23 March 2019
Magnetic Shock Absorbers

I’ve had a fascination with magnetism for many decades.  In the late 60’s I created mobiles that had magnets in them.  The mobiles never stopped moving…they were very interesting.

On Big Wheel Lift #1 I was faced with the problem of absorbing the shock of moving marbles.  Two drops, and the end of the run.

I experimented for a while and then created three magnetic shock absorbers.  They function based on the principle of ‘same poles repel’.  In the image to the right, in the upper part of the lower right quadrant, you see a silver disc.  This is the top of the bottom magnet.  It is stationary.  Above it is a swinging ramp that also has a magnet in it.  The two same magnetic poles face each other…they repel each other.  The swinging ramp is held aloft by the magnetic repulsion.  When the marble drops down onto the swinging ramp it’s drop is cushioned by the magnetic repulsion…so it is an ‘easier’ drop.

I obtain my magnets from K&J Magnetics.  They are one of my treasured suppliers.  Very reasonable prices.  Always fast shipping…and I’ve never had anything back ordered.

Magnets are fun to work with.  I suspect most of my automata will have magnets working somewhere.  I’ve prepared a video for you that shows these little shock absorbers in action…including some views in slow motion.  Enjoy.


In August of 2016 I finished building my first street organ.  I took it out in public and all I seemed to hear from people was “Where’s the monkey?”.  So, I went to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and purchased a small stuffed monkey and animated it and put it on top of the organ.  This seemed to satisfy people.  Finally, they could relax and listen to the organ music.

I play my street organ in public at least several times a month, and I keep a log book with the organ…where I play, for how long, misc notations about the venue, and I also keep track of repairs that I make.  I’ve played the street organ in public now for about 375 hours.  Doing loose math, this means that I’ve turned the organ crank about 1,000,000 times.  This means that the monkey has raised its arm about 1,000,000 times.  Looking back on it I realize that the Monkey was my first automata.

At the present time I have almost completed the third automata in the Jim’s Gym  series.  I’ve built two Scissor Lifts and am finishing Big Wheel Lift #1.  As I build one of the things that I strive to do is “a good job”.  I don’t want to be building anything that I need to apologize for.  I want to create “strong and reliable” automata.  

When I created the monkey automata I did strive to do a good job…I wanted the monkey to be problem free.  I tried to be careful.  In hindsight I “did good”.  After 1,000,000 million cycles the monkey is still going strong.  And each automata that I create is better than the last.  I am learning how to create strong and reliable automata.

When I show folks the automata that I am creating a common question is “how did you get started doing this?”.  In hindsight I realize that it’s The Monkey That Made Me Do It!

Take a look at the monkey in action.