Saturday, February 28, 2009

Alchemyst's Clocktower - Automaton by T. Kuntz

There is a reason Thomas Kuntz is one of my very favorite automata artists. Just watch this video to see why.

The artist on 'The Alchemyst's Clocktower':
This particular show is called "Pillars" It took many years to realize this automaton and care was used to make the advanced technology below stage adaptable in the future while keeping the figure itself purely mechanical.The Alchemyst is only 12" tall and consists of hundreds of hand machined brass and steel spieces.The tower itself was built from scratch out of wood, steel brass and fabric and just about any other high quality material where needed.

Visit the Artomic Design Studio web site for more works by Thomas Kuntz.

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Dark Blade 3-Channel R/C Helicopter

Dark Blade 3-Channel R/C Helicopter
After trying and selling a number of the small remote control helicopters on the market, the folks at ThinkGeek decided to create the perfect micro indoor helicopter themselves. The result: the Dark Blade 3-Channel R/C Helicopter.

Here are some of the features the Dark Blade boasts:

* Easiest to fly, most precise controlling R/C copter yet
* 3 channels for up/down, right/left and forward/backward control
* Amazing miniature size for a 3-channel helicopter
* Sleek black plastic body with a drop-ship style design
* Choose from two different channels and fly with a friend
* Dual counter-rotating blades for hovering and stability
* Innovative tail design with hidden downward facing rear rotor
* Helicopter Charges from Remote
* Easy to adjust trim dial
* 7 Minute fly time, 10 minute charge time

Get all the details on the Dark Blade 3-Channel R/C Helicopter

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

The automaton who saved the world!

According to the YouTube description, we all may owe this drinking bear automaton a lot!

An automaton bear that was played with by Gromyko at an important UN meeting during the Cold War, after a frosty start, the automata were produced, and this one melted his heart. The result was he took his finger off the red button. I have the pictures to prove it!

From our friends at

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Kinetica Art Fair exhibit opens February 27th, 2009

Kinetica Art Fair exhibit 2009
Kinetica Art Fair is the UK's first art fair dedicated to kinetic, robotic, sound, light and time-based art. The exhibit opens in London on Friday 27 February, 2009.
More than 25 galleries and organisations specialising in kinetic, electronic and new media art are taking part with over 150 exhibiting artists. The Fair will be like no other with living, moving, speaking and performing art.

The Fair provides unparalleled opportunities for the public and collectors alike to view and buy work from this thriving international movement and to participate in the programme of talks, workshops and performances.

Here is the link to the site for Kinetica Art Fair 2009.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

'Oceania' kinetic art by Casey Curran

Take a look at the amazing hand-cranked automata of Casey Curran. The artist uses twisted wire of various materials to create very original and organic forms. There is no welding or soldering involved -- just twisted wire! Kudos all around!

Casey Curran's work can be seen in person at Gallery IMA in Seattle, Washington.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Wall-mounted automaton of acrobatic cats

Wall-mounted automaton of acrobatic catsHere is a wall-mounted wind-up automaton selling on eBay today. The scene depicts performing acrobat cats. The cat figures are printed paper applied to wood. As an integrated music box plays, a few of the cats perform flips on the high wire, while others below dance.

The listing has additional photographs, including a few of the back of the piece in which you can see the mechanism.

Here's the full eBay listing for the wall-mounted automaton of acrobatic cats.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Del's peg & slot rotary drive with wooden chain

Del never ceases to amaze me with the amazing wooden machines he has built over the years. This one features a nifty drive made up of two discs -- one large one and one small. The large disc has a grooves cut into it that run from the center to the edge. The small disc has thee protruding pegs that engage the grooves and drive the larger wheel. Also of note are the nice wooden chains and sprockets -- one with a chain tensioner!

Check out Del's YouTube channel at

[ Thanks to Art and Del! ]

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Casa de Máquinas - Animated machine film

Here is a enchanting animated film depicting a house of machines. It's wonder full to see the mechanisms come to life, move themselves, and ultimately control a figure. I don't want to give away too, just watch!

