Automata and mechanical toy making online: 8 classes

'Crustacean Keep-fit' The Museum of Automata, York.


Come with your idea and be taught live online. As a qualified teacher I've experience in secondary and University (UAL Wimbledon Art School). The online automata course is flexible to fit with your schedule - it will involve an initial discussion with you, where you can tell me what you wish to make.

The course is one-to-one and is conducted on Zoom/Skype/Facetime, 1 hour per week. The more tools you have the better however, very sophisticated automata can be made with few basic tools. I can send special materials and components, if necessary and this is covered up to £20 worth (excluding postage).

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 eight online session course is £290 (including £30 for consumables and materials inc p&p). In this time you would be able to make an automaton with one to two movements. A twelve session course (see More from this Maker below) would mean a more complicated automaton.

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 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 projects that will suit your ability, from beginner to the advanced student. Please feel free to call or message 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?

The eight session course is £290 (including £20 for consumables and materials)

When the situation permits, actual classes at my workshop will resume in London. These 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 but not essential, a range of hand tools; pliers, hammer, punch, vice, hack-saw, jig-saw, fret saw.
Card, MDF, birch ply, various woods, steel, brass, silver or bright steel metric sized rods.


Tom Wilkinson at Tom Wilkinson

This course is taught online

Suitable for

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


8 hours (flexible times to suit)

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Live online course
Sara - - #35606

This is a very satisfying and enjoyable course to take. Tom is an excellent tutor who adapts his teaching method to the individual. He is very knowledgeable about his subject matter and shares this expertise readily. The course is online, but we were still able to communicate what needed to be seen and heard. Although I undertook this course as part of a practical research project, it has been good grounding and I am now fascinated by, and committed to making more complex automata.

Live online course
Suzie - - #32126

Tom is an inspirational tutor, full of ideas and recommendations. I've already learned so much and built my first cardboard sketch. I have an understanding on what tools to use and how to examine an animal in order to translate that into a 2D moving piece. Tom has recommended other artists for me to look at and that has led to new ideas and even more inspiration. A great start to a wonderful programme!

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