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How Did You Become Interested in Automata?

Otto <nexus88@...>
 

It was many years ago, but I clearly remember being at a small house party in New York, when it happened. The host brought out a peculiar box for us to see. The box had a vintage look and a mysterious overall feel to it. The key was turned and it began to wind up the mechanism in the box; clicking sounds that only fills you with anticipation. This box was big enough to require two hands to carry it. We were not told about the content(s)of the box.

Out of nowhere, a stunning little bird with beautiful plumage appeared and began moving around the top of the box. It excitedly moved its wings very quickly, while facing this way and the other — as if it had been kept in confinement for too long! It sang a divine song of joy and freedom, and made you feel grateful for the gift of life given to it... and to you.

As I was completely hyperfocused  in the moment, the mystical avian delight disappeared, as if by the prowess of great magician.Like a child whose wonderment had been prematurely ended, I felt like shouting “Again! Do it again!”

Being an adult, I held my tong. My jaw had already dropped to my lap a while back, as I was serendipitously awestricken at this little miracle.

I kept this moment in a special place within me for a many years, until it was unleashed again. This time it was at the discovery of clockwork automata that could write, draw, and play musical instruments... Well, that’s when I learned that these miracles were called automaton/automata. Frankly, my quality of life is better because of them.

I realized that I had found a passion, which would follow me to my funerary box; Box? And maybe that bird of joy and freedom would sing and dance on top of my box, proclaiming that I would be reincarnated into its companion... in my next life (hear the Twilight Zone music? :)

This is strictly my “Automata Magazine Forum” tribute to my love of automata — All types of automata.
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However, I am very interested to hear how YOU came to love automata — any kind. You know, when it all started for you, which automaton was it? Where did it happen? How did you feel? Etc...

 

It could be something as simple as: “I was eating a hot dog at the fair, and the mustard fell on my shirt. When (out of embarrassment)I lifted my head to see if anyone was watching. I saw this funny looking automaton dude sneering at me!”


All posts are welcomed!

 

My name is Jim Coffee.  I was born in 1945 in Oakland, California (a 5th generation Californian).  I've always been fascinated by mechanical technology.  When I worked as a Field Engineer for IBM (perhaps my best job) I won the "Used Part Art" contest.  In 2016 I built a 20 pipe street organ (a John Smith Senior 20).  When I took the organ out into public all I heard from people was "where is the monkey???".  So I went to the San Diego Zoo, bought a stuffed monkey, and animated it.  No plans...all from my head...and it needed to connect to the organ with the least trauma to the organ.  Success!!  I took the organ into public and people were no longer looking for a monkey...they were hearing the organ...seeing the monkey...and seemed quite happy.  Here is a link to a video showing the finished monkey.
That experience got me rolling down my "creating automata" track.  I am presently working on a series of automata called Jim's Gym.  The automata are exercise machines...a biped exercises....raises marbles...which roll to the bottom for another ride.  I'm also working on a piece called "Electric Chair".
I am glad that Automata Magazine is being published. I appreciate this forum.  I enjoy building automata.  My studio is one bay of a three car garage.  I currently live in Southern California (near San Diego) and can work with my garage door open most of the year.  Our Golden Retriever is my fan club.
I hope that all of you will share "who you are" with this forum.
--
-Jim Coffee-
creating automata near San Diego, California
one of the group moderators
JamesCoffee.com

Mike
 

My love of tinkering began when I was ten or twelve years old. I remember poking around my father’s workshops intrigued by the projects scattered across his workbenches. I loved the look & feel of the old hand tools, each with its own story to tell. It was a magical time of discovery. My father was a R/C airplane hobbyist, so he also had a number of radio transmitters, receivers, and servos on his bench. During this time, my dad took my Cox gas powered dune buggy and modified it into a radio-controlled car, the first I had ever heard about. It was quite the hit with the other boys in the neighborhood. But I digress, one Halloween, I thought it would be fun to try and scare some of the younger kids in the neighborhood by creating a laughing skeleton head, which was then set on the porch and operated by me as I watched out the window for them to come to the door to get candy. The skeleton head was store bought and made from fluorescent green plastic and luckily for me it already had a movable jaw. I rigged up a RC servo to move the jaw and another servo to turn on a cassette player which contained the evil laugh track. I don't remember scaring many kids but still have fond memories of building the laughing head. This is what I consider to be my very first automata, no matter how crude it was.

