Thursday, February 25, 2010

Step-by-step carving of a dinosaur marionette

Step-by-step carving of a dinosaur marionetteWez Champion is documenting his efforts as he makes a very cool dinosaur marionette. Champion says he is a fan of the Prague style of marionette making.

Says the artist:
One of the things I like most about ALL Prague puppets is the way they don't try to hide the fact that they are made from wood... the master craftsmen seem to use the straight edges of chisel cuts to form unique facial expressions and unbelievable style to each character...this is what I someday hope to master for myself!

His blog posts document his project from drawings to roughing out the figure, to carving details. Stay tuned as he goes on to paint and assemble the puppet.

Here is a link to Wez's World -- the blog that documents the making of a marionette.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

German whistling figure carved wood automaton

German whistling figure carved wood automaton
Here is an old German whistler figure. The carved wood automaton dates to the early 20th century and measures about 18 1/2" high.

While this particular one isn't fully operational at the moment, the eBay listing features many great photographs of the mechanism including a close-up shot of the clever bellows arrangement that provides air to the whistle mechanism.

Here is the link to the eBay listing for this German whistling figure automaton.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Carving tools sets with interesting handle design

Carving tools sets with interesting handle design
I've used the traditional carving knives, chip carving knives, and palm carving tools, but I can't say I've ever used a carving knife with this style of handle.

I gather that the handle design is meant to serve two purposes. They can be held fully in the palm for larger, forceful cuts, or griped by the narrow part at the neck -- rather like a pencil -- for finer cuts. It sure sounds like a good idea.

Woodcraft has a seven piece set (shown here, $50) and a a five piece set ($40). Both come in a storage box of some sort.

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Thursday, April 09, 2009

Koch Studio Kollegs - carving instruction manuals

Koch Studio Kollegs are written by master carver Kurt Koch. Each Kolleg focuses specifically on building your carving skills in a particular area while also covering proper tool selection, handling, and use. They feature numerous illustrations and photographs along with easy-to-follow instructions in four languages: English, French, German and Spanish.

From the product descriptions:
 Koch Studio Kollegs - carving instruction manual on hands
Kolleg #5 - Hands
Instruction in carving the seven known carved motives of hands: The working hand; the hand of the crucified; open hand of a woman; hand with firm grip, half closed hand, hand grabbing something fine and hand of an infant. 44 pages. Over 340 photos.

Koch Studio Kollegs - carving instruction manual on heads
Kolleg # 10 - Heads
Instruction in carving the different faces (heads) that lend itself to a family grouping: Young lady, child and man with beard. 40 pages. Over 340 photos.

Koch Studio Kollegs - carving instruction manual on clown
Kolleg #30 - Climbing Clown
Instruction in carving a clown climbing a rope. Once finished you'll be able to actually hang the clown from a piece of rope. A large carving approximately 19" tall, this project is generally regarded as one for the more advanced carver. 52 pages. Over 350 photos.

Koch Studio Kollegs - carving instruction manual on bear
Kolleg #46 - Standing Bear
Instruction in carving a standing bear approximately 15½" tall not including the base. Over 81 steps, 365 photos along with copious illustrations guide you through the project. Considered a project for the more advanced carver. 56 pages.

Here is the link to the Koch Studio Kollegs - carving instruction manuals.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Micro carving tools for very small wood carvings

Dockyard micro carving tools for small wood carving
The other day I mentioned the Rick Bütz woodcarving knives I use. While about 70 percent of the time I use either the standard carving knife or the detail knife, there are times when a specially shaped carving tool is just what you need. For a long time, I struggled with a mediocre set of palm carving tools. Mine didn't hold an edge very well and were just too big to be very useful.

A few years ago I discovered these unassuming little micro carving tools. They may look simple but they are hand forged, tempered, and tested for a correct edge profile. Not only that: they come sharpened and ready to use. Hallelujah!

They offer sets like the one shown here in three different sizes -- 1.5mm, 2mm, and 3mm. I went with the 2mm and am very happy with it. The micro carving tool set I bought has single and double bevel chisels, a skew chisel, a 90 degree V-shaped tool, and U-shaped gouge. All in cherry wood handles.

