This Clockwork Carpenter Is Made from a Single 2×4

Woodworking Workshop
This Clockwork Carpenter Is Made from a Single 2×4


This clockwork carpenter is an automaton, which is a self-operating machine that can be made out of different materials. Evidence of them dates back hundreds of years, and I’m always excited when I see a new one pop up. I’ve mostly seen them made out of paper, but it’s a real treat to see a wooden one.

Ben Brandt is a Maker and tinkerer from Minneapolis, Minnesota, and he has created an automaton out of a single 2×4 (and a nail). He created it for the “Summer’s Woodworking Third Annual (2015) 2×4 Competition” and outlines what inspired him below:

For a long time I’ve been intrigued by automata, which are essentially mechanical moving sculptures. Having a background in engineering and a creative streak, I really enjoy how automata blend engineering and art together.

For the competition, I had to build something creative using only a single 8-foot 2×4 as my primary source of material. I had never built an automaton before, so I thought this would be a fun challenge and a chance to stretch my skills with my limited tools. I ran into some issues along the way and had to make changes as I went, but I enjoy the problem solving process. Seeing the idea come together in the end makes it worth the effort. Overall I consumed 4’10” of my 2×4, which included 7 inches of 2×4 used for the dowel cutting jig.

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The gif below gives you a closer look at the gears that are making this automaton move. There are three different movements involved in making it work: his head looking side to side, his arm moving up and down, and the movement of the nail.


Take a look at the video below to see him make it starting with just a plain 2×4. What I particularly like about his video is he shows everything he went through and that includes mistakes along the way; after all, nobody’s perfect.

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Nicole is a former Editorial Intern at Make: She is a long time maker and previously worked for (Penolopy Bulnick). Every day she is inspired by something new and wishes there was more hours in the day to make!

View more articles by Nicole Smith


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