Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Four free wooden clock plans to download

Four free wooden clock plans to download
If you have an interest in wooden clocks and clockwork, you will want to head over to Not only is there a lot of great information on the site, there are four clock plans that are free downloads. This is a great resource. Thanks to Brian Law of Wooden Clocks for making these available!

Check out the Wooden Clocks site.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Motorized wooden crawler by Osamu Kanda

Another video of a nifty wooden creation from Osamu Kanda -- this one called, appropriately, Crawl. I love the creative use of a film feed mechanism. Add motor, wooden gears, wheels, and front legs and there is something compelling about the way it pulls itself along.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Hex Bug Crab - micro robotic creature

Hex Bug Crab - micro robotic creature
The Hex Bug Crab is a small robot with some simple autonomous behavior. The Hex Bug crab will seek out dark places to hide, and change its direction at the sound of a loud noise (such as a hand clap).

Here's the link to the Hex Bug Crab

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Brad Litwin: A Collection of Mechanical Conundra

Brad Litwin - A Collection of Mechanical Conundra
Brad Litwin's upcoming show is titled Kinetic works: A Collection of Mechanical Conundra. The exhibit starts early next month in Philadelphia. If you will be in the area, you won't want to miss seeing his amazing mechanical creations in person.

From the exhibit description:
Bradley N.Litwin has created works of kinetic sculpture for nearly thirty years. His work draws on the accumulated and synergistic experiences of having worked in manufacturing, entertainment, and multimedia production, as a designer, engineer, animator, photographer, film-maker, performer, prototype maker, and eternal experimenter.

Kinetic works: A Collection of Mechanical Conundra
Date: October 4 through October 16, 2009
Reception: Saturday, October 10, 6pm -8pm
Tyler School of Art, Temple University
2001 N. 13th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Reindeer Ride paper automaton kit downloads

Here is the latest paper automaton creation by Rob Ives, called Reindeer Ride. There are two versions of this one. The colored version costs the usual £2.50 GBP (about $4 US dollars). The uncolored version is a completely free download! This could be a great holiday project for you or the kids.

Also, be sure to check out Rob's Workshop Notes blog in its new home of He posts to it most days about the fascinating process of creating paper automata.

Here is where you can get the Reindeer Ride paper animation kits.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Lady Cut in Half by Anatoly Zaya-Ruzo

Mechanical doll maker, Anatoly ZAYA-RUZO has a new automaton titled "LADY CUT IN-HALF".

From the artist:
The LADY is a classical automaton...with 6 movements, drum and music mechanism. This is a new version of Lady Saw'd in Twain, but instead of a saw the Magician holds a huge sword... There is a rolling drum sound prior to the sword moving down... But everything ends happily and the LADY makes a bow. The music mechanism provides two-tunes using a 72-note musical movement.

See this and other automata by Anatoly Zaya-Ruzo on his site.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Automata of Steve Armstrong - video profile of the artist, part 3

You guessed it -- here is the third and final video about the beautiful automata art of Steve Armstrong.

Here is a link to Part 1 of the video.
Here is a link to Part 2 of the video.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Automata of Steve Armstrong - video profile of the artist, part 2

Here is the second of three videos from PBS show focusing on the automata art of Steve Armstrong.

Here is a link to Part 1 of the video.
Here is a link to Part 3 of the video.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Automata of Steve Armstrong - video profile of the artist, part 1

Enjoy this video -- the first of three -- on the automata art of Steve Armstrong done for a local PBS station.

Here is a link to Part 2 of the video.
Here is a link to Part 3 of the video.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Jacaranda - sculpture by Jim Jenkins

Here is a video of the latest mechanical sculpture by artist Jim Jenkins. He's programmed the Arduino microcontroller to control the choreography of the mechanical birds.

See more from artist Jim Jenkins on his web site.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Roullet & Decamps walking peacock automaton

Roullet & Decamps walking peacock automaton
Here's a cool antique automaton from the famous French automaton-makers, Roullet et Decamps. This spring-driven peacock from the turn of the century walks forward while moving its head from side to side. The tail feathers (missing at present) move too.

