Wednesday, October 25, 2017

"The Sea Monster" - 2016 - Final Images and the "Making of"......

This is going to be a really big post, so get ready.......

"The Sea Monster" was commissioned by a man in New England who has a fondness for sea creatures. I've never done a piece quite like this before, but I really enjoyed the challenge, and I think it came out pretty great. It measures 24" x 16" x 8", hangs on the wall, and is operated by turning the crank.
I posted 2 videos at the bottom of this post....

The final shots of the piece. 

The build.

I started here - with the "case" that will hold everything. 

Next, I added a crank, and geared it down so that no one can overcrank it. If I didn't do this, and someone turned the crank too fast, it might damage the mechanisms - or at least, something would get hung up somewhere. I never want to take that chance, so I always gear down any hand-cranked piece.

Next, I started with the waves, and the mechanisms to move them. Of course, I had to draw the whole thing out first, and figure out where the waves needed to be. They are of various lengths, and the pivots points were staggered in relation to each other.

There are 3 axles that hold the small cams, which lift the waves. The axles have 2 precision bearings, mounted in blocks at each end, front and back. Here you can see the axels in progress. There are also 3 clear Polycord belts that connect the rods and the crank together - and makes everything move.

These are some of the end pieces. You can see here that I had to add some lead weight to get them to act the way I wanted them to. The small wooden rods help the waves stay in place. The rods go into grooves cut into wooden blocks.

These are all of the waves, before I carved the final details into them. Since the sea monster is sitting in the scene, the waves have to "surround" him - so some of them are full length, and some are very short. Each wave it unique, and I had to number them to keep them straight. Two rods, one on each end, hold the waves in place.

Testing the position and the movement of the waves. The first wave had to be spring assisted on this one side. I straddles the big gear, and had to prevent it from touching the gear. 

Starting to build the sea monster. 

The first cuts were done on a bandsaw.

I was anxious to see him in amongst the waves.

Beginning to hollow out the mouth.

Since the head was mostly hollow,  it was made up from 3 pieces of basswood - you can see 2 pieces here.

I carved the insides and cut out the eye before I glued the 3 pieces together. The eye is weighted so it moves as the head tilts back and forth, and first I had to figure out how that was going to work.

Starting the carving of the head - so much fun.

The head is pretty much finished here. I still have to add his crest.

Here I'm making room in the back for the mechanism that will move the fin. 

The hole for the fin mechanism is done. The part that fits in here is removable. It's easier to work on that way.

I carved out even more of the back to make room for the other mechanisms. There are 2 cams and two levers here. One moves the head, (which is spring assisted), and the other one moves the tail and fin. 

The two levers, with precision bearings on the cam followers.

The final look of the sea monster - before painting.

The teeth. I painted them before I glued them in.

All the pieces of the sea monster - just before painting.

After painting, but before aging.

After aging.

Painting the base - especially the area under the waves.

All the parts - painted, aged, waxed, and ready to be put together. Wow.

Almost all together.

Final assembly. All of the mechanical parts were figured out, and fabricated, before painting. This is just putting it all together, and checking to make sure it's working flawlessly. 

This shows one of the cams, one of the blocks that holds the bearings, and one of the rods that hold the end pieces in place.

The background painting in progress.......

......and after aging. It gets screwed to the back of the case.

This shows the eye, and how it's weighted. The two small brass rods limit it's movement.

The pine frame in progress.

This valance will hide the front of the waves, and it'll be painted the same color as the waves.

The final color of the frame. Four screws will hold it in place.

Test fit, (without the valance).

I hope you liked following along.
BTW I'm always accepting commissions. If you have an idea for a special piece, contact me - I'm sure we can come up with something really cool.

Here is the movie for "The Sea Monster".... You'll want to watch it full screen.

And here is the "making of" video......

Thanks for looking!



  1. I absolutely love this piece! Hi, I am a new fan of your work!

    1. Hi Cecilia, So glad you enjoy my work.

  2. Absolutely stunning. It made me think of the film The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.

  3. Late to the party, only just starting to make automata, and this had taught me loads about how to make stuff move.
    But more than that, its a stunning piece of art, and I love it!

  4. In The Sea Monster what did you use as the "belt" that runs between the pulleys? Is it small via plastic tubing? How were the ends joined together? By the way, your work is wonderful!

    1. Thanks Mike. The belt is polycord. It's fusible with a heat source - I use a candle. Google it.