[ Thanks philsing! ]

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Del's cage and peg gears train assembly

I never tire of seeing the wonderful wooden machines that Del has created. This one was an experiment with peg gears (in which dowels radiating from the center of a disc serve as gear teeth) and cage gears (also known as "lantern gears" in some contexts).

This machine has hand cranks on two sides. The gear train is such that one crank acts as a "low gear" and the opposite crank acts as a "high gear".

Personally, I think Del and Art are ready for their own TV show. There something about the machines and these too men that I could watch for hours.

If you would like to communicate with Del directly, visit his YouTube channel.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Download Mario Brothers paper automaton plans

Free Mario Brothers paper automaton pattern
The good folks over at Nintendo Papercraft have a free download of this animated Mario. When you rotate the lever, Mario jumps up and a coin pops out of the box above him.

Here is the page featuring the download link for the free Paper Mario Automata plans.

[ Thanks Carlo! ]

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Del's wooden escapement drive machine

Del has shared with us a wonderful wooden machine he built around 1985. This is a nice example of a mechanism that converts reciprocating motion into circular motion via a ratchet mechanism. The really cool thing about his particular design is that it does not matter which direction you turn the crank -- the ratchet will always rotate in the same direction. Very clever.

If you would like to communicate with him directly, visit Del's YouTube channel.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Aquio Nishida, Automaton-Artist (1946 - 2009)

Aquio Nishida, Automata-Artist  (1946 - 2009)It is with great sadness that we note the passing earlier this month of one of the world's great makers of contemporary automata -- Aquio Nishida.

Mr. Nishida was an automata designer, author, teacher, and the Director of the Contemporary Toy Museum of Japan.

Sue Jackson, founder of of Cabaret Mechanical Theatre, says that "Aquio was very remarkable, as he not only made automata himself but also wrote his own book on the subject which was translated in 2 languages, and ran his own, very extensive, exhibition. I was honored to receive one of the first toys -- which I still have -- on meeting him for the first time in Japan. Aquio and I exchanged merchandise, his book for our videos and book; The relationship worked well for both of us."

Nishida Horse AutomatonHis automata were notable for their graceful lines, beautiful wooden gears, and their all-wood construction, which included even the linkages, pivots, and fasteners.

Mr. Nishida often incorporated music boxes into his works adding to their already considerable charm. He was particularly adept at creating automata that accurately depicted legged animals in motion.

Automata: Movable IllustrationMr. Nishida was the author of one of the best books on making contemporary automata, entitled Automata: Movable Illustration (Tokyo, Japan: Fujin Seikatsu, 2002). Written in parallel Japanese and English text, the book is part journal, part sketchbook, part do-it-yourself manual. Movable Illustration examines Nishida's process of automata creation and construction. The book manages to offer helpful advice to aspiring makers, while also serving as a portfolio of his beautiful work. The detailed plan drawings and full page color photographs of the Nishida's distinctive automata make this book a delight to peruse.

Here is some video footage of some of Nishida's automata:

He was known to be a generous teacher to those wishing to learn how to make wood automata. He leaves behind a fine legacy of outstanding craftsmanship, playfulness, and artistry. He will be missed by many.

Here is a series of photographs from a Nishida exhibit.

Mr. Nishida's book, Movable Illustration, is imported from Japan and may be ordered from the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre online shop.

10 March 2009 Sadly CMT has no books in stock at this moment.

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Rare Black Forest 'Rat Eater' Automton Clock

A fairly common animated figure in Black Forest German clocks is 'The Dumpling Eater'. The folks over at North Coast Imports shared this video of a rare variation. Rather than dumplings, the animated pirate figure on this clock is eating rats!

Check out this an many other interesting Black Forest automata clocks at the North Coast Imports Blog.

