Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Classic marble-lifter mechanism in wood

Here is a nice example of a common marble-lifting device sometimes used in marble track machines. It's cool to see how a few cams, sloped surfaces, and continuous rotary motion can be combined to make marbles climb stairs. This one was made and sent in by reader Richard Thorne.

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Zilotone musical automaton wind-up toy

Zilotone musical automaton wind-up toy
Here's a tin-toy musician capable of playing three differrent songs. The actions required for the figure to play each song are "recorded" on interchangeable cams (seen behind the figure's feet). Very cool!

From the eBay description:
Even non-collectors find this an enchanting piece. The Zilotone, made by the Wolverine Supply & Manufacturing Co of Pennsylvania, circa 1930, features a little man playing a xylophone. A metal song disc is inserted in the toy, and the clockwork is wound up. When switched on, the musician moves back and forth, hitting the keys with a mallet. Comes with 3 different discs: Yankee Doodle, My Old Kentucky Home, and The Farmer in the Dell. Measures approximately 10" x 8 "x 7", sturdy pressed-steel construction.

Here's the eBay listing for Wolverine Zilotone musical automaton wind-up toy

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Monday, June 01, 2009

Galloping dinosaur vintage mechanical toy plans

Galloping dinosaur vintage mechanical toy plans
The folks over at The Modern Mechanics blog have scanned and typed up the plans for this animated wooden dinosaur pull-toy.

From the original article:
A TOY saurian from the far-away past proves to be a refreshing novelty to the youngsters. The toy is extremely simple to make, as there are only six major parts. In addition to these, four wheels and some wire complete the whole thing.

Here is the article with photographs and drawings of the dinosaur on The Modern Mechanics blog.

[ Thanks deanS! ]

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Wooden camel toy driven by a cam mechanism

Wooden Camel toy driven by a cam mechanism
This is a cam-actuated camel toy designed by John Hutchison. The plans for the toy were part of an article in the Woodworker's Journal December, 2000. This particular one was built by a gentleman named Mike for his grandson. A cam is attached to the back wheel axle which drives a dowel that in turn causes the humps, head, tail and legs to move up and down when the toy is pushed.

Here is a page with the builder's notes and several pictures of the wooden camel cam-driven toy.

[ Thanks Charles! ]

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

List of books on gear design and fabrication

After seeing the beautiful use of gears in Bill Durovchic's kinetic sculpture, I started looking for books on gears. The following books all look good and get great ratings from Amazon's vast customer base.

Additional suggestions are welcome!

Handbook of Practical Gear DesignHandbook of Practical Gear Design (Mechanical Engineering, CRC Press Hardcover)
by Darle W. Dudley

Product Description from Amazon
"For more than 30 years the book Practical Gear Design, later re-titled Handbook of Practical Gear Design, has been the leading engineering guide and reference on the subject. It is now available again in its most recent edition. The book is a detailed, practical guide and reference to gear technology. The design of all types of gears is covered, from those for small mechanisms to large industrial applications."

Gears & Gear CuttingGears & Gear Cutting
by Ivan Law

Product Description from Amazon
"Gears in one form or another are part of most mechanisms, but they are by no means as simple as they may appear. This book explains simply and comprehensively the underlying theory involved, and in its second part, how to cut gears on a lathe or milling machine."

Gear Design SimplifiedGear Design Simplified
by by Franklin Jones and Henry Ryffel

Product Description from Amazon
"Contains a series of simply diagrammed gear-designing charts, illustrating solutions to practical problems.Presents all of the rules, formulas, and examples applying to all types of gears."

Manual of Gear Design (Vol. 1-3)Manual of Gear Design (Vol. 1-3)
by by Holbrook Horton and Earle Buckingham

Product Description from Amazon
"These manuals conveniently gather together the necessary information required for solving a majority of gear problems. The first section contains tables and information on calculating gear rations, as well as tables of factors and involute functions. The second section cover subjects on spur and internal gears, while section three focuses on information pertaining to helical and spiral gears."

The Art of Gear FabricationThe Art of Gear Fabrication
by Prem H Daryani

Product Description from Amazon
"This in-depth guidebook places emphasis on teaching beginners and advanced planners how to process gears, and will enable manufacturing engineers familiar with machine shop practice to be specialists in the gear manufacturing field. The first few chapters are devoted to common gear nomenclature and analysis of processing of six typical gears, including explanations of the logic and reasoning for every sequence of operation. Subsequent chapters thoroughly describe production, selection of materials, heat treatment, plating, methods of cutting, hobbing, shaping, and grinding."

"Unique in content and broad in scope, The Art of Gear Fabrication provides beginners with sufficient information to independently process six typical gears step by step and presents model numbers, capacity and addresses of gear machinery manufacturers and suppliers at the end of each process description. It also offers gear designers practical and useful hints on reducing fabricating costs. And it contains useful tables from commercial catalogs, including cross-references of different U.S. standards and American stainless steel materials with equivalent German, British, French and Italian materials."

"Additionally, it is essential for manufacturing and design engineers to have sufficient knowledge of various heat treatments and their related cost. Though it is a specialty, the author describes this subject in as easy-to-understand manner as possible. Gear designers and entry-level manufacturing and processing engineers in the machine shop field will find this reference extremely helpful and valuable."

