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Nantes Sunday 21 July

12:45 Fly back to Schönefeld
Nantes Atlantique Airport, 44346 Bouguenais

Nantes Saturday 20 July


Doors open 17:45

Nantes Friday 19 July

Jules Verne
Bloom tea-shop
Ferry to Trentemoult
walk to flea market

Nantes Thursday 18 July

20:00 Concert Cours Saint-Pierre
repeat 21:30

Nantes Wednesday 17 July

Musée d’art

Evening eat Ker Breizh créperie
afterwards drink in Landru am Ende rue du chapeau rouge

Nantes Tuesday 16 July

les p’tits papiers
lunch at Poisson Paré near Mediatheque

21:30 Choeur Mikrokosmos in front of Museum d‘histoire naturelle. Be early limited space.

Nantes Monday 15 July

What’s that?




A nicely planted street pissoir – only in France.

On the “Arty” walk. Nantes waiters are so friendly!

What is Gerhild doing in that basket in the galerie des machines?

Waiting for takeoff with Heron airlines.

You’ve never seen a hummingbird like this.

A wooden goose.

Testing the plants for the Heron Tree.

On our happy way home.

Nantes Sunday 14 July


Today we went for a pretty walk along the river Erdre, accompanied by Sunday joggers, a few bicycles and people looking for a picnic spot.

Creative use of bits of tree to make a nice picnic area.

One way to paint your boat.

There’s a message in this somewhere.

Kim likes this skeleton tag which we have seen on a few pieces of black street furniture.

Where the path is blocked by posh gardens they built a nice boardwalk.

Nantes Saturday 13 July


Strolled along the green line today, after buying a baguette for lunch.

The park opposite is reflected in this pierced facade.

Nice signs for the butcher‘s shop

Cheeky fellow stepping on Gerhild‘s head.

Bookshop sign!

In the evening we took the ferry to Trentemoult.

Where there are some great paintings lurking behind the ivy.

Not to mention this large clock with no hands.

As it got dark, the rings on the île de Nantes lit up (les Anneaux -Daniel Buren)

Which looked good from the ferry on the way home.

Nantes Friday 12 July



Had a look at the Chateau today.

Anne and her royal namesake, the Duchess Anne.

Lunch on board a boat on the Erdre (Pépé Guingette). In the foreground „Amours“ by Karina Bisch.

Nantes Thursday 11 July

We went to visit the elephant today.

Children, large or small, love it.

Then we went to the giant carousel des mondes marins.


Passage Pommeraye

Place Royale


Nantes Wednesday 10 July

Anne & Peter 18 – 19:00


This morning we walked to the Nantes Musée d‘art. Nice buildings but modest art apart from Mircea Cantor who I liked.

In the „cube“

Two englishmen, Bevis Martin & Charlie Youle, who live in Nantes, made Planet Man. Nice.

I like rue du Maréchal Joffre.


Nantes Tuesday 9 July



Breakfast on the balcony again today. Gerhild feels observed from the other side of the river!

Echoes of the fantastic Jacques Tati and Mon Oncle.

Are we going up there?

Yes we are. You can see our flat from the top.

This is called Nid (nest).

Boat passing just as we arrived home.

Nantes Monday 8 July




Today we took the train to Pornic which is about 43 km away on the Atlantic coast and was the favourite seaside village of the nice woman in the tourist office.

Cooler than Nantes it was still too hot to be in the sun for long.

And a beautiful view from the garden while we enjoyed our crepes, after a strawberry and rosé wine aperitif. Hence Kim‘s strawberry nose.

La Crêperie de la Fraiserie in Pornic

Nantes Sunday 7 July




Some shop signs in Nantes, like in the rue de Maréchal Joffre are mechanised! As trend setters they all have tattoos if you look closely.

Fish & chip shop

Ladies clothing



All on the way to the amazing Jardin des Plantes.

Which is completely potty!

The little sign says DO NOT FEED THE PLANTS! The cage ensures your safety from this carnivorous  collection.

If you pump hard enough on the stand next to the path, the kinetic sculptures rise up out of the water.

This is one cool cat. Despite the heat he just kept snoozing on the lawn.


