Saturday, January 31, 2009

'Be still my blinking heart' by Paul Spooner

I guess with February right around the corner, it's not unreasonable to start thinking about Valentine's Day...or at least heart-themed automata! This cute little blinking heart automaton is another fine Paul Spooner creation.

Here is a link to Cabaret Mechanical Theatre's page for 'Be still my blinking heart'.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Miniature woodshop models with amazing detail

Miniature woodshop with amazing detail
Setting the scene for an automaton often requires making miniature versions of things. Having done bit of this myself, I can really appreciate the work of David Brookshaw who makes 1/12-scale miniatures of tools and workshop equipment.

Brookshaw is working on a fully-equipped Victorian workshop. In the photo above that is a U.S. Quarter clamped to the bench vise!

You can visit David Brookshaw's web site to see more photos of his work

[ Thanks Charles! ]

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bionic Robotic Hand Kit

Bionic Robotic Hand Kit
The folks over at Edmund Scientifics offer this cool-looking hand kit.

From the product description:
This customizable kit allows you to construct a moving, life-size, robotic hand. Using simple tools, you can enjoy every step of the building process.

No soldering or electronic skill is required. Once completed, your hand will be able to open and close at the touch of a button and even grasp items.

Decorate your hand with a glove and jewelry or leave it bare to watch the mechanisms inside. However you choose to use your Bionic Hand, it will be an enjoyable project and intriguing conversation piece for years to come!

Includes an illustrated assembly manual with step-by-step instructions and an AA battery. Requires, but does not include, a screwdriver, small pliers, wire cutter, and drill for assembling the model.

This and many cool robots and kits may be found at Edmund Scientifics.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

'Masters of the Obvious' - hand-cranked sculpture

Check out this video of the newly finished hand-cranked kinetic sculpture by Gina Kamentsky entitled Masters of the Obvious.

In her recent posts I made a discovery: I'm not the only one looking to Five Hundred and Seven Mechanical Movements for inspiration!

Not only is the piece a lot of fun, but she documented much of its construction on her blog.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

'Illumination', third recent Automaton by Tom Haney

Illumination Automaton by Tom HaneyHere is the third of the recent motorized automaton by Tom Haney. This one is entitled 'Illumination'. This piece along with the other two -- 'Dubious' and 'Relique' -- will be on display at the Los Angeles Art Show at the LA Convention Center from January 21st to 25th, 2009.

Here's a link to images, movies, and in-progress shots of Illumination by Tom Haney.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Sumo wrestler robot with wind-up generator

Sumo Wrestler Robot with Wind Up Generator
An attached wind-up generator allows you to create electricity to power this Sumo wrestler robot. No batteries needed, just some cranking.

Forward and reverse walking actions are controlled by which direction the generator's handle is turned. The faster you crank, the faster it moves.

While its a neat kit on its own, the real fun comes from testing your Sumo-bot against another. A flurry of cranking robot action!

Sumo Wrestler Robot Match
Here's a link for the Sumo Wrestler Robot with Wind Up Generator by Tamiya

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

'Relique' - Motorized automaton by Tom Haney

Another great motorized automaton from Tom Haney -- one of three that will be on display at the Los Angeles Art Show at the LA Convention Center from January 21st to 25th, 2009.

Among many things I like about Tom's work are the cases he builds to hold them. They seem to mesh perfectly with the vintage feel of the characters and subjects -- providing additional context for the entire thing.

Here's a link to images, movies, and in-progress shots of 'Relique' by Tom Haney.

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Junod's Wonderland - video of a true master

A wonderful video with English translations profiling a modern master of classic automata. I'm so glad people like Francois Junod and his team still exist.

From the YouTube description:
Swiss artist Francois Junod has changed the automaton into a new art form. He calls his unique creations androids - mechanical robots designed to resemble humans in both appearance and behaviour. (swissinfo, Julie Hunt) visited his studio in St Croix, in the Jura mountains.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Rovio: personal tele-presence robot by WowWee

Rovio:  personal tele-presence robot by WowWee
Robotic toy-makers WowWee venture into the fully-adult world of robotics with their relatively new tele-presence robot dubbed, Rovio.