Here is a link to even more books on gears.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

HUGE cam used in wall-mounted kinetic art piece

Here is some video of a GIANT cam incorporated into a piece of kinetic sculpture.

The piece may be called Parallelotree and the Mechanical Wind, though I am not certain of this. I am certain that it was created by kinetic artist Aaron Geman and was shown at Mercury20 Gallery in Oakland, CA.

See more of Aaron Geman's kinetic sculpture on his web site.

[ Thanks to CTP! ]

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Ball Lifting Machine Using Wooden Offset Cams

Here's a neat mechanism that lift balls up an incline. Offset cams lift the balls in sequence as they advance up the steps. When it reaches the top, the ball shoots down a slide so it can start again.

The same technique is used by this dragon automaton and a similar kinetic sculpture. It's nice to see just the mechanism in detail in this video.

Found via the always cool MAKE Blog.

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Friday, June 06, 2008

Miniature Robot that Jumps Like a Cricket

Miniature Robot that Jumps Like a Cricket
If you missed this little locust-inspired robot on the Make Magazine Blog today, you have got to check this out.

The snail cam is not just for automata anymore!

Here is a link to a Quicktime video of the cricket robot created by the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL).

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Making Mechanical Marvels In Wood - DIY Book

Making Mechanical Marvels In Wood - DIY BookHere's a book that should interest you makers out there. Making Mechanical Marvels In Wood

This book is not unlike Making Wooden Mechanical Models which I reviewed here. There are, however, some important differences between the two books.

Like Making Wooden Mechanical Models, this book isn't specifically written for automaton makers. Both books feature basic wooden machines as finished projects in themselves.

Making Mechanical Marvels differs in that many of the projects in this book are key building blocks to making contemporary wooden automata. For example, projects such as the cam and follower, the Scotch yoke, the fast-return actuator, and the Geneva wheel are all elements often found in an automaton.

The projects in this book are very handsome and would make nice gifts. There's something inexpressibly classy about machines made of wood.

I bought Making Mechanical Marvels bundled with Making Wooden Models from and I'm glad I did. The two books really compliment each other. I consider this book to be Volume 1. This book has very clear instructions and drawings to get you up to speed making wooden mechanisms. Making Wooden Models is equivalent to Volume 2 in which you tackle some more complicated projects.

The book has well-drawn line diagrams and a series of color pages in the center. The instructions are very well written; I would feel good about giving this book to a new woodworker or youngster looking for a science fair project.

The book concludes with some handy shop tips and jigs -- a nice bonus. I have learned a great deal from this book. Don't overlook it as a resource for building wooden mechanism.

Here is where you can order Making Mechanical Marvels In Wood.

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Reciprocating Motion from Rotating on Same Axis

Mechanism for converting rotary to reciprocating motion along the same axisOne reader of The Automata / Automaton Blog wrote to me with an interesting question. He wrote:
"I'm looking for a simple mechanism to convert rotational motion to reciprocal motion along the SAME axis as the rotation, not perpendicular."
I decided to investigate potential solutions in one of my favorite books on mechanisms, Five Hundred and Seven Mechanical Movements. Below are some of the solutions I found listed by the numbers that appear in my copy of the book (Astragal Press, 1995).
  • 95. Oblique disc imparting rectilinear motion to rod resting upon its surface
  • 106. & 107. Uniform reciprocating rectilinear motion produced by rotary motion of grooved cams
  • 136. Crown tooth gear with rod pressed against rim
  • 143. Sliding worm screw and toothed wheel
  • 165. Circular to rectilinear motion via waved-wheel (or cam)
  • 167. Drum or cylinder with endless groove and follower
  • 237. Crown-ratchet (driven by crown, not pawl)
  • 272. Beveled disc with follower on its circumference.
  • 351. Partially toothed pinion and rack with return mechanism
507 Mechanical MovementsI have probably missed a few in the book, and there are certainly many more possible solutions.

Order your own copy of Five Hundred and Seven Mechanical Movements: Embracing All Those Which Are Most Important in Dynamics, Hydraulics, Hydrostatics, Pneumatics, Steam Engines...

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Heron and Fish Automaton Video

Another video of some clever work by the artist I know only by their YouTube username: kitundu.

This piece features an interesting approach to creating a wave effect in the pond. There are also some nice detailed views showing some very practical information -- such as how to keep a cam follower on a cam.

[Thanks Falk!]

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hummingbird Automaton with Scalloped Cam

Here's an interesting use of a scalloped-edged cam to create a very fast reciprocating motion of a lever. The lever, in turn, pulls a string to cause the humming bird's wings to beat.

[Thanks Charles!]

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Automata and Mechanical Toys by Rodney Peppe

I have said in the past that if you want to make a wood automaton, and can only get just one book, Automata and Mechanical Toysby Rodney Peppé is the book to get.

This wonderful book is currently available in hardcover at for 31% off the regular retail price. This is a great deal.

The book is printed on fine glossy paper and is full of color photos (160 in all). The book profiles over 20 leading automata-makers, and provides step-by-step instructions for making an automata test-bed. There is also a section teaching you how to make ten fundamental mechanisms.

One of the best things about this book is that there are scale patterns to copy and use -- cams, gears, pin-wheels, ratchets, and even a Geneva mechanism.

Visit Amazon and use the Search Inside! feature for Automata and Mechanical Toys

Following as a close second, Peppé's book entitled Making Mechanical Toysshould also interest you.

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