Automata, puppets and clocks

Simple automata with Stephen Guy

Ref: S4D09006

Suitable for all

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About this course

Create designs for an automaton made principally in wood. Discover simple ways of producing mechanical movement while being encouraged to use reclaimed and other interesting materials. Please note that Stephen Guy will now teach this course rather than Robert Race.

Course Description

In the first session we will look at a few very simple ways of producing movement. This is illustrated by the tutor's collection of automata and mechanical toys in a variety of materials and use a range of simple mechanisms to produce movement. There will also be a chance to see some simple automata, principally in wood, and including the tutor's own work and a range of books on automata and moving toys will be available to inspire.

During the course you first make a collaborative group sculpture using pre-made parts as an introductory taster to constructing automata. You are then encouraged to develop your own design for a simple automaton. The tutor's collection of automata is all available again on the following evenings when you will have an opportunity to discuss your progress and plans, if required. The aim is to complete this project around lunchtime on the last day, leaving time for a group review and discussion of possible developments and improvements.

You work with wood, plus a range of additional materials such as wire, string, plastic, etc. There is an emphasis on reclaimed and recycled materials, although this will be provided, you are welcome to bring your own contributions of interesting materials, for example driftwood. The woodworking skills needed are pretty basic, but include the use of a fretsaw/scroll saw and a bench/pillar drill.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials


  • A range of materials supplied by the tutor and used by the group as a whole, including a box of junk, curious objects, bits and pieces including old toy parts, and glue.

What students need to bring

  • Notebook/sketchbook and pencil
  • Any bits of driftwood or other interesting scraps of material, junk, curious objects and old toy parts you wish to incorporate

Available to buy

  • Available from the tutor:
  • Plywood
  • Driftwood
  • Dowel
  • Wire
  • Soft and hardwood scraps
  • A wide range of fixings, fastenings, findings, adhesives, acrylic paint etc.
  • Metal rod


Stephen Guy

Stephen Guy is a practical hands-on maker and mechanical artist specialising in running automata. He regrets the apparent demise of people's ability to use tools, to repair, hack and maintain the physical things on which they depend. He wants to help revitalise a practical and inventive making culture, and raise the status of skilled craft and technical work.


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

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