Marketed as a home sentry, they may have overstated its capabilities a bit. While it may not be stopping any intruders, it is an intriguing robot nevertheless.

You'll need a full-fledged computer with a broadband internet connection and wireless at the location where Rovio is to be used. The robot can then be controlled by any remote internet-enabled device.

The Rovio sends back both audio and tv-resolution video streamed in MPEG4 format. It has a two-way speaker/microphone setup that allows you to "talk" with entities on the robot-end of the arrangement. It can also take snap-shots and find its own way back to its recharging base. Not bad for $300.

Now...what to do with it? The stand-in for business meeting, "Say goodnight to daddy", and pet-soother all seem a bit of a stretch to me. I think it's best to assume, that you can use the Rovio to take a look around your place (one flat level of it anyway) when you are not there. While a more modest goal, that could truly be useful.

Here's a page with a full description and video of the Rovio robot.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

"L'Oracle du Mort" - Fortune Telling Automaton

L'Oracle du Mort (ORACLE OF THE DEAD MAN) is the latest stunning automaton by Thomas Kuntz.

The automaton depicts an 1880's magician from the French occult revival. The complex mechanical system -- consisting of cams, gears levers, springs, sprockets and pulleys -- tells 7 fortunes. If you attempt to fool the magician a devil appears in the window to correct your error!

See more automata Thomas Kuntz on his web site.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

'Dubious' - Awesome automaton BY Tom Haney

Take a look at the shady character depicted in Tom Haney's new automaton entitled Dubious.

This charming piece and two others (stay tuned to this channel!) will be on display at the Los Angeles Art Show at the LA Convention Center from January 21st to 25th, 2009.

Here's a link to images, movies, and in-progress shots of Dubious by Tom Haney.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Dale Mathis solo art show in Las Vegas

Mechanical artist, Dale Mathis, will be showing dynamic art pieces in his first solo show. The show, called "Steam Funk", opens on January 31st, 2009 in Las Vegas.

Details on the Dale Mathis solo show:
Oh, My Godard Gallery
Planet Hollywood Hotel, Las Vegas
Saturday, January 31st from 5-9pm
Free and open to the public

Visit his web site for more about Dale Mathis and his art.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Primer video on some woodcarving tools & ideas

Though the subject of this video is about carving wooden masks, the advice and tools are the same for any type of woodcarving. In this installment of the series, LaCharles James walks us through some key ideas and introduces some common carving tools.

I think you will find him to be an excellent teacher.

Some of the tools mentioned in the video include:

Carving knife with concave blade
Flexcut carving tools
Carving chisels and gouges
Carving mallet
The classic chip carving knife

A note about carving tools: Choose quality over quantity. Choose quality over price. Believe me, a poor quality tool will not hold an edge, won't produce the best results, will frustrate you, and can be dangerous because you may be inclined to use more force than necessary. Look for good quality metals from known brands. It is SO worth it.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Steampunk Romance - video of the automaton

The other day I told you about A Steampunk Romance -- the new book by Keith Newstead. Here is a some video of the actual automaton he created and documented in the book. Wonderful! He is so good with metals and contraptions. I'm a big fan.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Chinese master of junk robots

A Chinese master of junk robotsBack in 2007, an amazing story circulated around the blogsphere about a man in China who -- with no formal engineering education -- has created a menagerie of robotic creations out of junk. Among the most impressive is a robot-powered rickshaw (shown here) that can pull a passenger along.

Here is a link to a video of Mr. Woo, the Chinese Robot Farmer on

Note: If you want to make some junkbots of your own, I've got to recommend the book JunkBots, Bugbots, and Bots on Wheels.

[ Thanks Charles! ]

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Butterfly paper automaton kit from CeraCera

Butterfly paper automaton kit from CeraCera
The folks over at CeraCera have just come out with four new paper automata kits. Among them is this charming Monarch Butterfly that gently flaps its wings when you turn the the crank.

