overlooked step, but is probably the most important. The
tendency once a design and materials are decided upon is
to grab some stock and start cutting and drilling. With lots
of experience, this can actually work, but I suggest you first
prototype your design with easily adjustable materials. You
will be happy you did this in the long run!
I have a pile of armatures in a wide variety of lengths
and materials available on my bench for testing designs. I
take all my cutoffs and convert them to samples, so I have
accumulated quite a selection (Figure 2). Other materials
that work great include Popsicle sticks, paint stir sticks, and
even LEGOs. Check out this video by Stiltbeast Studios on
the use of Popsicle sticks to test out a design concept:
Allen has done fantastic prop work for the garage
builder, and much of it is documented on his You Tube
channel. Make sure to check it out at
http://tinyurl.com/nkceq3n. Another great resource with
descriptions and animations of a wide variety of mechanical
designs is at www.robives.com/mechs. This site provides
you with a basic understanding of the primary mechanisms
that might be utilized when constructing your characters.
Spending some time exploring this site is sure to open your
eyes to techniques you may not have considered before.
Another product that has become a staple in my
toolbox are Actobotics parts from ServoCity (see
Resources). I have used these to build several props and
appreciate their ease of use. I now also reach for them
when testing out new designs. They come in a variety of
sizes and can be adjusted to a wide array of combinations.
They are like Tinker Toys for serious builders (Figure 3)!
Once I have worked out the design of the mechanism, I
then move up to a full size prototype. For this step, I grab
my buckets of PVC connectors and start assembling my
character (Figure 4). I am able to easily alter the lengths
and placement of each body part with a quick snip of the
cutters. If you are going to work with PVC, I recommend
SERVO 01.2016 29
Figure 2. Linkages, linkages, and more linkages.
Figure 3. ServoCity Actobotics — big kid building blocks!
Figure 4. Using PVC to finalize the shape.