It's been a one step forward, two or three steps backwards since then, but I'm happy to say that the tinkering spirit never left me and am still thrilled when I see the magic of a cleverly designed automata.

Mario Núñez
 

I was wandering through the shops at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking in Indiana and went into the one where John Morgan was teaching automata construction.  I was hooked.  After 30+ years of woodworking of all different sorts here was something absolutely different.  Now that I've taken one of John's classes I am even more addicted, frustrated by not having the skills I want to have but excited at learning something new.

Otto <nexus88@...>
 

I found John Morgan’s “Shifty Eyes” automaton on Facebook. Even a politician would crack a genuine smile at seeing this automaton.

 

The power of an automaton’s empty speech... now worth a thousand words. Love it!

https://m.facebook.com/The.MASW/videos/2265249613787675

Mario Núñez
 

That was the piece we built in John's class.  It was a real challenge.

Otto <nexus88@...>
 

Michael Croft answers the question of this thread and wants to share it with all. Some of you will have seen this video, but for those who have not, here it is. I really like this interview and hope you do too. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tntYSpDTeLI

 

Hi Otto...
Thanks for this link.  It's an interesting interview.
I've placed this information in the forum wiki.  Lot's of wonderful videos on his website.
Cheers
-Jim Coffee-

On Wed, 30 Oct 2019 at 11:44, Otto via Groups.Io <nexus88=icloud.com@groups.io> wrote:
Michael Croft answers the question of this thread and wants to share it with all. Some of you will have seen this video, but for those who have not, here it is. I really like this interview and hope you do too. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tntYSpDTeLI

veeracer@...
 

For me, there  was no clear point in time where I said "hey, these are cool!" It's been more of a gradual shift. I've always had an interest in things mechanical, and for years I scratched that itch with cars. Over the years the car hobby has changed quite drastically and has become a rich mans past time. Sure you can still participate in events, which my wife and I still do, but there is a different feel to it.

I have also always been a tinkerer, I tinker with woodworking, wood carving, photography, 3D printing, CNC and several others I'm forgetting about.
So Automata seems to fit into several of these categories, so you could almost say I've been building up to it. :)

So now I have many ideas and little time. I am also working on my skills, I understand the mechanics, I just need to work on the precision of what I make.

 

Good morning veeracer...
May I ask a question about 3D printing?  Is there a steep learning curve for the software?  What software would you recommend? It seems to me that 3D printing is certainly here for the long haul...and I can see with my own work how it might be nice to simply "push a button and wait".
Thanks in advance.
-Jim Coffee-

On Thu, 31 Oct 2019 at 07:21, <veeracer@...> wrote:
For me, there  was no clear point in time where I said "hey, these are cool!" It's been more of a gradual shift. I've always had an interest in things mechanical, and for years I scratched that itch with cars. Over the years the car hobby has changed quite drastically and has become a rich mans past time. Sure you can still participate in events, which my wife and I still do, but there is a different feel to it.

I have also always been a tinkerer, I tinker with woodworking, wood carving, photography, 3D printing, CNC and several others I'm forgetting about.
So Automata seems to fit into several of these categories, so you could almost say I've been building up to it. :)

So now I have many ideas and little time. I am also working on my skills, I understand the mechanics, I just need to work on the precision of what I make.

veeracer@...
 

The software I've used is Fusion 360, which is free to use for the hobbyist, although they recently changed their licensing but it is still free.
Like most software of this type you can usually pick up the basics pretty quick, but to be proficient at it will take some time. I would recommend Lars Christensen for his youtube tutorials on Fusion 360.
Picking the 3D printer is also pretty important as you definitely get what you pay for. The higher end models will require less fiddling and experimentation than the lower models. To start I would get whatever is on the high end of your budget.
Once modeled, the file is put into a "slicer"  which is the program that takes the 3D model and converts it to the code that the printer understands.
There are two popular slicer programs, one by Cura and the other Pursa either will do the job and the choice is more about what printer you have and personal preferences.
There is also a number of plastic types depending on your needs and each have specific requirements to print as well.
All in all, my experience with 3D printing has been, when the printer is tuned and running good you get very good results, but it doesnt take much to create a birds nest of plastic.