Nantes Saturday 6 July

What an amazing show, the Nomad Men and their BATT MOBILE. Batter is what French musicians do to drums, nothing to do with flying rodents.

Kim played with a giant cardboard Tamagotchi dancing and cleaning up after it.


African robots

French, wire-operated robot

Le Manège d‘Andréa

Just outside we found this beautiful roundabout


Let’s celebrate in the streets for the opening night of the Voyage à Nantes!

How to liven up old bronzes in the Cours Cambronne, an elegant park right next to the opera.

Is she getting on or getting off? Philippe Ramette.

Gerhild next to a theatrical theatre.

What a lot of statues – 750 of them as a selfie park in Place Royal

Nantes Friday 5 July



There is a bridge over the river Erdre, but where does it go? No not Japan, l’île de Versaille, Nantes.


Lots of picknicking going on here and whyever not?

The unicorns have found their way here too

They like strange things over the streets here.

The locals describe this as an enigmatic bas relief. Google offers this.

The „jungle“ art installation in the middle of the shopping district.


Nice update to the Sainte Croix church added in 1860, even if Kim was disappointed that the bells rang, but the trumpeters neither trumpeted nor moved an inch.


Nantes Thursday 4 July





See everything on one long page here, or choose a day.

Our fine, tiny apartment for the next two weeks

Gerhild and her nice flea-market hat.


The evening view over the river Erdre


Galloping Unicorn

Riding a snow white unicorn,
He thought it would be easy,
But hanging on for dear life,
Did feel a little queasy.


Wikipedia tells us that the unicorn is a legendary creature that has been described since antiquity as a beast with a single large, pointed, spiralling horn projecting from its forehead. So of course I had to make one.

There are already plenty of horsey automata around. Rob Ives designed a brilliant paper Pegasus, a flying horse, using a clothes peg to hold the mechanism ( Keith Newstead has designed some fantastic winged horses ( and there are a number of laser-cut wood/MDF kits available for both Pegasus and flying unicorns. It’s great to be able to see how other folk approach similar problems to see how they coped with the various challenges of making something quite mythical.

Some examples in YouTube

The requirements

Some time ago I bought and assembled a laser-cut MDF Pegasus kit. The movement is good, but my 3 year old friend managed to break off the thin MDF handle at first go, and it is so light that it skates around the table while you turn the crank, meaning you need a second hand to hold the base still. So my first requirement is that it must be sturdy and heavy enough to be worked with just one hand, especially if it’s only 3 years old. A rubber mat under the base should prevent it from slipping about.

The force applied to the handle as you turn it varies. The handle must be positioned so that you are pushing down when the most force is applied and pushing up when the least force is required. Again this will make one-handed operation easier.

As a genuine unicorn, it has to have a spiral horn, horsey ears, a splendid mane, a bushy tail and friendly eyes. The base is part of the show, so it shouldn’t be boring.

The unicorn would be interesting just by itself (see the inset image), but I thought a hapless rider would add to the fun, stylishly dressed but fearful of the unicorn’s movement, opening his mouth to protest each time that he might fall off backwards, rescued only by holding tight to the reins.

Pencil sketch of the unicorn

Card templates

From the pencil sketch it’s not too hard to make some card templates which makes it easy to mark the wood for cutting with a bow saw.

The base

Two MDF discs make a nice, heavy base and a vertical horseshoe is perfect to take a lot of the mechanism. I did wonder for a while, why horses can’t wear shoes with laces. I suppose not having fingers makes doing up your laces kind of hard. Anyway some creative soul came up with nailing a bent metal strip to their hooves and this is such a design classic, that nowadays it is instantly recognisable as equine footwear and not at all boring.

The unicorn

However magical it is, a unicorn needs a horn, a head, a neck, a body, a tail and four legs. The neck must have a splendid mane of course. For the mane, drill a few holes at regular intervals along the neck. Measure the required diameter by using pliers to pull out a tuft of bristles from the brush that is to supply the mane. The empty hole that is left in the brush is the size that you need in the neck. Just push the bristles into the neck, with a small dab of glue on the end.

The body is the thickest part as you have to chisel out slots for the tail and for the neck.

