Tuesday, September 30, 2008

MicroFly - Tiny Remote Control Flying Saucer

This MUST be the smallest flying remote controlled toy currently available.

A single propeller on the bottom allows the MicroFly to hover in the air, but limits your control to up-and down movements only. The good news is this makes it dead-simple to fly. The other cool thing you can do is buy a bunch of them and use one remote to control an entire swarm of these little marvels.

The MicroFly Tiny R/C Hovering UFO is available at ThinkGeek.com.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Photos of Automata in Paul Spooner's Tribute

Paul Spooner: A Cheap Automata Shop
Our colleagues and friends over at the blog Spiel und Kunst mit Mechanik have directed me to a massive picture pool of automata by dozens of artists that participated in the exhibit celebrating Paul Spooner.

Paul Clarke, and his mother Margery Clarke, operate "The First Gallery" in Southampton, England. The assemblage of photos is by Paul Clarke and is located on the Gallery's website.

Visit the Paul Spooner Tribute Exhibit photograph page.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Life, Love, Death Automaton by Paul Spooner

An automaton triptych depicting the phases of life. I don't want ruin the experience by saying too much. Note: This video is rated PG-13 for some adult themes (nothing overly graphic, mind you).

See more of Paul Spooner's work at Cabaret Mechanical Theatre.

Spooner's Moving Animals or the Zoo of Tranquillity
If you love Paul Spooner's work as much as I do, you might like his book: Spooner's Moving Animals or the Zoo of Tranquillity which is an assortment of printed paper patterns and parts, with instructions for cutting and assembling a variety of animals and machines that move.

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Steve Gerberich: Springs Sprockets & Pulleys

Steve Gerberich: Springs Sprockets & PulleysIf you will be in Iowa between September to December 2008, check out the exhibit of the work of Steve Gerberich at the Waterloo Center for the Arts. Made from old machines, kitchen utensils, junk, lighting fixtures, medical supplies, toys, and figurines, his work blends mechanical motion and keen inventiveness.

See more kinetic sculpture by Steve Gerberich on his web site.

This news comes to us by way of a Cabaret Mechanical Theatre blog.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Tom Haney Exhibit Opens Today in Atlanta

A reminder: Tom Haney's new show opens today September 26th, 2008 at Mason Murer Fine Art in Atlanta!

Get the details at the Mason Murer Fine Art.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Interview with Amy Jenkins, Toy Designer & Artist

Plush robots by Amy JenkinsAmy Jenkins has been involved with industrial grade design and fabrication for years and is currently developing a studio in California where she can explore ideas for toy design and production. Shown here are are her some of her plush robot creations.

She recently did an interview with the San Francisco chapter of Bizaar Bizarre and was kind enough to mention The Automata / Automaton blog.

Check out some of Amy's many, many creations at the Cozy Rampage blog.

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The Masterful Balboa Park Carousel Egg

The Balboa Park Carousel Egg -- the fifth such egg completed by J. Grahl Design -- is a precise miniature reproduction of the Balboa Park Carousel. The egg features some 56 hand-carved carousel animals, detailed paintings, lights, and decorative trimmings.

18 years in the making, J. Grahl Design commissioned a team of master jewelers, machinists, wax carvers, crystal experts, sculptors, artists, and woodworkers to construct the egg.

Even the music mechanism was created by hand -- and when wound, plays a repertoire of 20 songs from the late 1890s. This fantastic piece weighs in at 80 pounds and with its base and music stand, reaches a height of 27 inches.

The egg is composed of nearly 5,000 parts of an astonishing variety of fine materials including:

* 22 Karat gold used for the outer decorative embellishments
* 20 carats of very high quality diamonds
* Platinum used for setting all diamonds
* Sterling silver overlaid with 18K gold for the base of the egg shell
* Lead Crystal - optical grade
* Brass, and bronze, cast iron, stainless and carbon steels
* Bird's eye maple

To view more work by J. Grahl visit Jgrahldesign.com.

[ Thanks Nick! ]

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Article on "Automata: A Fascinating Woodcraft"

Charles Mak is a woodworker, automaton-maker, writer, and true friend of The Automata / Automaton Blog. The first of his two-part article on automata is now available online at the Lee Valley Tools web site.

In the article, the author describes contemporary automata, gives an overview of their history, and introduces the reader to the process of making wood automata. He concludes this first installment with some great suggestions for further reading and some useful online resources. Stay tuned for the second part of the article in an upcoming woodworking newsletter!

