17 January 2020, 4 Motions are Linked

First let me report that my brother came through open heart surgery with flying colors…what an era we live in!

There are six cams in the campak.  Of those six four have been connected to their components…and all is well.

Remaining to connect are the two motions that will utilize the ‘pulse’.  I think I know how I’m going to do it…now I just need to build what is in my mind.

It’s at this stage of the project that things are coming together and that more ideas start flowing into the mind.  Some of these new ideas are valid and I will take action.  Others are just part of the creation process noise.

I’ve been reading a blog about a 47 foot trawler that is exploring the southern tip of South America.  The story is very interesting.  I doubt that Cheryl and I will ever get that far down…but it’s pleasant thinking about it.

Part of the process of creating automata is having what you need at hand.  I’ve spent thousands of dollars and about three years building adequate stock.  It’s paying off.  I am able to create much faster than I used to be able to.  Not that speed is the goal…it’s not.  What I mean is that there is less stopping to wait for something.  I’ve got a spread sheet that I utilize for keeping track of inventory and parts orders.  The spreadsheet helps a lot.

Sorry that the image does not have more detail.  The detail is hard to photograph in a manner that makes sense.  What you should notice is that the Drive Frame (the lower part) is filling up.


Four of the six motions are now linked to the campak.

9 January 2020, The Cams are going in…

Happy New Year everyone.  Time sure goes fast as I get older.  Time seems to be flying.

My brother is going to have open heart surgery next Monday.  Imagine that.  They are going to open his heart and repair it.  What an age we live in!  And then there are some of us who create these little cranky machines that we hope might make someone smile.  There is lots of breadth and depth to life.

Regarding the Electric Chair #1, I’ve made two decisions that I’m very pleased with:

  1. I wanted the top (the automata proper) to be removable from the bottom (the Drive Frame).
  2. I wanted to be able to easily remove and replace the CamPak.

In hindsight…I’m glad that I made these two decisions.  The build is going well.  I’m in the finicky stage of the build…the part where I actually make the things that move…move.  This is the time to ‘take your time’, to go slow and lovingly, to care about every little detail.  Proper motion is so important.  Improper motion seems to sort of wreck things.

Our President continues to stress me out.  I feel guilty because I am trying to just “shut it all out”.  I know that’s wrong to do.  But it eats me up inside if I think much about it.

The Cams are being installed into Electric Chair #1


30 December 2019, Product Spinner

It’s almost the end of the year.

It’s almost the start of another year.

Time is running short.  I’ve got perhaps 20 more years to go…then I’m out of here.  As I write this I’m approaching 75.

As I’ve aged I’ve gotten better with time utilization.  I have many fewer non-essential things and activities in my life.  I am much more focused.  It’s easier getting from A to B because the lines are straighter.  I like to think that I’ve finally become “who I am”…as opposed to being someone who was trying to be.

I have been taking Big Wheel Lift into public with me occasionally and I keep noting that people are very attracted to it.  They stop and study it, and marvel at it…and seem to receive joy from it.

This has gotten me to thinking about how to get my automata into public more often.  I am contemplating what I think of as “Product Spinners” that I rent to stores.  A Product Spinner would be a biped powering some sort of machine, part of which includes a platform perhaps 3″ in diameter that turns.  Product would be placed on the platform.  The Product Spinner automata would sit on a counter top and would be a point of interest, an addition to the ambience, and a conversation opener.  I’m thinking rental in the $30-$50 month range.  We’ll see. 

The image to the right shows the side frames for the drive frame coming to life.  This is the first set of side frames.  I’ll admit that I’ve never had the first set on the final automata…there always seems to be critical improvement that I must make…so I bite the bullet and make new ones (perhaps two or three times).   I like these ‘lattice’ frames, because you can see through them.

I’m a little early…wishing you a Happy New Year!

The side frames for the Drive Frame are taking shape.


20 December 2019: A Mess

Automata don’t build themselves.  The creation process is not always neat and tidy.

Here you see me in the final stages of completing the pulleys for Electric Chair #1.  These large pulley assemblies will be dropping the 60 rpm speed of the first shaft to 1 rpm, which is the speed required by the campak.

It seems to me that if you look at how things are arranged that you can (correctly) deduce that I am left handed. Near the top at the center is a Google Nest Mini…a speaker that I use to read audio books with while I work. 

To the left of that speaker is a stack of cocktail napkins.  I used to use paper towels but I find it much easier to use these small cocktail napkins…they help keep my creations, my workbench, and my clothes, clean.

To the left of the cocktail napkins are my sanding sticks.  I purchased these from the beauty shop that my wife uses.  The sticks that I like the most have 100 grit on one side and 180 on the other.  They cost about $.75 each and last me 3-5 weeks.  I love these little sanding sticks.

The big pulleys have taken me two days to create.  Part of that time was spent building a sanding tool…one that helps me sand the disks perfectly round on my disc sander.

Making a mess is part of the process.


11 December 2019: Random

I came across a scientific article the other day…a portion of which has stuck with me.  In essence the article said that scientists say that “all is random”.  ALL IS RANDOM.  I get it.  I don’t have a problem with the statement.  It makes good sense to me.

And then I step back and realize that naturally ‘all is random’ and yet humans are trying to organize it.  It seems such a futile task to me.  For example…what is ‘sanity’?  If everything is random you would expect the definition of ‘sanity’ to change over time.   What is a desired government?  Again, you would expect the definition to change over time.  Is there a God?  Perhaps at times.  And then not.