The slots have to be wide enough to allow free movement. I then used 1.6 mm welding rod for the hinges, drilling 1.6 mm for a tight fit and 2.0 mm for a loose fit to allow movement.

The crank and the sliding pivot

The crank is the handle that you turn to get the unicorn galloping. A small sphere on one end prevents the loop on the end of the central rod from coming off. A small sphere on the other end is painted bright red to say “this is what you turn”. Plastic washers reduce friction

The central rod slides easily up and down through this block of wood, which can turn easily in the top of the horseshoe. The hemisphere on the end stops the axle from slipping towards the back.

Test assembly

While fiddling about to get everything right, it’s useful to leave bent “handles” on the rods which serve as axles for the head, neck, tail and legs. Once everything is OK, then these can be cut off at the correct length. The two leg axles are glued right at the end to keep the pairs of legs firmly joined together. It’s much easier to paint the parts before the final assembly. Rods which pivot in the horseshoe and in the legs and tail protrude enough so that a small wooden hemisphere can be glued on to prevent them from slipping out and to prevent inexperienced jockeys from getting accidentally stabbed by sharp ends.

Ears and eyes

Once the rod hinging the head to the neck has been cut to size, glue hemispheres on top to conceal the holes and prevent the rod from sliding out and, when painted, they make beautiful eyes. For the ears, I cut rubber sheeting to a suitable shape, rolled it around a thin pin, tied it with cotton thread to prevent it from unrolling and drilled a small hole to take the pin. Two-component epoxy resin glue, fairly liberally applied holds everything together and in place.

Fully assembled and painted the base looks like this –

The rider

There are apparently people around who believe in unicorns and even think they can ride them.

This small, smartly dressed fellow is carved from lime wood with his arms and lower legs hinged on 1.6 mm rods. His head is a beechwood egg with the jaw cut out and glued firmly to his shoulders. A rod through a hole at the back of the jaw allows his head to flop forwards and backwards as the unicorn gallops. There is a hole drilled through each hand for the reins. When the unicorn points skyward, the reins pull tight and lift the rider’s arms, his head flops back and his mouth opens in a silent appeal for salvation. At the other extreme, the reins are slack, his arms drop and his mouth closes in relief.

Sleeping Dog II

What’s the brief?

There is an English saying that discourages you from waking sleeping dogs. Doing so is to risk provoking a defensive reaction, a baring of teeth and a concert of barks to wake the entire neighbourhood. This sounds like a great place to keep your valuables safe. Like keeping your favourite chocolate bar safe from your little sister. The only problem is that a real dog might like chocolate too, however unhealthy it is for them, so it will have to be a wooden dog. A wooden dog that knows how to keep its jaws clamped shut until it wakes up, and goes barking mad at any attempt to snaffle what’s in its mouth. Man’s ingenuity knows no bounds so here is the latest product from Berlin’s high-tech animalatronic workshop, a sleeping dog!

Here are most of the bits that make up our ferocious friend.

This dog has false teeth! You can take them out, which makes them easier to align so that they overlap nicely without touching and painting is very much easier too. The upper set of teeth sit on wooden blocks to create a hidden space for the strings attached to the nose, which move ears and eyes. This space also hides the spring for the catch which keeps the jaws locked together until the nose is moved.

Spring for the catch

The small black microswitch is activated when the upper jaw is lifted. The little circuit board comes ready to use from a hobby shop and this replays your recorded sound when the microswitch triggers. I replaced the standard speaker with a smaller, dog-sized one and glued this to the partition. The sound is quite cheerful for our purpose, as we won’t be playing Beethoven’s 9th.

The eyes are only held in the centre on a piece of wooden dowel. A spring keeps the eyes closed until a tug on the string pulls the lever to open them. The eyes don’t touch the panel so that the paint doesn’t rub off and allows for alignment errors when drilling the wooden balls. Two plastic washers keep the friction down.

Eye mechanism

Eye mechanism half assembled

Eye mechanism in place

Return spring for ears



Dear Kim

Thank you for your request. Via the following link you can find information on all installations from the art in public space project in the city of Borgloon:

Cycling through the water is located in the city of Genk, Bokrijk.

This year the open air museum (not contemporary) Bokrijk has a new unconventional exhibition on Bruegel.

