Automata Workshop

The completed animatronic piece "A Private Conversation" can be seen here.
The basic shape of the head is rough carved out. This is actually more tricky that the fine finishing because the basic shape of the head is set at this stage.
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I use a combination of quality hand carving tools and also a mechanical carver as this is easier on the elbows for removing large amounts of wood.
The mechanical carver is a nice machine to use because it doesn't actually do anything unless it is pressing against the wood. This makes it relatively safe, particularly as much less pressure is needed that with hand tools.
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The mechanical carver is driven from a stand held motor. I bought these from Axminster tools and they have proved to be very useful. I also have heads for grinding and drilling which click into the flexible shaft. Very useful if you want to quickly drill a small hole of sand something down.
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Cutting out the cavity in the back of the head is most easily achieved with a carving tool shaped like a thin ice-cream scoop. The shaper allows it to be levered against the side of the cavity to really dig out the chips. Getting the right depth is facilitated by having already drilled the holes for the eyes so the remaining thickness of wood is easily seen.
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It does end with quite a pile of wood chips though.
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Once I have the rough shape I fine carve out the head. Lime wood is also very easy to sand to shape, leaving a smooth finish.
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The new head is a good copy of the prototype.
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The bodies are also cut from lime wood. These are much easier to make as the shape is easily achieved.
I then spray varnish the heads and body. The body has already been painted with acrylic paint. At the bottom right of the picture are the eyes, stood in modelling clay. More on making the eyes next time.
The jaws are middle left.