Back in college I took a rather enjoyable sculpture class. This was when I didn't know what I wanted to major in yet, so I was taking everything I could to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I could rant and rave about the idiocy of the education system that does not give a rounded education to its youngsters, but that would be for another post. In this class of mine, we had something like 11 projects we had to do. The first one was simple, to make an object into something it wasn't, and I did an OK job at it. Not great, but OK. The second, however, required us to come up with a toy that moved. I made an airplane with a propeller that turned when the wheels did. I did very well on it. The third was the last project I did. I don't even remember what it was, because I didn't do what the professor asked. Instead, I started to make a a crank-work box. I designed it with 5 moving elements all relating to time, built every part of it (including making the gears by hand), and tested it until it worked almost perfectly. There was also another automaton box I made, a gift for my at-the-time girlfriend. These two projects not only counted for the other 9 assignments, but got me an A in the course. Here are a few examples of automata. I recommend checking out a few more videos; they can be quite impressive.
Ever since then, I have had a love of automata and woodworking. I even designed some complicated projects, but never got around to them. It has been some time since I thought about any of them. Today, I was drawing with my daughter and listening to "Rainbow Connection," from the Muppets. Suddenly I was inspired! I remember one of my old projects that involved Kermit sitting on top of a log with a banjo. A tape played the song, and attached to the motor of the tape player was a dowel that moved cams which controlled Kermit's mouth and arm, so that he sang and played in time to the music. One of the biggest flaws of this was, however, that the dowel and cams would add resistance, which would slow down the song and possibly break the tape player. Besides, who uses cassette tapes?
Now my idea is to make it a crank-work automaton. Attached to the main shaft are the cams, still controlling the arm and mouth, and on the other end is a disc - one part of a music box. The chime portion would be beneath, so that as you turn the crank you both play the song and make Kermit move! Another thought, if I can make it larger, would be to actually use banjo strings that are plucked on the inside. I hope I can remember these ideas in case someday (yeah right) I get a woodworking studio and have the time to work on these. Even though I likely will not get to do these things, I still love to come up with ideas like these. They keep me thinking, keep my mind creative. If I get stuck in part of my story, sometimes it is a good idea to switch things up and step back from it for a short while. Tell me what you all think.