Blink of an Eye

Stuart Chalmers Automata


I have been building mechanical models, or automata since January 2007. When I started building these automata, the vision in my head for the model was much more complex than the simple mechanisms in the resultant kinetic toy. Reduction in complexity is a good thing.

Models so far: Snowboarding Automata, Canoeing Automata, Woodworking Automata, Bess Dog Automata and Angel Automata.


Snowboarding Automata Kinetic Art


Snowboarding Automata

This was my first model created for my fathers 60th birthday. My dad took up snowboarding when he was 58 / 59 and he is now really, really good. I'm very proud of him.

The snowboarder is carved from Lime. The mechanism is made from pine and a unspecified hardwood. It uses three cams to make the snowboarder jiggle up and down. The arms are pivoted giving free motion.



Canoe Automata Kinetic Art



Canoeing Automata

The second model was made for my John Kelly who runs the popular open canoe forum Song of the Paddle.

The canoeist and canoe are both carved from Lime. The different colours of the canoe are a result of slight staining of the timber which gives a tiger stripe finish.

The automata mechanism is pretty simple based on a cam which pulls fishing line which in turn levers off the left shoulder of the canoeist, making him paddle. The canoe is mounted loosely on two dowels, so as the paddler takes a stoke the canoe rocks slightly.

The cams are shaped to look like fish. The crank handle is in the shape of a canoe.

 Carving of Canoe for Automata

Woodworking Automata Kinetic Art



Woodworking Automata

This model was build for my father-in-law who is a keen woodworker. He is far more of a perfectionist than me and takes a lot of time and care to build his creations. This perfection shows in the high quality of his results - but it just takes a little longer.

The model shows a woodworker checking his plans and then measuring the timber. Then to be sure he checks the measurements again and again as the clock spins and the scenes in the window change. Perfection takes time.

The mechanism is based on three parts. Two offset cams cause the man to look from left to right. A piece of fishing line causes the arms to move as the man rotates. The next two parts involve gears which rotate a pulley systems for the clock and the window scene.

The dark wood is Walnut and the horizontal sections are oak. The man is carved from Lime.

   Woodworkin Automata showing Pulley System


Bess Dog Automata Kinetic Art



Bess Dog Automata

This is a model of my dog Bess. The model is based on a design by Aquio Nishida in his book Automata: Movable Illustration.

I like the design and thought I would try building it as I was sure I would learn something. This is the first automata that I have built that is not my own design.

The box is built from mahogany and the mechanism is oak. Brass rods create the movement.


 Angel Automata Kinetic Model

Automata: I think my mum might be an angel.

This model was produced for my mums 60th birthday. My mum loved the Heidi book when she was young and my first idea was to build a model with a Swiss mountain scene. Time was short so the idea was put to rest. Then one night I started to feel guilty and decided I must build a model. I then asked myself the question "what image comes to mind when I think of my mother" and instantly the idea of the angel came to mind. The resulting model uses the same mechanism as the Bess Dog Automata - which help speed up the design and build time. I reckon I built this in about 15 hours.

The box is made of cherry, the mechanism is mahogany (I think), the angel is carved from lime and the wings are scrollsawed out of walnut. The box and mechanism is finished in a oil varnish blend and the angel is finished in wax.

If you would like any information on these models please email me