Sunday, February 28, 2010

Homunculus - kinetic sculpture by Nemo Gould

In keeping with one of his favorite themes, here is a new sculpture by Nemo Gould featuring a little figure operating inside a bigger one. This kinetic sculpture incorporates voltage meters, a radio tuner, lamp parts, candlestick parts, table legs, shoe forms, door hardware, wind instruments, trophy figure arms, vacuum tube, a tobacco pipe, thermostat parts, ukulele knobs, velvet, motors, and LEDs. Wow!

See more kinetic sculptures by Nemo Gould on his web site.

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hanayama L'Oeuf cast metal mechanical puzzle

Hanayama L'Oeuf cast metal mechanical puzzle
From puzzle maker Hanayama is this intriguing egg-shaped cast puzzle. (L'Oeuf is French for "The egg".) The two plates each have a pin that moves within a track on the opposite plate goal is to separate the two metal pieces and then put them back together. While it may seem straightforward, the puzzle is rated at "intermediate" difficulty, so perhaps there is more to it that it might seem?

If you are interested, here is where you can get the Hanayama L'Oeuf cast metal puzzle.

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Friday, February 26, 2010

Automata creations by Viktor Plotnikov

Check out these fantastic creations by Russian artist Viktor Plotnikov.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Step-by-step carving of a dinosaur marionette

Step-by-step carving of a dinosaur marionetteWez Champion is documenting his efforts as he makes a very cool dinosaur marionette. Champion says he is a fan of the Prague style of marionette making.

Says the artist:
One of the things I like most about ALL Prague puppets is the way they don't try to hide the fact that they are made from wood... the master craftsmen seem to use the straight edges of chisel cuts to form unique facial expressions and unbelievable style to each character...this is what I someday hope to master for myself!

His blog posts document his project from drawings to roughing out the figure, to carving details. Stay tuned as he goes on to paint and assemble the puppet.

Here is a link to Wez's World -- the blog that documents the making of a marionette.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Martha Stewart learns the history of automata

Here's a clip of Martha Stewart learning about various forms of automata through history from the famous video game creator and collector, Richard Garriott.

[ Thanks Karin! ]

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Rotapult - an astonishing machine by Brad Litwin

I don't have words for how cool this kinetic sculpture is; just watch the video.

See more sculptures by Brad Litwin on his web site.

[ Thanks Dave! ]

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Construction toy with internally illuminated parts

Construction toy with internally illuminated parts
Here is a new take on a construction toy. As you assemble the translucent parts to make an assortment of designs, a low voltage current supplied by a power base progressively lights up LEDs inside causing the toy to glow in various hues.

From the product description:
You can create antennaed insects, fat-tired dune buggies, streamlined starships, and more with the kit's 72 differently shaped pegs -- straight, t- and u-shaped pegs, wheels, and flat squares -- that have built-in, multi-colored LEDs.

Here's a link to the Lighted Construction KitThe Lighted Construction Kit.

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Leonardo's: Machines in Motion exhibit, Nebraska

There is an exhibit that looks simply amazing titled "Leonardo da Vinci: Machines in Motion" at the Strategic Air & Space Museum in Ashland, Nebraska. The models for the exhibit are gorgeous and nearly all of the displays are interactive. The Leonardo exhibit runs through May 9th, 2010.

Here's info on the Leonardo exhibit at the Strategic Air & Space Museum web site.

[ Thanks Rusty! ]

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Automata exhibit at the Miami Science Museum

Automata exhibit at the Miami Science Museum
Head on over to the Cabaret Mechanical blog to get all the details on an exhibit of automata now showing at the Miami Science Museum through to September. The exhibit features automata from Cabaret Mechanical Theatre and from the collection of Dr. Andrew R. Hirschl.

Here's the news of the Miami, Florida automata exhibit at the Cabaret Blog. Here's is info about the show from the Miami Science Museum.

[ Thanks Ellen! ]

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Motorized kinetic sculpture with 4 ball catapults

I have a feeling this video of a crafty piece of kinetic sculpture by Brad Litwin has made the blog rounds before. Even if you've seen it before, it is worth another look. Clever, playful...and precise!

See more kinetic sculptures by the multi-talented Brad Litwin on is web site.

[ Thanks Tom! ]

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

In the Studio with automaton-artist Tom Haney

Enjoy this beautiful montage of images and video taken within artist Tom Haney's studio.

