The Surfer automata series

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.

This specific Surfer #1 is hand-cranked only.  I will motorize any future Surfer that I might create.  This automata is created primarily from wood, which include Baltic Birch plywood, poplar, and Myrtlewood.  The biped is carved from Basswood, and the surfboard is Myrtlewood with a Pistachio fin.  The primary drive mechanism includes quiet poly belts.  The drive frame parts are spray-painted in a camouflage paint scheme.  The upper (biped and surfboard) are finished with Watco and paste wax.

Jim’s Comments: I’m sorry that I did not include a motor with this build.  Surfer #1 is very enjoyable to watch.  The motion is relaxing.  If it had a motor I would be able to turn it on and sit across the room from it and watch it ‘surf’.  If I create other surfers in the future, they will all include motors.  That said, hand cranking this automata is very satisfying.  The motions are smooth and quiet.

Surfer #1, completed 2 April 2020


Dimensions (approx)

Height: 20″
Width: 18″
Depth: 8″
Weight: 3-1/2 lbs.


Allow me 3 months to create.

#2 is the next available in this series.


Commission details

View other automata for sale here



Surfer #1 Project Sheet

As I create automata I attempt to update the Project Sheet weekly with narrative and images.  These project sheets are available on my website.  The project sheets give viewers a sense of what I’m working on and how I work.


Surfer #1 Construction Journal

After an automata has been initially assembled and is functioning it is then disassembled and painted.  This Construction Journal is a working document and is important to me.  It helps me to re-assemble, and it helps me remember ‘how I did it’ for future builds.  The Construction Journal documents with photographs a teardown and then the painted reassembly.  These documents are sometimes 50+ pages long.  The link above will take you to the Construction Journal, which you may download if you wish.


YouTube Video 

Surfer #1 is taking shape. 18 March 2020.