Crow Heart Phenakistoscope

We send out about 50 cards every year and with about 25 of those we add a little something extra. Some years it is a comic, sometimes it’s a cool patch, whatever. This year I made a phenakistoscope – which I tended to call an “animated disc” as it’s a lot of word.

You can learn some more about phenakistoscopes over at The Public Domain Review but the tl;dr is that the little slots in the disc break up your view of the illustrations, adding a flicker that turns them into a simple animation.

I’m not the most natural at animation but I figured out a simple looping image (thanks, gif practice), printed them out and assembled everything. Well, first I had to cut out about 30+ perfect circles. Luckily I had purchased a circle cutter from Daiso some months before on a whim. It made quick work of it.

[Image description: A two-part image. On the left is a hand propping up what basically appears to be a simple white compass with a blade on the end the drawing utensil goes. On the right, the hand holds a stack of paper with even circles cut from the middle.]

Punching the hole in the middle was a bit of a challenge, but I splurged on a leather hole puncher that I think will serve me well for some time, and made a bit of racket.

[Image description: A hand holds a brightly coloured disc with frames of an animation on it over a workstation with an artfully strewn selection of tools and items: a stack of more discs with a centre hole punched out, a circle cutter, a pack of leather hole punches, a hammer, a cutting mat.]

Then it was the handles, and I needed to keep things thin, light, and mailable in an envelope so it’s thin chipboard. Yes, this much repetitive action was a combination of satisfying and frustrating!

[Image description: A workspace with stacks of brown card handles with small holes punched near the top. To the upper left is a stack of discs with holes punched in the middle. Strewn around them are a hole punch, a pencil, and a packet of brads.]

But with the handles done, it was time for assembly. Some trial and error showed me how tight the brads needed to be attached (not very! I ended up using a spacer!), and I was able to turn them out pretty easily. They got tucked into envelopes with a simple little instruction sheet and sent off.

[Image description: A hand holds the brown card handle of a phenakistoscope, a circle with slots cut along the edges and frames of a simple looping animation between those slots. This set of images is a crow raising its head and spreading its wings as a speech bubble with a heart in it rising above its head. Eggs with legs sticking out the bottom dance in the middle.]

And here’s a quick video of it in action!

Okay! So that was the process, now for the goodies. I have uploaded a single-page PDF of this year’s indulgence to Itchio for free, so you can print it out and give it a try at home! I know brads aren’t like, the most common craft supply around, but I think you can probably figure out alternatives. You just need to be able to spin the disc and look through it!

Link to the crow heart phenakistoscope on Itchio here!

Have fun crafting and may you also end up falling down a rabbit hole of how cool some of the old phenakistoscopes are!

A version of this post was initially published in public Patreon and Comradery posts on January 14, 2023.

Also published on Medium.