Here is the link to the article Automata: A Fascinating Woodcraft, by Charles Mak.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Mechanical Haunted Bookshelf Halloween Prop

Motorized Haunted Bookshelf Halloween Prop
Here's a clever, subtle Halloween or haunted house effect in which books on a bookshelf move in and out as if on their own.

Product Description
Spookify your library shelves with this haunting collection of books. Books move forward and back on a black wooden base. Requires AC power. Sizes and titles of books will vary. Bookshelf is also available in white!

Visit Fright Catalog to see their huge selection of animatronic Halloween props.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Paper Engineering & Pop-ups for Dummies Book

Great News! A brand new book from Rob Ives -- master of paper automata and engineering -- is due out early next year.

From the Book Description:
Paper Engineering & Pop-ups For Dummies covers a wide range of projects, from greeting cards to freestanding models. Easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions and dozens of accompanying diagrams help readers not only to complete the diverse projects in the book, but also master the skills necessary to apply their own creativity and create new projects, beyond the book's pages.

This is sure to be a great resource for anyone interested in making automata, paper or otherwise. A satisfying art in itself, paper engineering can also be a great method of learning about automata or testing designs before creating them in wood or metal.

Check out Paper Engineering & Pop-ups For Dummies by Rob Ives.

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Incredible Grasshopper Clock - The Corpus Clock

Incredible Grasshopper Clock - The Corpus ClockThis mechanical clock was unveiled at the University of Cambridge last Friday. Cosmologist Stephen Hawking was there to introduce what is know as "The Corpus Clock".

The clock was created by horologist John Taylor. He designed the timepiece as a tribute to English clock maker John Harrison, inventor of the first viable marine chronometer. If you want to learn more about Harrison, I recommend Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time.

The Corpus Clock has slits cut into its face behind which blue lights indicate the hour, minute, and second. On top of the clock is a mechanical grasshopper-like creature named "chronophage," meaning "time eater". The creature eats away the minutes with its moving jaws as the minutes advance toward it.

Here is an article on the clock. Here is another article on The Corpus Clock at Wikipedia.

Here is a video of the Corpus Clock.

[ Thanks Art! Thanks Aaron! ]

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Sterling Silver Automaton Bird Music Box

Sterling Silver Automaton Bird Music Box
Made around 1950 in Germany, here is a gorgeous singing bird box with a tobacco compartment hidden in the back.

When you activate the start knob the lid opens and a little bird pops up. The bird then turns left and right opens its beak, flapping its wings, and sings a song. At the end of the song, the bird returns to the box and the lid automatically snaps closed. These things are truly marvelous.

Check out 10 detailed photographs of the silver singing bird automaton music box on the eBay listing.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Reuge Musical Alarm Pocket Watch with Automata

Reuge Musical Alarm Pocket Watch with Automata
Take a look at this beautiful pocket watch by famed music box maker, Reuge.

This entirely mechanical pocket watch features the an alarm that uses an internal music box to play "Oh what a beautiful morning". The face of the watch also features three moving automata.

The man on the horse moves his arm up and down, the horse lowers its head to drink the water and the lady operates the pump. In a very nice bit of detail, the water itself can be seen flowing from the pump into the basin.

The watch comes with its original box and key -- a Breguet ratchet style and is used to wind up the music box. There is also a button on the back that will start and stop the music and automata.

Here is the complete eBay listing with many more nice photographs of the musical alarm pocket watch with automata by Reuge

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Interview - Arthur Ganson's Influence on 2nd Artist

Jeff Lieberman is a musician, photographer, and robotics expert. He is also the host of "Time Warp" -- a show on the Discovery Channel. He speaks about his encounter as a teenager with the work of Arthur Ganson during this Studio 360 interveiw. This a very nice, candid take on a talented artist by another artist.

Here is the interview for you to hear:

[ Thanks Aaron! ]

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Video Details of Hank-cranked Songbird Serinette

I posted recently about the DIY Programmable Bird Song Organ from Gakken. Here's an other video which has a short montage at the beginning to give you a sense for the parts and pieces of the kit. It then goes on to show you a guy tuning the various pipes of the serinette.

You can buy the Gakken Bird Song Organ from The Japan Trend Shop.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Let's Put Boyer's Automata on the Map in Kansas!

The Boyer Museum of Animated Carvings is a finalist for the 8 Wonders of Kansas Art title because of more than 65 motion displays including hand-carved figurines made by Kansas artist Paul Boyer.