Here is a link to the Monarch Butterfly paper automaton kit from CeraCera.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Friendly Gesture automaton by Philip Lowndes

Take a look at the astonishing level of complexity of motion and mechanism achieved by Philip Lowndes in this automaton entitled 'A Friendly Gesture'. A very skilled bit of work!

See more about this piece on Philip Lowndes' web site.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Manet's Olympia - a classic Spooner automaton

You have to admire the organic, even sensual, motion that renowned automaton-maker Paul Spooner achieves with this piece based on Edouard Manet's famous painting 'Olympia'(shown below).

Manet's Olympia
What a great idea to use a famous painting as the basis for an automaton. Of course, the substitution of Anubis in the background of the automaton adds a very distinctly Spooner touch!

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

K'NEX Screamin' Serpent Roller Coaster

KNEX Screamin Serpent Roller Coaster
If you are like me, you would rather have a giant roller coaster construction toy in your living room than a coffee table. I can put your coffee down anywhere when it comes right down to it.

This massive set from K'NEX isn't exactly cheap, but this is the stuff of which dreams are made. Well, mine at least.

Here's a link to the K'NEX Screamin' Serpent Roller Coaster

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Monday, January 12, 2009

A new kinetic robot sculpture from Nemo Gould

The Performer kinetic robot sculpture from Nemo Gould
Artist Nemo Gould has a new piece to share. Shown here is the new sculpture, entitled 'Performer #2'. Details about the piece are now posted on his site and the sculpture itself will be on display later this month at the Sonoma County Museum in Santa Rosa CA.

Here is a link to the Performer #2 page on Nemo Gould's Site.

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Gina Kamentsky's 'On the Workbench' Blog

Gina Kamentsky's 'On the Workbench' Blog
Just a few days ago multi-talented artist Gina Kamentsky started a blog entitled 'On the Workbench'.

From her first post:
I've been cranking out some interesting new work in studio and have added some new features to the Mechanical Confections website including On the Workbench, a blog where I'll be updating progress on new kinetic sculpture work as it evolves. In addition, this section will feature updates on gallery shows, new work posted to this site, links to resources and inspiration for mechanized sculpture.

I look forward to following along as she creates her clever creations!

Here's the link to Gina Kamentsky's On the Workbench Blog.

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Theo Jansen: The art of creating creatures

While we are on the subject of my new heroes (see yesterday's post about Clayton Boyer), I just saw video from one of the TED Talks featuring Theo Jansen. I misunderstood the scale, scope, and beauty of his vision. While I may still not know all of it, this video has given me a much greater appreciation for his attempt to create large-scale mechanical life-forms that roam wind-swept beaches. Truly an impressive vision and monumental feat.

[ Thanks S.C.! ]

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Friday, January 09, 2009

Celestial Mechanical Calendar and Orrery

While I have admired Clayton Boyer's wooden clock designs for a long time, this project places him firmly in my pantheon of heroes. This wooden machine of his design keeps track of everything -- including the retrograde motion of planets and how many days are in a given month! Ingenius -- there is no other word for it.

From his web site:
The Celestial Mechanical Calendar shows the day of the week, day of the month and the month. In addition, she indicates the Zodiac Sun Sign and New Moon Ascension sign, has a MoonPhase Ball that indicates a nearly exact reflection of what the actual moon is doing in the night sky. She also has a Full Moon Ascension Window, and an Orrery showing the synodic rotations of the three closest planets, Mercury, Venus and Mars and indicates when they go into retrograde. The Celestial Mechanical Calendar also knows if the month has 28, 30 or 31 days and advances herself automatically.

Check out all the details or -- if your are feeling ambitious -- order the plans to make the Celestial Mechanical Calendar and Orrery.

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Thursday, January 08, 2009

Elephant tin toy with somewhat mysterious game

Elephant tin toy with ball game
I'm not entirely sure how the game part of this nifty tin toy works, but I sure love all the stuff going on here.

