"They're not incredibly sophisticated little machines. I think Crow is slightly more complex than the other guy, Servo, because people seem to be able to make Servos pretty easily if they can find a gumball machine."
(Sci-Fi Entertainment, February 1997, p.59)
One day in 1991, I was with some friends (and founding members of the Tom Servo Fan Club) at the Auburn Mall (in Auburn, MA) and passed a candy store with Tom Servo's head in the window. I knew I had to have it. That's what started it all. Over the next 3 years, I gathered various Tom Servo parts in an attempt to build my own little red robot friend. In January of 1995, I decided to do something over my Winter Break from my senior year of college...so I built Servo.
I had no instructions so I experimented with a few different things along the way. I am offering these instructions to the world in the hopes that someone else will find them useful in adding another soldier to the Tom Servo Army.
DISCLAIMER: I do not work for Best Brains. I have only seen the actual Tom Servo once and didn't get to see any more of the inner workings of Servo than have been shown on TV. Therefore the real Tom Servo at Best Brains' Eden Praire, MN studio and the one I have may vary greatly. Don't blame me if yours doesn't end up EXACTLY like the real one!
- Keep in mind that color doesn't matter unless specified.
You can always paint stuff.
- One Red "Tom Servo Head" Gumball Machine
- The model you want is made by Carousel can be found at various candy stores for about $10. This is the most important piece.
- One Kids' Barrel Bank
- These are hard to find...I had to substitute a keg bank my parents found at Spencer Gifts. They are no longer sold there. You might be able to substitute a large pretzel barrel found at wholesale warehouse stores.
- One Plastic or Tupperware Bowl
- It should be almost half a sphere. One foot across the top and 4.5" (the diameter of the base of the gumball machine) across the bottom.
- Pipe Insulation Tubing
- As long and black as you can find
- A Tyco Turbo Train
- These are no longer sold...good luck finding one!
- A toy engine block
- ...or a bunch of Duplo-size bricks glued together like mine as a substitute
- Two Slinky Jr's
- Two doll hands
- I used "Clown Doll" hands...they came white!
- Two 1970's Ever-Ready Flashlight covers
- Two plastic coffee can covers
- A few inches of wire
- plastic covered copper wire is nice
- Three nuts and bolts
- Two small 1.75" pieces of PVC pipe at a 45 degree angle
- Sticky Velcro tape
- A roll of strong fishing line
- A small screw eye
- Two Small (1" or so) PVC rings
- You should be able to fit your finger in the center
- A 15" (or so) length of PVC pipe about 1.5" in diameter
- Same diameter as the neck hole with one female end
A male connector to screw into the PVC pipe
- The diameter of the widest part should be larger than that of the neck hole to prevent it from falling into the barrel.
- Glossy White Spray Paint
- Reddish-Maroon Spray Paint
- Silver Spray Paint (Small Can)
- Silver Bottled Paint (Very Small Bottle)
- Flat Black Bottled Paint (Very Small Bottle)
- Masking Tape
- Scotch Tape
- A Plastic Bag
- Hot Glue
- (the stronger, the better)
- Solder and sticky foil (optional)
- Equipment to make a mold of the Turbo Train
- (see step 2)
- Small Saw
- Small Paint Brushes
- (for the bottled paint)
Let's Get Down to Business!
Step 1: "And I'll Form the Head!"
Probably the first thing that people will want completed for their Tom Servo is the head. In fact, some people will probably be happy with just the head. I was for three years. Here are the simple instructions to turn an ordinary gumball machine into the head of the one we call Tom Servo!
- Remove the bottom black cover from the red gumball machine. (The cover's glued on.)
- Place your small saw flat on the lower "lip" of Servo's (future) mouth and cut off the handle. Be careful not to scratch anything that you're not supposed to be cutting!
(If you notice a close-up of Servo's mouth, you'd see that the handle on the real Servo was also cut off flat at the lower lip. You can still see the part of the handle that was on the sides of the jaw.)