[ Thanks Dolf! ]

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Monday, February 16, 2009

'Batteries Not Included!' mechanical toy exhibit

Batteries Not Included! mechanical toy exhibit
To celebrate the history of moving toys, the Fairfield Museum and History Center has a new exhibit called 'Batteries Not Included!'

The exhibit features mechanical toys dating from the late 1800s to the mid-20th century. No plastics here: the toys are made of painted tin, tinplated steel, and cast iron. Show above is a mechanical tin beetle made by E. P. Lehmann of Germany, patent in 1895.

The exhibit opens to the public on Friday, February 2oth, 2009.

Here is where you can get more information on the Batteries Not Included! toy exhibit.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Fantastic all-wood blinds with helical gear system

Check out these absolutely fantastic all-wooden blinds.

The blinds utilize a beautiful set of wooden helical gears made with a technique that Steve Garrison created. The blind slats and the frame are walnut, the handles are pecan, and the gears and pulleys are made of cherry. Very nice, indeed.

Visit Steve's web site for information at

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Wicked looking black 3 -channel R/C Helicopter

Black Stealth Helicopter
I have an unusual affinity for black -- especially flat black. Combine that with complex mechanics, some electromagnetic communications, and flight and've got a winner in my book.

This litle Black Stealth Helicopter has 3-channels communication for controlling up-and-down, right-left rotation, and forward and backward.

The dual rotors on the top spin in opposite directions to cancel out hard-to-control torque making for stable flight. The folks at claim that it is probably the easiest to fly small remote-controlled helicopter that they have tried.

Check out the video on for this Black Stealth Helicopter.

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Tom Haney a highlight of the LA Art Show

Tom Haney's work was a hit at the Los Angles Art Show based on the following quote from a recent article.

From the article:New Orleans based Red Truck Gallery featured apple-crate sized works by an awesomely intricate inventor-sculptor-artist Tom Haney. If you click the photo (right) you can see a movie of this piece which showcases the street-seller opening and closing his jacket to reveal his wears, looking indeed quite dubious. Haney says on his site that most of his time is spent behind the scenes orchestrating the mechanics that move his pieces.

Here is a link to the article Highlights from the LA Art Show.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

7 new Mechanical Confections by Gina Kamentsky

Gina Kamentsky has announced that there are seven new Mechanical Confections on her site.

From her announcement:In the wind-ups section we have hip hoppity windup, "The Boom Bip", a handcranked piece featuring a mysterious Canary surveying her world " Bird Watching", "100 Turns is Heavy" featuring a cool double ratchet mechanism, obscure lab device " The Inside Joke" and "Hack" which required quite a bit of hacking to create. Moving on the wall work there are two new pieces; ode to spring (please get here soon! ), "Cherry Blossom Time" and "Masters of the Obvious" which was featured on the blog last month.

Each work has a great video showing everything in action.

Here is the link for the Wind up Mechanical Confections and here is the link for the Wall Work Mechanical Confections.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Insultabotz toy robot kit - a robot with attitude

Now here is a good comedic use of robot technology: the Insultabotz. The Insultabotz kit is easily built with common hand tools.

The Insultabotz moves forward on six insect-like legs. When its infrared eye detects an obstacle in its way, it will stop, reverse direction and then play any message you have prerecorded into the on-board re-recordable voice chip. I'm thinking I would want to record something like: "What the?!? Who put this thing here?!?"

Here is the link for Insultabotz toy robot kit.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The kinetic wave sculptures of Reuben Margolin

Here is a wonderful profile of kinetic sculptor Reuben Morgolin from the new Make: Television program.

You can learn more about Reuben Margolin at

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Monday, February 09, 2009

Gakken's Stirling engine powered car kit

Gakken's Stirling engine powered car kit
The other day, the Retro Thing blog drew my attention to this really awesome looking Sterling Engine Car Kit by Gakken.