This seems like a lot, but I think it is well worth the effort to create that one of a kind part that you need. 
Some of what I have made are cranks and bearing blocks for a miniature carousel that I have been working on and still trying to perfect.

BillB

BANOFALK
 

Hello

I am Barry Falkner. I live in West Yorkshire in the north of England.

I have always been attracted to old toys and games and anything that is not plastic and does not require batteries or plugging in - wind up gramophones, clockwork toy trains, clocks etc. I also love 3D puzzles and repairing things. I have repaired old clocks for over thirty years. Chiming mantel clock movements are amazing - pity they are often hidden in ugly cases! Black Forest cuckoo and automaton clocks are fascinating. I have one that has three figures that strike bells on the quarter hour. I think it was clocks like these that steered me towards making automata. I would love to make an automaton like the “Plum Eating Man” clock. The first thing I made (2015 at the age of 66) was one of those scary boxes - where a dragon leaps out when you open the lid. There is great joy in designing and manufacturing things. Once you are finished you simply start on the next! Thanks to the internet there is no shortage of inspiration. I try to limit myself to using just wood and metal. I will not use cross headed screws – too modern!

Regards

Barry

Paul E Giles Jr
 

Good to meet you Barry. Welcome to our automata family.



On November 2, 2019, at 9:25 AM, BANOFALK <banofalk@...> wrote:


Hello

I am Barry Falkner. I live in West Yorkshire in the north of England.

I have always been attracted to old toys and games and anything that is not plastic and does not require batteries or plugging in - wind up gramophones, clockwork toy trains, clocks etc. I also love 3D puzzles and repairing things. I have repaired old clocks for over thirty years. Chiming mantel clock movements are amazing - pity they are often hidden in ugly cases! Black Forest cuckoo and automaton clocks are fascinating. I have one that has three figures that strike bells on the quarter hour. I think it was clocks like these that steered me towards making automata. I would love to make an automaton like the “Plum Eating Man” clock. The first thing I made (2015 at the age of 66) was one of those scary boxes - where a dragon leaps out when you open the lid. There is great joy in designing and manufacturing things. Once you are finished you simply start on the next! Thanks to the internet there is no shortage of inspiration. I try to limit myself to using just wood and metal. I will not use cross headed screws – too modern!

Regards

Barry

Attachments:

 

Hi Barry...
Thanks for the introduction.  It's nice to get to know the people participating in this forum.  Regarding your comments that you try to limit yourself to using just wood and metal...may I ask a couple of questions:
  1. What kind of glue do you use.
  2. Would you use leather (if called for)?
  3. When you say cross headed screw I assume that means that you would use a slotted screw?  If it means that you don't use screws...how do you fasten? (please don't read this question as criticism)

Thanks!
--
-Jim Coffee-
creating automata near San Diego, California
one of the group moderators
JamesCoffee.com

BANOFALK
 

Hello Jim

I use ordinary PVA wood glue. I prefer mechanical screw fixing so things can be undone.

I would have no problem with leather, if needed.

I like slotted brass screws, they look better than the Pozidrive / Philips type screws..... to my eye anyway.

Regards 
Barry

On 4 Nov 2019, at 03:15, Jim Coffee <jim@...> wrote:

Hi Barry...
Thanks for the introduction.  It's nice to get to know the people participating in this forum.  Regarding your comments that you try to limit yourself to using just wood and metal...may I ask a couple of questions:
  1. What kind of glue do you use.
  2. Would you use leather (if called for)?
  3. When you say cross headed screw I assume that means that you would use a slotted screw?  If it means that you don't use screws...how do you fasten? (please don't read this question as criticism)

Thanks!
--
-Jim Coffee-
creating automata near San Diego, California
one of the group moderators
JamesCoffee.com