- Take a plastic bag and cover Servo's head with it.
- Take the bag securely tape it shut so that the only exposed part is his closed mouth.
- Make sure the tape is on good so that paint won't leak under it!!!
- Spray paint it silver. Don't make it dripping with paint! Several light coats should do it.
- Open his mouth halfway when you allow the silver paint to dry between coats and when finished. You can prop it open with a pencil.
- After the silver dries, take the black paint in the small bottle and paint the inside of his lower mouth piece. From the "lips" as far back as the angle in the plastic is perfect.
- Allow the black paint to dry. (His mouth can be closed for this...but I'd take the top cover off for ventilation.)
- Paint his lips silver with a small brush. (This may be tough to dry if you do it all at once. You don't want the paint to seal the mouth shut! I recommend doing the top and bottom lips on the right. Then use a pencil to prop open the mouth on the left side. When it dries, paint the left and prop it open on the right.)
- Congratulations. You now have Tom Servo's head!
Step 2: "Oh, I'd hate to shoot a butt like that!"
Well, we've got the head staring you in the face. Wouldn't it be nice to have something to stick it on? Yes? Well too bad! We're doing Tom's butt next! Why his butt? Well if we do the torso, the arms get in the way.
The picture you see is inside my Servo's butt. Ignore the tube in the center...that's in step 4.
- Cut a hole in the bottom of the bowl that's big enough for your hand to fit through. You'll need a 1/2" lip on it so don't go and cut out the ENTIRE bottom!
- Spray paint the bowl glossy white. You may need several coats. Be patient and don't over-do it!
- While you wait for the paint to dry, you'll need to get the Tyco Turbo Trains that go around the bowl ready. (NOTE: I haven't been lucky enough to find the Tyco Turbo Trains yet.) Take the engine (angled) part of the Turbo Train and make five copies of it. There are several ways to do this:
- Get a vaccu-former and make molds. (If you have a vaccu-former, I assume you know how to do it better than I do.)
- Take clay (Play-Doh is fine) and press it against the body to make a mold. After the mold hardens, fill it with Play-Doh and press it against the bowl (after the paint is dry). The bottom of the mold should now be curved to the correct shape and the molded part should be intact. Once you get it in shape, let it dry while you do the others.
- Use plaster or some other sort of molding stuff. Basically you just have to make a mold...be creative.
- After the paint is dry, place the pipe insulation around the lip of the bowl. My bowl was so perfectly sized that I only needed one piece of insulation!
- Glue it on. If your lucky, only the ends of the insulation will need to be glued.
- Paint the glue black (so it won't show up so much). Keep in mind that the glued ends should be in the back of Servo.
- Place the five Turbo Train molds against the bowl so that they are spaced equidistant from each other. The bottom of the mold should be about half a centimeter above the insulation. One of the molds should be right above the glue.
- Hey neat! You now have Servo's butt!
Step 3: "Tubular-Boobular-Joy"
Now you've got a head and a butt. I suppose you'd like something to connect them together. This section will give you complete instructions for the middle section. Of all the sections, this one will take the longest to complete.
- Take your barrel bank and cut a hole in the bottom that's the same size as the hole in Tom's butt.
- Cut two 1" arm holes on opposing sides of the barrel. They should be 1.5" from the top.
- Cut a 1.25" hole in the exact center of the top of the barrel.
- Take the engine block and hot glue it to the front of the barrel (over the words).
- Take red spray paint (a redish-maroon would work best) and spray the barrel and engine block.
- While waiting for that paint to dry, take the angled two PVC pieces and the two plastic covers.
- Cut holes in the centers of the plastic covers so that the PVC pieces will fit in snugly.
- Take the PVC pieces out and cut the outer edge of the plastic covers so that they can fit flat against the inside of the flashlight covers.
- Glue one plastic cover to each flashlight cover.
