Monday, January 29, 2007

Hechinger Hardware

You've got to love their motto: The World's Most Unusual Hardware Site.

You be the judge and let me know if they truly are unusual. I'll scan the site myself this week and update this post with any items that may be of interest to automata makers.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Rockler Woodworking and Hardware

I few days ago I posted about a free Woodworking Catalog from one of my favorite woodworking stores for tools.

Rockler is the second of my two favorite places to buy woodworking tools. I visit their retail store more than any other.

They also offer free catalog. The catalog is 150 pages and offers tons of great tools. They specialize in enhancements for your power tools -- router tables, fences, jigs. The also have tons of specialty hardware.

The thing that Rockler sells that will be of greatest use to automata makers is their line of thin cut wood. They sell planed domestic and exotic woods in sizes that make sense for automata makers.

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Another Logic Goat - The NOT Goat automaton

Rob Ives at has added to his offerings of Logic Goats that I posted about earlier. In addition to the AND and OR goats, he is now offering a NOT goat. In the case of the NOT goat, it only nods its head when you are NOT pushing the button on the front.

I really think there is the potential to build the world's first goat-based computer.

Here is the link on to the NOT Logic Goat automaton on the Flying Pig web site.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

5 Best Books for Paper Automaton Plans

Here's a list for people interested in making working paper automata. This is a great way to make your first automaton. It is also good for people that do not have woodworking tools. Older kids, focused kids, or supervised kids can learn a tremendous amount about engineering by making a paper automaton. All but Museum of the Mind contain several complete projects. An afternoon's work and you can have made your very own automaton.

1 - Paper Automata: Four Working Models to Cut Out & Glue Together- Rob Ives

2 - A Handbook of Paper Automata Mechanisms- Walter Ruffler

3 - Automata Too: Four Working Models to Cut Out and Glue Together- Magdalen Bear

4 - Museum of the Mind: Build Your Own Thinking Machine from 192 Pieces of Paper- Paul Spooner

5 - Spooner's Moving Animals or the Zoo of Tranquillity- Paul Spooner

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Monday, January 22, 2007

5 Best Books for Wood Automaton Makers

Here is a list of books for people who want to make an automaton out of wood. These books deal with the subject directly, all have useful patterns, and the first three have detailed plan drawings. I recommend all of these highly.

1 - Automata and Mechanical Toys- Rodney Peppe

2 - Making Mechanical Toys- Rodney Peppe

3 - Whacky Toys, Whirligigs & Whatchamacallits- Rodney Frost

4 - How to Design & Make Automata  - Rob Addams

5 - Cabaret Mechanical Movement- Aidan Lawrence Onn, Gary Alexander

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Automata and Mechanical Toys by Rodney Peppe

I have said in the past that if you want to make a wood automaton, and can only get just one book, Automata and Mechanical Toysby Rodney Peppé is the book to get.

This wonderful book is currently available in hardcover at for 31% off the regular retail price. This is a great deal.

The book is printed on fine glossy paper and is full of color photos (160 in all). The book profiles over 20 leading automaton-makers, and provides step-by-step instructions for making an automata test-bed. There is also a section teaching you how to make ten fundamental mechanisms.

One of the best things about this book is that there are scale patterns to copy and use -- cams, gears, pin-wheels, ratchets, and even a Geneva mechanism.

Visit Amazon and use the Search Inside! feature for Automata and Mechanical Toys

Following as a close second, Peppé's book entitled Making Mechanical Toysshould also interest you.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Good post about The Writer by Jacquez-Droz

I posted about The Writer by Pierre Jacquez-Droz back in June of 2006. My post links to a film clip by the film-maker Philipe Sayous.

I met Monsieur Sayous in Paris in 2005. His films are very well made. I recommend them especially to educators. (Be sure to order the NTSC version if you live in the States and buy a video.)

Here's a new post on what may be the most amazing automaton ever created: The Writer (at Fogonazos).

We should all keep in mind how difficult it is to write with pen and ink. The Writer is so carefully thought out, that he taps the quill on the edge of the inkwell to remove excess ink before beginning to write.

I found the recent post via this post on

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

4" Brass Caliper for measuring

I love the look of this all brass 4 inch caliper for measuring. Often when I use calipers, I don't even read the measurement. Rather, I take the measurement with the calipers on one piece (or tool), then transfer the distance measured on to another piece. Of course, if you want to read a measurement exactly, calipers are a great way to do it.

Some of the product specifications:
  • Does outside and inside measurements
  • Sliding dovetail way (that's the track in which it slides)
  • Rigid construction
  • 4"/100mm rule with vernier scale
  • Graduated in 1/16" and mm

For under $7 USD, this looks like a very good deal to me. Then again, I love brass.

4" Brass Calipers at WoodCraft

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Automaton-Maker Ian McKay

The British automaton artist Ian McKay combines weathered driftwood with wooden toy-like elements to create things like this boat automaton.

Trained as a ceramicist, he has also been a silversmith, a blacksmith, furniture designer, a maker of wood engraving blocks, drummer, technician, teacher, and gardener.