Here's the full line of Dockyard micro carving tools.

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Carved wooden cuckoo clock with moving figures

Carved wooden cuckoo clock with automata figures
We don't normally feature cuckoo clocks here on The Automata / Automaton Blog. But...why not? Carving, mechanics, historical tradition, wood, automata's all there as far as I'm concerned.

Here's a rather grand cuckoo clock I found listed on eBay. This clock already has many bids on it with a fair amount of time left. I don't know much about cuckoo clocks, but this suggests to me that this is a good one. Those of you who know more about this sort of thing: please comment!

This listing features many nice detail photographs.

Here the eBay listing for this large carved wooden cuckoo clock with automata figures.

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Sunday, March 08, 2009

Rick Bütz two-knife woodcarving set on sale

Rick Butz two-knife woodcarving set
If you are a wood-carver or interested in learning, I came upon this deal from Woodcraft Woodworking Supply. This is a set of Rick Bütz carving knives -- the same to I use to carve the figures of my wood automata.

Rick Bütz wrote the book on wood carving. No, really...he DID write the book called How to Carve Wood. He also wrote a great book on How to Sharpen Carving Tools. Both are excellent.

The two knives shown are a standard carving knife (bottom) for most roughing out and carving and a detail knife (top) for doing fine cuts. Together, they should be the only knives you'll ever need. Now...other carving tools...well, you may want/need those in time, but this is a great start. Don't mistake these knives for the ones you find at your local arts and crafts chain store: these are much better. I learned this the hard way.

Woodcraft offers either knife individually, or will give you a great deal on the two -- saving you 33% -- through March 31, 2009.

Here's the product page for the Rick Butz two-knife woodcarving set.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Primer video on some woodcarving tools & ideas

Though the subject of this video is about carving wooden masks, the advice and tools are the same for any type of woodcarving. In this installment of the series, LaCharles James walks us through some key ideas and introduces some common carving tools.

I think you will find him to be an excellent teacher.

Some of the tools mentioned in the video include:

Carving knife with concave blade
Flexcut carving tools
Carving chisels and gouges
Carving mallet
The classic chip carving knife

A note about carving tools: Choose quality over quantity. Choose quality over price. Believe me, a poor quality tool will not hold an edge, won't produce the best results, will frustrate you, and can be dangerous because you may be inclined to use more force than necessary. Look for good quality metals from known brands. It is SO worth it.

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Monday, August 04, 2008

Carving Facial Expressions Book

Carving Facial Expressions Book
Here is a short book covering the details of carving the human face, showing a range of emotions. Though only 64 pages long, it includes details on the muscles of the face and some step-by-step examples of carvings. There are also reference photographs to serve as the basis for your own carvings. The author's obvious skill is enviable.

At about $10 USD new, I think you might want to consider getting the book Carving Facial Expressions.

For those more interested in carving caricatures, check out Dave Stetson' book Caricature Carving from Head to Toe and Pete LeClair's book Carving Caricature Head & Faces.

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Antique DIY Folk Art Automaton Project circa 1900

Vintage Folk Art Automaton Project circa 1900Here is an incomplete automaton for sale on eBay. While this would be a rather pricey, do-it-yourself project, much of the work is done and the materials provided. The seller even shares a vision for the completed piece. I find this to be an interesting concept: vintage one-of-a-kind DIY.

From the Seller's Description:
"The main figure of a man is articulated on his right side, at the shoulder, elbow and wrist. He is articulated on the left side at only the shoulder and elbow. He is whittling a piece of wood with a real metal knife. I believe he originally paused and lifted the object to examine it, then continued. He may have first had a clockwork movement but when I received it, someone had attempted to operate him with an old clock motor and an old porcelain electrical on off switch appearing to be from the very early 1900's."

The seller is offering the piece with many parts, a curved glass front, and a gear motor to power the automaton.

Here's the eBay listing with many photographs of the vintage woodcarver automaton project

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Make a Kicking Mule Articulated Wooden Toy

Kicking Mule Articulated Wooden ToyHere's a short article on how to carve and assemble this kicking mule toy.