Eline Kempeneers
T +32 11 30 59 00 | +32 471 80 55 30

Toerisme Limburg
Universiteitslaan 3 | 3500 Hasselt


Gijs Van Vaerenbergh: Reading Between the Lines (2011-permanent)
Architect duo Gijs Van Vaerenbergh’s (B) see-through church ‘Reading Between the Lines’ in Borgloon is a 10-metre-high structure that weighs 30 tons. It is made of 100 stacked layers of steel plates in the shape of a church of Loon. The structure enables seeing the surrounding landscape through the church both from far away and up close; the church is both present and absent in the landscape.

Fred Eerdekens: Twijfelgrens (2011-permanent)
Wooden-like sculpture by Fred Eerdekens (B) appears as a folded line in the landscape; from the right angle, the line forms a word ‘twijfelgrens,’ a ‘doubt border.’ The work continues Eerdekens’ use of language as a medium.

Tadashi Kawamata: Project Burchtheuvel (2011–2017)
Tadashi Kawamata’s (JP) wooden sculptures in the open space can be labeled social constructions, as he lets the local community help build the sculptures. In Borgloon, Kawamata built a wooden sculpture around and on top of Burchtheuvel, a historically significant place. He worked with twenty visual arts, architecture and interior design students, who researched how Burchtheuvel could again play a full-fledged role in the city centre.

Dré Wapenaar: Tranendreef (2011-permanent)
Tear-shaped sculptures by Dré Wapenaar (NL) are hanging from the trees and provide an alternative form of accommodation in Haspengouw. Situated on the border of architecture and sculpture, Wapenaar’s sculptures are often temporarily placed tent structures. Social interaction around the work is of great importance for the artist.

Ardie Van Bommel: Pure Nature (2011-permanent)
Ardie van Bommel (NL) brings a sitting, washing, toilet and barbecue unit to Tradentdreef, at the tree tents by Dré Wapenaar. The units are based on the palettes of fruit chests often seen in the Haspengouw landscape.

Paul Devens: Proximity Effect (2012-permanent)
‘Proximity Effect’ by sound artist Paul Devens (NL) is located at the Servatius church in Groot-Loon. Through speakers and sensors, the site-specific sound installation in the 12th-century church plays a game of tones, sounds of outside recordings, acoustics, echo and space.

Wesley Meuris: Memento (2012–permanent)
‘Memento,’ a sculpture by Wesley Meuris (B) at the Central Burial of Borgloon, is an anchor point in the sloping landscape. The architectural structure of the work provides an experience of looking and dwelling. The experience of intimacy reflects the memory of the sculpture’s surroundings. The sculpture is initiated by De Nieuwe Opdrachtgevers.

Aeneas Wilder: Untitled #158 (2012–permanent)
Aeneas Wilder (UK) builds an architectural structure in the landscape near the Monastery of Colen in Kerniel. The round construction with a magnificent 360-degrees view is aligned with uniform vertical wooden slats.  According to the artist, the work functions as a lens where the visitor can focus his thoughts and emotions with the landscape of Kerniel as a background.


Wooden figures are more interesting if they can talk.  This basically means wagging their chin as thousands of puppets have done over the years. I thought it would be interesting to try an alternative, keeping a stiff lower chin and wagging everything else. This results in a vivacious little figure, full of temperament, so she obviously had to get a dramatic, expressive hairdo and some dangly ear rings to round things off.

Here’s the original rough design showing how the figure’s left arm is pivoted, with holes for the spring and the connecting rod to the head.

Here’s the reality, after cutting the wooden egg in two and carving out hollows for the spring and the left arm to move. The right arm and legs are attached using 3 mm dowel into drilled holes.


Potsdam nach Caputh am Ufer entlang

11 km, 3 Stunden Laufzeit.


