The Surfer automata series

In early March 2020 I had been working on an automata for 5 months and needed a break.  I challenged myself to a two-week build, opted to create a Surfer, began the build March 18 and finished April 2, 2020.

This Surfer #1 will be the basis for any other Surfer series automata, however, all future Surfers will include both a hand crank and a motor and will certainly take me more than two weeks to create.

How does it move?  Crank the hand crank.  Via a series of pulleys and poly belting the hand crank speed is altered three times.  Three cams pick up these different speeds and through three risers move the surfboard in totally random motion.  No movement is repeated. The surfer moves also, as a by-product of being situated on a moving surfboard.  The surfer’s feet are connected to the board with neodymium magnets, which allow his feet to swivel on the board.

Jim’s Comments:  I’m pleased with this automata.  Some of the detailing is not as smooth as I would like, but that’s because I allowed myself just 2 weeks to create it.  Future Surfers will be better than this one.  None the less,  this is a good one that I’m pleased to show.  Smooth, silent, a pleasure to watch.

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




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 Disassembly for Paint Document

After an automata has been initially assembled and is functioning it is then disassembled and painted.  This Disassembly for Paint document is important to me.  It helps me to re-assemble, and it helps me remember ‘how I did it’ for future builds.  The document 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 Disassembly for Paint .pdf, which you may download if you wish.


YouTube Video 

Surfer #1 is taking shape. 18 March 2020.