Maneki Neko – Lucky cat


Finally a new model, and  frankly one that I’m a bit proud of – after all, it did require quite some work to get it right in the end. And it’s my first one with movable parts. It’s a  lucky or beckoning cat,  popular in Japan and China (where I got the inspiration, when I was travelling there).

The beckoning cat is supposed to bring luck and wealth. This one can actually move its arm. Here is a video:

The underlying mechanism is actually quite simple and consists mainly of a small paper pendulum with a coin as weight.

Here are some more pics of the assembled cat:

I have to admit this was the most difficult model to design so far, and it is quite tricky to build – especially the mechanism for the arm. You have to pay attention to allow the arm to rotate freely. Any friction will cause it to stop rocking back and forth.

In addition, the whole model is a bit complex for beginners, and it is important to build everything in the right order – otherwise you may paint yourself into a corner. Here is a photo tutorial:

Start with the mechanism for the arm. In order to keep things nice and clean, this is a standalone contraption that later goes inside the actual cat body. Here are the parts:

First, build a holder:

Now assemble the left arm. The arm is a bit complicated, therefore I have made a video tutorial for it:

Begin by putting together three sides of the arm, but leave one side open yet:

There is a small square with a hole in the middle. This goes into the upper arm and is intended for holding and stabilizing the stick that later will hold the arm in place. Take a wooden stick about3 mm in diameter, wooden skewers are perfect. Insert it carefully into the arm, like so:

Now glue the missing face to the arm. Then insert it carefully into the holder:

Make sure it rotates freely, without any friction. Shorten the skewer so that it is a bit longer than the holder. If it is too long, it will not fit into the body, so be careful.

Next, assemble the head:

First, take the largest part and glue it into a helmet shape:

Now take the two smaller parts and glue them together. This will form the face:

Now glue the face into the “helmet”, and finally close the head with the bottom part. Then attach the ears:

Ok, onto the final part – the body. In a first step, build the front half only, starting with these parts for the right side and hind leg:

Continue with the front:

… and add the left side, which includes the hole for the left arm. You will end up with something like a hemisphere:

Now glue this hemisphere onto the base plate:

Now place the holder for the arm into the body. Align the ring with the hole for the arm, then glue the holder to the base plate and the ring to the hole – this will ensure that the arm is firmly centered in the hole.

Now you can insert the arm:

Ensure that the arm can rotate freely. Then lock the skewer in place by glueing the small disk to the end. Now it’s time to attach the pendulum weight. You will need a small coin as a weight:

Make sure that the arm is in the right position (upwards) when the weight is attached. Also, test that everything works smoothly. The arm should swing back and forth when you tip it.

If everything is ok, you can glue the backside in place:

Alright – almost there. The only thing left is to attach the head, and you are done:

Here is the template:

By the way, there are Maneki Nekos with either the left or right arm up. The significance is not universally clear, but if you want a cat with the right arm up, you can print out the templates mirrored. Most printer drivers allow for this option, sometimes called ‘T shirt transfer’.

If you don’t have the time and/or patience to build a lucky cat yourself, you can buy one ready-made from my Etsy shop.

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