The Boyer Museum of Animated Carvings in Belleville, KS is owned and operated by Paul Boyer's daughters, Ann and Candy. Some days Paul is in the museum tuning up his displays. Paul's wish for the future is to keep his collection together where people can see it and enjoy it. Let's help them out by voting for them!

You do not need to be from Kansas to vote. You can vote 3 times using the same e-mail address. You will need to vote for 7 other nominees in addition to your vote for the Boyer Museum of Animated Carvings. Voting ends October 15, 2008.

Vote for The Boyer Museum of Animated Carvings to be one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas Art.

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Cat-A-Pults: Chain-reaction Toy by Arthur Ganson

Designed by celebrated mechancial artist, Arthur Ganson, the Cat-A-Pult is a new interactive, chain-reaction toy.

Each Cat-A-Pult can be adjusted to throw the included foam cats from one to six feet. With each set you get 5 catapults, 10 Cats, and instruction booklet with games and activities.

You design the layout of the Cat-A-Pults, set them up and adjust them to fly from room to room or contained on a table. This toy is not only a great idea but has great potential to be combined with other chain reaction toys like dominoes and marble-run tracks.

You can get the Cat-a-Pult from HandsOnToys.

Cat-a-Pult miniature cat flinging gun
Note: This new chain-reaction mechanical toy is not to be confused with the similarly named Cat-A-Pult, miniature cat flinging gun made by the great novelty company called Accoutrements.

What is it about flying cats that is so compelling? We may never know.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

DIY Programmable Bird Song Organ from Gakken

I posted some time ago about a programmable punch-card music box that uses paper sheets you punch yourself and the Gloggomobile -- it's upscale cousin that plays a Glockenspiel based on the placement of pegs you arrange on a wooden cylinder.

 Programmable Bird Song Organ from Gakken
Here is another addition to the family of programmable mechanical music devices: the Gakken Bird Song Organ.

This kit provides everything you need to program a small hand-cranked chirping song bird organ. Another amazing kit from Gakken.

Here is a link to another video of the Programmable Bird Song Organ performing Amazing Grace.

You can buy the Gakken Bird Song Organ from The Japan Trend Shop.

[ More info on the MAKE Magainze Blog ]

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Spooner's First Puppet to Swim the Channel

From the wonderful mind of Paul Spooner, we have an automaton in which a figure is controlling a swimming marionette. There is something delightfully reflexive in an automaton figure manipulating a puppet figure. You -- as the user of the automaton -- are animating them both...which leads to even deeper questions.

Keep your eyes open at the end of the video to see the ingenious profile-cam used to make the swimmer's arms move.

See more of Paul Spooner's Automata at The Cabaret Mechanical Theatre web site.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hand-Cranked Wimshurst Electrostatic Generator

Hand-Cranned Wimshurst Electrostatic Generator
This working model of a Wimshurst Electrostatic Generator is mounted on a wooden base and stands 15" tall.

The Wimhurst type of generator consists of two circular plastic plates, which rotate in opposite directions by a hand-cranked belt drive mechanism. On each disc are pieces of metal foil, which both generate and carry small charges of electricity. Brushes on the front and back distribute the charges to a Leyden Jar, which stores the charge like a modern capacitor.

As the plastic discs revolve, a high voltage spark will jump between the electrodes when they are brought close together. Cool!

Here is the Wimshurst Electrostatic Generator available at Edmund Scientifics.

If you would rather build your own Wimshurst generator you will want the book: Homemade Lightning: Creative Experiments in Electricity.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Kazu Harada's Very Accurate Cat Automaton

You'll have to play the video to see why I say that this automaton of a cat is a fine piece of portraiture. I think this is a case of is art imitating life, but it could be the other way around!

See more of Kazu Harada's Automatons (or automata) at http://nizo.jp/

[ Thanks Sarah! ]

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

New Great Video of Giant Spider, La Princesse

This footage of the enormous mechanical spider recently on the move in Liverpool, England was filmed and edited by Giselle Leeb.

Watch the giant spider of Liverpool arrive at the city hall, wake up after a sleep and, in a nice bit of dramatically sped up footage, crawl up a building to rest.

La Princesse was created by a French company, La Machine, as part of the Liverpool European Capital of culture programme.

[ Thanks Giselle! ]

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Animated Paper Shark Automaton Download Kit

Animated Paper Shark Automaton Download Kit
The AquaShark Automata is an new animated paper automaton kit from the folks at CeraCera. This is a downloadable kit that will cost you about $5 U.S. dollars. The model looks to have a very nice, subtle motion. Paper automaton makers amaze me in what they can do.

