Friday, July 31, 2009

Roullet & Decamps rabbit with maracas automaton

Roullet & Decamps rabbit with maracas automaton
There is something charming in a mechanical rabbit automaton playing the Maracas. This one was made in France circa 1910 the by the famous French manufacturers ROULLET & DECAMPS .

From the eBay description:
When wound, the rabbit hops up and down as he shakes the maracas and his ears go up and down. He is covered with real rabbit fur and has glass eyes. His maracas are replacements that are made of hard plastic just like the original ones were, but they have been painted to simulate the originals (the one original maraca that still remains is included in the auction but is no longer attached to the toy, as you can see it is laying next to the rabbit in the last two photos). Though the replacement maracas are not original to the toy, they do make noise just like the original maracas would have and are just slightly smaller than the originals. The rabbit's fur is quite dingy from age and has been patched up here and there, but he still looks pretty good and is very amusing to watch! The rabbit measures just over 10" tall to the top of his head (ears laying out flat), and his ears are over 4" long!

Here is the full eBay listing with a ton of photos of this Roullet & Decamps rabbit with maracas automaton.

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Proxxon MICRO Woodturning Lathe

Proxxon MICRO Woodturning Lathe
Makers of precision miniature power tools, Proxxon offers this very small-scale woodturning lathe.

From the manufacturer's description:
Proxxon Micro Woodturning Lathe DB 250. This compact size machine is ideal for turning pens or doll house items such as cups, plates, pots, vases, columns, also for model railroad items including power or signal posts and tanks, doll and marionette limbs. Thousands of classical model building items may be turned with ease. Adding final touches with paint to your work piece at lower speeds, easily done through the electronic speed control. the tool rest is conveniently adjustable in height as well as it turns through 360° allowing for centerless turning. Overall length 15-3/4 inches by 3-3/4 inch height. Weight: 5.5 pounds

Here's a link with more info on the Proxxon MICRO Woodturning Lathe. If you've already decided this is the tool for you, you'll want to pick up the Proxxon 5-Piece Turning Tool Set at the same time.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Stunning posable mechanical cheetah sculpture

Stunning mechanical cheetah sculpture
I guess this made the rounds on some of the big blogs a few weeks ago, but I missed it. Maybe you did too. This is a mechanical, posable cheetah made of steel and various recycled parts. The creation of artist Andrew Chase, the cheetah took 60 hours of time to create. That's fast work if you ask me!

From the Wired article online:
'She's constructed out of electrical conduit, used transmission parts, disemboweled household appliances, 20-gauge steel and a lot of fender washers," says Chase.

The 24-inch tall cheetah measures about 50-inches nose-to-tail and weighs about 40 lbs. It also mimics the joints and movements of a real cat.

The cheetah is part of an ecosystem in a six-year art project called the 'Timmy universe.' The project has, so far, led to a mechanical giraffe and an elephant. Chase who has shown the giraffe at crafts fairs earlier had priced it at $6,000. No word on how much the cheetah will cost.

Here is the full Wired article on mechanical cheetah with lots of additional photographs.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Animated peanut butter lid video, Part 2

Yesterday, we looked at video of the mechanically animated scene created on top of a peanut butter jar lid. This video takes a good close look at the mechanisms that make it all work. Some very creative and clever design solutions are used!

[ Thanks Karin! ]

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Animated peanut butter lid video, Part 1

Here is an exquisitely detailed miniature scene constructed by Christopher Dowie. The entire scene fits on top of a peanut butter jar lid! In this first of two parts, the video examines the scene and animated figures. In part 2, we will take a detailed look at the mechanisms and techniques used to animate the scene.

[ Thanks Karin! ]

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Cabaret Mechanical Movement in Spanish!

Cabaret Mechanical Movement in Spanish!
The good folks over at Cabaret Mechanical Theatre have recently shared some great news: their seminal book Cabaret Mechanical Movement is now also available in Spanish.

From the book description:
El libro 'Cabaret Mechanical Movement' (Version Español). 'Autómatas. Arte y Mecánica'es traducción y una adaptación del Parque de las Ciencias en Granada, España.

