Monday, February 15, 2010

Climbing Monkey - FAIL

"Haven't you always wanted a monkey?" - If I Had a Million Dollars (Bare Naked Ladies) 
"Sure, just not a creepy one that doesn't work." - Toy Making Dad.

So when I started posting things on this site, I decided that it wouldn't just be show and tell. I wanted it to be a how-to site ( as opposed to just  "Hey everybody, LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME! PAY ATTENTION TO ME!") I think that a big part of learning how to do stuff is to learn how NOT to do stuff. You only figure this out by doing something wrong. Which isn't the worst thing in the world, and honestly sometimes these "mistakes" lead to new techniques or better ideas.

Building the creepy climbing monkey was not one of those times.

The plans for this guy (complete with fez I might add) were in a book I got from the library six or seven years ago. I don't blame the book but in retrospect, I don't remember building anything else from that book. Mainly because nothing really caught my eye as being super cool except for the idea of a climbing monkey. I believe the book said that this was based on antique German tin toys that worked the same way.

My dad and my younger brother always had a "monkey thing" (that is until the spate of monkey mauling stories over the last couple of years) so that was added motivation for building this toy.

The basic idea is you pull the string down and the monkey pulls himself (or herself) up the rope for a few inches. You then relax the tension on the rope; his legs swing back up and grab the slack. Then you pull down again and he climbs by pulling himself up. Sounds good, it should work...

Monkey legs move up when string is at rest because  of a little bit of elastic.Pulling down on the string should make him seem to pull himself up the rope.

Maybe I was being an idiot but he just never worked right.  I never got the tension correct on the elastic that pulled his legs back up. I'm also not sure that I ever got his string "rigged" properly. He would climb, but it was so small as to be almost imperceptible. Pulling the string eight or ten times would result in a climb of 1/4 or 1/2 inch. Not the kind of fun the kiddies are looking for. So in a word - FAIL.

Well, maybe I did learn a few things from this build: 
  • Leaps of faith are one thing, but if you really don't understand how something is going to work... you need to build a proof of concept piece first.
  • At the time I felt I had to do the complete build before testing because I wasn't going to be able to paint and finish the toy once it was done. I was wrong. You can always partially disassemble or just tack things on lightly to test.
  • Although I love his creepiness now, I probably should have just started over with the face...

The book was returned long ago to the library. I don't remember the title and I've never gone back to try and research similar toys to see how the strings should be rigged. I still have the little guy around though.

When I showed him to my younger brother, he laughed and said that he looked too evil to be a kids toy. He has kids now. Maybe I will look up how to fix the monkey... so I can give him to his kids and scare them. Hey, it's what older brothers with evil monkeys do.


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While we don’t necessarily need more objects, we just might benefit from more making.
- John Dunnigan


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Regular guy who likes to make stuff who lives with a very patient wife, three daughters and three cats.