See more of Tom Haney's work at

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Artist Matt Smith's Silversmith automaton

Here we see the things that make automata from Fourteen Balls Toy Company (this one designed and made by Matt Smith): mechanical mastery, excellent carving, incredible attention to detail, subtle motions, and wonderful humor.

See more images of the Silversmith automaton by the Fourteen balls Toy on their web site.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Hand-cranked Wimshurst electrostatic generator

Hand-cranked Wimshurst electrostatic generator
For those you that need to see high-voltage sparks early and often, I direct your attention to this affordable hand-cranked Wimshurst generator.

From the product description:
This is Lethan Corporations classic best-selling economy Wimshurst machine that produces large static electric sparks for a terrific demonstration. No assembly required, simply attach the hand crank, begin cranking, and watch in wonder as the sparks fly. Instruction guide and helpful hints are included with each unit.

Here's a link to Amazon's page for this Wimshurst Electrostatic Generator

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Monday, February 15, 2010

The Superplexus - absolutely huge 3D puzzle

The Superplexus - absolutely huge 3D puzzle
If you've got $30,000 and a sweater-vest, you might be the in the target demographic for this giant version of the Perplexus 3D puzzle.

About this monstrous puzzle:
This is the three-dimensional spherical labyrinth that challenges the limits of your manual dexterity and spatial understanding as you maneuver a 5/8" wooden marble through its entire course. The Superplexus is a complex network of chicanes, multi-planar hairpin turns, spirals, and staircases--even a vortex. Hand made from 3- and 6-ply Finnish birch that form the track, over 400 hours are involved in its construction. The labyrinth is set inside a 36" diameter acrylic sphere affixed to a Jatoba base using a stainless steel gimbaled mount that allows you to tilt the sphere in any direction to guide the marble.

You can learn more about the huge Superplexus puzzle over at Hammacher Schlemmer.

If you're short on cash (or the sweater vest) you could consider the regular Perplexus Maze Game for a mere $22.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Fluttering Heart - animated papercraft model

Fluttering Heart - moving papercraft model
Another clever animated model from Rob Ives. Here is the idea: the heart model folds flat so it can be placed into a card. When the card is opened the heart will pop out and 'flutter' to the amazement of the recipient.

Check out this fluttering heart papercraft model.

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

'You have captured my heart' brass automaton

Check out this Valentine's Day automaton by Keith Newstead made with laser-cut metal.

See more automata by Keith Newstead on his site.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Pat Metheny's Orchestrion album and tour

From the YouTube description:

LEMUR: League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots is proud to announce that over 40 of its robotic musical instruments are featured on Pat Metheny's Orchestrion album and tour. This is the culmination of a collaboration between LEMUR, a group of artists who create robotic musical instruments, and the 17-time Grammy winning guitarist.

LEMUR produced an orchestra of instruments for Metheny, including GuitarBots (LEMUR's specially-invented robotic slide guitars), mallet instruments (marimba, vibes and bells comprising over 100 beaters) and a large array of drums and percussion.

Like LEMUR's previously created instruments, these are computer-controlled mechanized acoustic musical instruments which can perform music by and with human musicians. LEMUR's instruments, augmented with instruments by other roboticists, comprise the Orchestrion, a robotic orchestra entirely under Metheny's compositional and improvisational control.

[ Thanks Art! ]

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

More cute wind-up robots that do unlikely things

wind-up robot salt and pepper shakers
Recently, we featured a little wind-up robot that serves as a pencil sharpener. A trend is emerging. Here are more wind-up robots with a utilitarian purpose: they dispense salt and pepper. So, if someone asks for the salt at dinner -- and they are very patient -- you can wind the appropriate robot up and send it walking over to them. I suppose it would be fun to do to an unsuspecting guest.

Here's a link to the wind-up robot salt and pepper shakers

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Book: Miniature Internal Combustion Engines

Miniature Internal Combustion Engines
Model engineers have been making miniature internal combustion engines for as long as that type of engine has been around. Some, though, have been put off from this endeavor because of the perceived difficulty of the task. This book attempts to remedy this situation. The text covers various internal combustion engine designs and their operating cycles. The core of the book provides detailed information about the process of constructing internal combustion engines. Readers with a basic knowledge of machining should find the information necessary to build a simple single cylinder engine. The book features tons of photographs and beautiful drawings to make the concepts clear.

