No announcement yet.

Ideas for a pocket sized automata needed.

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Ideas for a pocket sized automata needed.

    I always like to try to put a smile / amusement on a person's face whenever I can. Nothing wrong with trying to captivate their attention, especially children, for a moment. Get their gears to turn, so to speak.
    But I prefer to do it via mechanical means. I have a small collection of noisemakers - mechanical horns, an old mechanical doorbell, steam whistles, etc. that I use when I have small visitors to my shop. This usually lasts about a whole five minutes. Hopefully they carry a lifetime of some memory with them.

    It would be neat to have a somewhat complex mechanical, but pocket sized "toy", for when I am at the checkout line at the market, etc. ("Hey cashier, watch this while I dig out some coins from my other pocket") Although, I could do without the excess noise at this time.

    I would prefer it to be of all metal construction (durability / pass on to future grand kids, etc).
    Something that could be wound up and run under its own power for a bit. Cams and springs, oh my! <grin>.
    Criteria (so far):
    ~ metal construction
    ~ complex, has to have movement - the more the better
    ~ permanent home in my front pants pocket - get your mind outta the gutter!

    One item that pops in my head occasionally - I was at a museum many years ago and saw a musical cigar box. Correct details are a bit sketchy, but the gist are as follows:
    Shaped like an octagonal carousel. When the curator wound it up, this device played beautiful rich music, meanwhile eight doors slowly and smoothly moved outwards, while sliding open sideways, then the eight hidden cigars were gracefully elevated upwards towards the lucky fellow(s) who were offered a stogie. My guess as to age could be about a century old. But I never forgot the craftsmanship of this piece. Several hundred (if not thousands) of hours in its construction.
    I have always had an interest in automata - but the plans for the complex are just about non existant.
    There are many simple plans for wood / other media models - some are nice, some are crude - but they do not meet the size and durability requirement.
    Ideas anyone?
    Thanks a bunch,

  • #2


    • #3
      Irregular gears? Geneva wheel? Adding machine?


      • #4
        Originally posted by The Artful Bodger View Post

        Too much of a bulge in my pants....jeez that sounds dirty.


        • #5
          Originally posted by Tony Ennis View Post
          Irregular gears? Geneva wheel? Adding machine?

          That is a bit on the simple side Tony. Think unique, odd, worthy of a family heirloom.


          • #6
            There may not be anything like that available. You may have to invent your own. That would certainly be a project worthy of a skilled craftsman!


            • #7
              Then here you go: Antikythera mechanism.



              • #8
                Funny that you should mention automata. I am beginning a series on automata and automatons in Digital Machinist magazine. The first installment will appear in the Spring 2013 issue. My plan is for a series of individual projects of increasing complexity. No plans at this point for a pocket-sized project, but now you have me thinking...
                Weston Bye - Author, The Mechatronist column, Digital Machinist magazine
                ~Practitioner of the Electromechanical Arts~


                • #9
                  Look at this one:
                  Not too complex if you are a master watchmaker.
                  Weston Bye - Author, The Mechatronist column, Digital Machinist magazine
                  ~Practitioner of the Electromechanical Arts~


                  • #10
                    Tony - that is interesting, however a child may find it a bit dry.
                    Weston, I like that bird - but am not a watchmaker - am certainly not a master of anything. Maybe if I spent the rest of my life in isolation I would attempt a pocket sized version of it <grin>.
                    Keep the ideas coming please.


                    • #11
                      Maybe too simple, but it might work on a checkout counter that's got a slight incline.

                      This does the same thing.

                      Add hinges and a spring to eliminate the bulge in the pants.
                      Last edited by winchman; 12-31-2012, 06:03 AM.
                      Any products mentioned in my posts have been endorsed by their manufacturer.


                      • #12
                        Don't worry,...the "bulge" goes away by itself as you get older.

                        Getting back to the subject matter.....
                        How about a pocket sundial hidden inside a pocket watch ?
                        Last edited by johnnyd; 12-31-2012, 07:32 AM.


                        • #13
                          While it would not be an automaton, you could make some interesting variation of the Pocket Stonehenge!


                          • #14
                            That cigar box sounds like the 'thing' at the beginning of the children's programme 'Camberwick Green'

                            There's a youtube video of it at about 45 seconds here:




                            • #15
                              First thing that occurred to me was to build a mechanical amplifier. It would amplify a small change driven by temperature. Since a bimetal strip can have a fair amount of force, it could drive through multiple levers to move a display of some kind- possibly a rotating disc.

                              I see it as having a metal body and parts, with a glass window to show the innards. The rotating disc would have small pictures on it. At one end of the arc there would be someone dressed in a parka. The clothes are gradually shed until at the other end is a nude. You would set it up such that you would need slightly more than body temperature to show the nude.

                              Having suggested something sort of retro-looking such as this, I'm now recalling that there were lots of oddball gadgets that did funny things way back when. Maybe with the right search term some of these will show up. Might give other ideas.
                              I seldom do anything within the scope of logical reason and calculated cost/benefit, etc- I'm following my passion-