Del movimiento y de cómo fabricar Autómatas.

El libro incluye una buena parte de teorí a y también proporciona consejos prácticos e ideas para crear tus propios autómatas, mover juguetes o esculturas mecánicas.


Here is where you can order copies of Autómatas. Arte y Mecánica.

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Cogitate - online engineering puzzle game

Cogitate - engineering video game with gears
Cogitate is an engineering problem solving online game. The object is to place beams, gears, and motors on the stage in order to guide the golden cog to the target. Each piece you use to engineer your solution has a price, so you have to try to come up with the most cost-efficient one for each level.

Here's a link to the free online engineering game called Cogitate.

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Video of Vielmetter drawing clown tin toy

The other day, I wrote about a drawing tin-toy automaton that was on eBay. Here is some video of the toy showing how the cams are installed in the base and how the clown draws with a pencil on paper.

From the YouTube description:
A very rare and clever toy produced in Germany approximately 1885 until about 1905. The little hand-cranked tin artist draws with a graphite stick onto paper via 'programmed' double-cams (x and y axis).

Some texts say it was an expensive wealthy person's toy, and other texts mention it as a give-away to favorite clients of the firm Phillip Vielmetter Mechanische Werkstatten of Berlin, Germany. This ultra-rare original box was repaired by Randy's Toy Shop.

I suspect the 5 cams are from various production dates. They are labeled (in German): HAHN, KAKADU, GLADSTONE, HARLEKIN, AFFE. There are several more cams that I do not have, such as Napolean, Balzaax, Queen Victoria, and still others.

I had only seen photographs of this amazing toy in the books Mechanical Toys (Spilhaus and Spilhaus)and Automata and Mechanical Toys (Hiller). It's great to finally see the actual toy in operation! get a peek inside...

[ Thanks Els! ]

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Friday, July 24, 2009

'Clocks Revenge' automaton by Richard Willmott

The Clocks Revenge automaton by Richard Willmott
Horologist Richard Willmott in the U.K. created this automaton (shown above) called "The Clocks Revenge". He wrote a note explaining how he created this piece that was inspired by my own automaton called "An Interesting Specimen".

From Richard's letter describing the piece
I applied my twisted mind to dreaming up a similar model which would involve clocks and came up with the idea that over the years old clocks must have suffered terrible indignities at the hands of incompetent repairers. So my model would be "The Clocks Revenge". I had a 6 inch glass dome and in the local charity shop found a child's toy which had a musical movement that played the nursery rhyme Hickory Dickory Dock. A plywood box was made to take 3 aluminum shafts, one for the cranking handle, one to take the two lifter cams to operate the arms and one to operate the music. The musical movement needed to run at a speed slower than that at which the handle was cranked so a small gearbox was built using clock wheels and pinions from my scrap box. Loose pin and slot joints were used where the shafts joined the gearbox and the musical movement to cover for alignment inaccuracies in my construction. Now I built a clock workshop to go under the dome. The notice on the wall is based on one that I saw in a clock repairers workshop in the USA. From limewood I carved the figure of the clock repairer. It had arms jointed at the shoulder and operated by fine wires linked to levers operated by two four leaf cams in the box. The whole lot was then fixed to the box and the representation of a clock with an angry face was attached to the back with its hands (arms) holding down the glass dome. Finally a humorous verse to give some idea of what was going on was composed and affixed.

His note went on to say that if you are an automata or clock fanatic and live within traveling distance of Elizabeth City, NC he would love to see you when he visits the U.S. in the spring 2010. He can be reached by email at: dickytickers at

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Amazing LEGO-based automata theater

'The Pirates and the NXTfied Theater' combines LEGOs and the programmable LEGO Mindstorms NXT components to create a 3-dimensional miniature mechanical theater. It's a wonderful combination of old story telling techniques, puppetry, automata, toys, and programming. The effect is not unlike some of the old coin-operated mechanical scenes you might find in Penny-in-the-Slot Automata and the Working Model. The film runs about three minutes with some cool behind-the-scenes shots at the end.

Visit this site to learn more about The Pirates and the NXTfied Theater.

