Automaton Tutorial

Something different today.

for sale on Etsy at SteampunkDollsHouse
Some I made earlier

For quite a while now we have been selling little vintage clockwork motors and birds from our Etsy shop, together with the fixings needed to turn them into pretty little twittering and swooping automatons.  They come with a copy of the ‘instruction sheet’ I inherited when I originally bought them.  It was written in the 1980s and is – to my way of thinking – heavy on hyperbole but light on helpful information.  It took me many hours of trial and error to figure out how the various tiny parts went together, but then I’m not very mechanically minded.

It was quite heartening when a customer who had bought several was struggling to make them work and asked if I could explain how I do mine.   I decided to put together a tutorial for her, and anyone else who wants to try making one.  What follows is probably laughable for anyone who understands mechanical bits and bobs, but it may be some help to fellow bodgers and tinkerers who would enjoy building their own automaton.

 

As well as the parts supplied, you will need a box or housing of some kind.  Mine are little card boxes about 8.5cm/3.25 inches square and 4cm/1.5 inches deep (2 for £1 at The Works in UK at time of writing) but you can pack any spare space with foam board or folded card if your box is a bit bigger.

 

Drill a hole in the top of the box. Fig 2 shows the template for the hole, usefully placed on the back of the motor. Check bush fits snuggly in hole. I glue it in place or wrap it with a piece of double-sided tape.

Check fit of motor in box and pack spaces but check mechanism works OK. Don’t fix it in place yet.

If you want a stop/start bar, push the bar through its two slits and press it hard against the back of the box to make a dent (fig 4). Take motor out and cut a slit where your mark is (fig 5).  (The bar provided isn’t long enough for my boxes, so I make one out of plastic packaging.)

I think the pictures (figs 6 to 10) work better than words for attaching the bird. Very fiddly and you may need to adjust position of motor to get the arm moving freely. Lots of trial and error!

 

A true artisan would have crafted a wooden box and screwed the motor into it.  Me, I’m happier with glue, so here’s a picture of where you can safely spread glue without gumming up the mechanism.

Fig 12 shows the finished all-singing all-dancing bird. You can buy the kits from our Etsy shop at this link https://www.etsy.com/…/…/small-vintage-clockwork-motor-with…