Nordausgang Potsdam Hauptbahnhof (List Straße) um 11:00 Uhr, Sonntag 5. Mai


Fährhaus-Caputh. z.Z. gibt’s Spargel (Spargelzeit im Fährhaus)

Straße der Einheit 88, 14548 Schwielowsee
Telefon: +493320970203


Bus 607 nach Potsdam Hbf

ab Caputh Feldstr. 15:29,  16:29,  17:29,  18:29

RB23 nach Potsdam Hbf

ab 15:07,  17:07


Flying Turtle


How to make a flying turtle

You need a piece of lime wood for the body and the fins, a beechwood egg for the head, and wooden ring as a controller to attach the strings. I had a few old wooden curtain rings lying about which was handy, otherwise craft shops often stock them. 2 small wooden hemispheres serve for the eyes and a piece of welding rod hinges the mouth.

First draw a turtle template on a piece of card

Use the templates to cut out the basic shapes and then curve them.

The head is made from the wooden egg, which you first have to cut into two pieces. You then need a notch in each piece to attach to the neck.

I made the neck from plywood. Glue it to the top of the head and sand the protruding stem to make it round.

The lower half of the head is hinged onto the neck piece.

The plywood neckpiece makes the centre piece of the hinge and a piece of 1.6 mm welding rod is pushed through to make a nice loose hinge.

Drill holes to take the strings. The hole in the top of the head is larger so that the string moves easily without jamming. The hole through the jaw is smaller so that a simple knot will keep the string in place and not pull through the hole.

To add to the feeling of a stiff salty breeze I painted the ring like a ship’s life-saving ring. This makes the controller a visible part of the show, not something to be hidden high up in the darkness. Only four strings and the very simple controller reduce the risk of the terrifying tangle that sometimes ties up more complicated puppets.

I left the jaw string slack so that the turtle’s mouth is usually open. If you then press the front string the mouth will then close, so that the turtle can talk.

Spring Bunny

Smart Chicken

The latest product from Berlin’s booming startup scene, a touch-sensitive smart chicken! An extremely low maintenance cockerel which operates on just the environmentally friendly pressure of one finger. No feed or batteries required and guaranteed free from electromagnetic emissions and all unpleasant odours.

What does this cock a doodle do? Eternally patient it pecks away at its state of the art miniature smartphone. Dreadful anti-avian discrimination by the developers mean that every attempt with his beak is bleak. With feathers but no fingers this bird of little brain will forever be barred from crowing onto the Internet, which is probably no bad thing.



Goldesel plays a role in one of the European fairytales collected by the Brothers Grimm.

According to the fable,  all you have to do is say “bricklebrit” and Goldesel’s droppings will turn to pure gold ducats!

This wooden version of that fabulous animal has its own magic. Touch its single carrot and Goldesel will lift its head in wonder and, delicately used, Goldesel will waggle one of its ears. That can’t compare with the 24 carats heaped at the other end, but if you can find the one special, magical ducat, Goldesel will respond by politely lifting his tail. Unfortunately, so far despite lifting its tail “bricklebrit” doesn’t seem to have the desired effect with my limewood version. Maybe it’s my pronunciation, but I haven’t given up hope yet.

Automata Magazine – Get Moving – Goldesel

Video on Youtube –

Goldesel plays a role in one of the European fairytales collected by the Brothers Grimm. All you had to do was say the word “bricklebrit” and the magical donkey’s droppings turned to pure gold ducats!

This wooden version of that fabulous animal has its own magic. Touch its single carrot and Goldesel will lift its head in wonder and, delicately used, Goldesel will waggle one of its ears. That can’t compare with the 24 carats heaped at the other end, but if you can find the one special, magical ducat, Goldesel will respond by politely lifting his tail. Unfortunately, so far despite lifting its tail “bricklebrit” doesn’t seem to have the desired effect with my limewood version. Maybe it’s my pronunciation, but I haven’t given up hope yet. Maybe your version will work better?

How to make your Goldesel

Draw one ear, a head, a tail and the body with legs on some stiff card. Bigger heads look cute as they suggest a young animal. Use some pins to try out the movement and work out the best place for each hinge. When you are satisfied, trace the shapes onto wood of the right thickness. At this stage, I actually scroll cut 3 ear shapes, as it looked close enough to a carrot shape to be able to carve it.

Drill two holes through the head for 3 mm dowel. For the hinge between the ears and the head drill the head so that the dowel is a tight fit.  For the head to move freely on the dowel in the body, drill a second hole in the neck for a loose fit. Drill the holes where you had put the pins in the card when you checked the movement.

