I post my automata videos to  YouTube.  Below is an index to those videos with the most recent video at the top. Thanks for watching.

First Life, 5 Slat Message Board
May 12, 2021

I get an idea.  I start to build the idea.  At some point, it’s time to turn the motor on to see how things perform.  I call that “First Life”.  It is an exciting time…and sometimes a disappointing time.

The 5 Slat Message Board ‘first life’ is an exciting time.  It works very well.

Now I need to finish it.

Auger Lift #1
January 13, 2021

This video is more of a technical nature…it reviews the technical aspects of Auger Lift #1, a yet to be painted marble-run automata. Auger Lift #1 is one of the Jim’s Gym series of automata. A biped is working out, pedaling on an elliptical machine. As a result of his pedaling the auger is turned, which lifts marbles. The marbles roll from the top to the bottom and wait for another trip up. After this automata has run about 20 more hours it will be disassembled and painted. I’ll post a briefer video after the paint job.

Elliptical Pedal Test Stand
December 8, 2020

I’m in the process of creating Auger Lift #1, an automaton. Before I can build the artful part of the automata I need to understand and create the mechanical pieces. This test stand tests the elliptical pedaling assembly. Some of the components in this test stand will be reused, and some will be discarded. I’m pleased with the way that this is operating.

Auger Lift Test Stand
November 22, 2020

Before investing time and energy and love into the final automata I’ve created a test stand so that I can test some of the components that I envision creating. This is the Auger Lift test stand. It is testing motor speed, the pinwheel gears, the auger lift, and the marble tipping disks. The marble tipping disks have been the most difficult to tune and I’m pondering whether or not I will use them in the final creation.

Three Product Spinners
September 23, 2020

James Coffee Studios designs and creates automata. These automata are the first of the ‘product spinning’ series. The ‘product spinning’ series of automata are designed to be rented to retail establishments to increase sales.

Stair Stepping Bottle Spinner #1
September 20, 2020

The delightful Stair Stepping Bottle Spinner is the 3rd design in the ‘product spinning’ series of automata that I am creating. A biped steps on levers, which in turn drive a chain that incrementally rotates a 4-1/2″ display platform. The display platform is designed to hold a bottle or a can. The ‘product spinning’ series of automata are to be rented into customer-facing environments, such as a counter in a retail store and are responsible for the display of products of special interest or focus.

Peddler #1
September 18, 2020

The eye-catching product spinning Peddler is the 2nd design in the product spinning series of automata that I am creating. With a stationary lower base, a biped waves and pedals the upper base in circles, which in turn causes a 9” display platform to counter-rotate. The display platform is designed to hold and call attention to larger-small items, such as jewelry, pastries, confections, art, sunglasses, watches, books, cards, drugs, electronic devices, etc.

Surfer #1
June 4, 2020

This energetic little surfer is the result of a ‘two-week construction’ challenge that I gave myself. The surfboard is mounted on three moving shafts. As the handle is turned the surfboard moves randomly, as if skimming over the waves, The surfer’s feet move on the surfboard as he keeps his balance.

Two Tier #1
June 1, 2020

The appealing Two Tier is the 1st design in the product spinning series of automata that I am creating. A biped works out by both pedaling and pulling levers. As a result of his work-out two product display tables and one flag pennant are caused to rotate. The product display tables are intended to hold products for display. The two tables rotate counter to each other at different speeds. This automaton would be used in a customer-facing situation, such as the counter of a retail store, to call attention and focus on certain products or items.

Big Wheel Lift #1
July 9, 2019

Big Wheel Lift #1 seems to easily capture the attention of passers-by. One of the Jim’s Gym series of automata, a biped is exercising by pedaling and pulling levers. This motion in turn causes a big wheel to lift marbles from the bottom to the top, where they drop onto a track and roll back to the bottom. Lots of color and motion and interesting noises. Magnetic shock absorbers. This is a fun one.

Inclined Slide Test Stand
November 4, 2019

This is the test stand for the Inclined Slide bipeds. Each time I build an Inclined Slide automaton the biped will be tested here. This will ensure that it has the correct articulation and is capable of the proper motions. This test stand is both hand crankable and it has a motor., The Inclined Slide at the moment is riding on nylon bushings guiding hardwood dowels. On the automata, these two items will be linear ball bearings and 6mm precision shafting.

Big Wheel Lift #1, First Life
May 29, 2019

There comes a time in the life of automata when they become ‘born’. Big Wheel Lift #1 came alive today, 28 May 2019. The motor is installed and the automata works! It runs a tiny bit slow, which I’ll correct with a ratio change.

Automata Test Stands
April 21, 2019

As I create my automata I build test stands for the little bipeds. I run them in the test stands for hours and hours to ensure that they work perfectly.

Magnetic Shock Absorbers
March 22, 2019

The video has been created to show the magnetic shock absorbers that I’ve designed and integrated into my automata. Magnets are fun and reliable little devices that will last for generations. Here is the link to K&J Magnetics, as mentioned in the video 

The Studio
December 4, 2018

The Studio at James Coffee Studios. My studio has taken many forms over the years. At this time it is one bay of a three car garage in Southern California. It’s nice…I can work most of the time with the garage door open.

While the power tools dominate the images, know that I have many many hand tools (some of which I’ve owned for more than 50 years). Most of them are in the tool chest drawers where they can stay safe. I enjoy working with hand tools. I do not want my creations to appear to be “machine made”. It’s easy to cut a straight line. It’s more difficult (but is more artistic and comforting) to create lines that flow…lines that are not straight. Sure, my art includes circles and right angles and straights…but hopefully my art does not appear to be non-organic. Hopefully my art appears to be a gentle flow of components.

We do own a laser engraver but I rarely use it for artistic purposes. The laser engraver is used to create wooden name tags.

We used to live in Oregon, where Myrtlewood is a native species. I brought a lot of Myrtlewood to California with me and when I need a nice hardwood in one of my creations it’s not unusual for me to choose Myrtle. I also like to work with Maple. For basic components…the structure of things…I use Baltic Birch plywood, Poplar, and Birch. Good quality Baltic Birch Plywood is wonderful to work with.


Scissor Lift #1, unpainted
June 25, 2018

The first of the ‘Jim’s Gym’ series of automata, this active little automata is a pleasure to operate and to watch. As the crank is turned the biped raises and lowers handles which, thru a scissor-like mechanism, in turn, raise marbles to the top of the automata. Powered by gravity the marbles then descend back to the bottom where they arrange themselves and prepare for another trip. 

In 2016, using plans purchased from John Smith in the UK, Jim scratch built a 20 pipe street organ. After the organ was played in public a few times it was clear that the public wanted a monkey with the organ. The resulting street organ monkey is what started Jim down the path of creating Automata.

Now in his mid 70’s, Jim has made the decision to focus on the creation of automata for the remainder of his life. Three different groups of automata are the development focus:

  1. Jim’s Gym: these automata feature bipeds operating exercise machines. The machine’s power marble runs.
  2. Product Spinners: these automata are designed to display small products in a brick-and-mortar retail environment.
  3. Earth Awareness: these automata are intended to focus human attention on opportunities to make global life better.