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Halloween 2022 Automaton
You may be sweltering on the beach, desperately slapping on sunscreen, trying to stay cool and hydrated. BUT there's something you should know: it's only 5 and a half weeks to the start of October! Where I live, that is the traditional time to start putting up Halloween decorations.
To be honest, I wasn't going to bother making an automaton for our front yard this year. Until, that is, I told my wife - she grabbed me by the arm (makes a change from grabbing me by the neck!), looked me in the eye and said "BUT YOU MUST!!!". Apparently a very elderly Japanese neighbor has been trekking half a mile up a steep hill every morning on the off chance that we've put our Halloween decorations up (in August!!!). So, I've spent the last couple of weeks dreaming up what to do to please my one and only local fan.
What I've come up with is a motorized, aerial chase scene, called 'Who's spooking who?'
It's set in the graveyard of Sinister Ministers church in Little Snoring, in Boring county.
He's, rather unwisely, come out to investigate what's causing all the noise in his graveyard. Bearing a torch in one hand and a crucifix in the other, just in case.
The aerial chase is pretty simple and based on a crank slider. The direction of the chase will change every day - so the spookers become the spooked. The cast will also change every other day - starting off with conventional Halloween characters (ghost, witch, grim reaper, etc) and evolving to spooky UFO's and some pretty crazy characters by the week of Halloween.
I'll be keeping you posted as work progresses, so stay tuned....
I spotted this Rastafarian automaton, made by Keith Newstead, on page 2 of an old Cabaret Mechanical Theatre's newsletter. You can see it here https://cabaret.co.uk/pdfs/news8.pdf
Sadly, there are no photos or videos of it on the web.
I'm intrigued by the quirky mechanism. It's different from most of Keiths automata of that period. He's gone to a lot of trouble to make a worm drive and an offset horizontal gear. It appears the horizontal gear has a rod attached to it, which passes through a hole in the top of the mechanism box and is attached to the body of the character. If I'm correct, that would make the Rastafarians body gyrate which is very unusual to say the least!
I used my animation software, Moho, to make the video of how I think it works. Unfortunately, I don't have the skills to make the tiny toothed brass gears and worm drive, so I can't make a copy.
If anyone has seen one working or has one for sale please contact me.
This is the head which I designed and carved this weekend. The character is called Sk8er Dude. He's an IT nerd and social media influencer. He's camped out at Loch Ness to try to spot Nessie. Unfortunately his phone keeps pinging with tex messages, Facebook notifications, etc. Inevitably, as soon as he looks down to read his phone, Nessie rears up from the loch, waves and does goofy things before diving back down into the deep.
The head is about 2 inches tall and carved from basswood. I left the 'handle' attached so I have something to hold and keep my hand well away from the Stanley knife which I carved 95% of this with. I strop the Stanley knife frequently which keeps it super sharp. I was able to use it because the figure is so small and predominantly convex.
It's a different style to my normal one. It's based on a simple geometric shape - a funnel with a baseball hat on! I decided to try this because many famous automata are very simply carved and because I may need to write a series of articles on wood carving for beginners. These will appear in future editions of Automata Magazine.
The drawing below is to scale. The grid is 1-inch. feel free to have a go at trying to carve it yourself. Let me know if you'd like me to write a 'how to' to explain how I went about carving it.
I'll post further pictures of this project as work progresses.
Here's a way to make a knee (or elbow) joint using a couple of screw eyes and a brass Chicago screw.
It's quite a bit quicker to make than a traditional mortise and tenon joint. I could have used a nut and bolt instead of the of the Chicago screw, but I think this looks a bit nicer.
Local pebbles for my automata
Hi everyone. I'm planning to put up how to's and stuff like that on this blog. I'll try to post something once a month.
First up will be a review of different types of body joints and how to make them. I'll start with rigid, wooden mortise and tenon style ones, then review thin metal inserts that Keith Newstead used, then screw eyes with Chicago screw axles, before getting into floppy ones and why you would ever want to use them!
In the meantime, since it's warming up and almost summer, here's a cartoon I made called "An Unfortunate Choice of Bikini". This may become an automaton one day.
I make whimsical wooden automata