Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Musician Automaton by Jaquet-Droz

Another of three surviving Jaquet-Droz automata is The Musican. Here is a clip from THE JAQUET-DROZ ANDROIDS by Philippe Sayous. She is actually playing a custom made organ. As if that wasn't amazing enough, she moves her head to read the sheet music and can be seen breathing. Jaquet-Droz's attention to detail is astounding considering the mechanical sophistication required for the basic effect.

The full video (in French or English, NTSC or PAL) can be ordered at

The Musician by Pierre Jaquet-Droz

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Friday, June 23, 2006

The Draftsman Automaton by Jaquet-Droz

One of three surviving Jaquet-Droz automata is The Draftsman or. Check out this clip from THE JAQUET-DROZ ANDROIDS by French producer and director Philippe Sayous. The video (in French or English, NTSC or PAL) can be ordered on his site The automaton not only draws elegant pencil drawings, but it also blows the dust from the drawing. Amazing.

The Draftsman by Pierre Jaquet-Droz

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Pierre Jaquet-Droz Automatons

Pierre Jaquet-Droz (1721-1790) was a Swiss-born watchmaker of the late eighteenth century. He lived in Paris, London, and Geneva, where he designed and built animated dolls, or automata, to help his firm sell watches and mechanical birds.

Constructed between 1768 and 1774 by Pierre Jaquet-Droz, his son Henri-Louis (1752-1791), and Jean-Frederic Leschot (1746-1824) were The Writer (made of 6000 pieces), The Musician (2500 pieces) and The Draughtsman (2000 pieces).

Here is a clip of the Pierre Jaquet-Droz automaton The Writer on YouTube.

To get a good look at all of the working masterworks, you should consider buying a well made automata film on video from my associate in France, Monsieur Philippe Sayous. It is available in French and in English.

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Monday, June 19, 2006

507 Mechanical Movements

One my favorite blogs, entitled Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society, has a great entry for a book entitled 507 Mechanical Movements that spurred some good comments. Taken together, it's an amazing bibliography of books on mechanical mechanisms.

Check out a very unique blog and its review of 507 Mechanical Movements


Saturday, June 17, 2006

Automaton by Maillardet is able to Draw and Write

Maillardet's Automaton is one of the most impressive working mechanical automata in existance. Built around 1800, the automaton is capable of creating amazing drawings and handwriting with a real pen.

It has a great back-story involving its loss, recovery, and unknown origins. The automaton itself plays a pivotal and active role in solving the mystery. Stranger than fiction!

Check out the drawing and writing Automaton by Maillardet at the Franklin Institute's web site.

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Friday, June 16, 2006

A Safer Hobby Knife

Kevin Kelly has an entry on his Cool Tools blog for a safer type of hobby knife. The conventional X-acto knife has the knurled blade-change ring immediately below the blade. Twisting forces, fingers, razor-sharp blade...let's not put these things together, shall we? The Tensor hobby knife has the blade change ring at the opposite end from the blade. Better. Much better.

Amazon sells the Testors Model Master Hobby Knife

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Article: Automata in the History of Technology

For the historians, collectors, and heady types, here's a article entitled The Role of Automata in the History of Technology by Silvio A. Bedini. It doesn't have a bibiography, but there is a lot of good historical info.

Your homework: read The Role of Automata in the History of Technology

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

How to Improve a "Third Hand" Holding Tool

Here's a little step-by-step guide for making those little holding tools a bit more useful. A simple, but good, idea indeed. I use them for soldering mostly, but also for gluing and painting.

Here's the Third Hand Improvement at

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Book: How to design and make Automata

Robert Addams has written a few books on how to make automata. I have read How to design and make Automata (the one with the purple cover). I assure you that it is well written and would be helpful to anyone who wants to make an automaton.

Here's a link for ordering How to Design and Make Automata, though you should be sure to check out the whole site -- there is a lot of good information.

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Monday, June 12, 2006

The First Automata Site

I think this in one of the first automata web sites I ever found using a search engine...probably Hotbot in those days. It's still a good reference despite the fact it was last updated in 1996!

Check out Automata Galleria hosted by NYU.

Shown here is Vaucanson'a famous duck automaton. He was also known for creating flute player. You can learn more about this flute player in Le Mecanisme Du Fluteur Automate

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Saturday, June 10, 2006

O-Kan: Automata & Kinetic Sculpture

Here's a site that featues very clever automata and kinetic sculptures by Japanese artist O.Kanda. Almost all of the pieces have been captured on video if you follow the links far enough.

Check out the site called O-Kan

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

Karakuri Site - The Karakuri Corner

The site is meant to function "as an educational gateway and a domestic marketplace for hard-to-find Japanese hobby products." I would say that the site fulfills its intended function very well. Lots of great products with images, descriptions, and videos.

Here's a link to The Karakuri Corner


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Karakuri - Japanese Automata

Did you know that there is a very old and sophisticated automata tradition in Japan? Karakuri are mechanized puppets used in theatre, religious festivals, and for entertainment. The tea-serving karakuri and archer karakuri frequently seen on eBay are modern recreations (mostly plastic) based on antique originals.

Learn more about karakuri from the very informative

You can also learn a bit about karakuri from Inside the Robot Kingdom

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Monday, June 05, 2006

The Secrets of Making Marionettes

Here's a link to a 1934 edition of Popular Mechanics entitled The Secrets of Makeing Marionettes. The site features scans of the original article as well as an HTML transcription. There are some valuable tips on figure-making for all automata artists in this article. If you're not sure how, check out the work of Tom Haney who makes key-operated marionettes machines.

You may also want to look into the book Making and Manipulating Marionettes

This book is a complete guide to the design, construction, and control of string puppets.

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Sunday, June 04, 2006

Center-punch Deal at Amazon

For automaton-makers such as myself that use metals like brass in their automata, a center-punch is a must. The punch allows you to create a dimple in the metal where you intend to drill a hole. Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools blog has a good little review of a automatic brass punch on his site.

It's a steal of a deal at amazon. I'm going to order one!


Saturday, June 03, 2006

Thus begins the automata blog

This blog is dedicated to mechanical automata. While I cannot promise that I'll have something automata-related to post everyday, I will do my best.


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