Archive: Automata and mechanical toy making in artist's workshop: 12 classes

Sailor's Dream by TW. He falls asleep and his dream is revealed


Come with your idea and be taught at my workshop in London. As a qualified teacher I've experience in secondary and University (UAL Wimbledon Art School). The course is flexible to fit with your schedule - it will involve an initial discussion with you over the phone, where you can describe what you wish to make and email sketches.

The level of complexity depends on tools you have available, however very sophisticated automata can be made with few basic tools. I will send special materials and components.

You will be lead through the process of how to make your idea in bite size pieces - from sketches, through card and MDF sketch models to the final automaton or toy.

The twelve session course includes £25 for consumables and materials and during this time you will be able to make an moving automaton. A shorter (eight session) version of the course is also available (see More from this Maker below).

A little bit about my working background - I have taught for over 25 years in schools of all ages and have am a qualified secondary level teacher. I currently tutor at UAL Wimbledon College of Art in puppetry, animatronics and automata - some of the work can be seen here. I also run Meta Props and am co founder of Arts Republic, making environmental kinetic sculpture.

There are a variety of projects for all levels of experience and skill - you could make a hand-cranked or motorised automaton you have in mind, or you could do one of my projects, for example 'To breathe life into an inanimate object with a hidden mechanism'. In this project you would choose any small everyday object, such as a book, and make it open - as if by magic. In this project the means of producing the movement is up to you - it is wide ranging from the low-tech of motors and cams as in automata, to the high-tech of Arduinos and servos as used in animatronics.

I also have all kinds of projects that will suit your ability, from beginner to the advanced student. Please contact me if you have any questions or would like to discuss a project you have in mind. Homework is essential whether to get on and design and make, source materials or acquaint yourself with different terms such as crank, pulley and cam, from the books and the web.

You can learn many practical skills such as metal and wood work, soldering, mold-making, papier mache, simple electro-mechanics and electronics and coding.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Cancellation and a full refund can be obtained up to 2 weeks before the course starts. Start dates may be amended on request.

What's included in the price?

Twelve hour sessions at £558 (including £25 & p&p for consumables and materials).

The classes can take place at a time to fit with your schedule. There are places for two students at each session.

What you will need

For this online course you will need access to a drill, preferably a pillar bench-press type, a range of hand tools; pliers, hammer, punch, vice, hack-saw, jig-saw, fret saw.
Card, MDF, birch ply, various woods, brass rods, silver or bright steel rods.


Tom Wilkinson at Tom Wilkinson


Unit 20 Kingsgate Workshops
110-114 Kingsgate Road

Suitable for

  • Adults
  • Advanced/pro level
  • Easter
  • Fairs, festivals & exhibitions
  • Hearing impaired
  • Intermediate level
  • Limited mobility
  • Seniors
  • Spooky
  • Suitable for beginners
  • Teenagers


12 hours (flexible times to suit)

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