Here's a link where you can get your own LEGO Mindstorms NXT kits and instructional books.

[ Thanks Mario! ]

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

OLLO - the robotic action mechanical toy

OLLO - robotic action mechanical toy
The OLLO Action Kit represents a cool new approach to construction toys. Motion and action were primary considerations in the development of this toy. The core ingredients of the OLLO action kit are its motor and pivoting rivet connectors.

From the kit description:
'Other building kits use motors, so what makes OLLO unique? you may be wondering. The difference is how OLLO pieces attach to one another. They attach with an innovative two-part rivet (one goes into the other and presses down to lock the pieces in place). And of course you can always undo the rivets (tool included) to build new and wilder things. The OLLO Action Kit is perfect for getting young minds interested in mechanics and building.

Here is the link for the OLLO - robotic action toy.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Antique automata and toy auction, July 25th 2009

Upcoming antique autoamta and toy auction
An upcoming auction on July 25th, 2009 in Indianapolis will feature twelve vintage automata including a French 19th century monkey violinist automaton, a Tete Jumeau Russian tea server, a Prussian dancing couple, a French flower girl, a magician, and a cat in milk pail.

There will also be a large number of vintage toys including a large collection of tin wind-ups and battery operated toys, cast iron mechanical toys, pull toys, a balancing musician, a doll on horseback, and an acrobatic clown.

Here is a link with more photographs and information on the upcoming automata and vintage toy auction.

[ Thanks Genevieve! ]

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Film about Spain's traveling automata theater

The Teatro De Automatas
The Teatro De Automatas is a traveling automata theater. The automata are mounted to the back of a truck. Once on the scene, an elaborate and beautiful stage and tent are set up around the truck to hide it and showcase the diverse automata that make up the exhibit. Their web site features a wonderful 10 minute film (in Spanish) that profiles this amazing theater. There are many nice shots of the exposed automata mechanisms. Whether you understand Spanish or not, it is well worth watching.

Here is a link to the film on the traveling automata theater -- The Teatro De Automatas.

[ Thanks Mario! ]

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Hovering ball target shooting game looks fun

hovering ball target shooting game
The fact that the targets are hovering in air makes this seem more appealing to me than if they were stationary targets. I'm not sure why this is so -- perhaps because I imagine the targets bouncing gently up and down or maybe because it seems like it would be particularly satisfying to blast one of the balls out of the air.

From the game description:
This unique target game uses vectored jets of air to suspend six foam ball targets in mid-air that players try to shoot using a brightly-painted six-shot plastic dart gun loaded with suction-cup tipped foam projectiles.

Here's the link for the The Hovering Target Shooting Game.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Fly Pterosaur paper automaton you can make

Fly Pterosaur paper automaton you can make
From the ingenius mind of Rob Ives at Flying-Pig Paper Animation Kits, here is a fun model for you to purchase, download, print out, and make.

From the website:
Turn the handle on the box and the Pterosaur flaps his wings to fly, just like they used to do in prehistoric times.The model used a cam shaft and four bar linkage to to make the wings flap and the Pterosaur rise up and down.

Here's the link to the Pterosaur paper automaton page.

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Assembled Artifacts exhibit at Device Gallery

Assembled Artifacts exhibit at Device Gallery
A show title 'Assembled Artifacts' opens this evening, Saturday July 18 at 6:30 at The Device Gallery located at 1815-B Main Street San Deigo, California.

The show features work by:
Christopher Conte, Stephane Halleux, Michihuro Matsuoka, Jeremy Mayer, Rich Muller, Nemo Gould, Olivier Pauwels, Lewis Tardy and Jud Turner

Here is the link for more information on Assembled Artifacts exhibit.

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The imaginary universe of artist Robert Coudray

The Poète Ferrailleur (scrap merchant poet) Museum at La Ville Stéphant, houses an imaginary universe created by a French artist Robert Coudray of France.

See more by this artist on Robert Coudray's web site.

[ Thanks philsing! ]

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Tin clown artist - picture drawing automaton

Tin clown artist - picture drawing automaton
I've only had the pleasure of seeing this toy/automaton in books. This tin toy clown is able to draw a variety of pictures with a pencil on paper. You insert different cams into the base of the toy to change the picture that the clown will draw. Very, very clever.

