17 November 2020: A Bit of Relaxing

Well, the election is over and I can stop stressing.

However, there is a lesson for me to learn…I’m not sure what it is but I’ll keep trying to learn it.  My dilemma is that there are too many Trump supporters and I don’t understand why?  What am I missing?  How can people admire a liar, an isolationist, a divisive leader?  Mind you, I’m not saying that they are wrong.  There are too many of them.  They cannot all be wrong.  What bothers me is that I don’t understand.

That said, my stress level is reduced.  We all need to get along and move into the future.

The image is sort of an artful image of Pinwheel Gears that I’ve designed and created (with the assistance of my 3d printer).  It’s nice to have the time and opportunity to see the beauty in even small insignificant things.

In the studio, I’m working on the Proof of Concept for Auger Lift #1.  Today I’ve got it lifting and recycling marbles, with the power being flawlessly transmitted through the Pinwheel Gears.

Pinwheel Gears in the Sunshine. 15 November 2020
Auger Lift #1 Proof of Concept mechanism. 18 November 2020.


3 November 2020: It’s Election Day

It’s been a month and a half since my last post.  Lots has been going on here.

3D Printer:  In August 2020 I ordered a Prusa Mini.  It was back-ordered two months, finally arriving mid-October 2020.  I spent an afternoon setting it up, and then the next morning I did a couple of test prints.  Bottom line…it was worth the wait.  The Prusa Mini is going to be great for me.  Fast forward a couple of weeks:  I’ve printed more items for my automata, with the things that I’m most excited about being ears (see the image to the right) and tennis shoes and an armature for a head (for my biped).

For filament I am using MatterHackers Pro Tough PLA and am extremely satisfied with it.  My default setting at this writing, using a .25mm nozzle, is a .1mm layer height.  I’m extremely impressed with the detail.  When I bought this printer I was not expecting to be able to print things like the little ears.

The software that I’ve settled on and that I’m using to create useful parts is FreeCAD.

I’ve started my next automata.  It’s titled Auger Lift #1.  This automata features a long auger that lifts marbles up high.  The auger is powered by a biped that is pedaling.  I’ve largely finished creating the biped.  The printer has helped by printing ears and tennis shoes and an armature for the head.

I’m enjoying having the 3D printer in my studio.  It’s like (or better than) a reliable employee.  You tell it what you want it to do and it quietly does an excellent job.  The printer is going to help me raise the bar on the quality of my automata.

The Election:  When we wake up tomorrow there is a possibility that we will know who our next president will be.  I certainly hope that Trump does not win.  I think that at the core of a Great America are great values and principles.  I don’t see Trump leading with those qualities.  It’s disappointing.

A 3D printed Left Ear. November 1, 2020


September 17, 2020:  Three of Them

For years I’ve watched ‘sign-spinners’ stand on street corners spinning their signs.  Many times I’ve thought about developing a machine that they would sit on and pedal that would spin their signs for them.

In 2016 I started to focus on automata, and in 2017 I think it would be fair to say that I started obsessing on automata.  At some point in there, I caught the scent of thought of ‘product spinners’.  In April 2020 I started the first one…and in September 2020 I finished the third one.

The next week or so is going to be spent completing the videos and the marketing materials that I think I will need.  And then after that, I’m going to hit the streets to see if I can find rental customers for these little guys.

Here are links to the Project Sheets:

It will be interesting to see what the reaction from the marketplace will be.  Positive I hope.  I definitely will learn something…probably many things.

Remember to vote for anyone OTHER THAN Donald Trump this next election.  We need to get him gone.  He is not a leader.  And he lies.  It’s embarrassing. 

It’s interesting how it goes. In March 2020 there were none. And in September 2020 there are three. It’s been fun. 16 September 2020.


September 15, 2020: Creation is complete

This afternoon I completed Stair Stepping Bottle Spinner #1.  I am pleased with this little machine…it is and does exactly what I had envisioned.

At the last moment, I had to remove the belt drive and replace it with chain.  The belt drive stored energy near its couplings.  There is just a tiny amount of work being done to turn the bottle.  As a result, the ‘elastic’ stored energy in the belt was causing the bottle to spin ahead of itself.  I replaced the drive belt with a plastic chain and the spinning motion is now exactly in sync with the rest of the mechanism.

More images can be seen on the Project Sheet

This has been quite a year.  COVID-19, and now here in California there are wild fires.  Where we live there are no fires, however, there is haze and there are beautiful ‘fire sky’ sunsets.  Some of the other parts of the state that are burning are a terrible shame.  That said…fire is one of Mother Nature’s tools.  She is strong and she will use her tools.  Personally I think that it is possible to live in nature and not be in danger of having your home burn down.  Burrowing underground would be one way.  I think living underground is appealing and would not hesitate.  The opportunities, however, are rare.