From the eBay description:
This is a nice "PAON MARCHANT...."WALKING PEACOCK"....MADE BY ROULLET-DECAMPS, PARIS, FRANCE C.1890-1910......The body is made of mache paper it is in regular conditions with details. It doesn't have feathers...... The mechanism is in good conditions and it is clockwork and working, it walks to the front and moves the head from one side to the other side and the tail too...... the measures 6.5 inches large by 8 inches tall.

Here's the full listing with 12 different photographs of this walking peacock automaton.

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Revomaze - extreme mechanical puzzles

Revomaze - extreme mechanical puzzles
I'm not entirely sure how you operate this mechanical puzzle, but they sure make it sound difficult to solve. It comes in three levels of difficulty for personalized levels of frustration.

From the description:
Individually milled from a solid block of metal, the Revomaze features an internal labyrinth full of dead ends, traps, and one way paths you need to navigate to remove the metal core and solve the puzzle.

What makes the Revomaze truly great is its challenge to both your mental and physical aptitude. You need dexterity to manipulate the Revomaze as well as brain power to ferret out the correct path in the labyrinth. One wrong move and you're forced to start from the beginning. However the Revomaze is very fair minded... you screw up, you get punished, but you're always aware of whether you are making progress towards the solution.

Here's the link for the Revomaze mechanical puzzles.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0 - The Ultimate Toy?

LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0
LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0 is the newest generation of programmable LEGO toys featuring a slew of new hardware and software features. This is arguably the ultimate toy available today -- combining your physical constructions with programmable electronic elements. Start by building one of 4 robots in the included instructions, nearly anything you can dream up.

This new generation of LEGO Mindstorms features:

• A 32-bit microprocessor
• A large display
• 4 input and 3 output ports
• Bluetooth and USB communications
• Three servo motors
• 4 sensors (Ultrasonic, 2 Touch Sensors, and a new Color Sensor)
• Easy-to-use software with icon-based drag-and-drop programming
• 612 pieces total

Here is the link for the LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0 set.

Here are some LEGO Mindstorm 2.0 books to help you take your creations to the next level.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Making Wood Trucks & Construction Vehicles

Making Wood Trucks & Construction Vehicles
Time to start making some gift for the holidays. Why not make some wooden trucks and vehicles? Beautiful, durable, and without those annoying sound chips.

Product Description:
An old favorite gets a fabulous freshening up, with full-color images throughout -- but the projects remain as wonderful as ever, appealing to children of all ages. Bulldozers, dump trucks, loaders, and forklifts, each with a variety of moving parts: all these toy vehicles are included for the making, with plenty of diagrams, very detailed instructions that proceed logically and clearly from part to part, and images of the final product. Try a box trailer with a semi-cab, doors, axles, wheels (with simulated tread, if you like), and mud flaps. They're fun to craft and fun to receive.

Here's the link for the book on Making Wood Trucks & Construction Vehicles

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Automata-making workshops in Portland, OR

Karin Gale -- one of the creators of The Raven automaton I posted about some time ago -- will be hosting a mechanical bird automaton workshop in Portland, Oregon in a couple of weeks and still has a few spaces left.

Karin writes:
"These are not advanced workshops from a mechanical perspective so it would appeal to beginner level automata makers for this reason. But advanced makers might benefit from our construction techniques which allows a lot more freedom than some of the traditional automata construction methods using wood and metals."

Here is the link to the 3 Bird House automata workshop.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Build a paper automaton that can draw a picture!

Perhaps there is a theme this week; take a look at this amazing paper automata kit that draws a little picture on a Post-It Note!

From the kit description:
When the handle is turned the artist looks up at his model, then down at his easel and -amazingly- he starts to draw. Keep turning and you'll be amazed to see that he actually does a real pencil drawing of the model on a 'post-it' note! Although the model of the artist, the lady and all the little accessories (Paints, brushes,etc) are detailed and amusing, the real complexity lies within the case under their feet. The handle operates a 'worm' gear which in turn drives two large cams. One controls the forwards-and-backwards movement of the artist's arm, the other the 'side-to-side' movements. A series of levers transmit the movements and the combination of both actions results in the drawing.

