A new volcano discovered at the bottom of the garden

To make the volcano diorama for the Dodo automata, I’ve been using up some offcuts of MDF. Using my original sketch, I sized up the background and cut that out, painting it with the blue silk paint I used for the child’s desk made last month.

The background was sketched freehand and cut out using a coping saw. To create the volcano, the different sections were cut out and then stacked up to provide a 3D effect and a gap for the lava to run down.


To paint the volcano, I raided the arts cupboard and found some poster paints. These looked great whilst wet but once dried went quite dull with a tendency to rub off.

Thanks to a shout out on twitter, #MakersHelp came to my rescue and Emma, Sue, Nigel and Rob all suggested PVA. I blended some in with my paint and sure enough that produce a much better finish.


To drive the mechanics, I needed some way to get the drive from the crank used by the user to the Dodo. My original sketch had a belt drive and I was racking my brains for what I could use. My thoughts turned to old machine tools that used leather belts. So whilst looking in my box of leather and material scraps I stumbled across a long length of rubber cord. Having literally just read an article from Dug North of cabaret mechanical on “making pulleys and belts for automata“, I thought I’d try it out with this cord. The cord was sliced with a sharp knife and bonded with some contact adhesive. And as you can see below, it worked brilliantly.

Rather than simple wooden pulleys, I wanted something that looked a bit more sophisticated. So, inspired by some crank handles I saw online, I used my new found FreeCAD skills to create a 3D model to be printed. I’ll likely add some brass or bronze bushes to reduce any wear on the plastic.

Next up is to create the skeleton for the Dodo from some brass strips, rods and tubes.

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