This clever donkey needs a hole chiselled  in its head for the ears to move. For the neck hinge, mark the wood that needs cutting away using the cardboard templates to check what needs to be removed before sawing. To cut the arc shape, a sharp chisel is what’s required. Try fitting the ears to see that the hole is big enough for them to move freely.

I left enough space for a small plastic washer between the ears to make sure that they can move separately. Roughly carved, head and ears look like this.

I used cord to waggle the ears and the tail. I tried cotton thread, but that caused too much friction. I tried fishing line, but that was too stiff when relying solely on gravity to pulle the ears down. I finally settled on thinner 1.5 kg nylon cord which is smooth and flexible enough for the job.

Here you can see how I drilled two holes along the neck, one for each ear. Note that routed like this, the cord which pulls the ears up will also pull the head up, when the ear has moved as far as it can.

Here are the thinner, smoother nylon cords, ready to thread through the body.

Now drill two holes in the body for a tight fit to hold the dowel to pivot the head and the tail. Note that it is best to drill the holes while the wood is still solid and the sides flat. That makes it easier to be precise and less likely that thin bits will break off. Then chisel out the space needed for the neck to rotate at the front and for the tail to rotate at the rear. Pencil markings on the outside show roughly how much space is needed for the movement.

Once there is enough space for the neck to move freely, drill two holes through the body for the ear pulls. One hole is enough for the tail.

For the ear pulls, I fed the cords through the front hooves. For the tail pull there was enough space between the two rear hooves

I recycled an old round wooden base for Goldesel to stand on, adding some smooth pieces of dowel to reduce the friction when the cord has to turn through 90 degrees. There are two holes at the front to connect the carrot to the two ear pulls and one hole at the rear to connect a coin to the tail pull.

I’m afraid my gold ducats are only made from beechwood dowel with a lick of gold paint. Go for the real thing if you feel like it!

Carve a carrot and drill two holes in it, one for each ear pull.

We need a base for the carrot and the ducats.

Now everything is ready to be assembled. Threading the fine cord can be quite testing and I found press-to-release tweezers quite handy to keep my frustration levels down.

Goldesel was an interesting experiment in using pull cords running inside a figure, like an inside out marionette. Unlike a thumb puppet it has no spring and relies on gravity to move ears, tail and head back to their starting positions. Before demonstrating, it is vital to practise your braying. The onomatopoeias for braying is “hee-haw” or “eeyore.” Curiously the National Geographic thinks that donkeys say “wee-snaw”. As a fan of Winnie the Poo, personally I go for eeyore.

One Smart Chicken

The latest product from Berlin’s booming startup scene, a touch-sensitive smart chicken! An extremely low maintenance cockerel which operates on just the environmentally friendly pressure of one finger. No feed or batteries required and guaranteed free from electromagnetic emissions and all unpleasant odours.

What does this cock a doodle do? Eternally patient it pecks away at its state of the art miniature smartphone. Dreadful anti-avian discrimination by the developers mean that every attempt with his beak is bleak. With feathers but no fingers this bird of little brain will forever be barred from crowing onto the Internet, which is probably no bad thing.


I was inspired by a number of clothes peg automata, starting with a beautiful bird by the amazing Martin Lhotak (which you can see here ). It’s quite a simple mechanism where squeezing against a spring causes two parts to move relative to one another. Clothes pegs are fine if you want to clip your creation to something, but are not so good if you want it to stand on a surface. I went for an egg shape as it’s a chicken. In this case the chicken came first and then the eggs!

How to make it

Draw a chicken without any legs and then cut out that shape on a piece of card. Draw an egg, or pinch an egg from hyperspace if you are geometrically challenged like me. Cut it out on a piece of card. These are the templates to mark a piece of lime wood for the body and two pieces of thin plywood for the egg-shaped base.

Scroll cut the body

Scroll cut two egg shapes in thin plywood.

Make a wooden hinge to go towards the fat end of the eggs, located between the two eggs. This is three bits of roughly 10 mm x 10 mm strip with a hole drilled through the middle to take a piece of dowel. I added a couple of plastic washers which are probably not necessary as the rotation of the hinge is minimal and friction is not too important. You will however have to round the correct corners of all 3 pieces to allow enough rotation to get the cockerel pecking properly.

