The following comes to you straight from Mikie Graham, who has created one of the more complex customs we've come across:
For the past 5 years I have had the pleasure of helping to curate the Blamo Toys Custom Show, as well as being able to contribute a piece of my own to the event. This year being our 5th anniversary, I wanted to do something special, so I requested one of Blamo's 32" solid wood Mega Billy figures to work with.
Chopping my figure in half, I went to work hand carving out the interior of this massive wooden toy, a process that took nearly 3 days. Once I had created a hollow shell of the figure, I chopped out and mounted Billy's face pieces back onto the figure with brass hinges, allowing them to flap open and display the interior.
Now came the hard part, creating a mechanism within the figure that would allow the user to change the interior scene with the pull of a chain. Two grueling weeks of trial and error later I had created what you see here, Billy the Automaton.
The concept is simple:
1: Pull down on the Life or Death charm hanging on the outside of the figure to determine Billys fate.
2: Pull the charm between Billys legs to view your choice within.
3: Pull the Hug charm on Billys head to close up the device and reset for next use.
Life vs Death at the pull of a chain, like magic!
To create this illusion I used a rotating platform built within the mega Billy figure. This platform has two distinct sides. The LIFE side has a regluar 8" wooden Billy figure cut and mounted to it. The DEATH side has part of a real rabbit skeleton mounted to it.
Using precisely placed eye hooks and some strong brass chain, I was able to create a pulley system within the figure that would allow the user to operate Billy with the use of 2 external chains.
To light the interior scene a friend helped me mount two LED bulbs within the figure wired to a replaceable battery and a specially programed circuit that allows the the lights to illuminate only when Billys doors are opened, and to turn off and save battery power once the doors have been closed fully.
The entire figure is mounted to a stable antique wooden base and can be easily opened for repair using the two latches on Billys back.
This was by far my most in-depth custom of the year (possibly ever) and it taught me a great deal, including a very deep respect for the old automaton makers who created much more complicated "robot's" then mine, hundreds of years before me and without the help of modern luxury like the hardware store.
If you're interested in Billy the Automaton, he is still available through Toy Art Gallery here for $2,500.00. The other 90+ custom Billy's will be up in TAG's Gallery through January 4th 2014.