You don’t 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.
Tenon saw:
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.
Wood Saw:
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.
Fret Saw:
This saw has a very fine, thin blade and is kept under tension so that it can’t 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 don’t 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 rejoining.
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 don’t 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 closely supervised.
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).
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Band Saw
Scroll Saw