Mechanical Model: Salty Sailor Kit
Salty Sailor Kit
An intrepid adventurer riding the ocean waves.
Finished model dimensions:
History of Timberkits
Timberkits is a family firm which has been running since 1993, based in the heart of beautiful Mid Wales.
We design, prototype and manufacture new models every year and serve customers all over the world. Our products are really unusual and tremendous fun.
Automata makers are a rare and misunderstood breed, isolated by their obsession with bringing inanimate materials to life and the workings of cogs, wheels and waggle sticks. The words eccentric, mad and genius often apply and who better to illustrate this than Eric Williamson. He may be seen on a regular basis around Machinations, recognisable by the beard, dusty clothes, pockets of tools and a distracted expression. Eric trained as a fine art painter in the 60s when it was OK to wear paisley fish-tail ties and live in the hills doing weird stuff.
He started off making rocking horses, exercising his fascination with sculptural form and honing his skills as a wood carver. These were magnificent beasts but, unfortunately, too large and heavy to transport economically.
Having a workshop full of off-cuts of wood, he set about making marionettes with the fine carving being a dominant feature. Alison, his wife, made the detailed clothing. This time he was thwarted by their tendency to tangle so he began thinking about puppets without strings, which fuelled his interest in automata.
The first model was a cobbler inspired by the advertising motif of “Philip’s Sticker Soles”, which was featured at a shop he remembered from his childhood. Over the years the models became more and more complex.
Elaborate and impressive though they were, it was impossible to quote realistic and representative prices. Invariably, they took longer to make than could ever be anticipated, so it was back to the drawing board to find the winning formula for actually making a profit.
Having attended many craft shows with his models and meeting many like-minded model making obsessives, it suddenly occurred to Eric that sending out un-assembled components for customers to build themselves was more practical than painstakingly building them himself. Timberkits was born.
Enter Peter Markey...
Now, given that mad inventors are few and far between, it seems an extraordinary coincidence that Peter Markey and Eric Williamson happened to live within half a mile of each other. Peter also made automata, only his were much simpler in form so lent themselves more readily to the process of mass manufacturing.
Initially Peter supplied the designs and Eric manufactured the kits and gradually the company grew, employing several people and eventually needing the bigger workshop premises here in Llanbrynmair. Eric transferred his engineering skills into working with metal in order to build machines as part of a semi-automated production line.
Today the kits are manufactured in China and sold all over the world. New designs come in from contributors both within and outside the company.