Thursday, July 31, 2008

Photo Tour of the Vintage Toy Museum in Prague

Antique tin toy carpenters, Prague toy museum
In case you missed it the other day, posted about a wonderful flickr photograph set of The Toy Museum in Prague, Czech Republic know as Muzeum hraček.

Here's a link to the 37 image set of the Toy Museum.

Now for some attributions:
* Here is the post on the toy museum from
* Here is some info about Muzeum hraček
* Here is the original post on the Curious Expeditions blog

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Another Amazing Tin Toy Online Store

I posted a while back about The Wound & Wound Toy Company that sells wind-up and tin toys. A kindly reader shared another store with me that has an even bigger selection: Aaron's TinTinArcade

They specialize in tin toys, vintage gifts, and old fashioned wind up toys. They have carousels, circus toys, wind up animals, classic tin toy collectibles, robots, rockets, and retro Japanese reproductions.

Shown here is "Mr. D-Cell". The robot walks forward, then his upper body rotates around three times, and his chest panels open up to reveal guns that then start shooting!

Visit Aaron's TinTinArcade.

[ Thanks Shel! ]

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Video and Images of Wood Machine by Del Short

Wooden Machine Craftsman, Del Short
I posted recently about an amazing wooden machine. I've learned that Del Short is the unassuming master craftsman behind this piece that he describes as "a nutty device".

Not only is the entire device a marvel, but it's held together with pegs and threaded wooden dowels with wooden nuts. It is even built in components, so that it can be worked on in sections. Remarkable.

If the YouTube video didn't satisfy, here is a higher resolution video of Del's Amazing Wooden Machine.

Also, here is a link to a few large photographs of Del's machine, courtesy of Art Maddox.

If you want to get started with this sort of thing (on a more modest scale), check out these books:
* Making Mechanical Marvels In Wood
* Making Wooden Mechanical Models
* Making More Wooden Mechanical Models

[ Thanks Del and Art! ]

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How to Build a Simple Drill-Powered Wood Lathe

Build a Simple Drill-Powered Wood Lathe
I've posted in the past about a simple drill-powered lathe made by Gizzly. Here is a do-it-yourself version by Andrew Birkett. He made his lathe from two large bearings, some steel rod, a bit of steel plate, and a power drill. He's documented his entire build process in words and photographs.

Here's his page describing How to Build a Simple Drill-Powered Wood Lathe.

He also points out a really cool book on How to Build Your Own Metal Working Lathe, which is part of an entire series by Dave Gingery that walks you through how to create an entire machine shop from the scratch. An amazing accomplishment. When/if I have a large chunk of time, this is something I would love to to do. I picture casually saying to admirers, "Oh, that milling machine...yeah...I built it from scratch."

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Even More Animated Greeting Card Images

Hallmark has created a whole line of animated greeting cards that feature a little plastic crank mounted to the corner. When you turn the crank, the scene starts to move. Here a bunch of their new designs in this line. I posted about some of the other designs here and here.

Animated Yoga Greeting card
Figures doing Yogo

Sound and motion card of pirates
This one has sound and motion.

Schroeder and Snooopy card

Dog in front of fan card
Dog in front of fan card

Office themed birthday card
An office themed birthday card

Baseball pitcher animated card
Baseball pitcher winding up to throw

[ Thanks, again to Alan and Family! ]

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Paul Boyer Museum Of Animated Carvings

Paul Boyer Museum Of Animated CarvingsThe Paul Boyer Museum Of Animated Carvings is in Belleville, Kansas. The Museum has a web site with many photos and animated GIF images of the automata in action.

You can also see some of his available automata here. Shown at left is a piece entitled The Old Lamp Lighter.

Finally, he offers plans for creating an animated wooden dog automata that uses magnets and a small circuit board. This looks like a great project for people learning about electronics.

Visit the web page for The Paul Boyer Museum Of Animated Carvings.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Lathe Basics: History, Tools, and Safety Article

Photo of middle ages European pole-lathe in useHere is a great three page article covering the history of wood lathes, the tools currently used, and safety considerations.

From the article:
"One of the greatest features of turning is the chance to gain enough knowledge in short order to make finished projects in just a few hours--lathes give us the possibility of completing, including finish, many worthwhile projects inside a single evening. "

The article is courtesy of Woodcraft, who sells a full assortment of lathes, lathe tools, and lathe accessories.

