You dont need a vast range of tools in order to make automata but there
are a number of essential items you will need to work with. Power tools are
great labour saving devices but all the hand powered equivalents work well and
at times are better to use, especially when working on small scale pieces. Below
is a list of useful tools to have when working in resistant (hard) materials.
Cutting wood is best done with a tennon saw. This has a fine blade which cuts
both hard and soft woods very cleanly. It should be used in conjunction with
a wooden mitre. This helps to hold the wood firmly and cut accurate straight
or angled lines. The tenon saw should handle most small scale jobs and is essential.
A small wood saw with a 12 inch blade has rough teeth but is capable of cutting
to any depth and is much easier to use on larger pieces of wood. This again
is an essential item.
This saw has a very fine, thin blade and is kept under tension so that it cant
bend. The saw frame has a large depth enabling you to work on larger pieces
of wood. The fret saw in mainly used for cutting out intricate shapes and patterns.
The blade is thin so is capable of turning very sharply which gives it such
flexibility. It is great for cutting out shapes such as animals etc. in ply
wood. A fret saw can be used on both wood and metal (using special blades) and
is also essential.
Power tools are great labour saving devises and can considerably
lesson the time it takes to make an Automata. They do however command a great
deal of respect and common sense when being used. Power saws are possibly the
most dangerous tools to work with as one careless mistake could cause an injury.
I dont want to put you off using them but to make you aware of the potential
risks. (Treated with respect they are safe). When working with power tools
always wear safety goggles and keep ties, jewellery and any loose clothing or
articles away from moving parts.
The band saw is a very versatile power tool. You can cut wood in a straight
line with use of a mitre and there are attachments to enable you to cut circles
and even turn it into a scroll saw. When used with a narrow blade you can cut
curved shapes and with care and practice quite intricate shapes can be cut out
of wood, plastic and even thin metal. It is not practical for using on small
work as you do not want to get your fingers too near the blade.
Band saws come in all shapes and sizes and are often referred to as two or three
wheel types. This refers to the the actual wheels the blade rotates a round.
Many come with variable speeds which is useful when cutting materials such as
perspex that need to be worked at a slower blade speed to stop it melting and
The band saw is a very useful tool to have and small relatively inexpensive
ones are available from many tool suppliers. For the serious automata maker
they are useful but not essential. Children should never use one. If you dont
like the idea of working with a band saw then stick to hand saws.
The scroll saw has a very fine blade that is powered up and down at about 1400
rpm. It is the power version of the fret saw and as such can cut very intricate
shapes and to quite a small size.
As with any power tool it is not advisable to get your fingers too close to
the moving parts. The scroll saw is quite forgiving (unlike a band saw) but
should still be used with respect. When operating a scroll saw your fingers
are often very close to the blade and it is important not to push them into
the front of the part which has the cutting edge. An accident with a scroll
saw is unlikely to cause a very serious injury. It is this comparative safety
that makes them popular in schools and suitable for older children to use if
The scroll saw can be fitted with a range of blades and can cut wood and metal
up to two inches thick. They are extremely versatile and great labour saving
devises. (A real must for the serious automata maker).