Main Project: Inspiration – Kawaii “Mood Rings”

For my main project, I was once again inspired by the laser cutters, although I may end up going with an alternative manufacturing route after hearing a peer’s less-than-optimal experience creating gears with them. As far as I know, my main project idea is an original idea, although I am sure toys of the same vain exist, the flipbook below being one. I am planning to make a desktop toy, roughly 6” in diameter, named “Mood Rings.”

Taken from:

This toy will consist of three independently rotating concentric rings, with each of the rings holding different elements, again playing up the Kawaii aesthetic. The outer and middle rings will have holders for mylar buttons, the outer ring having buttons of ~1” diameter, and the middle having 1.25” diameters. The outer ring buttons will have different headwear, such as a top hat, tiara, bunny ears, etc. The middle ring will have faces of characters sporting different expressions, such as angry/pouty, yawning/sleepy, and sparkly/gleeful. The inner ring will have a continuous, fun design that’ll be entertaining as the rings rotate, and I would like for the central circle to spin as well, likewise with a design that takes advantage of the dynamic nature of this toy.

Taken from: artist @SelcouthAcid


A subtle but key aspect of this toy I am aiming for is a satisfying feeling to its turning. I want the gears to have a sort of heavy feel to them, and for a nice “clunk” to happen when settling on an option in the middle and outer rings. Alternatively, I’ll use a planetary gear system as they give a very smooth action. I believe I can achieve this by making the gears large, and out of a heavier material, which is why I am leaning towards a different manufacturing method for the gear system. I may go with off-the-shelf components for it, as I want to personally create and/or draw each of the attire and facial options. I’ll be doing this within Photoshop, using my drawing tablet and editing different works from to-be-credited artists.

Taken from:

For rotating each ring, I am planning to have a rotary arm mesh with the gears at different depths, hence allowing for the independent movement/selection. The inner ring and circle will interface with both the outer and middle rings so you get the fun movement regardless of which you’re moving.

A design with a similar vibe to what I’ll add to the inner sections, taken from:

I honestly have no idea where this idea came from, I suppose movement-wise this isn’t unlike a slot machine, since it involves three separately spinning sections. I recently made some buttons as well, so this again seemed like a good, natural opportunity to have my art and engineering worlds collide for something unique. I really look forward to the different challenges this project will pose; I learned a ton during the upcycle one, and expect to likewise gain some skills in a really fun and interesting way.


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6 Comments. Leave new

  • […] these will be place along the perimeter of each tier of ring, as described in my last blog post here. Below is an additional sketch of how one of the rings will look, mounted on a tripod […]

  • […] Here is a link to my previous post to provide context for this toy. […]

  • This sounds like such a fun project to take on! I think that it is really unique, but can also be targeted to so many different audiences depending on what kind of faces and designs you include.
    I agree with your idea to have the gears be heavy and operate with a kind of “clunk”, as you put it. To me, that feels way better in my hands than something that can spin super freely. The finality of the selection is really nice when it all comes together.
    If you decide to try and laser cut gears, I’d suggest speaking with some of the ITLL staff. They may have some neat tips and tricks on ways to make the final product fit together better. But using a store bought planetary gear system is also a very good move. Making your own gears can be very tricky, especially with more complicated setups like what I assume you’ll be working with.

    • Thomas Buckholtz
      February 25, 2020 5:50 pm

      Hi Mary,
      I’m really excited to start work on this! You’re right, there are a ton of different possibilities/audiences depending on the designs I go with. I think any aesthetic could easily be applied to this idea, and I’ll certainly look more into it with tomorrow’s posting. I also agree the “clunk” path would be a lot more satisfying, but I have practically 0 gear experience so I’ll just have to experiment and see what feels right and is achievable. Thanks for the advice on seeking out help from some ITLL staff, I’ll be sure to give them a shout! I’m betting they’ve seen a lot of failed gear systems.

  • Thomas,
    I think that this idea is novel and would be very cool. The idea of making random faces would be a good way to pass time. Are you planning to have all of the buttons align at the same time to make a ring of different faces?
    I like your idea to use a planetary gear set, I think you can accomplish this using different size middle gears linked to an outer gear that follows the size of each ring.
    I have not heard much about the kawaii aesthetic before, what defines it?

    • Thomas Buckholtz
      February 25, 2020 5:45 pm

      Hi Noah,
      I’m not sure I understood your first question, but I did admittedly do a poor job of showing what I meant with the buttons on the rings. I’m envisioning maybe 6 different expressions on buttons in the middle ring, and 8-10 different headwear pieces on the outer ring, and the idea would be for the user to line up the different faces with different headwear at the top (12 o’clock) slot. I may also add a facade to the front, so only that 12 o’clock position of options is visible, but leave a gap for the inner ring so you can still see the fun design fly by if you just want to spin it.
      In short, the Kawaii aesthetic means “cute,” so that typically means baby-faced features, especially big eyes and heads, and soft colors. For a more in-depth read on the aesthetic, please see my earlier post at


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