conversation starter anywhere it is displayed. The models offer a challenge for the engineer-minded hobbyist seeking an experience different than almost anything they've tried before, while working with time honored STEM techniques to bring it all together.

UGEARS use ingenious methods of attaching each piece together that works almost flawlessly.

I say 'almost' because I ended up having some issues with the Tower Windmill, which I received for review.

One issue that I had was with the assembly instructions. It's just pictures. There are almost no words at all in the book.

While this made 99% of the assembly process a breeze, there were some points that I was confused by.

For example, they show a photo of sandpaper at several points in the process. But the grit on the photo and the grit of the sheet I actually received left me wondering if I had been shorted a few parts.

There was another section where they illustrate a disk of some sort with what appears to be a sharp wooden stick poking it. Then this stick was poking parts in the next picture.

Well, I later figured out, after skipping some of these steps, that the sandpaper was correct and the disk and stick were apparently wax that was to be applied to the model as a lubricant. What I received was a "natural" colored crayon (I think) and no stick. But it wasn't until part way through the build that I realized this, so my model ended up pretty darn squeaky in the end.  Written text or more clearly labeled parts and pictures would have helped prevent this.

To top it off, my model just doesn't work like they advertise.

There are a handful of videos floating around the internet showing the Windmill model functioning quite well.

You are supposed to twist the outer cage to load the rubber bands. Then flip the lock to let the model work. The outer cage is supposed to spin.

The gears on the inside are then supposed to transfer that motion to the blades.

My model does not work that way.

Now, while I understand that I put about half the model together without sanding or adding the wax lubricant, I also noticed that several of the pieces were cut slightly wrong.

On some of the parts the hole was not quite centered which meant the axle that was riding in it wasn't turning straight.

Some of these manufacturing defects were hard to detect without close inspection. Others were painfully obvious.  In either event, there is little to no way that I could work out that the model builder could have corrected these discrepancies after they were already in the middle of building it.

Taking into account the issues I ran into, I think if I attempted to do this model again I could make some corrections during assembly that would have this thing running just like it does in their videos. But should I have to?

For some users, the extra tweaking gives you the opportunity to locate, isolate, troubleshoot, and repair problems with the motion and alignment of the gears. For others, that might be a turn off.

I will say for sure that, in spite of the complications and less than perfect outcome, I thoroughly enjoyed putting this model together.

And the thing is a GREAT conversation piece considering the history behind the actual design and the fact that I put it together myself.

When it comes down to it, how much are most people really going to play with it anyway? We are happily displaying it even without making the windmill turn.

Over all, I think UGEARS has some fantastic potential and a wonderful idea and aesthetic here, but they need a little work when it comes to quality control and manufacturing of the kit, its instructions and its parts.

Would I buy more models from them? Absolutely.

But I will keep my eye on them and give it some time to see if they can iron out the process and maybe change up how they present the instructions based on whats actually in the box.

A little consistency can go a long way to making these a popular and interesting hobby for many people.

Check out UGEARS and everything they have to offer on their website and on social media.


  1. That sounds like something my oldest son might enjoy bit I know he'd be frustrated when the gears/parts don't line up properly like they're supposed to. Pinned!

  2. Ohmigosh!! I love it. My background is math; my husband is an engineer and our kids love models, kinex, circuits and legos. I am always looking for cool STEM kits for my kids that really capture their attention. My kids would love this! Thank you for your post. Going into the project knowing that you might have to make it better for it to work properly is definitely great to know. It looks great! I will have to look more into this company. Saw your post at the bloggers pit stop! pinning!

  3. Rupp: Not sure this is for kids especially because sometimes quite a lot of controlled force is required to assemble some parts. I must say that I'm dissapointed with this kit. It was my fourth, a third advanced kit from Ugears and I think that the mill is the fiddliest one so far. My model does not work properly and I can see why, I think there are design flaws causing extra friction. Also during the assembly I found out that some parts of the instructions could be, clearer, some steps even in different order. Some subassemblies required quite a lot of sanding/filing due to the production tolerances not being tight enough.

  4. I want to give it to my brother for his birthday. He loves constructors. True, he enjoys Lego, but I think he should like this one too. Tell me, can you order it only at or are there still places where you can buy quality products?

  5. Your kid would love the change his mother would make as kids are in constant look out for change unlike adults who prefer to keep their tastes unchanged at least for a while. bunk bed with slide

  6. I have done 40 odd models and very pleased with them apart from the scrambler and side car which the parts broke while asymbling poor quality plywood but this is my only disappointment so far

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