Wednesday, November 7, 2018

"Girls Girls Girls" - 2017

It's been a while since I posted anything here..... so now it's time for me to catch up! 
(And I'll be adding more here soon - stay tuned.)

This piece was born out of the idea of the spinning sign. This is partly based of what I've learned making other pieces where the figures spin a wheel -similar to a carnival wheel. The hand motion, the mechanism for the motion - and the challenges of each piece - were very similar. The question was - how to get a static object moving with just one swift movement of a figure's arm? Part of the solution was adding more weight to the lever - which would deliver more thrust to the arm. I also had to make the arm strong enough to withstand the extra force. I will explain more as I show you the in-progress pictures below......

The final shot. He measures 10.5" x 19.5" x 5". And is Currently Available for $2850.
He stands on an old metal lunchbox, but everything else was made by me. 

Another view. Not only does his arm move to spin the sign - his head turns from side to side, and his expression is "perpetually bored".

A closer look. 

The sign, which is a thin piece of lightweight pine, is held by his other hand. 

Here's a look at his right arm from behind. You can see the rod that first lifts his arm, and then - with great force - drops it down, rapidly, to spin the sign. The joint at his elbow had to be designed to allow his arm to move slightly backwards, to ensure there was clearance between the sign and his fingers when his arm lifted up. As his arm drops, it moves forward about 1/8" so his fingers land on the top of the sign - putting it into motion. And you can see the small bearing I used for the sign, which is held by his left hand.

His head - sculpted out of polymer clay - with his sad, bored expression.

In-progress pics.....

His basswood hand. I always "strengthen" my figure's hands by saturating them with thin CA glue. It makes the soft basswood much "harder".  This pic shows the hand before I put the glue on it.

This is the left hand - with the CA glue on it, (it does change the color of the wood a bit.)

The next 3 images show my process of building the right (spinning) arm, and of getting the body position, and placement, correct. I made a "stand" that will hold the sign in it's proper place while I tested out how the whole thing operated. 

Here I'm figuring out the position of the upper arm. And as you can see, I started off with a basswood lower arm, (or maybe it was just a stand-in, a "test piece" for the final arm? I don't remember.)

Here I'm finalizing the arm and hand. I switched over to poplar wood for the forearm - mostly because of the elbow joint, which had to be super strong.  At the elbow joint, what is usually just a hole, had to be a slot, so the arm could move backwards. (Sorry, I don't have pics of the arm and slot.) You can see the stand I made that supports the left arm - and holds it in position.

His head; sculpted from polymer clay.

His basswood shoes. 

His body, just before I dressed him. As you can see, the rod for his head goes directly through his left leg - that's why he's standing a bit strangely - off to one side.

The mechanism; nearing completion. The 5 pointed cam was to lift the lever, and let it drop. The other round cam moves his head from side to side. At this point, I've only carved out one drop, or valley. And you can see the lever (and bearing) that moves his head.

Here the 2 cams are finished and glued together. You can see how much the cam for the head has changed - more valleys! - and that I changed from 5 "drops" per cycle to only 3. It's all figured out with 'trial and error' - lot's of time, and lots of head scratching.  CA glue also 'strengthens' the cams. 

Here's the lever - notice where the cam follower is in relation to the rod, (which goes up to his arm), and where the weight is. The pivot point is all the way to the right. The location of these points were worked out on paper. Figuring out just how much weight to add to the lever was a guess - more trial and error.

Here are the levers and cams in place. I added the black piece of foam to cushion the lever after it dropped.

Here's a shot of the final mechanism, just before I lower it all into the metal lunchbox. I worked on it, and figured out the mechanism in this upright position.

I'll try to post a movie of it soon.

Thanks for looking!!!



  1. Hi Tom,

    This is great. Thanks so much for posting it. It's so interesting to see how different people go about their work and problem solving. Excellent!

    1. Hi Marc, Thanks for your kind words. I'm glad you like it. (And I'll have more posts here soon.)

  2. Hi Tom, just wondering what brand is the polymer clay you used to sculpt the head?

    1. Hi Bella, I use Super Sculpey mixed with Premo. I mix it mostly to get the color I want, but also it may add a bit of strength. I mix it 50/50.