From the eBay description
Turn the crank and it makes little drawings! This clever Phillip Vielmetter Tin Clown Artist toy was manufactured around 1885-1905, and is in excellent working and great cosmetic condition. It comes with 5 different cams and the original box.

Here's the full eBay listing with some great photographs of this mechanical drawing clown automaton.

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Stuhrling men's automatic skeleton watch

I know: there are probably dozens of excellent blogs that talk about nothing but watches. I don't know much about them, really, but I couldn't resist sharing all the shiny miniature mechanical goodness embodied in this one made by Stuhrling.

From the watch description
A skeletonized design displays the mechanical movement, and a series of gold-tone alternating Arabic numerals and indexes bring at-a-glance precision. A deep black crocodile leather band comes equipped with a sturdy buckle-clasp closure. Other details include 41.5-millimeter case and a gold-tone stationary, stainless steel bezel. Characterized by its distinct beauty, this exquisite timepiece sets itself apart. Powered by automatic-self-winding movement, this watch is water resistant up to 165 feet.

Here's a link for more details on this automatic skeleton watch
with an extensive write up of Swiss watchmaker, Stuhrling.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Applause Machine soon in five new colors!

Martin Smith and the good folks over at Laikingland are putting the finishing touches on a batch of their famous Applause Machines in a new range of colors.

The new colors are:
As with the original colors, each new color will be limited to just 250 machines. Numbers 1 to 10 will be available to pre-order at the end of August ready for delivery at the end of September 2009.

The Applause Machines are available directly from Laikingland's online shop.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Uncanny life-sized horse puppets

I am thrilled to share with you this video of these amazing -- absolutely astounding, actually -- life-sized horse puppets. Intellectually, I know there are three people (and a rider) operating these large metal horses. I can even see the puppeteers much of the time. Even so, my brain insists that these are real, living, horses. It's a wonderful mind-bender and a testament to the artful mastery these performers have achieved.

[ Thanks SC! ]

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sand tight spots with the Proxxon Pen Sander

Sand tight spots with the Proxxon Pen Sander
If you sand really small wood, metal, or plastic surfaces, this pen sander may be a HUGE time-saver.

From the product description
Proxxon 12-Volt Pen Sander sands linearly where space is at a premium. This superfine sander with linear sanding motion operates at 8,000 strokes per minute with a 3/32" stroke. Superfine finishing of wooden, plastic or metal surfaces can be done in less time hands can do without big efforts. It is ideal for surfaces, slots and tight corners. Included are four sanding attachments with straight shanks and four with angled shanks -four different shapes per shank style- as well as three sheets of pre-profiled self-adhesive sanding pads. The sheets are 180, 240 and 400 grit with 5 of each shape per sheet.

NOTE: To operate, this unit requires a 12-volt transformer such as the Proxxon 38704 Heavy Duty Transformer

Here's a link to more info on the Proxxon Pen Sander.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Pendulum clock made entirely of paper

Marvel at this beautifully made working pendulum clock made entirely of paper.

Here is a link to the creator's web page with many additional photos and ordering information if you want to buy the PDF plans for the paper clock.

You might also consider the pre-printed book Make Your Own Working Paper Clock.

[ Thanks philsing! ]

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Vintage clockwork clown musician automaton

Vintage clockwork clown musician automaton
Currently on eBay, here is a vintage clockwork clown automaton, measuring approximately 15" tall overall from the base to the spinning top on his nose.

From the eBay listing:
When wound, the clown moves the violin bow back and forth across the violin as if playing it, the clockwork makes a Plink-Plink music noise from beneath the base, and the tin top balancing on the clown's nose spins around! There is a bit of staining on the base and a few chips of paint are missing here and there on the base, the clown's shoes, and the top, but overall the toy is in excellent condition!

Here is the full eBay listing with many additional photographs of this vintage clockwork clown musician automaton

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

King of Magic automaton by Anatoly ZAYA-RUZO

King of Magic automaton by Anatoly ZAYA-RUZO
Anatoly ZAYA-RUZO, mechanical doll maker, has announced his new creation entitled 'KING OF MAGIC'.

