Saturday, June 30, 2007

Kangi Drawing Automaton (Karakuri Ningyo)

Watch this video of a kanji drawing automaton. The narration is in Japanese, but the footage is amazing in any language.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Automata / Automaton Blog Reviewed

The Automata / Automaton Blog has been reviewed on Intute -- an online service that provides access to web resources for education and research. The service is created by a network of UK universities and partners.

They give a good description of my personal site, and the resources I've referenced there. The also mention the blog, and I'm glad the word is getting out!

Check out listing of

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Featured Maker: David Archer

Automaton by David ArcherI encourage you to visit the web site of Australian artist, David Archer.

Like many automata makers, Archer is adept at combining humor with mechanics. He says on his site, "One of the rewards for me as an artist, is the chuckle someone has as they look into one of the little scenarios I have created!"

But, look a little closer and you will find some substantial themes in his work. He enjoys approaching social issues though humor.

I've had the pleasure of seeing some of his work first-hand, and he really has a wonderful, colorful style with great attention to detail.

Visit Archer's Arcadia online.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Diamond Sharpening System for $50!

Diamond Tri-Hone Sharpening System
Diamond Tri-Hone Sharpening SystemThis is a great product at full price ($70), but a GREAT deal at Rockler's current sale price of $50.

Diamond stones are effective, easy to care for, and last a long time. I've used a Smith Tri-Hone for years (pre-diamond version) and have always found the system to be convenient.

This 3-stone sharpening system features coarse and fine diamond stones and natural Arkansas stone for final finishing. You just flip the center element around to put the grit of your choice facing up.

Notice also, that the diamond face includes a micro-tool sharpening pad for small tools (such as carving tools). The set comes with a helpful little a helpful little angle guide and sharpening instructions.

Check out the Diamond Tri-Hone Sharpening System

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Looking and Pointing Automaton by Martin Smith

Check out this short video of one of Martin Smith's clockwork-driven automata. He has a great style, and he makes the most out of a simple motion in this peice.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Automaton of Nosferatu Rising from His Coffin

Take a look at this unconventional little wood automaton. The mechanism is housed in Nosferatu's coffin. This is a hand-held windup automaton. Clever!

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Fantastic Quadraped Robot Dog

You've got to check out this video of a dog-inspired robot. The video shows the robot covering all kinds of terrain. Most impressively, there are two spots in the clip where a person gives the robot a hard shove. I fully expected the thing to crash into the ground. But no! The robot instantly compensates and never falls.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Featured Automaton Maker: Virginio Moutinho

Virginio MoutinhoVirginio Moutinho is an amazingly talented Portuguese architect, toy collector, and mechanical sculptor. His web site features many wonderful contemporary automata.

Of particular interest is the sculpture section of his site. If you stay on the main page of the sculpture section you will see a montage of his automata sketches. Use the numbers, then right and left arrows in the lower right corner to browse through the images of his work.

See the automata of Virginio Moutinho. Please note: some of the automata are of adult themes.

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

New URL: now directs to The Automata / Automaton Blog

If you've ever had trouble remembering the URL for The Automata / Automaton Blog (, things just got easier.

I've secured a new domain name that will automatically forward you to the blog's current location. All your old bookmarks will still work because nothing has really moved. Think of this as a shortcut to the blog's home page.

The new URL is:

Thanks for visiting and thanks for all the great suggestions you have sent in!

Dug North

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Book: Creative Kinetics: Making Mechanical Marvels in Wood

It's almost to good to be true. Rodney Frost has not one, but two books on automata-making due to be released this year. As with, Making Mad Toys & Mechanical Marvels in Wood, I don't have much information yet.

From the publisher:
Artist, inventor, and longtime author Rodney Frost is known for wacky, whimsical woodworking books that encourage readers to experiment. With his newest, most creative volume yet, he provides an introduction to the wild and whimsical world of kinetic art—art that moves. Using plenty of informative sidebars and dynamic illustrations, Frost teaches the basic techniques in his own inimitable style, beginning with easy, fun projects like weather vanes and mobiles powered by air currents alone. Then it’s on to simple toys you manipulate with strings, and art mechanized by levers, cranks, cams, and cogs. Far from a routine woodworking book, Creative Kinetics will inspire even the least craft-minded reader to pick up some scissors and turn a tuna can into a propeller or cardboard into a jumping-jack.

Check out or pre-order Rodney Frost's Creative Kinetics: Making Mechanical Marvels in Wood

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

Book: Making Mad Toys & Mechanical Marvels in Wood

Making Mad Toys
Here is a new book from Rodney Frost, the same author who wrote one of my all-time top ranked wood automata-making books: Whacky Toys, Whirligigs & Whatchamacallits (see this post, for the other top ranked automata-making books).

This book is not available as of July 2007. I have ordered it, but cannot review it. A full review will be forthcoming as soon as I have the book. The fact that it contains plans almost ensures it will be in my list of top-rated books. Meanwhile, here is a blurb from the publisher...

From the publisher:
Rodney Frost's collection of playful mechanical contraptions will captivate anyone who operates them -- and they'll entice the creative woodworker too, because these whirligigs are as much fun to make as to maneuver. The secret to these movable marvels: propellers and other action-filled parts made from wood or metal. Full-size schematics and drawings, plus detailed written instructions, will guide woodworkers smoothly through building, carving, and assembling many enchanting projects!

Check out or pre-order Making Mad Toys & Mechanical Marvels in Wood

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

HiTec RoboNova-1: Robot, Toy, Automaton, Art?

I have been asked publicly and privately where I draw the line between robot and automaton. As of yet, I do not have a well-reasoned answer. I have also been asked about the line between objet d'art and toy. Again, my answer is a murky one.

While this blog isn't about robots, I have a great fondness for them; I have made a few myself. With all of this gray area, why not show you an autonomous toy robot?

This 12 inch tall mechanical man can walk, run, do flips, cartwheels, and perform dance moves. At $1300 (or $1000 for an unassembled kit version) one hesitates to call it a toy. Perhaps because it can be programmed, we would also hesitate to call it autonomous. Just because it is sold en masse, are there not elements that qualify as art?

All I feel certain of is that RoboNova-1 is a technological marvel. I have no doubt that watchmakers, engineers, magicians, and automaton-makers of old would have found this thing as fascinating as I do. I would love to have one (in order to do a proper review for you, of course).

Check out the HiTec RoboNova-1 at Edmund's Scientifics.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Nancy - The Knitting Woman Automaton Video

The good folks over at AutomatomaniA ( have started to post videos of pieces in their workshop -- mainly antiques. Check out this clip of an automaton featuring a woman knitting.

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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Paper Pirate Automaton

In keeping with all the pirate-based media in the air these days, you might want to check out this paper pirate automaton.

As with many of the models at, this is a die cut model for you to pop out and glue together. Follow the fully illustrated instructions and, with an evening or two of your time and some white glue you can have this delightful model for your collection.

Check out Jolly Roger, paper automaton at

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Book: 1800 Mechanical Movements, Devices and Appliances

I am always an the lookout for books featuring mechanical movements. Dover publishes one of my favorite little books on mechanisms: 507 Mechanical Movements in Dynamics, Hydraulics, Hydrostatics, Pneumatics, Steam Engines, Mill and Other Gearing.

Here is another Dover publication that boasts to represent 1800 mechanical movements. Needless to say, I just ordered it. I love how affordable the Dover books are!

There is a post on The Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society that has a great round-up of mechanical reference books. Be sure to read the reader comments for all the good sources cited.

Check out 1800 Mechanical Movements, Devices and Appliances (Dover Science Books)

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