Steam Punk Singing Bird




I have been making a full time living from automata for the past 25 years. Before that I spent 10...

My idea was to use found objects and a shop brought singing bird mec to produce a singing bird in a cage similar to the old Victorian type but with a modern twist. I purchased the bird mec from here . It runs off a small battery and has a horizontal moving lever which is syncronised to the bird song that it produces. The bird song is made by two bellows and it is powered by a small electric motor 

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: The Tin Can Base

the base was made from a tin can which I roughed up on the belt sander (later it would be rusted using sea water).
I drilled on large hole to let the sound out, bolted in the bird mec and added a switch. I also made a mesh grill to cover the large hole. 
Then I added some metal legs from some old alarm clock and mounted a plastic battery holder underneath. 

Step 2: The Cage

Next I made a velvet cushion for the top of the base. I also made the cage.This was built on a jig and is made frome galvanised fencing wire and joined using soft solder. I use a small flame gun to melt the solder and plenty of flux,

Step 3: The Bird

Then I cut the parts for the birds body. I used a wood that was light in weight and close grained (I would write jelloutong but I can't spell it)
I used alluminium for the tail and wings as it is also light in weight.
Then I covered parts of the bird in rubber,cut  from old inner tubes, and superglued in place. The neck and legs were painted using acrylics, and small clock parts were added.   

Step 4: Rusting

Next I rusted all of the metal parts using local sea water and glued an acrylic ball onto the toggle switch.

Step 5: How It Works

A metal rod rests on the moving flap on the bird song mech. It passes up through the birds leg (which is glued into the base) and is glued into the birds body. The leg is a very loose fit into the body so the body moves up and down but the leg stays fixed.
Another metal rod is glued into the top of the birds head.It passes freely through a hole in the lower part of the birds head and down through the neck to rest on the base.
So, as the body lowers, the top part of head appears to lift, and as the body rises, it appears to fall. As all of this in in sync to the birdsong,the bird appears to be singing. A small rod at the front of the beak stops the head from twisting.
The wings are fixed to the body by hinges, but supported in the middle by the two rods. As the body lifts, the wings lower and as the body falls, the wings lift.

Step 6: The Cage Fitted and Estonian Birds

Once the bird was working ok, I fitted the cage, but did not glue it as It may need to be removed in the future to make repairs.
You can see a video of the automata here
Later I made two larger Steampunk Singing Birds for the Tallin Puppet Theatre,in Estonia. Youcan see a video of one of them here  

Epilog Challenge

Participated in the
Epilog Challenge

Be the First to Share


    • Furniture Contest

      Furniture Contest
    • Reuse Contest

      Reuse Contest
    • Made with Math Contest

      Made with Math Contest

    17 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I to give a second look,and tell you how cool it is.


    8 years ago on Step 6

    This is great. It makes me wish I was more mechanically skilled.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Just love your mechanical singing bird. Wonder if you'd like to link it up to a challenge I have going on at my blog :


    8 years ago on Step 6

    A wonderful piece of mechanics! Just surprised no one has commented yet. Reminds me somewhat of the tin man in Return to Oz. Well done!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    when i saw the description, I thought "Amazing, someone recreated the signing birds (water poured in a tube, made a chirping sound) from the times of the greeks".

    this is cool too, thanks.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Wow! Very artistic! Very creative! I am in awe! I think that this is one of my favorite so far! Thanks for sharing!

    Dragon Maze

    8 years ago on Introduction

    The combination of the site you link to for the bird mec has no image, and the wording that you purchased the bird, gave me the mistaken initial impression that this Instructable was less impressive than it actually is. The bird's body that you constructed looks wonderfully Steampunk! Great job!

    1 reply