I guess some hints are in order, or at least further explaination of what happens when one "turns the crank". There are not continuous "gears" around the circumference of the "wheel". You'll notice the gear arrangement is somewhat different than you'd expect to see on a "hand drill" in your shop. Your hand drill, or your wifes egg beater, if you choose to go grab it, has only one set of gears on the vertical rod operating mechanism (one end of which one hangs on to for dear life). At the other end of this rod is a slot and a hole to place some sort of pin in it. Now can your mechanical minds get into "gear" and visualize what happens when you turn the crank?
Don't look at me, I don't know what the dang think is used for, but I do have an idea, but its just a guess no better than yours. I will take a lover of tools or an old timer to solve this unit. Ed, if its a bike tool, its pre 1940 for sure. (I'm sure its not.)