Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Carving "Thunderbolt"

I have had an interest in automata (A self-operating machine or mechanism) since making a limberjack machine a few years ago. I have wanted to create a machine that incorporated caricatures that I carved and that would be fun to look at, an animated toy of sorts. A well-known carver I admire, Lynn Doughty, suggests that you should strive to make your work stand out, to attract attention, and draw people in. So, I felt a carving that moved would be something different, something that makes you want to look closer. Adina Huckins’ jointed dolls also influenced this carving as did Wanda Sowry and her wonderful creations! So the idea that keeps rising up is a little boy dressed up as a cowboy, riding one of the old mechanical horses that used to be found in front of stores for the kids to ride. A crank would be turned to give the little boy his ride on old “Thunderbolt”. So I figured I’d blog the process a little bit.

I completed the head several months ago and have spent the time trying to figure out how to do the joints.

I have decided (at least at this date) to use dowel and pin joints. The little groove on the ends allows 360 degree rotation when held in place with a simple pin. I’ll probably restrict the movement to less than that, but this design allows me to get the arm and head placement exactly at the angle that looks best. The waist and legs are simple joints that will allow movement back and forth, as the horse moves.

Here is the progress on the cowboy so far. I am starting the process of carving the horse, so I can get him seated properly in the saddle. I’ll post some pictures of that process next time.

Thanks for looking!


  1. Man! You're good! What a great face on your little guy!

  2. I kinda like him....maybe a cross between a young Eddie Haskell and Dash from the "Incredibles"? He reminds me of someone!