Here's where you can learn more about Miniature Internal Combustion Engines

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Interesting repelling magnets on spinning wheels

I don't read (or speak) Japanese, but I think what we are looking at in this video are two spoked wheels with magnets on the ends -- each wheel having the opposite pole from the other. Some interesting and unexpected motions result!

Amazon's very cool Industrial & Scientific section has a huge selection of magnets if you are inclined to do some experimenting of your own.

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Monday, February 08, 2010

CPR wood automaton with available plans

Here's a video that shows a fun automaton designed by Ken Schweim. He has written complete construction plans describing how to build it. It has 36 pages, 36 photos, and 26 blueprints with complete step-by-step instructions. It is available for download for a cost $10 payable through PayPal. This might be a great way to get into making wood automata.

You can purchase and download plans for this wood automaton at Ken's Devil Dog Automata page.

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Sunday, February 07, 2010

The whimsical machines of Edmund Dohnert

The finely crafted & whimsical machines of Edmund Dohnert
Edmund Dohnert designs machines that are meant to be amusing celebrations of mechanical movement. Shown here is a piece titled Victor Rat Trap No. 3.

The artist describes this machine:
In a deliberate escalation beyond Victor Rat Traps Nos. 1 and 2, this one is powered by not one, but two rat traps! Both springs are connected by a steel rod, which is attached to a Swiss cheese-like structure that has a cord wrapped around its edge. (The "cheese" is mounted off-center so as to even out the pull on the cord over the full range of the springs' travel.)

This cord pulls the springs back, and through an arrangement of pulleys, connects to a crank-wound gearbox on the right. The gearbox's output shaft connects to a vertical shaft running through a support structure, on top of which is a 'planetary gear' arrangement with two hollow spheres attached.

When the vertical shaft rotates, not only do the "planets" rotate about their own individual axes, they also orbit around the central shaft (hence the origin of the term 'planetary gear'). Connected to the main gearbox is a second gearbox that operates a small fan which not only helps control the speed of the machine through air resistance, it creates a unique whirring sound.

While the machine only runs for about 30 seconds, it's quite interesting to watch, for the movement is reminiscent of a medieval astronomical orrery.

See more amazing mechanical creations from Edmund Dohnert on his web site.

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Saturday, February 06, 2010

Automaton-maker Dug North and his workshop

Automaton-maker Dug North and his workshop
I thought it might be fun to give you a glimpse of my workshop and some photos of me in it.

The shots were taken by the talented portrait artist, Adrien Bisson who also resides in Lowell, Massachusetts. The photographs show my workshop, some parts of the wood clock I am making, and a prototype automaton that is in the works. The workshop it is actually built into a century-old walk-in vault.

To see more photographs from this shoot, check out Adrien Bisson's photography blog.

And, as always, thanks for reading The Automata / Automaton Blog!

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Friday, February 05, 2010

Elegant spiral ball lifter and spiral ball run

From the video description:
After being ferried to the top by a spiral elevator, a ball ricochets down an octagonal spiral amidst a cacophony of clacking sounds.

See more at mechanical marvels at

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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Some early machines created by Tim Hunkin

Here is a real treat for you: nearly 10 minutes of video showing large-scale coin-operated machines and automata by the inimitable Tim Hunkin. Hunkin is a not only a great automaton-maker, but a cartoonist, engineer, and host of a television series called The Secret Life of Machines.

Learn more about Tim Hunkin
on his web site.

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The cutest little impaled robot pencil sharpener

For the record, I am pro-robot. As such, I am not sure how I feel about the fact that to use this pencil sharpener you need to drive the pencil straight into the chest of this cute little robot. I guess it's OK because the act of turning the pencil winds the robot up so that it can then walk a little. I suppose it's more like 'adding fuel' than 'impaling'. I can live with that, though, it still doesn't seem quite right.

Here's a link to the walking robot pencil sharpener.

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Driver - car automaton with moving scenery

Here is a nifty landscape automaton showing a car with the scenery moving past -- literally!

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Monday, February 01, 2010

5 foot long working scale roller coaster model

5 foot long working scale roller coaster model
Shown here is a 1/48th scale working roller coaster model.

From the model description:
A rotating spring lifts the train up the first hill, then releases the train, where it dives and rises into its second turn. The second hill provides enough potential energy for the train to continue smoothly around the loop and power it through its corkscrew. The kit consists of 464 pieces made of durable ABS and POM plastic. When fully assembled, it spans 4' 9" long by 15" wide and stands 25" tall.

Here's a link to the working scale roller coaster.

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