Lee Valley Tools Woodworking Newsletter
Vol. 3, Issue 2
November 2008
Make an Automaton

Editor's Note: The following is the final installment in a series of two articles. Part 1 can be found in Volume 3, Issue 1.

Kermit the Dog
The automaton, entitled Kermit the Dog.

In a previous article, I discussed the fascinating woodcraft of automata. In this article, I give a step-by-step explanation of how to build an automaton and include a detailed plan that outlines how to make the character described below.

This piece, which on my daughter's suggestion I have called Kermit the Dog because my character reminded her greatly of a frog, is adapted from artist Jan Zalud's Dog That Barks. There are many versions of barking-dog automata, but I like Jan's the most because of its simple but clever mechanical design and lifelike result.

Meet the Character

Crank the handle and Kermit charges forward and then retreats while his mouth opens and closes to mimic a barking motion. A lever mechanism is used to open and close its mouth. I used contrasting woods (pine and walnut) for the dog and the base, and shaped the maple crank handle to resemble a bone.

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