From the product description:
This busy elephant sits atop a colorful panorama of circus animals. The propeller on his nose spins. Tin balls are lifted by an elevator to the top where they roll down a chute that drops them through a spinning drum that the elephant holds between his hands. This is a very colorful tin toy with great action.

Here is a link to the tin elephant with ball game.

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Corkscrew by Rob Higgs - Fantastic machine

The Corkscrew by Rob HiggsIn case you missed this on various blogs the other day, I really must ask that you check out this machine.

Mechanical sculptor Rob Higgs assembled an machine that opens a wine bottle and pours a glass. He uses many old parts, some as is, some modified and recasts them in bronze. The result is astounding.

Here is an article on The Corkscrew. Here is a link to a video of The Corkscrew by Rob Higgs.

This story comes to us by way of

[ Thanks to Jim Jenkins! ]

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Impressive hand-cranked marble run video

Check out this video of Michael Shulteiss's marble machine. This thing is incredible. It has some of the expected ramps, flip-flops, and funnels. It also has much that is quite unexpected like the catapult-style lifting arm, a 'marble pump', a wooden chain elevator, and wood gears with holes in them that receive and lift marbles. It looks wonderfully well-made and makes a satifsying clickity-clack sound as the handle is turned.

See more pictures and a diagram of Michael Shulteiss's marble machine on Matthias Wandel's outstanding website.

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Steel Builder set with included wind up motor

Steel Builder set with included wind up motor
OK, the retro packaging is enough for me really, but there are other things to like about this construction toy. Not only does it have instructions to build a few different vehicles and structures, but it also includes a wind-up motor to make them move. That I like a lot.

Here's Amazon's product page for the Steel Builder Set.

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Monday, January 05, 2009

Floating arm trebuchet - throws golf balls 200'

Floating arm trebuchet kit
This precision engineered trebuchet is a functional model standing 34" tall, 18" long and 12" wide when built. The guillotine-action and a plunging beam can hurl a golf ball over 200 feet. Nice!

From the product description:
Detailed instructions and high quality hardwood pieces that have been pre-cut and pre-drilled are all provided, so you can construct a finished model in a day.

This kit is professionally engineered, designed and manufactured in the USA. Made with 100% hardwoods, each part is precision carved by computer controlled machinery for a guaranteed fit and accuracy.

Here a link to see more about the Floating Arm Trebuchet.

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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Singing bird in a cage toy by Schylling

Schylling's singing bird in a cage toy
Schylling, makers of wonderful reproduction toys, offers this simple but affordable singing bird toy. While I haven't seen it in person, the reviews on Amazon suggest it is well worth the $15.

Here is the Schylling singing bird in a cage toy.

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Saturday, January 03, 2009

A Steampunk Romance book by Keith Newstead

A Steampunk Romance by Keith Newstead
The other day leading automaton-maker Keith Newstead announced the creation of a book dedicated to describing in text and photographs his first foray into the Steampunk aesthetic.

This was fated to be a success from the start. Newstead is a talented automata maker in so many respects, but when he creates any type of transport or vehicle, he may be unequaled. The resulting automaton is a whirling, pumping, spinning, chugging, flapping, cranking wonder.

Check out the extensive preview of the book and think about buying A Steampunk Romance by Keith Newstead at

[ Thanks Sergio! ]

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Friday, January 02, 2009

Antique sailing ships automaton and music box

Antique Sailing Ships Automaton Music Box
The two small wood and paper ships inside this 19th-century automaton have French flags, so it is likely of French make. The base of the scene is hollow so it can house a Swiss music Box and the tiny mechanism that causes the two ships to rock up and down on the painted tissue paper waves. A very charming antique automaton.

Here is the full eBay listing with many more photos of this antique sailing ships automaton and music box

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Cute antique wind-up pig automaton from 1890s

Here is a video of an automaton walking pig by Roullet and Decamps from around 1890. The sound is great!

The video is courtesy of our friends over at AutomatomaniA.

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