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Pin or shaft on or with which wheels revolve; with fixed wheels, one of the basic simple machines for amplifying force. Combined with the wheel, in its earliest form it was probably used for raising weights or water buckets from wells. Its principle of operation can be illustrated in the attachment of large and small gears to the same shaft; the tendency of a force applied at the radius on the large gear to turn the shaft is sufficient to overcome a larger force at the radius on the small gear. The mechanical advantage is equal to the ratio of the two forces and also equal to the ratio of the radii of the two gears.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on axle, visit Britannica.com.