From the artist's description:
The King is a classical automaton about 2 feet high with 9 movements and music mechanism. The action is operated by specially designed heavy duty winding motor 36 lb-in torque. The King makes his magic with street monkey-gambler, and monkey-gambler makes his own trick with dice.

More about this automata -- including video -- will be posted soon on Anatoly's site.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Plans for mechanical flying goose on radiator cap

Plans for Mechanical flying goose on radiator cap
The folks over at the always interesting Modern Mechanix Blog recently posted this great set of plans for an animated mechanical hood ornament originally published in 1932. Like a reverse-whirligig, the air speeding past the car's hood powers the motions of this mechanical bird.

From the original article:
While your car is standing still this wild goose isn't so wild. He perches sedately upon the radiator cap surveying the world with a glassy eye. But as soon as you start up and shift into high he flattens out his tail, stretches his neck forward and begins to flap his wings as if he were going somewhere, and going there in a hurry.

The article has been converted in to text and scanned as three large images -- everything you should need to make this project yourself.

Here's the article on the Mechanical Flying Goose Decorates Radiator Cap.

[ Thanks deanS! ]

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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Proxxon hand-held minature belt sander

Proxxon Hand Held Belt Sander
Designed for sanding in spots where there is limited space, this little power belt sander works on flat surfaces, corners, and curves. The sanding head tilts to provide access to difficult spots. The belt speeds may be adjusted from 300 fpm to 700 fpm. The sander features a quick and easy belt change system and belts that come in 80, 120, and 180 grit.

Here the link for the Proxxon Hand Held Belt Sander

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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Migrating Elephant Automata by Dave Goodchild

Here is some video of an automata designed and built by Dave Goodchild in 2002. The piece shows a family of three elephants who are using there flying machines to migrate south for the winter. Charming!

See this piece and some beautiful wooden orreries on Dave Goodchild's YouTube page.

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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Antique Jumeau piano-player automaton

Antique Jumeau piano-player automaton
In an effort to show some of the classics on a regular basis, here is a vintage Jumeau automaton depicting an girl playing the piano.

From the eBay listing:
The automaton encompasses an EXQUISITE toy piano measuring 14 1/2" high, 6 1/2" deep and 14" wide, with an antique Jumeau head doll measuring 20" tall standing in front, making the total depth of the automaton about 14" from the back of the piano to the back of the doll.

The piano is made of ebony and walnut veneer wood with original fancy BRONZE side handles and two elaborate three-armed CANDELABRAS in the front, with IVORY KEYS and original music holder with antique French lithograph SHEET MUSIC! Unlike most stamped Jumeau heads that were used for automatons, this one is a size 6 RARE INCISED DEPOSE bisque head with red artist's marks! She has her original long brown MOHAIR WIG and CORK PATE, brown PAPERWEIGHT EYES, and STUNNING painted facial features and modeling! We did not want to compromise her originality by removing her original wig and pate as they are still attached firmly to her, but from well lighting and scrutinizing the outside of the bisque it appears to have no hairlines, chips, cracks or restorations!

She wears FACTORY ORIGINAL clothes including a cotton red jacket and matching skirt embellished with fancy black SOUTACHE trim, original white ORGANDY jacket collar and undergarments with pleated under slip and matching pantaloons, both trimmed in identical lace! Antique JET GLASS doll earrings, antique dark brown leather shoes with silver buckles and antique black cotton socks, and an original black satin JUMEAU hat with silver BEE INSIGNIA and red plumage complete her overall ORIGINAL FABULOUS presentation!

The automaton has FOUR melodies including the famous French tune "La Toreador" from the opera "Carmen", and FOUR distinct movements including PAPER MACHE hands that move up and down on the piano, and sideways, simulating "playing" of the ivory and ebony keys, as she "glances" moving her head from side to side and then up and down, as if nodding her head to the beat of the music! When the original key is wound and the knob is pulled out on the side of the piano, the entertainment begins as this lovely little girl gives her MELODIOUS CONCERT!

