Caterpillar Automata

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Project by ToyMakingDad posted 12-28-2016 03:34 PM 4269 views 16 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

These are a couple of moving caterpillar automata I recently made as gifts.
Pretty easy to build if you have a drill press, a miter saw and some patience.
The body segments are mostly 1 1/4” dowels cut on a miter saw to just short of 1/2” thick and then painted with craft store acrylic and finished with spray acrylic.
The cams are 1 1/4” dowel cut to exactly 1/2” thick except for the the cam that moves the head and locks the shaft in place.
The base is 1×3 pine (3/4” x 2 1/2”) finished with beeswax and mineral oil.
Followers and shaft are 1/4” oak dowels.

Took some time to noodle out the measurements but after the initial work, the second one went together much faster and easier. It is a real pleasant motion on the toy and will hopefully be sturdy enough to last quite awhile.

Details about the build are on my blog:

Here is a video of him in action.

Thanks for looking.

-- Toy Making Dad, Northern Virginia,

8 comments so far

View xwingace's profile


229 posts in 3919 days

#1 posted 12-28-2016 04:59 PM

So cute!

-- I'm not as good as I once was, but I'm as good once as I ever was.

View RTV's profile


106 posts in 1845 days

#2 posted 12-28-2016 05:25 PM

Looks like a fun project.

-- Ray Vanderpool

View Mean_Dean's profile


7057 posts in 4478 days

#3 posted 12-28-2016 11:27 PM

That’s a pretty cool caterpillar project—fun to see in action!

You know, if you rigged up something like John Hutchinson’s Dynamo Men to operate him, you could just sit back and enjoy the show!

-- Dean -- "Don't give up the ship -- fight her 'till she sinks!" Capt James Lawrence USN

View htl's profile


5616 posts in 2490 days

#4 posted 12-29-2016 03:27 PM

Cute! Cute! cute!
Would be a ball to make and fun to play with me thinks.

-- An Index Of My Model making Blogs

View dddddmorgan's profile


91 posts in 2458 days

#5 posted 12-29-2016 04:13 PM

I like it!

So the “cam lobes” are fixed to the “crankshaft” but is the caterpillar fixed or loose or is there even a dowel running through him?

-- Maintenance Man - I do precision guesswork based on unreliable data from people of questionable knowledge...

View ToyMakingDad's profile


85 posts in 3342 days

#6 posted 12-29-2016 05:13 PM


Great question. None of the body segments are connected to each other except for the very end of his tail which is glued to the piece in front of it.
Otherwise, each segment is loose and has a 1/4 oak dowel follower that ends in a block of pine that actually rides on the cam.
Looking down the length of the toy from his head, those blocks are 1” wide (left to right) 1/2” tall (up and down) and 7/16” deep (front to back.) That way they get better contact with the cams and when the caterpillar gets turned upside down, his pieces don’t fall out.

Hope that helps and thanks for looking.


-- Toy Making Dad, Northern Virginia,

View htl's profile


5616 posts in 2490 days

#7 posted 12-29-2016 10:37 PM

Couldn’t stand it any longer and got started on one today. LOL
I’m to the point it’s time to get it all lined up and acting proper, you know what I mean.
Great how to, all the info you need to make it your own.

-- An Index Of My Model making Blogs

View crowie's profile


5251 posts in 3281 days

#8 posted 05-27-2017 07:29 AM

Some how missed this beaut toy… great fun for some little ones..

-- Lifes good, Enjoy each new day...... Cheers from "On Top DownUnder" Crowie

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