Automata on Display.

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Project by LittleBlackDuck posted 09-26-2020 02:16 AM 1690 views 1 time favorited 26 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Boys and Girls,

I have no Idea what spurred me on to taking up this project’s concept, as regrettably, I have never really made toys for children or had the opportunity to do so, as most of the “toys” I get involved with are more so considered big boy’s toys... and I’m not referring to tools, but rather T & J (and like) models.

This project emanated from an ”out of left field” reply I made to a project in the past, promising to post my limited experience (and lack of knowledge) about automata. I should stop here, but as the missus refers to me as a pig headed duck, I will press on (she keeps insisting I should have ducked when they handed out the heads)…
I apologise, not for the head, but forgetting the member’s name that the “promise” was made to.

Just to set the mood… Quite a few years ago, during an inane debate with a woodworking mate, for some uncanny reason he drew my attention to an article in a magazine regarding toy automation. If I remember his sales pitch, it was centred around this picture

which he reputed to be the ”answer” to all toy automation movements.
I am no authority on automata and don’t want to get involved in theologian debates about mythical robotics… any form of contradictory opinions can be channeled towards that said friend who now refuses to be identified, and even if he was, he’s training to be a Victorian politician (Australia) and is practicing the current political privilege of forgetfulness.

Without upsetting the racobite viewers, I fired up SketchUp and started designing after my traditional preliminary ritual of a glass of ”...iarch…” (← insert appropriate racobite chagrin here) vino…

Initially my intentions was to create a board that would activate all the automata actions as one with the use of an ingenious combination of gears driven by a single handle,

Unfortunately the ingenious quickly morphed into a genuine ass as I not so quickly realised that I’d need a bucket load of bearings, friction pads and other expensive hardware to permit such engineered motion with just one single knob.
Nevertheless, my friend was very impressed when presented with the SketchUp model and asked if I could laser cut the parts for him… I was unimpressed by his impression, but for the sake of friendship I obliged… then when he asked if I could assemble it… I was further unimpressed and related my feelings accordingly.
I believe it was at this point that the venture stagnated.

It wasn’t till a few years later (circa 2020… C19 self-isolation… now-ish) that my buddy must have swatted up on Shakespeare and in a perfect Julius II impersonation, uttered the famous words of ”Duckangello, when will you make it end?”.
The timing was coincidental as while disinfecting what pottzy calls my NASA laboratory, I came across a baggie of ½ sized automata scraps (cut but un-assembled) and when I realised it wasn’t a stash I got a fit of conscience… not for my buddy, but to that LJ member I mentioned above and for some stupid reason at that time, promised I would make up the automata model and post it here at LJ (not in the mail)… Well I can’t remember who that member was, but I do remember my promise.

Running out of excuses (not a cask of ”...iarch…” vino), a revisit with SketchUp (without further reading), and resulted in,

Apparently each assembly is responsible for a unique action, depending on where and how one secures an attachment to it with the intention that the appropriate movement is achieved by the rotation of a “driving wheel”, as in a cart, rolling toy or a handle.
I really haven’t the foggiest of which does what, however, I planned to make a video highlighting the individual actions, that if you use your imagination, might find an animation for the action. I do recall my friend pointing to one of the mechanisms in the original picture stating that is what one would use to make a wood-chopping action toy… but damned if I remember exactly which one he pointed at. Just remember that these are small models with no attachments. Even I can foresee a large model with appropriate attachments that could generate spectacular results.
Confused?... wait for the video… if it ever gets created… actors are hard to find with C19 restrictions… even I’m self isolating so currently unavailable.

Processed the “cut” layouts

through the laser, (yaaay... finally… actual workshop and/or “wood” pictures)

and created a new baggie of goodies and snail mailed it to my buddy,

as I had little bit of trouble using email.

Eager to beat my friend to the first working model, I tried a prototype with just two of the movements,

and got totally concerned about the difficulty of activating the new simplified geared movement,

only to realise rubber mats are not a great friction pad for MDF.