Here's the link to The Artist Automaton kit page.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Hand-cranked pencil writing automaton

Automata that write or draw have a distinguished history. Here's a modern version by the prolific Osamu Kanda for your consideration.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Grim Rover by Artist Steve Armstrong

Grim Rover by Artist Steve Armstrong
Take a look at this gorgeous piece of animated wooden sculpture by Steve Armstrong entitled "Grim Rover".

Here's a short article on Steve's process of work.

See more of Steve Armstrong's at the John Pence Gallery.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Metal Detecting Remote-Controlled Dune Buggy

Metal Detecting Remote-Controlled Dune Buggy
OK, so we've seen radio controlled cars for decades now, and they don't seem that exciting anymore. But...combine that remote-controlled car with a metal detector -- now we're on to something again. And hey...the four faux-gold doubloons are included!

From the product description:
This is the remote control dune buggy that can detect buried metallic objects when driven over suitable terrain, including backyards, dirt lots, low grass, or flat sand. The buggy can detect buried iron-based metals down to 4" and when it does, it flashes a red LED and begins beeping to alert you of potential treasure. The remote controls forward, backward, left, and right movement from up to 25' away. Metal detecting sensitivity can be modified to suit the terrain with a simple dial on the buggy.

Here's the link for the The Metal Detecting Dune Buggy.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Great Book of Wooden Toys: 50 Easy Projects

Great Book of Wooden Toys: More Than 50 Easy-to-Build Projects
This looks like a good book on making wooden toys. Anyone out there have this one?

From the book description:

Detailed and copiously illustrated, this in-depth handbook offers instruction for constructing more than 50 wooden toys designed to appeal to a child’s sense of imagination and playfulness. A brief introduction covers the basic techniques—gluing, sanding, and making wheels—and each project presents a meticulous diagram, a handy materials list, step-by-step instructions, and a photograph of the completed toy. Designs include stylized versions of a Model T car, a crane, and the Spirit of St. Louis airplane, as well as projects specifically for beginning woodworkers, such as pull-along trains and circus animals. Instructions for finishing and detailing ensure that the completed crafts will last for years.

Here is the link for more information about Great Book of Wooden Toys: More Than 50 Easy-to-Build Projects

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Wooden music box + ball track + automaton

Check out Osamu Kanda's excellent hand-cranked mechanical metallophone with integrated rolling ball track and animated marionette figure. This man has some wildly creative ideas and the skills to bring them to life!

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

BotBrain Animatronic Head Kit

BotBrain Animatronic Head Kit
The BotBrain Animatronic Head kit lets you build a fully functioning animatronic head which can turn left and right, move its eyes and eyelids, and change its mouth expressions. Sensors allow the robot to react to changes in the environment.

Here's a link to the BotBrain Animatronic Head

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Zilotone musical automaton wind-up toy

Zilotone musical automaton wind-up toy
Here's a tin-toy musician capable of playing three differrent songs. The actions required for the figure to play each song are "recorded" on interchangeable cams (seen behind the figure's feet). Very cool!

From the eBay description:
Even non-collectors find this an enchanting piece. The Zilotone, made by the Wolverine Supply & Manufacturing Co of Pennsylvania, circa 1930, features a little man playing a xylophone. A metal song disc is inserted in the toy, and the clockwork is wound up. When switched on, the musician moves back and forth, hitting the keys with a mallet. Comes with 3 different discs: Yankee Doodle, My Old Kentucky Home, and The Farmer in the Dell. Measures approximately 10" x 8 "x 7", sturdy pressed-steel construction.

Here's the eBay listing for Wolverine Zilotone musical automaton wind-up toy

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Monday, September 07, 2009

Video interview with kinetic artist Stan Bennett

While vacationing in Northern California, artist Aaron Kramer happened into a museum that featured the work of a man named Stan Bennett -- whose studio was on site. After "talking shop" for a while, Aaron recorded this impromptu video interview with Bennett who has been making wire-based kinetic sculptures and rolling-ball tracks for 40 years.

See more kinetic sculptures by Stan Bennett on his web site.

[ Thanks Aaron! ]

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Sunday, September 06, 2009

Clever hand-cranked mechanical brooches

Take a look at these clever little mechanical brooches made by Gary Schott for the Society for Contemporary Craft.

