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March 13, 2012 by  

Jokebot by Paul SpoonerThis Jokebot automaton is a special commission made by Paul Spooner last year as a surprise 40th Birthday present for a collector.
The head of the robot is styled on piece of Swiss cheese. Here are some of Paul’s thought processes and insights into the mechanics of the piece.

Jokebot by Paul Spooner


Most of the machines I make suffer from randomness. Sometimes they work and often they donʼt. I thought that this friction mechanism could be relied on to perform unpredictably. Resting on a single driving roller and a row of three idlers, the three drums rotate about a common axis. Around the rim of each drum are 20 equally-spaced teeth.

JokebotGeared with the driving cylinder is a camshaft that brings into the paths of the rotating teeth a set of detent pins fixed at the ends of 3 levers.The pins prevent further movement of the drums, allowing the words written on them to be read. Itʼs a fruit machine with words instead of fruit.

I made such a machine and it seemed to generate a reasonably vivid set of phrases;


JokebotBut taking one drum at a time, it became clear that patterns of words, sometimes nine or more in a row, were repeating themselves with remarkable consistency. Tweaking of the detent pins only altered the number of words in a sequence. It was too reliable a machine to be bad enough for the purpose. I couldnʼt see a way out and was thinking of instructing the person operating it to interfere manually from time to time to jumble the patterns. Then I thought of a mechanical solution that would vary the depth of penetration of the detent pins and thus introduce a new scrambling factor. A longer pin will catch on the teeth of the drum a little sooner than a short one. Half a millimeterʼs difference alters the stopping position by one or two teeth. As the depth of penetration is controlled by a stop bar, moving that in and out by a small amount would produce enough variation in the stopping times to break up the patterns. I made the bar rotate by gearing it to the camshaft and fixed an eccentric cylinder to it so that the levers were arrested in a sequence of five different positions.

Hereʼs a photo;

JokebotYou can see the 3 levers, the detent pins, the drums, driving cylinder and the eccentric on the stop bar. Is anyone still reading this or am I the only person interested enough to go through with it? Iʼve always liked puzzling through descriptions of machinery especially when the writer tells you that a glance at the diagram will clearly show how the thing works, suggesting that only an idiot would be unable to understand. If you have been, thank you for reading this.

Here is another of Paul’s ideas for a Jokebot – still on the drawing board.

Deluxe Designing Automata Kit – LAST FEW

February 24, 2012 by  

This box contains everything you need to get started with automata design.


1. Designing Automata Kit. The classic CMT kit – No glue or tools are required, and you will learn about simple mechanics using cams and a crank slider mechanism. Many different designs can be made, and the kit used over and over again.
It is suitable for either left or right handed use, and takes the frustration out of designing automata by allowing very quick assembly and testing without the use of tools. It is a valuable teaching aid, and ideal for those wishing to experiment with some basic mechanisms.
Kit includes a DVD showing you how to put it together, (and our small Barecat has some fun along the way!)

We have enjoyed using this kit around the world at workshops and exhibitions. Produced in Thailand using chemical-free rubber wood, from sustainable sources.

2. A range of materials to help you create your own designs.
(5 pieces of foam material, 4 straws, feathers, wire). Colours will vary.

3. The Interactive CD-Rom. An interactive version of the Designing Automata Kit – hours of fun.

4. How to Make Automata DVD (NTSC or PAL) Understanding mechanisms with Keith Newstead

5. Cabaret Mechanical Movement – Our book, republished many times since 1998. Covers all the basic mechanisms with specific reference to CMT automata.

£79.50 (excl. VAT)
Sold out

Designing Automata Kit

Tim Lewis – Mechanisms

February 17, 2012 by  

Jetsam - Tim LewisThis exhibition features new work from Tim Lewis, including the fabulous ‘Jetsam’ pictured, which made it’s debut at the Kinetica Art Fair in February.
A large Kiwi-like bird connected to a robotic arm attempts to construct a nest from soft foam ‘twigs’.

Flowers East
82, Kingsland Road
E2 8DP

March 7th to April 12th 2012

Paul Spooner Live

February 2, 2012 by  

Spooner's WorkshopA chance to hear Paul Spooner talk about his work at the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society, Falmouth, Cornwall. The talk entitled ‘A View from the Plateau – Mechanical Jokes for people with short attention spans’ should be highly entertaining.

February 16th at 7.30pm.
Tickets £8

Article about Paul Spooner on This is Devon

Love by Carlos Zapata

February 1, 2012 by  

Love by Carlos ZapataA new one-off piece from Carlos Zapata.
A couple in love fly endlessly around the earth, with a heart above them.
Beautiful colours and style.

Height 28 cm

Wood, metal, acrylic paint

One Only.
£595 (excl. VAT)

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