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Wedge

One of six types of simple machines. Consists of two inclined planes, giving it a thin end and thick end.

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Wedge

A chisel is a very useful tool for carving wood, rocks, and other hard substances. This man is using a chisel to remove large pieces of wood. A chisel is a type of machine called a wedge.

What Is A Wedge?

A wedge is simple machine that consists of two inclined planes, giving it a thin end and thick end, as you can see in the Figure below. A wedge is used to cut or split apart objects. Force is applied to the thick end of the wedge, and the wedge, in turn, applies force to the object along both of its sloping sides. This force causes the object to split apart.

Diagram of a wedge at work

A knife is another example of a wedge. In the Figure below, a knife is being used to chop tough pecans. The job is easy to do with the knife because of the wedge shape of the blade. The very thin edge of the blade easily enters and cuts through the pecans. 

Knife cutting through nuts

Mechanical Advantage Of A Wedge

The mechanical advantage of a simple machine is the factor by which it multiplies the force applied to the machine. It is the ratio of the output force to the input force. A wedge applies more force to the object (output force) than the user applies to the wedge (input force), so the mechanical advantage of a wedge is greater than 1. A longer, thinner wedge has a greater mechanical advantage than a shorter, wider wedge. With all wedges, the trade-off is that the output force is applied over a shorter distance, so force may need to be applied to the wedge repeatedly to push it through the object.

Q: Which wedge in the Figure below do you think would do the same amount of work with less input force?

Wedges of different shapes

A: The wedge on the left has a greater mechanical advantage, so it would do the same amount of work with less input force.

Summary

  • A wedge is a simple machine that consists of two inclined planes, giving it a thin end and thick end. Force is applied to the thick end of the wedge, and the sloping sides of the wedge apply force to the object, cutting it or splitting it apart.
  • A wedge makes work easier by increasing the force applied to the object, although it applies the force over a shorter distance. This gives the wedge a mechanical advantage greater than 1.

Review

  1. What is a wedge?
  2. How does a wedge change the force applied to it?
  3. Which of the following machines includes a wedge?
    1. axe
    2. hammer
    3. bolt
    4. file
  4. Explain why the mechanical advantage of a wedge is greater than 1.

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    wedge

    Simple machine that consists of two inclined planes.

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