Perspectives of a Writer and Musician

Issues related to writing, publishing and playing jazz music: One man's muse.
by Al Stevens

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Location: Florida, United States

Thursday, July 30, 2009

2-axis Eye Movement, Part 1

This project began on two fronts. When I repaired Chuck Norwood for Bill DeMar, I was fascinated by Ray Guyll's ingenious design for eyes that move on two axes, side to side and up and down.

The following article discusses my thoughts about building such mechanisms.

When he saw what he had done...

The second front is my own main figure, Dexter Dorsey, built by Tim Selberg in 1987.

Dexter has moving eyes, but they move only from side to side. He also has no blinkers. I decided to try to install 2-axis eyes similar to those of Chuck Norwood but with shell rather than leather blinkers.

First I needed some eyes. Dexter has large beautiful blue eyes, larger then usual irises with realistic detail. I contacted Tech-Optics, the folks who made Dexter's eyes. Here's a link.

Jim at Tech-Optics made matching eyes for me. Here is one of them.

Notice no vertical hole for an axle. That's how I wanted it. I decided that using two axles would be too complex. I wanted something simpler. It seemed to me that if a figure had upper and lower eyelids, the eye could rotate freely inside them. I drew this sketch.

Next, I needed upper and lower eyelids. The upper lid will raise and lower. The lower lid will be out of sight, serving as a concave tray in which the eyeball turns in all directions.

I know how to make upper shell eyelids. I explained that process several years ago in this page:

Making a lower eyelid is the same process. Just put the second lid on the bottom. Here are two lids I made held in place with some painter's tape to ensure that they fit and that the eye will indeed rotate on all axes.

The lower lid is permanently mounted on a wooden tray shown here.

And here is the eyeball in place in the lower lid with the upper lid resting on it.

To complete the assembly, I built an eyelid frame for the eyelid linkage to raise and lower the upper eyelid. The frame is made of 1/16" brass rod. I used a jig that I made specifically for this purpose.

Here's the frame ready to install in the assembly.

I used a wooden sphere to guide and shape the eyelid frame into place. This was to avoid getting too rough with the real eyeballs. Also, the sphere has a hole drilled to allow precise fitting of the frame into two upright braces in which the frame mounts. Here's how I did that.

Here's the frame mounted without the eyelid.

And here's the eyelid glued to the frame.

We're getting close. At least on one eyeball. The next installment takes us to the next level. Check back later for more details.

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