All movements are in good working condition and the tunes are consistent except for times where there is a fading in and out of the music, but overall still PLAYING BEAUTIFULLY!

Here is the full listing with many additional photographs of this antique Jumeau piano player automaton

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Monday, July 06, 2009

How to make your own Rolling Ball Sculpture

Here is one of several nicely made all metal rolling ball track sculptures by Matthew Gaulden.

Check out his site to more of his rolling ball sculptures -- both large and small. Be sure to visit his page dedicated to How to make Rolling Ball Sculpture. It is very informative!

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Sunday, July 05, 2009

'MAN EATING SHARK' automaton!

Artist Michael Jacobs created this playful automaton using recycled wood and tin, a rebuilt plastic doll's head, copper and steel wire, screws, nuts and bolts, pop-rivets, paper mache, molding paste, and acrylic paints

From the automaton description
When you continuously turn the crank at the lower right, the man uses his arms and hands to raise the shark, his mouth opens hungrily, his legs move up and down and back and forth, and the shark's tail and mouth wriggle up and down furiously.

See many more nice photographs with captions for the Man Eating Shark automaton.

[ Thanks philsing! ]

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Saturday, July 04, 2009

Siegfried and Roy automaton by Pierre Mayer

Here's a fantastic automaton by Pierre Mayer depicting magicians Siegfried and Roy. The video shows the magicians transport and transform. You also get an up-close look at some of the mechanics behind the magic! So cool.

See more of Pierre Mayer's magic automata on his web site.

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Friday, July 03, 2009

The Way Toys Work - book on the science of toys

The Way Toys Work book
The full title of this intriguing book is The Way Toys Work: The Science Behind the Magic 8 Ball, Etch A Sketch, Boomerang, and More. The book covers 50 well-known toys examining their history and the technology that makes them work. Throw in a mention of DIY experiments and some reverse engineering (see below) and this book is definitely on my reading list!

From the book description on Amazon:
Discover how an Etch A Sketch writes on its gray screen, why a boomerang returns after it is thrown, and how an RC car responds to a remote control device. Leaving no detail unrevealed, the guide includes original patent-application blueprints and photos of the “guts” of several devices. Inventors and museum curators also offer their observations of favorite gizmos while dispelling (or confirming) several toy legends. Complete with explanations of do-it-yourself experiments and tips on reverse engineering old toys to observe their interior mechanics, this entertaining and informative reference even provides pointers on how budding toy makers can build their own toys using only recycled materials and a little ingenuity.

Here is the link to The Way Toys Work: The Science Behind the Magic 8 Ball, Etch A Sketch, Boomerang, and More on

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Thursday, July 02, 2009

Hyper-beading nano-technology water fountain

It's not often that I get to point out mechanical toys that make interesting use of water. Well, here's one! The Aqua Dance creates an strange motion effect using a specially designed surface that causes water to "hyper-bead". And batteries!

From the Description
Simply fill the tank on the top of the Aqua Dance with water then push the pump a few times to pressurize. Turn the lever beneath to control the size and speed of the water beads as they drop repeatedly out of the tank. With the reduced friction the natural surface tension of the water takes over to create some unusual liquid dynamics. You'll find beautiful patterns in the water that are different each time. The ridges and funnels on the surface scatter the water in unpredictable ways as it zooms like quicksilver to the bottom.

Here's where you can order or get more info on the Hyper-beading Nano-Technology Fountain.

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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Vintage automaton of rabbit eating a cabbage

Vintage automaton of rabbit eating a cabbage
Here is a classic vintage automaton motif -- the rabbit eating a head of cabbage from the inside out. This one (like many) is of French manufacture and is currently up for auction on eBay.

From the eBay item description
Clockwork windup mechanism that when wound activates both the movement of the rabbit and the music box inside. After winding just pull the activation rod and the music begins. Rabbit emerges from the cabbage with a slight turn to the right, chews a small piece of cabbage in its mouth, raises and lowers its ears while chewing, quickly makes a slight left turn and drops back into the cabbage. Rabbit fur covered metal skeleton with glass eyes.

Here is the eBay listing with many additional photographs of the rabbit eating cabbage automaton.

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