Check out the Animated Paper Shark Automaton Download Kit

For a really well-done printed book that allows you to make four complete paper automata, check out Paper Automata: Four Working Models to Cut Out & Glue Together.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Gina Kamentsky Films and Mechanical Art Demo

Coke Buddha by Gina Kamentsky
This Sunday, September 14th at 2:00PM, artist Gina Kamentsky will be at the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, MA (USA) presenting a line up of her animated film work, followed by a live and kicking demonstration of Mechanical Confections sculptures in the gallery. Shown here is her wind up sculpture titled Coke Buddha.

Among the films she will be presenting is Einstein's Riddle which recently won Best Narrative Short at Animation Block Party in New York. Congrats!

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Reader Contribution: All Work and No Play

We haven't posted a reader-made automaton in a while, so here is the latest from dedicated reader of the The Automata / Automaton Blog, Tony Anagnostopoulos. This one is titled All Work and No Play. Keep up the good work -- and remember to play!

If you would like to learn more about making you own wood automaton, check out the book section of The Automata / Automaton Store.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Nemo Gould: New Robot Art @Nemomatic.com

New Robot Work by Nemo Gould
The fantastically talented robotic sculptor, Nemo Gould, has just added some new work to his online portfolio.

You can also catch up on his news page to read about the process behind these pieces, as well as various other things such as studio visits with fellow artists, photos from his recent openings, and more.

Visit Nemo Gould's Portfolio page for the latest additions. Here is the link to his News page.

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Handsome Functional Desktop Sterling Engine

Invented in 1816 by the Reverend Dr. Stirling, the Stirling engine is powered by the expansion and compression of air when heated and cooled. This functional desktop model is handmade in Germany.

From the product description:
The unit has a solid brass body and a glass cylinder and piston that are designed to minimize friction. The alcohol burner heats the glass tube, causing the air inside to expand and push the horizontal piston towards the chamber. This movement displaces some of the warm air into the metal chamber where it continues to expand, forcing the vertical piston upward. The pistons are connected to the flywheel with a system of levers and pulleys, causing the flywheel to spin up to 5,000 RPM and enabling the sequence to repeat until the flame is put out.

Here is the product page for The Desktop Stirling Engine.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Giant Mechanical Spider on the Move in Liverpool

Giant Mechanical Spider Spotted in Liverpool
Obviously, I've been busy if I missed this on the web a few days ago. Check out this giant mechanical spider that crept down the streets of Liverpool, England. I don't have an adjective in my vocabulary to describe how amazing this is as an artistic and technical accomplishment.

Here is a link to a flickr set of photos that captured the event.

[ Found via Make blog, who credits the BBC coverage. Also found via the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre blog coverage. ]

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The Spaghetti Eater Automaton by Paul Spooner

Here is a Paul Spooner classic entitled The Spaghetti Eater.

See this and other Paul Spooner automata at the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre online shop.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Air Hogs Zero Gravity Wall Climbing R/C Car

Spotted today on BoingBoing.net (and to them by way of Geekologie) -- the Air Hogs Zero Gravity Micro RC Car. It runs on (flat) walls and even under tables by using a powerful mini-vacuum. It runs for about 10 minutes after about 30 minutes of charging. Have the laws of physics changed since I was a kid? They seem cooler now and capable of much more!

Check out the Air Hogs Zero Gravity Micro RC Car.

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Remote Control Jousting Knights Set Toy

Remote Control Jousting Knights Set
This looks like fun...two small remote control knights on horseback. The idea is to dislodge your foe from his horse by ramming him with your blunted lance.

Here is the link for more info on the Remote Control Jousting Knights set

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Antique Rotating Stand with Combined Music Box

Antique Rotating Stand with Combined Music Box
Here is a very interesting piece from the 1800's made by Kalliope Musik Werke of Leipzig, Germany. The device features a stand in the center that rotates when the the spring wound mechanism is activated. Because you can place anything you like on the stand, it is very flexible in how it may be used. On the stand, one may place a figurine (as shown here), seasonal items, holiday-related items, special occasion items, or prized possessions. There is also a fine music box inside the box that plays 7 inch kalliope discs.

Here is the full listing for the Antique Rotating Stand with Combined Music Box.