On the automata front, it has been announced that Automata Magazine will cease production at the end of the year.  Too bad…I’ve really appreciated the magazine.  Apparently there is a possibility that someone will step up and take over from Marc.  I hope so.

Again, I urge a vote for anyone other than Donald Trump.  He is not good for this nation.



Creation of Stair Stepping Bottle Spinner #1 is completed. 15 September 2020.

September 2, 2020, Wet Paint

Stair Stepping Bottle Spinner #1 has racked up about 15 hours of runtime on its clock and has subsequently been disassembled and is being painted.  The painting process is very important and it takes time.  And then everything needs to dry.  I find the drying time part of the process to be frustrating.  That said…the drying time is extremely important.

I’ve never been political in my business communications until now (this election cycle).  One of the quotations that I respect says “A Democracy is not a spectator sport”.  I don’t want to be a silent spectator right now…this coming election is very important.

I want to also point out that I’ve been a registered Republican for my entire life.

I am disappointed with the process.  I’m disappointed that the Republican Party cannot offer up someone more qualified than Donald Trump.  It would seem to me that we would want potential candidates on a “track” to the White House.  Being trained and groomed.  And I would expect the Republican Party to put forth a forward-reaching platform.

Instead what we’ve got is a gross individual, one with no sound principles, who is not a leader, continuing to lie to us, and continuing to isolate us from the rest of the world.  He is certainly unacceptable to me…as I hope he is unacceptable to the majority of the electoral college.

Donald Trump does not represent the value system that I want leading this country.  Please vote this coming election.  Please vote for anyone other than Donald Trump.

Stair Stepping Bottle Spinner #1 has been disassembled and is being painted. 2 September 2020



August 15, 2020: Stair Stepping Bottle Spinner Modules are being completed.

It’s been three weeks since my last post…too long.  I’ll try to be more consistent with 1-2 week updates.

I’m working on Stair Stepping Bottle Spinner #1.  This will make a total of three product spinning automata.  When this 3rd one is completed I’m going to take the three of them out and try to find a home for at least one of them.  I hope that this “automata rental” program will work.  It seems reasonable to me.  I know that when I have my automata with me when I’m playing my street organ in public that people are very attracted to them.

I’m learning how to build in a ‘modular’ fashion.  Major components that fit together to make a whole.  Part of the process is creating in a manner that does not look modular.  I don’t want someone looking at the automata to see ‘modules’.  I want them to see the whole thing.

We are having a high heat weekend here in the San Diego area.  I’m glad that I spent 20 years in Las Vegas.  Those 20 years let me think that this San Diego heat spell is very tolerable.

On the national front, it’s looking more likely (to me) that we will have a different President next term.  I’m so glad.  Our present President is causing me a lot of angst.  I don’t like him representing our country.  It will be nice to see him go.

The Stair Stepper Bottle Spinner modules are being completed. Clockwise from left: The Electrics module (it’s missing the hour meter), the drive frame, the base, the biped, and the ratchet assembly. August 15, 2020.


21 July 2020: Heads Up!

Heads have been difficult for me.  I’ve tried creating heads several different ways and am finally settling on Basswood armatures and Sculpey clay medium.  In the image you see: a) a 2″ long piece of 1″ X 1″ Basswood.  b) The armature that has been carved.  This armature sets the proportions.  c and d) completed heads.  These have been baked and are ready for installation and paint.  After I have the Sculpey head the way that I want it I bake it for 15 minutes at 275 degrees.  And if I want to do more I can make the changes and re-bake.  

In the past, I have whittled faces but I find that I do not have the control over the detail that I would like.  So I have used a two-part product called Apoxy.  Apoxy works pretty well…it handles detail and it’s very strong…however it starts to harden right after it has been mixed.  Working time is 2-4 hours.  I find the working time a bit frustrating so am now working with Sculpey.  In the image, the biped that is painted does have an Apoxy head.

I made my own whittling knife out of a Gerber hunting knife that I had laying around.  I worked the metal for a long time getting the right shape…and then I’ve been stropping it for months.  Finally, it’s (perhaps) sharper than a razor and a pleasure to use (and dangerous).

On the national political front: I have no comment this week.  You’ve heard it…”if you cannot say something nice don’t say it at all”.  I just sad about it all.

A mini production line for heads. Basswood is the armature and Sculpey is the media.
21 July 2020


11 July 2020: Peddler #1 has a face

The most difficult part of automata creation for me is the creation of the biped.  Of primary frustration are body shape, hands, and head/face.  I’ve finished the Peddler #1 biped.  My wife and I were looking at it today and I remarked that “it’s distorted enough to be fascinating and yet not so distorted that it’s not real”.  This particular biped is painted with acrylic paints and then waxed with hand-applied paste wax…several coats.  It’s the application of the paste wax that signals to me that I’ve finished a biped.  Once the paste wax is applied nothing else can practically be done…no more sanding…no more painting, etc.