- Spray-paint both of them white.
- If your doll hands aren't white, spray paint them white too.
- While you wait for that paint to dry, take the Slinkys and PVC pieces.
- Attach each Slinky to a PVC piece. You can either risk using hot glue (this might gum-up the Slinky) or put sticky foil (as used for stained glass) on the end of the PVC and solder the Slinky to the PVC pipe. (I chose solder.) It's helpful to have someone assist with this step.)
- Take 1" pieces of wire and solder or glue them in a small loop to the top of each place where the Slinkys are connected to the PVC pieces.
- Drill a small hole in the upper wrist of each of the hands.
- Hot glue the hands to the Slinkys.
- In order to keep the Slinky from stretching all over the place during assembly, take some Scotch tape and tape it closed.
- Place the ends of each PVC arms into the hole in the shoulder assembly.
- Push the shoulder pieces down the arms to the curve in the PVC.
- Hot glue the PVC pieces to the barrel over the arm holes.
- Push the shoulder piece back up into place so it's as close as you can get it against the body.
- Hot glue the shoulder to the body.
- Touch up each point of exposed hot glue with white (or red) paint to keep it from showing.
- Paint the center part of the engine block silver. (The little knobs)
- Paint the tips of the engine block black.
- Drill three holes into the bowl that's used for his butt. The holes should be at 120 degrees to each other on the edge of the hole.
- With the barrel upside-down and the bowl on top, drill holes in the exact same positions on the bottom of the barrel.
- Using nuts and bolts, screw the bowl to the barrel.
- Stand back and admire Tom Servo's body!!! (Put his head on top for the complete effect...)
Step 4: Tom's Inner Secrets
- Take two long sections of strong fishing line and tie each piece to the small holes you drilled in the upper wrist of each hand.
- Thread the fishing lines through the center of the Slinkys and through the wire loops which are attached to the PVC pipes.
- Thread both of the fishing line sections into the arm holes in the barrel.
- Tie both lines onto the plastic loop.
This loop is what you can pull to make his arms flap. Releasing the loop will make his arms loose and floppy. Pulling it tight will make the arms stay tight. It's best to get the lines the correct length so that you can just put the loop over one of the screws in the inside of the bowl. When the loop is being held by one of the screws, his arms should be held tight in "display position".
- Take the 1.5 foot PVC pipe (as shown in the picture above with my hand) and place it inside the barrel with the female screw end at the top.
- Take the PVC connector (as shown in the picture with the thumb) and screw it through the neck hole and into the pipe in the barrel.
You should now be able to use the pipe inside to turn the connector on the top. Servo's head will go on top of the connector.
- Fit the head on the connector piece.
(WARNING! This is NOT as easy as it seems!) You'll still want the mouth to open and close. The connector piece will have to be melted and cut down on one side to allow the head to fit on straight AND to allow the mouth to move. There are no real exact measurements. You'll just have to cut away the connector piece so that the head fits.
- Attach Velcro to the inside of the head and the edges of the connector. This will allow you to easily remove the head if you want...but yet keep the head attached when it should be.
- In the inside of the head...as far up as you can go, glue a small screw eye.
- Leaving the spring on the mouth, tie fishing line from the mouth, through the screw eye, and down the tube in the body.
- Place the head on the body.
- Tie the end of the fishing line which comes out the bottom to another plastic loop.
This will control Servo's mouth. Pulling the loop will open his mouth. Releasing pressure will close it. All this can even happen while his head turns around 360 degrees!
PS: My Tom Servo is not for sale.
You can ask questions...but since this site has been unsupported for over two years, you will most likely be ignored. (Nothing personal, but I mean MST3K has been cancelled and we've moved on with our lives.)
Please don't ask where I found the parts. If they're easy to find, I already said so above. If they're hard to find, then I don't know where you can get them. (No...I don't know where you can get a barrel! Stop asking! ARRRGH!)
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