From the artist's description:
These wearable objects emphasize and play with the already existing intimate nature between a wearer and their jewelry object.

In order to fully succeed, both my mechanical works and my wearable objects require human interaction, celebrating intimate moments between object and user(s). This playful collaboration becomes the artful moment for me.

See more work by Gary Schott on his web site.

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Saturday, September 05, 2009

Motorized Marble Roller Coaster Instructable

Here's a nice Instructable on how to make a rolling ball track out of cardboard, hot glue, some old printer parts, and a few other odds and ends.

Here's a video of the completed marble track in action:

Here's a link to the complete Marble Roller Instructable.

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Friday, September 04, 2009

Tippoo's Tiger - automaton and organ

Tippoo's Tiger is famous life-size carved wooden tiger shown attacking a man. The automaton makes sounds for the tiger and the man and also has a basic playable organ built in. A one-of-a-kind piece with a remarkable history.

From the Victoria and Albert web site:
Concealed in the bodywork is a mechanical pipe-organ with several parts, all operated simultaneously by a crank-handle emerging from the tiger's shoulder. Inside the tiger and the man are weighted bellows with pipes attached. Turning the handle pumps the bellows and controls the air-flow to simulate the growls of the tiger and cries of the victim. The cries are varied by the approach of the hand towards the mouth and away, as the left arm - the only moving part - is raised and lowered.

Another pair of bellows, linked to the same handle, supplies wind for a miniature organ of 18 pipes built into the tiger, with stops under the tail. Its structure is like that of European mechanical organs, but adapted for hand operation by a set of ivory button keys reached through a flap in the animal's side. The mechanism has been repaired several times and altered from its original state. It is now too fragile to be operated regularly.

Here is a link to more on the history of Tippoo's Tiger.

Here is a link to a 26 minute video on Tippoo and a bit about the Tiger.

[ Thanks Falk! ]

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Thursday, September 03, 2009

Sleek Stirling engine locomobile kit

Here is a very attractive Stirling engine kit. Stirling engines, you may recall, are powered by the expansion and compression of air.

From the engine kit description:
The finished engine is fueled by an alcohol burner that heats the front of the glass tube, causing the air inside to expand and contract and push the piston toward the gears. The piston is connected to a system of flywheels and pulleys that exert reciprocal force on the piston, causing it to move back and forth. The energy produced by the desktop engine can be harnessed to spin the integrated fan, illuminate the attached light bulb, and rotate the rear wheels, propelling the locomobile forward. Assembles in two to three hours.

Here is the link for the The Stirling Engine Locomobile.

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Scarab beetle robot kit avoids obstacles

Scarab beetle robot kit avoids obstacles
Here's a kit for making a nifty obstacle-avoiding insect-like robot.

From the product description
It comes with two touch sensors that look like insect antennas, and when they detect an obstacle, the Scarab will first step back and then automatically execute a two-step maneuver to avoid the obstacle. The maneuver is a combination of "left turn", "right turn", "reverse" or "stop". The Scarab Robot can be configured with different sets of movements. Easy assembly allows you to learn electronics, robotics and mechanical design. The kit comes complete with 2 sets of differently designed legs, which move in their own distinct way.

Here is the link for the Scarab Beetle Robot Kit

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Museum Residency: Automaton Maker at V&A

Tippu's Tiger.jpg
The the Victoria and Albert Museum is currently accepting applicants for an automata residency. This is a great opportunity for UK-based automaton artists. Shown above is the famous piece known as Tippu's Tiger from their collection.

Museum Residency:
Automata Maker Bursary offered and studio space provided The V&A and the Crafts Council are collaborating on a series of three six month residencies in the Sackler Centre for arts education at the V&A. This third Craft Residency presents a new opportunity for mid-career practitioners to have a studio at the V&A for six months commencing in July 2010. Proposals are invited from UK based artists and makers working with, or wishing to work in Automata, who want to develop their practice through working with the V&A collections and engage in public participatory programmes in working with the V&A and Crafts Council.

For more details and to apply online, visit the V&A's website. The closing date for applications is 3 November 2009.

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