From one review:
The kit has nice components. The instructions are complete (24 pages in Japanese). And, there are a whole bunch of tiny details to get lost in. The cylinder mount and the gears need to be carefully aligned. This is one of the trickier parts. If you have it misaligned, there will be too much friction for the engine to run. A gauge is supplied to make this step easier.

This and several other hard-to-find Gakken kits can be found at the Make Magazine MakerShed.

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Sunday, February 08, 2009

Brachiating solar robot orangutan kit by OWI

Brachiating solar robot orangutan kit by OWIYou will need a screwdriver and about 20 minutes of time to assemble this solar powered brachiating orangutan. Robot Orangutan climbs hand-over-hand across a horizontally mounted string when exposed to light (either the sun itself or a strong light bulb).

At right, is a photograph of the kit's various pieces. The kit includes the climbing string, but will you will need to provide the screwdriver. No batteries required -- a favorite phrase of mine.

Here is the link for the climbing solar robot orangutan.

This kit, known as OWI-MSK675 can also be ordered from The Automata / Automaton Store.

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Saturday, February 07, 2009

How to build a moder's vacuum sanding box

How to build a moder's sanding box
Here is an extremely complete step-by-step guide for making your own vacuum sanding box for small projects. The eight page guide includes a discussion of tools, materials, shortcuts, 3D renderings, and complete plans you can download in PDF format! This sanding box will be a valuable addition to any workshop where small parts are made.

Here's the link for the guide on How to build a moder's sanding box.

[ Thanks to bilagaana for this!]

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Friday, February 06, 2009

Edge Robotic Arm Kit

Edge Robotic Arm Kit
You will need about two hours to assemble the Edge Robotic Arm Kit. No soldering is required.

The robotic arm features five axes of motion that you control via a wired remote. The gripper will open and close, the wrist twists, elbow bends through a range of 300 degrees, and the base rotates 180 degrees. The arm has a vertical reach of 15 inches, and horizontal reach of 12.6 inches.

Here's a page with more info and video of the Edge Robotic Arm Kit at

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Thursday, February 05, 2009

'Bird Catcher' automaton by Keith Newstead

Take a look at this great new version of Keith Newstead's 'Cat Copter' automaton.

There are some beautiful large images showing the lovely details in the 'Bird Catcher' on the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre web site.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Pierre Mayer's Siegfried and Roy Automaton

 Pierre Mayer's Siegfried and Roy Automaton
A new magic-themed automaton by one of my favorite makers: Pierre Mayer. Here we are given a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse of how the magic happens!

From the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre shop:
The latest piece from Pierre Mayer is a homage to the legendary Las Vegas performers. The illusion that they perform here is known as The Substitution Trunk, and was popularised by Houdini.

Here's the Siegfried and Roy automaton page at CMT.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Dancing dog with a chicken on his head

Dancing dog with a chicken on his head
Here's a fun looking automaton featuring a dancing dog. With a chicken. On its head.

From the automaton description:
If you can imagine a dog who had one too many at the local bar and ended up in the 'Dance with a Chicken' contest. When you turn the handle on this automata, the loosely jointed dog dances on the stage and the chicken turns on his head! Measures about 4 X 15 X 11 inches tall.

Check out this and several other automata from the Blue Bell Folk Art web site.

[ Thanks Charles! ]

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Monday, February 02, 2009

Cupid, Robot and Grumpy Goat Downloads

For a limited time, Rob Ives of Flying-Pig Paper Animations Kits, is offering three of his downloadable kits for one special price.

You can get the files to download and make a cupid, grumpy goat, AND robot (shown here) for £4.99 GBP or a little over $7 USD.

After February, these three kits will only be available printed form.

Here's a link to the Cupid, Robot, Grumpy Goat package deal.

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Sunday, February 01, 2009

Victorian Flea Circus Chariot Project

The other day, I wrote a short post about a very nicely made miniature tool bench. If you are interested in miniatures, you should hop on over to the Workshop Shed blog to see more about how Andy put together this amazing little brass chariot.

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