I’m considering the purchase of a 3D printer.  High on the list of what I want to do with it is creation of heads and hands.  We’ll see how that goes.  COVID-19 has disrupted my revenue stream, so the purchase is delayed.  Meanwhile, new  3D printer models are being introduced and prices are dropping.

Peddler #1 is almost completed.  It’s got a motor in it that is jerking…so a replacement is ordered from China.  I might mention that the eBay seller that I’ve been dealing with in China has been EXTREMELY helpful.  The seller is efreeship…here is a link to their store.  I was in a hurry and screwed up an order.  They caught my mistake and worked with me to correct it.  It was very nice of them.  I buy my motors from them.

On the Trump front, I’m trying hard to disregard.  The Stone pardon happened yesterday.  What a jerk.  And I believe that it’s going to get much worse before he is out of office.

My next automata project is going to follow the theme of ‘All Lives Matter’.  It will be a Jim’s Gym creation.

Stay healthy, everyone.  And try to keep your communities healthy.



Peddler #1 has a face.
11 July 2020


2 July 2020: Back to the Basics

On my workbench, I continue to make progress with Peddler #1.  I’m currently focused on the mechanism that causes the Peddler to wave, and of course, he needs to be painted.  The motor is slightly jerky.  I’ve got a replacement on its way to me.

Back to the Basics:  Every once in a while we need to sit back and look at the basics of it all.  Right now I’m trying to get my head around ‘what should the USA be’.  I went back to the Declaration of Independence and learned that it says (in summary);

  1. All men are created equal.  Apparently the definition of ‘men’  was ‘free, white, land-owning men.  Women, slaves, and indentured servants were not considered equal’.
  2. All men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.
  3. Among these rights are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
  4. To secure these rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
  5. Whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it.

What I’m looking for is guidance on how the present should be.  While I do find the summary of the Declaration of Independence interesting I am not finding the answer that I am looking for.  Our country can not be governed by the Declaration of Independence.

Where I am with all of this at the moment is “follow the money”.  You’ve all heard of this before…money is a major driver of action.  Money, by itself, however, has no conscience, it has no values.  Money is not a thinking entity…it is something that is measured.

So it seems that our present-day value systems are “what is legal?”.  Our present-day value systems are made up of rules and laws that were formed in the past.  In the past, we had different influences than we have today.  Religion, for example, was more prominent in our value system.  Also, it was not until the last 50 years (or so) that we began to live in the world, rather than in the USA.  And then there is the Internet…instant international communication AND access to virtually all knowledge.

Also, our planet has never had so many passengers.  We are overpopulated relative to our ability to understand and care for our spaceship.

So when someone says “Make America Great Again” what does it really mean?  In my mind, it does NOT mean a return to the past.  I think that is not possible.  In my mind, it means understanding how the money flows and being a productive part of that flow.  But also, we need to be respectful of each other (all colors, all sexes, all nationalities, everyone).  And we need to be respectful of our spaceship and all aboard.

Unfortunately, humans are not naturally gentle, understanding, non-selfish.  We humans are greedy.  We are self-centered.  And so more laws will be passed, and more time will flow, and human nature will remain unchanged and in the end, we will either come to a nice balance between laws and human nature…or we will fail as a species.

In the meantime, I’m trying to live honestly.  I’m trying to be a positive force.  It’s not perfect.  There is always room for improvement.

Humans are so insignificant in the big picture.

The Peddler Drive Frame has been sheathed with Myrtlewood and Pistachio ‘planks’. 26 June 2020


19 June 2020: Peddler #1 is coming to life

The #1 of any series are revealing…both the strengths and weaknesses of what I design and build become apparent.

An example of a weakness:  I did not have an hour meter in stock when I created the base.  Then the hour meter arrived and I find that I should have created the base 1/2″ higher.  I worked it out…but next time I’ll leave more room.

An example of a strength: In the image you see the cream-colored product spinning table.  It rotates counter to the direction that the biped travels in.  It rotates slowly.  All in all the motion is both attention getting and relaxing.

Peddler #1 needs about two more weeks before it’s completed.  It’s a good one.  As I complete it I can now allow my mind the freedom to start designing the next product spinning automata.

I’m not sorry that I posted (what I did) last week.  I’ve spent a lot of this week wondering what I can do that will make a difference.  I cannot really think of anything beyond what I’m doing.  I just need to accept things and relax.

Trial run for Peddler #1. 18 June 2020.