Sunday, December 30, 2007

Featured Artist: Kristine Suhr

Check out the clever mechanical paintings of artist Kristine Suhr.
This piece, entitled Meeting, is over a meter wide. When the viewer turns the crank on the front the figures move. Mouths open, heads nod, fingers tap, and the man in the front rocks the chair with his foot.

I saw some animated vintage portraits at a recent auction. So while the idea of animated paintings has been around a while, Kristine Suhr has a playful, distinctive, modern style. Clever stuff and lots of fun!

Visit Kristine Suhr's nicely constructed web site to see this and many other works. [Thanks Falk!]

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Make A Lathe Out Of Your Drill Press

Some time ago, I posted about an accessory to convert your power drill into a small lathe.

I was visiting the toolmonger site the other day when I saw this tool which looks like a far more robust option if you already own (or plan to own) a drill press.

This accessory sold by Grizzly allows you to turn a multi-speed drill press into a vertically oriented lathe. What a great idea! It looks like it would be fairly easy to setup and change from drill press mode to lathe mode.

A 12" tool rest allows a maximum work piece length of 24" -- if you reverse the piece to work on the other end. The set includes a base plate with live center, 12" tool rest, mounting bolts, mini screw center, and spur center. It fits all drill presses with a through hole in the table. All of this for about $20. Wow.

Take a look at this Lathe Attachment for Drill Press.

You may want to take look at this highly-rated set of lathe chisels to complete your new setup.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Automata -- for Education, for a Cause

I have been known to speak about the playful aspects of contemporary automata. This is not to say they cannot be used to make specific social, economic, or political statements.

Take, for example, this exhibit held a few years ago entitled: Against the idea of war.

From the Site:
In December 2002 the Modern Automata Museum in Montopoli near Rome asked automata artists to join a touring exhibition with the theme "Against the idea of war". 14 international artists from England, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan have made up 15 mechanical sculptures. All sculptures are movable and are driven by an electric engine which is controlled by a motion detector. When a visitor steps in front of the sculpture the mechanism starts moving.

This exhibit reminds us that automata are a form of art -- and art often has something very profound to say.

Visit the online exhibit Against the idea of war

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Automaton Artist: Philip Lowndes

Here is a work in progress by UK based automata maker Philip Lowndes. Entitled, Quiet contemplation of a sandwich, it is an impressive bit of work.

The boy looks around, as if surveying the scene, occasionally takes a bite of his sandwich and chews it. The other hand moves up to scratch the boy's head occasionally. There is an impressive amount of subtle motion and some well-timed actions in this piece.

A video clip is can be viewed here.

I cannot wait to see the finished piece. It looks like it will be charming.

Visit the web site of Philip Lowndes to see this and other pieces.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Unpowered Walkers and Hoppers

These clever devices, created by Peter Steinkamp, explore gravity-powered step-by-step locomotion.

There are eight videos on his site, showing a variety of inventive models that use this form of movement.

One of the creator's future goals is to incorporate what was learned from these working models into a passive bipedal robot.

Check out these fascinating gravity-powered walkers and hoppers.

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Zelinsky Collection Viewable on DVD

The Musée Mécanique, located in San Francisco, is a collection of hundreds of musical and mechanical machines. It is certainly worth a visit.

If you can't visit San Francisco any time soon, there is still a way for you to see this amazing collection: The Musée Mécanique presents The Zelinsky Collection DVD.

This 68 minute video is hosted by the man who assembled the collection, Edward Zelinsky. Mr. Zelinsky takes the viewer on a one-on-one tour of The Musée telling you a bit about each machine, where it came from, and how it was acquired.

Some of the machines the viewer will see on this DVD include:

* Many orchestrians and nickelodeons
* A beautiful mechanical horse
* Fortune telling machines
* Mechanical games
* A large and detailed carnival scene
* A vast barnyard scene with dozens of animated figures
* Funny scenes like a drunkard in a graveyard

Viewers also get to see some of the mechanisms that power these marvelous machines.

Overall, the lighting and camera-work are well done. This DVD is the next best thing to visiting the museum itself.

The video is something of a tribute to a man that truly loved coin-operated machines. We are in Edward Zelinsky's debt for assembling this collection and for ensuring that the machines continued to function. His son, Daniel Zelinsky, now oversees the exhibit. Thanks to these men visitors today can drop a coin into these machines -- as people have for decades -- to see what mechanical magic they perform.

Here is where you can purchase The Musée Mécanique presents The Zelinsky Collection DVD.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Laughing Santa Paper Automaton Kit Download

In time for the holidays, here is an paper animation kit you can download, cut-out, and glue together. This comes to us from the fine folks at who offer paper animation kits of every sort.

Each kit comes with instructions and requires you to have Adobe Acrobat (which is free). You can pay the modest price for the kit with Paypal or a credit card. Then download the file, print it on card stock, and you are ready to start building!

Check out the Laughing Santa Paper Animation Kit.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

The Shadow Automata of Emmanuel Cottier

Dedicated reader of The Automata / Automaton Blog and kinetic sculpture expert, Falk Keuten, has offered some additional information on The Musee National De Monaco.

He tells me that there they had on display a mechanical shadow theater by the artist Emmanuel Cottier -- Swiss clockmaker who worked in Carouge, near Geneva.

The exhibit documented in photographs and posted online is from an earlier exhibition at the museum of Carouge near Geneva. The mechanisms are fascinating. The text is in French. For non-French speakers, simply follow the link in the lower right labeled "Pour voir la suite..."

Enjoy the Shadow Automata of Emmanuel Cottier.
[Thanks Falk!]

You can learn more about this collection at The Musee National De Monaco from the book: The Mechanical Dolls of Monte Carlo

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Dug North, Kircher Society Resident Automatist

I consider it an honor and privilege to have recently been bestowed with a title.

I have been named Kircher Society Resident Automatist by the esteemed members of The Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society.

For the unfamiliar, here is some information about the fascinating Athanasius Kircher and the mission of The Society chartered to perpetuate his inquisitive spirit.

My first official duty has been to compile a list of books essential to those interested in automata. The Society has just published the list of essential automata books here.

Each book is listed in the standard format for MLA citations and includes my short description of the work. While not exhaustive, I believe it embodies a well-rounded education in the art, science, and history of automata.

Visit the Kircher Society Essential Library of Automata.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Contruction Toys for the Holidays...or Anytime!

A entire section of construction toys has been added to The Automata / Automaton Store!

There are toys by the best brands such
* Erector Sets
* Lego
* Lego Mindstorms
* K'nex
* Snap Circuits
* Capsela

Also, for the advanced builder, there is a very cool Robot Kits section.

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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Musee National De Monaco - Automata Collection

A reader of The Automata / Automaton Blog has kindly directed me to a fantastic museum with automata.

If you find yourself in the south of France and like automata, the Musee National De Monaco is an incredible museum.

They have a collection of Parisian automata from the latter half of the 19th Century.

I am told they offer a tour in which the guide operates many of the automata for visitors.

Visit the web site for the Musee National De Monaco.

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