Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Video of Swimmer Automaton by 14 Balls Toy Co.

Here's a video of a classic from 14 Balls Toy Company. The piece was designed by Paul Spooner and made by Matt Smith. How to Swim cleverly animates a swimmer whose legs kick, arms rotate, and head turns. Notice that everything on the swimmer moves at the right pace. Brilliant.

Here's the link to the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre page for How to Swim

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can you give any details on the drive belt that operates the swimmers arms? I've been trying to track down one of these spring type drive belts with no luck. I've heard of them described as model train drive belts but the US model train stores I've called don't know what I'm asking for. The simple automata I've made use either string or rubber bands.

Thank you,


May 6, 2008 at 6:18 PM  
Blogger Dug North said...


I've had the same experience. I ordered some from eBay in the past, and I believe they came all the way from the UK. Not a very cost-effective option if you live in the States.

The drive belts used in this and many other automata are simply long, tightly coiled springs. On one end, the coils taper to form a bit of a point. By twisting the tapered end into the non-tapered end, a loop is formed. The slight stretching of the spring opens the coils and helps them "grab" the axle or pulley.

I have seen similar springs on various toys (the WowWee B.I.O. Bug, for example) and therefore believe they should be widely available -- perhaps without that convenient taper. This belief has yet to be proved, however.

If you find a good source, do let me know!

All the Best,


May 6, 2008 at 9:15 PM  

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