The Crossroads of the Aether
I'd eventually like to create something similar to this, though probably much simpler, for my costume...moving parts would be a bonus! (This is from a Jacquet Droz automaton.) Obviously, this would be a couple of years--possibly more--down the road!
Is anyone here experienced in creating clockwork mechanisms? If so, how did you get started (read: how can I get started)? And most importantly, how should I go about creating a clockwork mechanism?
The function will dictate what you build. But first you should take a 4 year college course in watch making... Unless you happen to know this already... and by your statement you don't, then the next best thing would be a program which might or might not exist for your computer which could help teach you this. Gear works and Clock works is an extremely complex skill set. As it not only requires a knowledge of the mechanics but also ratios, actions, swing rates, leverage etc. and, and (drat i forgot the math required for this, geometry I think.) plus a machine shop and all the tools there in. Or one of the new multifunction CNC machines which might work on a small enough scale to preform the ultra small details required. As a bonus you could export the designs stright from your computer to the machine.
With that said there is a neat program that would allow you to draw your own gears and cut them out of wood. Email me and I will get the info to you.
Wally gave you the link I was speaking of. (the second one) I had to find it in my bookmarks... I have a LOT of them. I bought the program. It is really cool to play with.
Wally that adding machine idea is a good one.
A couple of thoughts...
First, I would strongly encourage you NOT to tear apart your 1930s Remington. You'll regret not having it, and it is almost certainly repairable and (with tlc) usable. It's survived long enough that it deserves to live another generation or three.
Second, mechanical clock movements are still being made commercially. These would make an excellent base for your automaton's mechanics. These movements are generally of patterns established in the American clock industry in the 19th century, so they look quite authentic (technologically, the *are* authentic). This manufacturing is now in the far east. Using newly made old-style items means that you can make new history without worrying about destroying old history (if that makes any sense :-)
If you check ebay for "clock movement korean" or "clock movement india" you'll find a number of items. Or/also, if you want to get a new movement (guaranteed to work), they're relatively inexpensive. For example, check the website of 'Timesavers" (www.timesavers.com) an established and reputable dealer). It isn't a great website for navigation, but click on "Shop Online" and then "6) Clock Repair and Replacement Parts" and then in the right-hand column go down to and click on 19 "Movements, Motors, Rotors and Related" and click on "2 Mechanical Movements & Related Components". This link might (or might not) get you there directly:
An eight-day kitchen clock movement that was made in India last month but designed in New England well over a century ago is about $78.
A word of caution: While for the most part messing about with these movements is just a matter of patience, there is one safety consideration. Observe the large mainsprings in these clocks. They store a lot of power (even when not tightly wound), and can have sharp edges. If you just unscrew the movement plates, they can go flying and hurt you pretty badly. There is a C-shaped holder that professional repairers use to confine these springs when disassembling clocks (they use spring-winding tools to install them). You can also use an ordinary hose clamp to restrain them before taking the movement apart. Do restrain them! Simple clock movement disassembly/reassembly isn't that hard to do, and there are several very good books on basic clock repair to take you through the steps.
I notice that you're in Madison. Are you a part of the Madison Retro-Futurist's group? If so, and if you'd be interested, I could bring a few books related to historical automata and clock/watchmaking in to the meeting next month (if it happens next month). The group organizes via facebook, at:
I'm most impressed with your persona/costume, btw - both in concept and execution.
David M. MacMillan
(near) Mineral Point, WI
www.CircuitousRoot.com (Antiquarian Technology; hobby site)
www.Lemur.com (Singing Lemur Jewelry)
dmm at lemur dot com
I would definitely include a secondary in mechanical engineering. Or, just a thought, look for scrap parts from a variety of sources. People have been known to sell door knobs, lock cams, old clocks, brass horns and an assortment of stuff that can be used to create the facsimile of a functional device. The reall trick then would be to stack items in offset layers to give the illusion of depth so that when the apparatus is visible the viewers would be tricked into believing the works fill your body. Another thought, position plxi material mirriod at angles behind things so that the depth continues without revealing the viewers reflection! Now for movement. I recommend motors from a variety of sources including electric staplers, computer cooling fans, etc. A 9 volt battery can be used to power these items and provide the circular motion which, when attached to a piston or shaft, can create a terrific amount of movement.
Obvoisly I suggest mounting your clockworks in front as you are blessed with the ability to hide more there as recent photos have revealed. Hell, you could probably hide a motorboat!
"smoke and mirrors"?...sounds like a good post for the discussion about magic in steampunk as well as here...now just what type of smoke and mirrors are we talking about?...or is that a trade secret my coin operated friend? :}