Here is a link to the article on Turning Basics: History, Tools, and Safety.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Woodcraft Woodworking Store Sale Items

Woodcraft Woodworking Store Sale Items
Woodcraft is one of my favorite woodworking supply stores. They always have some sale items -- often several hundred. They sell some really high quality stuff like the Lie-Nielson bench plane shown above. (Sadly, this item is NOT on sale.)

They also have articles and videos to accompany many of the products they sell.

Visit Woodcraft's Sale Section to see what they've got.

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Amazing Wooden Machine Video with No Metals

With the exception of Brad Litwin's piece entitled Extra-Universal Movement, I don't know if I've seen such an elaborate hand-cranked wooden machine. This gentleman has constructed an amazing device using only wood and glue -- no nails, no screws or ball bearings. It is quite an achievement. It is my sincere hope I'm doing things like this at 70 years old. Bravo!

[ Thanks Falk! ]

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Video of Wooden Verge & Foliot Escapement

The other day, I posted a video clip of historian Simon Schaffer describing the development of mechanical clocks in Europe. While his explanation was clear enough, the video did not do justice to the particular mechanism about which he was speaking. Here is a nice clear video of a wooden Verge and Foliot clock escapement.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Miniature Singing Bird Box Automaton on eBay

Miniature Singing Bird Box Automaton
This is a handsome miniature singing bird automaton. It is small -- measuring just 4 1/4 x 2 1/2 x 1 3/4 inches!

When you slide a lever, the lid opens, the bird pops up and begins singing. The tiny bird moves its beak and turns its head. When it is done singing, the bird drops back down and the lid closes. These must have required some serious watch / clock making skills. Thought this type of automaton was made by many watch makers, the make on this one is not known.

Here is the eBay listing for this Singing Bird Box

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Three More Hand-Cranked Animated Cards

Hallmark (or the Shoebox division, rather) must be testing their excellent new line of hand-cranked animated greeting cards in different markets. The three shown below were not offered among the several that I bought in the Boston area. The cards also seem to vary quite a bit in terms of style and tone -- some retro, some contemporary, some cartoon, some photographs, some tame, and some raunchy.

Hallmark animated card, woman with twirling pasties
I believe the pasties twirl on this one.

Hallmark animated card, dancing cartoon woman
No, I don't know what this one says on the inside!

Hallmark animated card, woman with martini shaker
Back to retro with this one Martini maker

Some of the greeting cards have sound and motion, and some just have motion. These are of the motion-only variety.

[ Thanks Alan and Family! ]

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Player Piano Drawings, Rolls, Ads, and Music

Here is a nice video montage giving us a glimpse into the world of player pianos. The video shows various advertisements, punched rolls, and mechanical drawings of player piano mechanisms. The whole thing is set to a player piano playing "Putting on the Ritz".

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tin toys, Wind-up Toys, and Music Boxes Store

The Wound & Wound Toy Company has tons of great wind-up toys, tin toys, and music boxes. They have a very extensive product line, including the classic the string-climbing monkey for about $16 USD.

On the more exotic side, they even have a wind-up lithographed tin Boba Fett. Made in Japan and standing at about 9.5 inches tall, this one will set you back around $250 USD. This item is a bit of an exception; most of their products are very affordable.

Boba Fett Wind Up Tin Toy
A note about their site navigation: once you click on a given section (say "Tin Collectibles"), you need to go to the bottom of the page to find the link for the next set of items in that category. Look for the circles with numbers in them.

Check out all the wind-up toys, tin toys, and music boxes at The Wound & Wound Toy Company.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Self-Stabilizing Indoor Flying Saucer Toy

This remote-controlled UFO has four propellers that generate enough thrust to send the device into the air without needing to hand-launch it. It has built-in gyroscopic sensors that counterbalance and stabilize it automatically. This is supposed to make it very easy to fly. With practice you can use the Infrared remote control to make the UFO climb, descend, and hover in place from up to about 32 feet away.

Check out all the details of the easy to fly Remote Controlled Flying Saucer.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Annotated Video of Mechanical Music Machines

This video features a number of mechanical music devices from the London Musical Museum. The video uses YouTube's annotations function, which points out various facts and features of the machines, making it quite informative.

You can learn more about mechanical music machines from the book Encyclopedia of Automatic Musical Instruments by Q. David Bowers - a definitive reference on this subject.