From the article:
"The mule consists of four components: head, ears, front legs joined to the main body, and hindquarters. Pieces of brass rod hold the various parts together, and lengths of string keep them articulated."

Here is the link to the article on how to make a kicking mule toy.

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

FLEXCUT Starter Kit: 17 Carving Tools & Wood Box

FLEXCUT Starter Kit imageHere's a post for the automata-makers and aspiring makers. Flexcut offers a set of carving tools in a starter kit. If you don't already own carving tools, this could be a great first set.

The kit comes with the most important carving tool of all -- the standard carving knife with a ergonomically designed handle. We're off to a good start.

In addition, the kit offers interchangeable carving tool tips of every conceivable shape that fit into a handle. This could be a bit a hassle if you need to switch blade types frequently. Flexcut wisely decided to give you TWO handles in this set. This is a simple and wise solution in my view. With the standard knife and two blades mounted in the palm handles, blade changing should be minimal.
Flexcut carving tool box setThe kit also comes with Flexcut's unique SlipStrop. A strop is a surface (often leather or leather-like) on to which you put a fine abrasive compound (also included). You run the tool over the strop to give it a fine, polished edge. What makes the SlipStrop so useful, is that it has a series of ridges shaped just like common carving tools. There are other ways to hone a carving tool, but this is very convenient. I have used one for years.

Finally, keeping track of all those interchangeable blades could be a burden, but the kit is packed in a nice wood box, which should protect your set and keep it organized.

Get a full list of the tools included in the FLEXCUT Starter Kit.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

CNC Shark Routing System - Autonomous Carver

I posted a while back about the CarveWright automated carving system. A new model of Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) router has entered the market at a similar price point -- well below more established, larger machines. The new one is called the CNC Shark Routing System.

Photograph of the CNC Shark Wood Carving System
This CNC machine is designed for routing wood, engraving plastics, and even etching or cutting tile.

Like the CarveWright, the CNC Shark is a fairly small, portable machine. Unlike the CarveWright which uses a media card to transfer information from your computer to the Router table, with the CNC Shark, you connect the USB cable from your computer directly to the controller box.

Another difference is that the CNC Shark uses a conventional palm router mounted to it to do the cutting. The CarveWright routing system uses a specialized flexible shaft attached to an on-board motor. The CNC Shark's system allows you to use a router you may already own (like the Bosch Colt Palm Router), or may choose to use on its own. Since this is the part that will get the most wear and tear, I think this is a brilliant approach. The palm router can be fixed or replaced. Bits for the palm routers are easy to find too.

Unlike the CarveWright, which uses its own proprietary software, the CNC Shark can be used with a range of established CNC programs used in the industry. There may be a learning curve here, but it's probably worth it for greater control.

The last important difference that I can see is that this machine moves in all three axes of motion (X, Y, and Z). The CarveWright moves side to side and up and down. For lateral motion, the CarveWright uses a friction belt (i.e. sandpaper belts) to move the workpiece itself. This seems like a potential area for slippage which could ruin a carving. The CNC Shark never moves the work piece -- only the cutter moves, ensuring that registration is on target.

From the product literature:

The CNC Shark is the best value for a complete CNC system. This impressive has power, speed, accuracy, and ease of use. We also have a technical support system to help you with any questions regarding the and any of its software. CNC Shark has a high quality design and its parts have been CNC'd to ensure its highest accuracy. The Shark's construction of steel, aluminum and high-density polyethylene make it robust, and it can take accidental impacts that would normally damage or destroy other machines.

The CNC Shark is offered through the Rockler stores in the lower 48 United States. Take a look!

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Proxxon Rotary Tool & Accessories

I own some Proxxon tools and I own several rotary tools, but I don't actually own a Proxxon rotary tool.

OK..that said, I love the Proxxon tools I do own. Woodcraft is sellng the Proxxon rotory tool at a close-out price right now (about $73). The specifications do sound impressive (see below).

Personally, I am very interested in that Universal Holder (D) for use with a flex shaft (sold seperately). That looks handy, indeed.

