Hey guys, I'm trying find out where to buy (or how to make) the little rack and pinion systems used for additional rigging when the feet aren't tied down. Like the picture bellow from BoxTrolls (highlighted in red boxes)I've heard them called Winder Rigs, I've also know that there are some tools used in optical equipment called Rack and Pinion Linear Translation Stages. But I can't find any info on how to build one where where to buy one like the one in the picture above. All the ones I can find are little platforms that usually move a little less than 4cm.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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I'm not sure if it's the same or not, but that looks very similar to this kind of setup:

It's basically just a pair of Helping Hands being used to support the puppet and slid around, and the arms can be moved at the joints to facilitate complex movement. I've seen a slightly more complex setup used in Peter and the Wolf, custom built using little open hole ball joints just like you'd use for an armature, and with a few more joints per arm than these have. 

But what you're showing there might be more complex, I can't really tell. It might have the ability to turn one of those knobs and slide the arm along one axis, the way a micrometer jaw moves. That would be almost like motion control for the puppet's movements, done by hand turning the knobs, and could be really ideal.

You can see the kind of rigs I'm talking about all throughout this video from Paranorman:

But I suspect the winder rigs are different. If they are, then I want to know how they work too!  

Ok, working my way through this little by little - I've answered my own question and found that indeed rack and pinion is exactly like a micrometer, a little gear and a straight piece it rolls across. Here's a page at McMaster-Carr where you can buy the gears and rods: http://www.mcmaster.com/#racks-and-pinions/=zkfehy

But you'd need to do some serious work to build a little housing for it. There's got to be a device you can buy with the parts already inside a housing, but I can't figure out what search terms to use to find it. 

If you were willing to be really crude you could just attach a micrometer to a heavy base and attach an arm to the moving jaw piece.That would be really crude though. 

Looks like adding the term "linear slide" will get close to what you're looking for. Here's a little device for robotics I believe that's very similar, but much bigger than what you'd need. Seeing how it all goes together though gives a good idea of how to make one: http://www.pitsco.com/TETRIX_Rack_and_Pinion_Linear_Slide_Pack?SKU=...;. There's a video that explains how it all works.

The funny thing is - an actual micrometer would be far superior to this device because of the compactness and I believe you can get them in various lengths, plus it will show you precisely how far you're moving things. More and more I'm thinking I'd just get a pair of micrometers and rig them together - one for front-to-back movement, one for side-to-side, a heavy base* and a light base* to go in between, and an arm to attach to the puppet. 

* Or just use screws to attach to the set floor.

To be clear, I'm talking about a dial caliper micrometer, which is essentially just a rack and pinion linear slide device with a dial for measuring:

I suppose if you wanted to really dedicate them strictly for this purpose you could cut off jaws to reduce weight and bulk. 

Here's a rack that's only 4mm x 4mm square.

http://www.motionco.co.uk/racks-plastic-racks-c-32_42_71.html

You would need to make a little box to contain the spur gear, with an axle and a knob on the outside.

I know lego has a bunch of options regarding rack and pinions that can be fully customised because... well.. you know... lego. The only problem would be (again) the size. And just because its amazing and Ive been itching to share this, here is a 6 axis motion control unit I found a few years ago made out of lego (predominantly rack and pinions). Enjoy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDXDevPtEbs

Just so happens I'm working on one of these right now -- I built this one with 6 layers of acrylic, a laser cutter at the local community Fab Lab, and some hardware from McMaster-Carr:

This draft still has some issues (the two big ones being 1- the gear isn't fastening to the knob shaft very well, and 2- I asked for 1/8" acrylic, but the guy gave me 3mm... close enough for some applications, but not when you're trying to perfectly fit a 1/4" rack.)

So, not yet perfectly functional, but a step in the right direction!  Will post more when I get the kinks worked out.

Looks like you're getting really close. That's something I thought might be a problem - attaching the knob and gear with an axle piece. Once you've got that one licked the rest shouldn't be too hard. 

Look for an old, used kids' telescope at the used goods stores or yard sales. They have a rack and pinion slider built into them as the lens focus adjustment. You might be able to modify one of those easily enough. That's my plan anyway, lol ;)

Oops, I forgot to mention old camera tripods. They have a cylindrical center column with a built in rack and pinion to raise and lower the camera.

Ok, I've got the major kinks worked out -- will be revising the design a bit and cutting a couple more next week, but this one is pretty solidly operational.  


I glued in some washers so the rack actually fits in the channel (like I mentioned above, the acrylic is actually 3mm rather than 1/8", making the 6mm channel .35mm too narrow for the 1/4" rack -- it fits a bit loosely with the washers in place, but I've got what should be *actual* 1/8" acrylic coming in.  So hopefully mkII fits better).

The gears I'm using are apparently made of a type of plastic called Delrin, which doesn't bond to most glues.  However, I got some Loctite plastic bonder that so far has been working splendidly.  Once I have a couple more constructed, I'll stress test this one... but I'm in no hurry to break it while it's the only one I have :)

I'm taking Justin Rasch's course (highly recommended!), and this weekend he has me animating some run cycles.  Rigging the puppet up from this guy attached to a 4' rack clamped above the set was *magical*.  I can't wait to hook a couple of these together for some multi-axis winder control.

If there's interest, once I have the process down I might put some up for sale.  These things are so great; it blows my mind that there doesn't seem to be an affordable source for them online right now.

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