I worry about this because I am constantly wondering if I am living my life the way I should be.  Am I doing it right?  And when the concept of “all is random” is thrown in…it causes a bit of a dust up.

So I am walking around these days looking at things that don’t make sense to me and I repeat the phrase “all is random”.  It makes me feel better.

To be honest though, thinking that all is random is not making life any better.  Life is not richer.  But perhaps it is just a tiny bit more understandable.


2 December 2019: Progress continues, Styles

I had to slack off my automata creation efforts for just a bit last week…had a project for a customer that I needed to get done.

Automata Styles:  I’ve been giving this topic thought recently.  It’s hard to not compare yourself to others.  Here are some of my thoughts:

  • Fran├žois Junod I am not.  This guy creates amazing automata.  I envy his abilities.  My understanding is that he has training as a watchmaker.  I am very impressed with his ideas and craftsmanship. But I’m not him
  • Paul Spooner I am not.  I admire the way that Paul can let his imagination loose…at the frivolity that he is able to build into his automata.  His craftsmanship is excellent…and his ideas well executed.  But I’m not him.
  • Keith Newstead I am not. Here is another automatist that I greatly admire.  I love his ideas and the way that he executes them.  I love his whimsey. But I’m not him.

I could go on and on…bottom line though, is that I don’t create automata like anyone else (I don’t think).  I have my own ideas…and I create in my own way.  We automatists are all different…I love that about this ‘sport’.  We are all different.  There are no rules.  There is no ‘wrong’.

The image is of the back side of the Electric Chair wall, the one that contains the clock.  The clock needs to advance just 1 minute.  The minute is the difference between life and death.

The backside of the Electric Chair wall clock…before the back panel is glued into place.


27 November 2019: The Red Telephone

As I continue with Electric Chair #1 I have needed to identify the small details and the timeline.

One of the small details that is required is a red telephone.  If there is to be a ‘pardon’ the executioner needs to be able to be communicated with.

Spoiler Alert: In this particular case the Red Telephone is going to ring after the execution.  Too bad, so sad.

I’ve also got 1/2 of the shake mechanism created.  I think it’s going to work well.  And a side benefit is that the shake mechanism is going to be able to be used to ring the Red Telephone.

Initially I thought that I was going to need to purchase a small telephone…however by using my drill press as a wood lathe I was able to create a reasonable little phone.  Now I need to paint it red and then weather it.    And it needs a cord.                                     

Thanksgiving is tomorrow.  A fake holiday…but if you can get around it’s fakeness and focus instead on being thankful for what we do have I know that I have a lot to be thankful for…and I am.  I’m very grateful for the life that I am able to lead.                                                                                                                                                                     


The ‘not yet red’ telephone for the Electric Chair.


18 November 2019: In the name of the Lord

At the present time I am creating a piece called The Electric Chair.  It’s an interesting little automata that depicts an electrocution.,

Over the years I have occasionally had in my conscious mind thoughts of all the ways that we humans have hurt…tortured each other.  For about a year now I’ve been tossing around the thought of making an automata series that focused on things that we have done to each other (tortures) in the name of the Lord.  I’ve recently been on the internet reading and looking at pictures of tortures and I’ve decided that I will NOT do a series of torture themed automata.  We have done some incredibly nasty, mean, rotten, sick, perverse, narrow minded things to each other.

Our world is too precarious…we humans can be too mean.  Society does not need me creating automata that depict acts of torture.  Society needs me to create automata that leaves some sort of positive feeling in a human being.  I will continue to create The Electric Chair because it is an interesting little piece…and not really that violent…and least not in the same sense that torture is violent.  And it wouldn’t surprise me if I sell one or two of these little Electric Chair automata.  It’s an interesting little machine that causes one to pause.  But torture automata…nope…I’ll leave that one alone.  I’m going to focus on positive things.


7 November 2019, The Automata Magazine Forum, and progress, and frustration.

At the beginning of September Automata Magazine opened an online forum…a forum where automata is discussed and where automata thoughts are shared.  I’ve been active in the forum and am reaping rewards for my participation.  The participants are pleasant and many are knowledgeable.  I’ve learned about things that I had no clue about.  I would encourage those of you interested in automata to join this forum.  There is no charge.  Here is the link.

I continue to make progress on both The Electric Chair and Inclined Slide #1.

  • The Electric Chair: I’ve identified all of the motions that I will include and have create the base.  Now to fill it up with motion causing mechanics…let the fun begin!
  • Inclined Slide #1:  The motor that I’ve been waiting for has arrived and I’ve completed the test stand for the biped.  You can see a video of the biped test stand here (YouTube). I’ve got some of the assemblies completed…must keep pushing forward.

I continue to be frustrated with our federal government…and I am disappointed in the President that was elected in 2016.  If he wins in 2020 I may just jump off a bridge.

Electric Chair progress continues.


2 November 2019, An automated nativity scene in the Czech Republic

The November-December 2019 issue of Automata Magazine was just ePublished.  I so look forward to these issues…and this issue was certainly worth the wait.

One article has really captured my attention.  It is about an automata that took 40 years to build.  It was privately funded…not a commission. There is no paint.  There are thousands of carved parts.  The entire display is 23 feet long, and includes 373 individual figures.  51 community crafts are depicted.  It took three men 40 years to complete (1885-1926).  It survived WWII.  And it was just recently restored.

There is an excellent video, 20 minutes long, that describes this beautiful machine.  Time is spent viewing the restoration process.  If you are at all interested in automata this video is absolutely worth watching.  I’ve watched it three times in one day (so far!).  Here is the YouTube link to the video.

Probost’s Mechanical Christmas Crib