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

German Clock-Maker Matthias Naeschke

German Clock-Maker Matthias Naeschke
If the sight of polished brass gears drives you insane (is it just me?), then you must to pay a visit to the web site of German clock maker Matthias Naeschke. I don't know how to read German, but I can tell you this: the pictures are beautiful. The site navigation is fairly deep, so keep clicking!

I am told he is one of the last makers of high-end flute clocks.

Visit the web site of Clock-maker Matthias Naeschke.

Update: I didn't realize this initially: they have an English version of their site.

[ Thanks Falk! ]

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Friday, July 18, 2008

10 Crazy Mechanical Burglar Alarm Devices of Old

10 Crazy Mechanical Burglar Alarm Devices of Old
You may not have caught the post about this on Boing Boing Gadgets earlier this week. This is a link to a collection of 10 interesting mechanical burglar alarms. Some of them are very inventive.

Check out this gallery of 10 unusual burglar alarms.

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Video Tour of Clayton Boyer Wooden Gear Clocks

In this video, wooden clock designer Clayton Boyer takes you on a tour of his wild and beautiful assortment of clock designs.

See all of his designs at Clayton Boyer Clock Designs.

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Canoeing Man Wood Automaton

Here is a wood automaton of a man in a canoe by Stuart Chalmers. You can see that the mechanism is made up of just a crank shaft. It's hard to make out, but the crank arms are shaped like fish.

I very much like the use of contrasting woods for the mechanism and the box.

You can see a few other automata by Stuart Chalmers on his web site.

[ Thanks Falk! ]

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Pocket Watch Contains a Functioning Gun Inside

Pocket Watch Contains a Functioning Gun Inside
In case you missed this over at blog today, follow the link below to find about more.

Here's the post about the Antique railroad pocket watch with hidden gun.

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Video of Clever Mechanical Matchstick Lighter

While not as complex as this match-lighting alarm clock, check out this simple, but effective little device for lighting a wooden match.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Video of Internal Mechanism of Animated Card

I posted recently about a the internal mechanism of a Hallmark animated greeting card. Here is a (very) short video of the card internal mechanism in action.

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Simon Schaffer on the History of Mechancial Clocks

Standing beside a reconstructed wooden clock, historian Simon Schaffer discusses the development of the first purely mechanical clocks in Europe in the late 1200s and early 1300s. The clocks in question used an escapement known as the Verge and Foliot, which can be seen above and below the bell to his left.

Read what Simon Schaffer has to say about automata in his article on "Enlightenment Automata" in the book The Sciences in Enlightened Europe.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

New pieces from Gina Kamentsky on Display

Gina Kamentsky's Go Go ChickenToday, Tuesday July 15th 2008, Gina Kamentsky will be installing 3 new pieces in her Fuller Craft Museum show entitled Mechanical Confections, which runs through November 9th, 2008.

Gina Kamentsky -- sculptor, animator, designer and teacher -- has spent most of her life creating objects and media for the amusement of children and adults. In this exhibition, she combines fantasy and reality in one-of-a-kind mechanical toys and kinetic sculptures.

Here is a link more information on her show Gina Kamentsky: Mechanical Confections.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Hallmark Hand-Cranked Animated Card Dissected

Not long ago, I posted about Hallmark's new line of animated greeting cards. I bought a few, but didn't have the heart to dissect them. Fortunately for us, master papercraft artist and Retroscope creator Joe Freedman wasn't squeamish. Here are some of his photographs showing the internal mechanism of one of the cards. All images courtesy of Joe Freedman of The Sarabande Press.
Hallmark Hand-Cranked Animated Card Dissection 1
Hallmark Hand-Cranked Animated Card Dissection 2
Hallmark Hand-Cranked Animated Card Dissection 3
Hallmark Hand-Cranked Animated Card Dissection 4
Hallmark Hand-Cranked Animated Card Dissection 5
Hallmark Hand-Cranked Animated Card Dissection 6
Hallmark Hand-Cranked Animated Card Dissection 7
Hallmark Hand-Cranked Animated Card Dissection 8
Hallmark Hand-Cranked Animated Card Dissection 9
Hallmark Hand-Cranked Animated Card Dissection 10
Hallmark Hand-Cranked Animated Card Dissection 11
Hallmark Hand-Cranked Animated Card Dissection 12
Thanks again to Joe Freedman -- creator of innovative dimensional graphics -- for these images.