From Woodcraft's Site:

Great for detail cutting, grinding and sanding, the German-made Proxxon has a top speed of 20,000 RPM, continuously variable down to 5,000 RPM. Electronic full wave speed control gives almost constant torque, even at low speeds, easing micro drilling. The spindle rides in precision ball bearings, and has a lock button for changing bits. The Proxxon gets its power from a quiet, specially balanced permanent magnet motor. Our own testing showed superior low-end torque and far less vibration than the most popular rotary tool on the market.

Check out all the details of Proxxon Rotary Tool & Accessories over at

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Video of CarveWright Wood Carver in Action

Here is a video of the nifty CarveWright computerized woodcarving system in action. It's a woodworking robot.

CNC routers are nothing new. But, as I mentioned in a previous post, this system's price doesn't make it totally out-of-the-question for the personal wood shop.

In this video you get to see how the machine is set up and used, how bits are changed, and the basic CAD-like software it comes with. It sounds a bit noisy, but is a power router after all!

Here is more detailed info on the CarveWright at

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

CarveWright CNC Woodcarving Machine

I take pride in the hand-crafting that goes into making each Dug North Automaton. Still, there is a tool addict side of me that cannot help but dream about the possibilities of a machine like this one: The CarveWright CNC Woodcarving Machine.

While less robust than full-fledged CNC router table, the price of this machine is so much less, it is in a class of its own. I won't go into the technical details of this automatic wood carving machine here...they are too numerous.

Just consider this for a moment: automata building more automata. Wow.

Check out the CarveWright Woodworking System.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Carving Set with tools, book, and slipstones

WOODCRAFT Carving Set at Woodcraft.comDeveloped for hand or light mallet use, this assortment of tools are made in the USA of high carbon tool steel. They feature hardwood handles with a metal ferrule. Comfortable 6-1/4" to 6-1/2" lengths make them easy to control for detail carving.

Complete set includes the 12 carving tools plus coarse and fine India slipstones, and the popular book "Woodcarving: 20 Great Projects for Beginners & Weekend Carvers" by John Hillyer. Factory sharpened and ready for use.

Here's a link to this Carving Set from WoodCraft. They have many to choose from.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Carving Vise to hold Figures While Carving

Now, I'll be honest...I don't own one of these, but it sure looks like a nice thing to have for carving. I bring it to your attention also because it is on sale for $59.99, normally $71.49.

Adjustable Carving Vise/Carvers Mallet
Two great carving tools! One to hold it and a beautiful mallet to carve your fine pieces! (Mallet head is green not black as shown.) Mallet and carving vise sold separately.

Adjustable Carving Vise/Carvers Mallet

Adjustable Carving Vise/Carvers Mallet

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Woodworkers & Carvers - WoodCraft Catalog - Helping You Make Wood WorkWoodcraft Supply is a great store for woodworking tools and supplies. If you don't have a store near you, I recommend their catalog featuring more than 8,000 items. They offer more tools and accessories for woodcarvers than any other retailer I have found.

Not only does the Woodcraft catalog offer a complete listing of products for woodworking, but it's also free.

Get your Free Woodcraft Catalog.

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Friday, December 29, 2006

Hobby Knife Blade Sharpener

Micro-Mark sells this X-ACT0 hobby knife sharpener. I don't know about you, but I go through a lot of these blades in a month.

Basically, it is a jig on to which you place your hobby knife. It holds the knife at the proper angle to sharpen #11, #16, #2, and #24 type blades against a small Arkansas Whetstone.

They sell honing oil as an accessory for this tool. (For those of you who don't spend 50% of your lives sharpening things, honing oil serves as a lubricant that suspends the steel shavings from your knife and prevents them from clogging the pores of the Whetstone. In time, a clogged Whetstone will become ineffective. Whetstones should be cleared after each use by rubbing a liberal amount of oil onto the stone and then wiping off the excess with a clean cloth.)

I have yet to order one of these because it's hard to spend over $20 on a $2 knife, but my logic is poor. As their ad copy says, it should "pay for itself" may times over.

Has anyone tried on of these? If so, drop me a line or comment on this post.

I think this item is only offered at Micro-Mark: Hobby knife Sharpener

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