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Sunday, September 07, 2008

New Edition of Tiger Tamer by Frank Nelson

New Edition of Tiger Tamer by Frank NelsonThis is a new improved version of the Tiger Tamer automaton originally produced by Frank Nelson in the 1970's. In this version, the tiger moves independently of the platform on which he is standing. There will only be 5 of this run made.

From the Description:
"When you turn the handle you will see the Tamer crack his whip once, only for the Tiger to refuse the command by shaking his head. This is repeated on the second crack of the Tamer's whip. On the third and final crack of the whip, the Tiger nods his head in acceptance and then does his trick by swiveling around to put his head in the Tamer's mouth."

Here is the link to the listing for Frank Nelson's New Tiger Tamer Automaton.

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Saturday, September 06, 2008

Article on the Exhibit Celebrating Paul Spooner

Article on the Exhibit Celebrating Paul Spooner
The eminent automaton artist, Paul Spooner, will be honored in an exhibit featuring his work and the work of dozens of other automaton makers. This is sure to be an amazing exhibit.

They will also be devoting a portion of the space to honor Sam Smith (1908 - 1983), a sculptor whose work inspired Paul Spooner, Peter Markey, Frank Nelson, and many others to become automaton makers.

The exhibit will be at The First Gallery in Southampton.

Here is a link to the article on the exhibit to honor Paul Spooner's 60th Birthday. Here is a link to the image gallery of automata to be shown in the exhibit.

Found via Spiel und Kunst mit Mechanik

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Friday, September 05, 2008

New Blog: "Play and Art with Mechanics"

Spiel und Kunst mit MechanikI am please to inform you that Hanns-Martin Wagner and Falk Keuten -- both experts on mechanical sculpture -- have started a new blog entitled "Spiel und Kunst mit Mechanik" which translates roughly as "Play and Art with Mechanics".

They plan to feature content about all things related to mechanical toys and Kinetic Art including: automata, machine art, outsider art with mechanical actions, whirligigs, rolling ball sculptures, nonsense machines (like Rube Goldberg machines), chain reactions, the history of machines, sound sculptures, mechanical music, coin operated machines, vending machines, and paper engineering.

Sounds delightful!

Here is a link to Spiel und Kunst mit Mechanik (Play and Art with Mechanics).

[ Congratulations Hanns-Martin and Falk! ]

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Chaos Tower: Marble-Run Toy of Doom

The Chaos Tower
Perhaps this construction toy is somewhat misnamed. I mean, just look at that Lord of Anarchy in the sweater-vest and all the havoc and mayhem he is engaged in.

Despite the ambitious name, The Chaos Tower does look like good clean fun. I would wager that the laws of motion are strictly obeyed when you launch the balls into whatever marble-maze you may construct with this kit. It comes with a small outlet-powered motor to set any number of diabolical doomsday devices into motion.

Winner of numerous toy, parenting and teacher awards -- including "Toy of the Year", "Parents' Choice" and "Teachers' Choice" -- their product tag line is...and I'm not making this up...Bring on the chaos and bring on the fun.

So be it, then. Check out the Chaos Tower and bring on the chaos!

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

New Wood Automata Kits in the Automata Store

Pathfinders wood automaton kits
The Automata / Automton Store now offers two additional wood automata kits from Pathfinders. Like all Pathfinder's educational kits, these are very carefully designed and sure to please.

The Pathfinders Automata kits are made with natural, untreated pine. They can be painted or decorated and will last for many years. The Pathfinders Automata come with complete instructions and are recommended for ages 9 and up. They require only white glue, scissors, and a ruler for assembly.

Here is the link for the Pathfinder's Running Horse Wooden Automaton Kit. Here is the link for the Pathfinder's Flying Pig Wooden Automaton Kit.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Imaginarium Techno Gears Mega Marble Mania

Imaginarium Techno Gears Mega Marble Mania
Take a look at Imaginarium's 450-piece Mega Marble Mania marble run. I want it just to have it on my desk. The description says that this marble run comes with power lifter, racer model, and sound. That's about all I know about this interesting looking toy.

Here is the product page for the Imaginarium Techno Gears Mega Marble Mania.

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Monday, September 01, 2008

Dug North Featured as Artist of the Month

I am honored to have been chosen to be featured as Artist of the Month by For Art's Sake -- a community association that celebrates art in Harvard, Massachusetts.

There is a nice article about me, my sorted past, my influences, and why I think automata are among the coolest things on the planet.

Here's a link to the article about Dug North on the For Art's Sake site.

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