Monday, 30 September 2013

Mechanical Circus

Lion tamer and crazy lion automata

Another busy week just gone and another one to come! I can't believe it's October tomorrow, September where did you go? Anyway, time for a little introduction to one of the things I'm working on at the moment.

Seal spinning a ball automata

In November I am doing some outreach work in schools for Tullie House. They have a very exciting automata exhibition coming up and so I am going to be going into primary schools and making simple automata with the pupils. I'm very excited about it and have been busy making some samples to show the students and give them some ideas.

When working it is important to have a clean and tidy work space. Or at least a large mug of tea.

The working title for the project is Mechanical Circus so I wanted my samples to have a circus theme. Nowadays we, quite rightly, don't have animals performing in the circus but I do like making animal themed things and the idea of performing animals is a lot more attractive than the reality. So, I decided to go a bit nostalgic and have old-fashioned circus attractions including a lion tamer and a performing seal.

Seal detail

Seal detail- Wire whiskers help the shaft stay straight and keep the ball on the seals nose!

I have used very simple cam mechanisms to get simple movement into these pieces as I wanted to show that you can create really effective models with very simple mechanisms, things don't have to be really complicated to look good. The seal in particular has a very simple cam made from a bottle top. The cam follower, made of cardboard, is placed to the edge of the cam so that the spinning movement of the cam is transferred to the cam follower and up to the ball on the seals nose. The cam is slightly eccentric (meaning it attaches to the shaft slightly off centre rather than being a bit mad) so there is also a small up and down movement. The model is finished off with a seal cut from card and lots of bright paint and  bit of trim.

Back view of the automata

The cam is a bottle top and the follower is a circle of cardboard

The lion and lion tamer are slightly more complicated but only really in that they use multiple cams. The lion tamer spins and jumps excitedly using the same mechanism as the seal but with a more eccentric cam. The lions tail also works on the same mechanism but his tongue is slightly different. It works on two cams; one swings it clockwise and then the other one comes up and takes it back counter-clockwise. Two pieces of dowel and a pin in the cam follower stop it swinging too far either way. I didn't get the mechanisms exactly right in this piece but they work well enough to give an idea and they are, I think, quite entertaining!

The cams for the lion and tamer

Lion tamer 

Crazed lion!
Hopefully at some point I'll sit down and figure out video type things and then I'll post some videos so you can see how they move.

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