Milk Carton Mechanicals
My father is a rocket-scientist (I'm not joking.) I am not a rocket scientist. I am not clever with mechanical things. I'm a neo-luddite at heart. However, a few weeks ago, I was over at a friend's house and flipped over a little mechanical toy -- when I saw the mechanics exposed underneath, I thought to myself, "I can make that!" I spent about an hour making one yesterday morning and then Sweet Child and I made another one when he got home from school. These were so much fun to make that I have to share them with you...
In anticipation of the project, wash out and save a milk carton, or two.
Cut off the tops of the cartons and trim the bottoms so that they're 3 1/4 inches high.
Cover the flat bottom of the carton and then the sides with paper. The bottom of the carton is now the top of your mechanical toy. Poke a small hole in the center of the top and then poke small holes in 2 sides of the box, opposite each other.
Using a needle nose pliers and stainless steel wire (19 gauge works well) create your crank and internal "camshaft" (this "camshaft" terminology was just supplied by my handy and technically-inclined Mr. Bloom...)
Insert your camshaft through one of side-holes. Maneuver the wire through the hole on the other side and bend it at a sharp angle (or into a large loop) so the wire will not pull back through the hole.
Take a straight piece of wire (approx. 5 inches long) and push it through the hole in the top of the box. Using your needle nose pliers, bend it in a small loop around the center of the camshaft inside the box. (TIP: You can pre-bend the little loop which will go around your camshaft. If you pre-bend your loop you will need to insert the un-bent top of the wire through the center hole from underneath the box.)
On the outside of the box, measure the wire approx. 2" from the top of the box. Bend the wire 90 degrees and create a loop (see photo above.)
NOTE: The first time I made one of these, I made plenty of mistakes bending the wire. I did a lot of bending, unbending and re-bending to get it right. When I made the second toy, it was much easier!
Now, you need to keep the "piston" (technical word again supplied by my Mr. Bloom) in the center of the camshaft. To do this, cut 2 small pieces of corrugated cardboard, 1/2 inch x 3/4 inch each, and 2 small strips of tape.
Roll the cardboard around the camshaft on either side of the piston and affix with tape.
It's a little tricky to work inside the box. I think this was the most difficult part for me...
Test your crank, and make adjustments. Now you're ready to create the little figure for the top of the toy. You will need a front and back for your figure -- glue them so they sandwich the loop on top.
If I were not too lazy to use photoshop, I would have loaded up the clip-art of the flying-fish and made a mirror image to use on the back of the figure. As it is, I used plain turquoise paper on the back of this figure to sandwich the wire.
Here's a little dragon Little Mr. B. and I designed together... And at the very end of this post is something my clever husband helped me set up...
If you have any questions about this project (or anything else) please feel free to post in the comments or find my e-mail by clicking on "VIEW MY COMPLETE PROFILE." I'd love to hear from you!
P.S. I tried adding a little bell to the camshaft of the fairy mechanical so there would be a little bit of fairy-music as she rode along on her flying fish. The little bell did not work, but I may yet take the whole thing apart (again) and try a different bell. I'll let you know if it works...