Welcome to the magical world of automata, the perfect synthesis between craftsmanship, engineering and artistic expression.
At the beginning of this one-day, face-to-face course you will learn some basic theories about the most common mechanisms used in mechanical toys and their different building techniques.
Based on a design provided by the tutor, each student (maximum 2 participants per course) will then start building their own toy, drawing and cutting cams, cranks and mechanisms, using different type of wood and a vast range of tools available in my workshop (band saw, belt and circular sanders, pillar drill and other power and hand tools, see attached pictures).
Once assembled, you can paint your toy with any of the many acrylic paints available. This course is designed to be fully hands-on, and students will learn by building every single piece of the toy under the constant guidance of the tutor, who will provide additional information and explanations at each step of the process.
At the end of the day you will understand the basic movements of a mechanical toy and how to design and build eccentric cams, snail cams, lobe cams and cranks. Participants can expect to finish the day with a lovely, fully functioning one-shaft mechanical toy.
Suitable for absolute beginners as well as those who may already have some experience.
Please note that due to the potentially dangerous use of power tools, this course is unsuitable for those aged under 14. Children aged 14 and over may attend if accompanied by a participating adult.
My name is Stef, and I’ll be your tutor. I am Italian and because of my previous job I lived in many different Countries. I moved to the UK in 2017. I started designing and building automata in 2013, when I was living in Bangkok. Since then I designed, built and sold dozens of automata.
Please note that the course is held in my workshop, which is located at “Freestone Studios”, a warehouse in the St Philips area of Bristol home to an eclectic mix of artists, fashion designers, makers and creatives. My workshop is located on the 1st floor (accessible only by stairs, no lift available). On the ground floor there is the restroom and a common kitchen area with a microwave and a fridge.
Please get in touch for additional information.
Cancellation and a full refund can be obtained up to 2 weeks before the course starts. Start dates may be amended on request.
All material (plywood, wood, dowel rods, acrylic paints, paint brushes) and use of all hand and electric tools.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): safety glasses, dust mask and ear covers.
If you drive and provide in advance the registration number of your car, I can arrange visitor free parking at walking distance from the workshop.
Please bring your own lunch as there are no shops at walking distance from the workshop.
6 hours (flexible times to suit)
This craft course provider has been awarded Silver status for receiving 5 or more 5 star ratings from previous students.
The Students' Choice award ensures that course providers get recognised for their efforts in the teaching and practice of UK craft.
They also allow tutors to gain valuable feedback on their courses and for new students to find the course that's right for them.
Thanks Stef for a brilliant day.
I was a bit dubious at the start whether I would be able to complete the Frustrated Fisherman as there were numerous intricate parts to cut out, clean up and paint before assembling the automaton.
Stef was very patient and meticulous in making sure that I had copied everything exactly as per his written drawings and instructions.
He is a very cheerful and inventive tutor and I thoroughly enjoyed my day out.
Thanks to Stef, he made the final inking-in outlining the expression on the Fishermans face and changing my painting into a real work of art. It all works perfectly and I will proudly show the Grand- Children when they next visit.
Response from Penlan Crafts:Dear Geoff, thank you very much for your kind review! Your positive comments are even more important since they are coming from an expert woodmaker like you... thank you again and I'm sure your grandchildren will love "The Unlucky Fisherman"!
A lifelong wish to build an automaton was brilliantly delivered by Stef. Great location, workshop, tools, advice, help and tuition. All proper wood, so the final toy is beautiful, and the personal achievement immense. You have to choose one of the standard designs, but perfectly possible to have dancing elephants if you prefer to dancing sheep…. Just ask Stef. I wanted something complicated - and we did it.
I had a lovely time.
Response from Penlan Crafts:Dear Kate
The tutor, Stef, was very organised contacting me in plenty of time to arrange The Day with does and don'ts.
On the day of the course, which was just Stef and myself, he explained Health & Safety and then we started the build.
The workshop is big enough. All the tools were clean and he unwrapped new hearing muffs and goggles for me.
Whilst I chose to build what looked to be a simple fisherman it did in fact take until 5 pm to finish with lunch eaten on the go.
Stef was at pains to make sure that I made all the parts and I was instrumental in putting it all together at the end. I also had to paint the fisherman. Stef tried his hardest to make sure that I enjoyed the day.
I had a fantastic day. Stef was easy to get on with and he was very attentive to the construction and my wishes.
The course was bought for me as a birthday gift. It was brilliant. I’ve now got an automaton
Response from Penlan Crafts:Thank you Andrew for your kind review. I am very happy you enjoyed building your mechanical toy. It was a pleasure working with you! All the best
From the first stage of exchanging emails and booking, Stef was so very helpful. On the day, we met at a pre-arranged location where we could park our car and it was just two or three minutes walk to the studios where Stef has his workshop. There were toilets and a small kitchen area which were all clean and functional.
Stef’s workshop was clean, tidy and well laid out, with good quality tools and equipment. Stef ran us through a safety briefing and had clean safety equipment for us to use (although we had our own).
Stef is a great guy, friendly, knowledgeable, enthusiastic and very talented. He demonstrated the techniques and use of the tools clearly and then let us do the work on our own toys. I had used woodworking tools before but my wife was a complete beginner. With Stef’s guidance she picked up the skills quickly, likening use of the band saw to guiding fabric through a sewing machine. We cut all the pieces for our automata from scratch, no pre-cut kit pieces here. It was good quality wood, not MDF too.
It was a full days work but we left very proud of our finished pieces.
A big thank you to Stef for a great class. We’ve done around 10 different workshop type classes and this was the best. Would definitely recommend to both complete beginners and those with some woodworking skills.
Response from Penlan Crafts:Dear Rob and Lou, thank you very much for your kind words! It was really a pleasure to have you in my workshop. Your passion, hard work and commitment paid off, your automata are beautifully made! All the very best