A moving hummingbird sculpture: make your own

We’ll finish up today with two light items. First, another find by Matthew Cobb: an amazing and complex wooden sculpture of a hummingbird sipping from a flower. Apparently it’s anatomically correct:

And if you want to make one (proceed at your own risk), you can read about the sculpture and buy the plans (for $99!) here. You can either crank it or power it with a motor. Being ham-handed about these things, I’d just prefer to buy one or get one as a gift!



  1. Doris Fromage
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    “…this beholder is enchanted.” – Sir Percy, The Scarlet Pimpernel (the one with Anthony Andrews and Jane Seymour)

  2. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    That is a beautiful machine, but above my grade for buying a sculpture.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted January 6, 2016 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

      I’d ruin it. I’m ham fisted and not delicate. I live in fear of breaking RAM when I add it.

      • Mark Sturtevant
        Posted January 6, 2016 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

        I have felt that RAM chips are pretty tough, as long as you don’t expose it to electrical fields during the install.

  3. Posted January 6, 2016 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    I want one of these and I want a wooden Harrison clock.

    3D printers should make production of these possible for the “masses”.

    • tomh
      Posted January 6, 2016 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

      As soon as the masses can afford 3D printers.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted January 6, 2016 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

        And as soon as someone figures a way to 3d print lignam vitae and materials of contrasting thermal coefficients of expansion. Neither of which are in the offing, TTBOMK.

        • Posted January 6, 2016 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

          Do you mean lignum vitae? Gorgeous wood.

          • Adrian
            Posted January 7, 2016 at 3:41 am | Permalink

            Or LINGAM vitae, a hard wood.

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted January 7, 2016 at 5:20 am | Permalink

            With, IIRC, some self-lubricating properties for which Harrison chose it.

      • Posted January 6, 2016 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

        Anyone who can afford a car can afford a 3D printer, but the masses do not need to own one. Just entrepreneurs.

        There are already wood cutting printers that carve away what isn’t part of the design.

        There is no need to print the pendulum wire, and there are already plans for building wooden grasshopper movements. It doesn’t have to have observatory accuracy.

      • Mark Sturtevant
        Posted January 6, 2016 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

        They will once someone figures out how to print a 3D printer…

  4. rickflick
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Very cool. It would be nice to make the gearing and support elements from a transparent material. The bird itself could be enhanced by using color with something like stained glass technique. The possibilities are endless.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted January 6, 2016 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

      Yes! Stained glass would be even better!

  5. Heather Hastie
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    I want one! I think it’s wonderful and beautiful!

    Although I could manage to put the bits together, I couldn’t make it from scratch, plans or no plans, so I just have to hope that I come across one some day when I have the money to buy it. Which is seriously unlikely. 😦

  6. ploubere
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    Required power tools: band saw, scroll saw, drill press, belt/disk sander.
    Recommended: mini chop saw, metal lathe, cnc router.
    I wish I had all that stuff, but don’t.

  7. Diane G.
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    Finally! A hummingbird I might actually be able to photograph with its wings frozen in action.

  8. Mike
    Posted January 7, 2016 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    Wow, that is a wonderful piece of work. How would you price something like that which I should imagine took hours and hours of work.

  9. John Dentinger
    Posted January 7, 2016 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    Absolutely fabulous (much better to watch than the TV show). And then I thought of the Antikythera mechanism–how the hell did they make it without modern tools? Talk about hours & hours of work! Yikes.

  10. neil
    Posted January 9, 2016 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    The most Intelligent Designs i’ve seen in a long while…

  11. Zetopan
    Posted January 12, 2016 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    There are 3D printers available that can make most of their own components[1]. Anyone with a CNC milling machine (these are actually available for home use now [2]) could make any equivalent to this sculpture out of wood.

    If I ever make an equivalent it would be entirely out of metal though. Aluminum can be anodized in very bright or pastel colors
    [3], and combined with stainless and brass it would make a quite stunning display piece. The birds wings and tail could be far more elaborate and colorful, for example.

    I would also power it with a very low power home made motor that consumed microwatts of power so that no batteries would be required

    NOTES: There are far more examples than this list; simply do a Google search.
    1. http://reprap.org/
    2. http://www.tormach.com/
    3. https://www.google.com/search?q=anodizing+aluminum+colors
    4. Such a motor can be powered by either a very low leakage capacitor or even the Earth’s atmospheric electric field.

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