By Robert Race
An excellent e-book that explains how you can layout and build small scale, easy mechanical units for fun—perfect for toy makers, woodworkers, crafters, and tinkerers
Designing and making profitable automata consists of combining fabrics, mechanisms, and magic. Illustrated with colour images all through, this glorious booklet explains the six golden ideas for making automata along special step by step initiatives. Many fabrics are mentioned, together with paper and card, wooden, cord, tinplate, and plastics mechanisms mentioned comprise levers and linkages, cranks and cams, wheels, gears, pulleys, springs, ratchets, and pawls. eventually, there's the magic—an unanalyzable attraction, a powerful fascination in order that the full is greater than the sum of its components.
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Above all he produced a whole circus, a collection of little mechanical ﬁgures made of wire, scraps of wood and fabric, and all sorts of recycled objects. Calder gave performances of the circus, and added components to it, over thirty years, until it ﬁlled ﬁve suitcases. Calder’s Circus is now preserved in the Whitney Museum, New York. The work of the Swiss kinetic sculptor Jean Tinguely (1925–1991) displayed a decidedly ambiguous attitude towards technology. Some of his witty and ironical works, such as the painting machines, produced unpredictable outcomes; others were designed to destroy themselves in operation.
Turning the handle very slowly seems to give a better result, and so does turning it very fast, which gives a manic eﬀect that you could not get by twiddling the knob on Muttering Bird. 2. As with Muttering Bird the mechanism is quite simple, but gives good value in terms of movement. The back and forth movement from the pair of cams not only turns the head, but also, as it lifts, allows the beak to open simply through the action of gravity. One problem in using a pair of oﬀset cams to give a back and forth rotation to a vertical shaft is that the shaft must be completely free to move up and, more particularly to fall back down under its own weight, but at the same time must be held vertically upright.
In later chapters I will explore these three elements further, but before that here are some general principles. GOLDEN RULES 1 There are no rules Automata are for fun. Making them oﬀers a complete freedom to experiment, without many of the constraints that apply to functional structures and machinery. It is not like building a bridge, where failure may be catastrophic. You really can try anything. But of course, because you want to make real structures with real movement, some constraints are unavoidable: William Heath Robinson’s ingenious devices work beautifully, but only on the page, where the laws of physics can be tweaked, or even suspended altogether.