He sees toy-making to be the sum of all these experiences -- working in wood, brass rod, and paint.

See some Ian McKay automata at the site

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Goat / Logic Gates in Paper Automata Form

Here's a really interesting combination of expertise: logic gates (the basis of all computing and therefore computers) and paper automata.

Rob Ives -- another of the masters of paper automata -- has created Logic Goats. The OR goat will nod if you press either the first button or the second. The AND goat will only nod if you press the first and the second buttons.

If we could get a NAND and NOR goats and string them all together in complex chains, we might be able to build a Goat-based computer!

Check out, buy and download the Logic Goat Automata at the Flying Pig web site.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Tin Automata by Andy Hazel

Automata maker, Andy Hazell works with recycled tin to create automata that are often inspired by the actions of daily living.

Working with sheet metal must employ some of the same techniques as working with paper, though I cannot speak from personal experience. The figures seem to take a similar form in both media.

I like how you can often see the mechanisms above the platforms on which the characters stand.

Here is a link to the craft2eu Gallery in Germany that shows and sells his work.

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Woodworkers & Carvers - WoodCraft Catalog - Helping You Make Wood WorkWoodcraft Supply is a great store for woodworking tools and supplies. If you don't have a store near you, I recommend their catalog featuring more than 8,000 items. They offer more tools and accessories for woodcarvers than any other retailer I have found.

Not only does the Woodcraft catalog offer a complete listing of products for woodworking, but it's also free.

Get your Free Woodcraft Catalog.

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Sand-Powered Automata

Sand powered automata go back hundreds of years, perhaps even more. Rather than turning a crank by hand, sand is loaded into a hopper placed high within the automaton. When released, the sand turns a wheel (very much like a water wheel seen on the side of mills), that then powers the mechanism.

I had the good fortune to see a absolutely delightful sand powered automata form the 1700s recently. (More on this later, so stay tuned.)

Walter Ruffler is one of my fellow automata makers on display at the Charles Museum of Industry in Waltham, Massachusetts. Mr. Ruffler is one a very few masters of the paper automata. He has some recent versions of sand powered automata his site.

Though he has an English version of his site, I could only find the sand powered automata within the German version. There are animated GIF images to show the motions of each automaton.

See the Sand-powered paper automata by Walter Ruffler.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Mini Router Table Bargain @

As a follow up to my last post, I found this mini router table accessory for Dremel (or other) rotary tools. With the right 1/8" router bits,this tool turns your Dremel into a miniature shaper table for cutting grooves (dado), mouldings, sanding, and edging on small wood stock.

This is looks to be exactly the same as the one sold under the Dremel and Craftsman name, but for much less.

Check out this great deal on Mini rotary table at

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Rotary Tool Bargain @

I know I recommend Dremel tools on my site, but I guess I mean "Rotary Tools".

Here is a fantastic deal on Amazon for a Rotary Tool from GMC.

Look at what you get for less than $20:

  • Rotary tool
  • 40-piece accessory kit and wrench
  • 1.2 amp, variable-speed motor (15,000 to 35,000 rpm)
  • Lightweight, durable body with soft, rubber grip
  • Flexible shaft
  • Adjustable mounting stand
  • Case
  • 2-year warranty

I don't know too much about this brand, but it has great user reviews on Amazon. I do own a bench grinder of this make and it's doing great.

If you buy the Rotary Tool with something costing $5, you will also get free shipping.

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Faboulous Animals: Automata of Neil Hardy

Using wood, metal, paint, fleece and other materials, automaton-maker Neil Hardy illustrates the epic side of Nature while making powerful philosophical statements few would ever attempt.

I'm willing to bet that you will love his humorous animal-themed automata available on his site.

Learn more about the artist Neil Hardy.

Visit his gallery of Fabulous Animal automata.

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Saturday, January 06, 2007

Featured Maker: Thomas J. Kuntz

Here is the website of a truly talented automata maker -- Thomas J. Kuntz. The attention to detail is amazing as is the completeness of his artistic vision and craftsmanship.

He has several magic-themed automata, which automatically makes him one of my favorites.

From his web site:
Unlike the quaint automatons of old which usually served as cheeky entertainment and used "found" doll parts in the process in addition to the skills of many specialized artists to complete them. Kuntz does all the work himself to keep the focus and spirit of each piece as it was originally conceived. The focus is on sculpture and the mechanical contrivances are a means to a magickal end. His Personal works are often dark and satirical and are the only of their kind in the world. They have found their way into special collections around the world.

Visit the site of Thomas J. Kuntz

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Monday, January 01, 2007

Automaton-Maker: Don McGranaghan

Back in October of 2006, I posted about Don McGranaghan's Einstein Automaton. In the posted I wished that there were pictures to accompany the article.

The artist was kind enough to direct me to his web site -- McGranaghan's Artistic Resources -- where plenty of pictures can be found. The site features his other artistic pursuits including painting, sculpture, illustration, and architectural installations.


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