Carve the body to make it look like a cockerel. I glued on small ready-made hemispheres for the eyes for a nice popeye look.

Make two feet. Note that the chicken’s left foot is a tight fit for its brass leg and its right foot allows its brass leg to move freely.

The holes in the side of the body are at the same height but the hole in the right side is about 5 mm further back. This offset means that when the right leg is pushed up relative to the left leg, it makes the body tilt forward and our cockerel starts pecking away. Between the two eggs, the right leg is fixed to the bottom egg.

A spiral spring between the eggs pushes them apart and keeps the chicken upright.

As you can see, the spring pushed the eggs a bit too far apart, so I glued in another piece of 10 mm x 10 mm (not shown) in front of the hinge to correct that.

A very small piece of plywood serves as the smartphone. As it was too small for me to paint, I printed out a small image of a phone and glued it on.

Magnificent Moggie the Circus Cat

Ladies And Gentlemen, Boys And Girls, Children Of All Ages!

May I present to you a fantastically ferocious feline who can be persuaded to miaow on cue and can even wag her superior striped tail. Recently returned from an amazing tour with Kim’s Kabarett, she is eminently suitable for the smallest of lion tamers. I give you Magnificent Moggie the Circus Cat!

(Youtube link to the video is

What was the brief?

Thumb push puppets are classic toys which come in hundreds of variations, but they all seem to share the idea of something collapsing when you push the base in. Horses like this one are quite popular, when you push the base, it first lowers its head and when you push harder it flops completely down. Wooden toys like this usually use turned parts to keep the price down.

I thought why not make a thumb puppet which does something else besides flopping and decided on a cat. To give a reason for the round base I thought she could be a circus cat, waiting for her tamer’s command. Push the front of the base and it opens its mouth, push the back and its tail moves (flops). So what makes a cat a cat? Those distinctive cat’s eyes with the vertical, ellipse-shaped slits? Whiskers? Big ears, a bushy tail and stripes? Well that was my recipe for cattiness.

Rough design

Pencil sketch of the Magnificent Moggie

Here’s a rough sketch. The single spiral spring in the cylindrical base tries to expand, applying downward force

– keeping the tail proudly erect, via a piece of fishing line, which shouldn’t break with such a small fish

– keeping the cat’s mouth closed, via a slim brass rod

Press the base up and the tail will slacken and/or the cat’s mouth will open. The operator is responsible for the miaow.

I went for a spherical head and huge hemispherical eyes and a small nose made from beechwood. The body, tail and ears are made from carved lime wood as I won’t be charging anyone for my time to do that little bit of carving.

I reused an existing wooden base which had originally been turned.

Once the rough design was ready, this fairly simple toy only took a few hours over a weekend to make, with a bit of fiddling about for the final assembly.

Making the bits

Scroll cut the body


Cut the hinge slot


Slot the head onto the plywood for the hinge and mark neck and mouth


Sand the head flat where it is to be glued to the body


Cut the head into 2 pieces so that the cat can miaow


Make a hinge to be glued to top part of head with 2 holes for push rod and hinge pin which is pushed through a hole in one side of the body


Cut a slot in body to loosely hold the hinge with enough space for it to move easily


Glue hinge into the head. Carve & glue on ears. Glue on eyes and nose. Drill holes to glue whiskers. For the whiskers, simply use pliers to pull two tufts out of a brush, then glue one tuft into each of the holes next to the nose.


Cut slot in the movable base to take the loop on the end of the push rod. Insert brass hinge pin to hold the loop.

Putting it all together was tricky and required quite a bit of patience as I could only bend the top loop on the push rod once it had been fed through the body. With hindsight, I should have cut slots which were long enough to let the loop through. That would not have detracted from the general impression. That’s life innit? When you only make one of anything, you never get it quite right.

Fix fishing line to movable base. While squeezing the spring in the base fix it to the tail. While squeezing hard, push the pin in to catch the loop on the push rod in the hinge. Now wiggle the hinge about until the holes line up and push another pin into the carved body and through the wooden hinge.


Ready for painting