Being winter, production stagnated again, but this time due to lack of springs (the above two movements didn’t require springs)...
Fortunately during a pilgrimage to my local bottle shop, I ventured into the adjoining Mitre 10 hardware store and found these budget packets of miscellaneous springs,

With a new spring in my steps (and hands), it was back to the workshop. The base was built and the movements constructed,

The base was buffed to provide a slicker turning surface,


It was at this stage that I realised that the original dowel “handle”

was a bit cranky, and designed a hollow dowel handle with a tenon

to compensate for the 3mm spacers.
While this was workable, I soon decided that a moving picture would better demonstrate the functionality of each movement and in anticipation of a future video, with some trial and error, I redesigned the handle,

and was happy with the result,

Now I’m no expert in automata and certainly don’t plan to be, however, since I took the trouble of making up this display board I should at least demonstrate its functionality. While there may be other movements, and I think some on the board are far too similar, I have been assured that these are a good sample.
So again I ask, don’t shoot the messenger, even in duck season. Following this, eventually there will be a link to a video I’m planning to make, however, as I haven’t made it yet, I can’t discuss it any further.

Talking about videos… like in a movie… big print…

..... 2 DAYS LATER .....

The video was made and published. There is also a link to the SketchUp animation.

For any budding toy makers who might be tempted to experiment., here is a link to the SketchUp, original and layout PDF’s. When it comes to the layout, exact dimensions are not critical, unless you want to print and make the meshing gears…

-- If your first cut is too short... Take the second cut from the longer end... LBD

26 comments so far

View Madmark2's profile


3051 posts in 1797 days

#1 posted 09-26-2020 03:07 AM


-- The hump with the stump and the pump!

View pottz's profile


19953 posts in 2193 days

#2 posted 09-26-2020 03:44 AM

ducks youve scared me in the past but this weird,what the f ever has me me rally concerned!!!!how do i notify aussie health services about someone gone insane ? ;=)

you always amaze me my friend!!!

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View Hawaiilad's profile


3379 posts in 4229 days

#3 posted 09-26-2020 04:40 AM

I have to disagree with your wife…there is nothing wrong with your head. But mine sure is spinning right now. Great work or play

-- Larry in Hawaii,

View dbeck's profile


107 posts in 1568 days

#4 posted 09-26-2020 05:00 AM

Curiosity is powerful, i watched it all and enjoyed it, thank you for all that work.

View Ivan's profile


16953 posts in 4076 days

#5 posted 09-26-2020 05:15 AM

Realy fascinating! So cool engineering work

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View pottz's profile


19953 posts in 2193 days

#6 posted 09-26-2020 06:31 AM

I have to disagree with your wife…there is nothing wrong with your head. But mine sure is spinning right now. Great work or play

- Hawaiilad

hey man were not legally married.damn aussie laws!!!

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View Dutchy's profile


4172 posts in 3377 days

#7 posted 09-26-2020 06:50 AM

I like it Alex. A lot of work for such a “tool”, but nice to see it work I think.


View Ivan's profile


16953 posts in 4076 days

#8 posted 09-26-2020 07:48 AM

I realy admire your effort to make such demanding projects. My simple stuff look so modest compare to yours. Keep up with such inspireing work.. Cheers my friend.

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View robscastle's profile


8214 posts in 3413 days

#9 posted 09-26-2020 08:04 AM

OMG Alex never delve into the world of bizarre gears or next you will be building some marble powered contraption!

geneva gears, square gears, oval gears, rectangular gears, and the crazy list goes on!

-- Regards Rob

View robscastle's profile


8214 posts in 3413 days

#10 posted 09-26-2020 08:13 AM

But sadly you are already infected so a link I sent Sam just recently by help you therapy wise

-- Regards Rob

View Peteybadboy's profile


3867 posts in 3158 days

#11 posted 09-26-2020 09:09 AM

Ever hear of Rube Goldberg? This reminds me of his drawings. BTW pretty cool!

-- Petey

View stevejack's profile


340 posts in 529 days

#12 posted 09-26-2020 09:18 AM

What Laser cutter do you use?

View crowie's profile (online now)


4909 posts in 3160 days

#13 posted 09-26-2020 09:42 AM

So this is what you do in isolation lockdown in the strange times.
Keeping ones mind and hands active with a mechanical masterpiece

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

View EarlS's profile


4724 posts in 3557 days

#14 posted 09-26-2020 12:08 PM

Do I dare admit that this is cool? If I do, then am I destined to be diagnosed with the same issues?

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

8271 posts in 1791 days

#15 posted 09-26-2020 12:56 PM

All I know is they don’t look much like tomatoes to me. Don’t think they would be at all tasty in a BLT.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

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