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Air Powered and Air Flight Mechanical Toys

Air Powered and Air Flight Mechanical Toys
Can you believe it? Another new section for the The Automata / Automaton Store. The new section features air-powered toys and various flying toys.

Some of the neat items include:
* X2 Power Flyer kite/glider hybrid
* Propeller-powered trike kit
* Flying Robotic DragonFly
* Easy Star Electric, RC Airplane

Check out these and dozens of other air toys in the new Air Toys store section today!

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Brad Litwin, Kinetic Sculpture Talk in Philadelphia

Brad Litwin, Kinetic Scupture Talk in Philadelphia
Kinetic sculptor and automaton artist Brad Litwin, who I posted about here and here, will be speaking about his kinetic sculptures on Sunday, July 13th in Philadelphia at The University of the Arts, 333 S. Broad Street, Anderson Hall, 4th Floor. While the talk is free(a $5 donation is suggested), an RSVP is required. Send email with first and last name to

This info comes to us via the MAKE Magazine blog.

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Beautiful Karl Griesbaum Singing Bird Automaton

Karl Griesbaum Singing Bird Cage Automaton
This is a very nice example of a singing bird automaton by German maker Karl Griesbaum from the 1920s or 1930s.

From the eBay listing:
"Domed brass cage on a circular drum base with original gold finish. The bird, with real feathers of yellow and black, on a T-shaped perch, is posed in a bocage of leaves made of fabric complete with the traditional miniature Black Forest red toadstool. The bird's head swivels, its tail flutters up and down and its beak opens and closes in time to the song which is a complex and long sequence of warbles and trills and whistles like a nightingale."

Here is the eBay listing for the Karl Griesbaum Singing Bird Cage Automaton.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Working Rack-and-Pinion Paper Model

Working Rack-and-Pinion Paper Model
Yet another cool mechanical paper model from the good folks at Flying-Pig Animation Kits. Shown here is the brand new Rack-and-Pinion model.

The is a downloadable kit that you cut out and make. Once you've payed online, you print out the pages of this model onto thin card stock paper, follow the illustrated instructions and make your a working model.

You can get this model individually or as part of their 'Gears Collection' package deal.

For those in the U.S.A., don't worry about the prices being in Great British Pounds, PayPal will convert the Pounds into Dollars for you.

Here is a link to a page with the Rack-and-Pinion paper model.

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Animated Movie Praxinoscope Replica Kit

Animated Movie Praxinoscope Replica Kit
Somebody forgot to tell me, but I guess it's Mechanical Animation Week here at The Automata / Automaton Blog. Following yesterday's post about the Retroscope and Thaumatrope machines, we've stumbled upon another form of motion picture device. Shown here is an animated movie Praxinoscope replica kit. The Praxinoscopic looks a bit like a refinement of the Zoetrope.

This little working replica is about 6 inches tall with a 5 inch diameter platform to hold the circular movie sheets. It comes with a few ready-made movies and a few blank sheets to try your hand at animation/early-movie-making. A 10-sided mirrored reflector is viewed through a frame to see the animated images right-side up.

I found this on, but nobody there seems to have reviewed it yet. It certainly looks like fun! If you drop the $12.50 for this gizmo, let us know how you like it.

Here's the product page for the Animation Praxinscope.

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Build This Motorized Paper Horse Automaton

Head on over to the MAKE magazine blog to get all the details for building this animated running paper horse automaton.

The Kinetic Horse is available in kit form which can purchased the on the Clockwork Robot website.

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Retroscope: Hand-cranked Paper Movies

Retroscope - Hand-cranked Paper Movies
Retroscopes are hand-cranked looped flip books. When you turn the crank, the pages are flipped rapidly and you see the series of still images spring to life. The reels are removable so you can get extra movies. The company that makes them says they are producing new movies all the time. They even make custom movies for companies and individuals.

The same folks also have a hand-cranked 'Thaumatrope Mechanique' which uses a similar principle, but only two alternating images. Though it uses only two images, the effect is impressive, nonetheless.

Visit The Sarabande Press web site to see several videos of Rotoscope paper movies in action and the related Thaumatrope Mechanique animation device.

[ Thanks bhaaluu! ]

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