Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sun to Stirling engine to generator to NiMH to car

Solar Stirling Engine Racer
I'm not sure if you caught it, but yesterday, I declared this holiday season to be The Year of the Physics Toy. (One perk of having your own blog is that you get to make random proclamations like that.) You have got to check this toy out: it combines solar energy, a rhombic geared drive train, a Stirling engine, a generator, and a motorized car in one system. I defy you to NOT learn some physics from this toy.

About the Solar Stirling Engine Racer:
A 11"-diameter parabolic mirror reflects sunlight onto the Stirling engine, heating its glass tube and causing the air inside to expand and contract. The expansion and contraction of air forces the piston to move up and down and powers the movement of its gears and rhombic drive--the same heat-to-work conversions that powered Robert Stirling's original engine in 1816. The Stirling Engine powers a small generator located in its translucent assembly, which in turn recharges the racer's AAA NiMH battery. The rear-wheeled drive racer has a geared transmission and operates for five minutes after a three-hour charge.

Here's where to get the solar Stirling engine racer.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Engino Mechanical Science: Gears - physics toy

Engino Mechanical Science: Gears - physics toy
I'm all for physics toys. In fact, I hereby declare this holiday season to be The Year of the Physics Toy. In keeping with this declaration, check out this toy that helps teach what gears can do for us: reduce or increase speed, change force applied, and transfer motion from one place to another. Man...that's some useful stuff!

From the Gears toy description:
Build 6 working models including a gearbox, a hand drill, an egg beater, a helecopter, a rotating sign, and a high speed fan. A 40 page activity book is uncluded with innovative experiments and detailed explanations of various technical and scientific principles and how they are applied. The Engino Toy System is perhaps the most advanced and versatile three dimensional construction toy in the market today. It offers both children and adults unique opportunities for design and creation.

Here's where you can get Engino Mechanical Science: Gears.

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

1890's Roullet & Decamps leaping Lion automaton

Check out this wonderful antique lion automaton by the famous makers, Roullet & Dechamp.

Here is the full ebay listing for this Roullet & Decamps leaping Lion automaton.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Gravitram kinetic sculptures of Shab Levy

The Gravitram sculptures of Shab Levy
In 1973, Shab Levy and his colleague George Hohnstein made the first Gravitram -- a combination of the words "gravity" and "tramway". He went on to create many more Gravitrams, the latest a joint effort with his son, was completed in 2010. Shown here is the Gravitram commissioned by the Weitzmann Institute of Science, in Rehovot, Israel. Here's a 3 minute video of this amazing machine in action.

Shab Levy on his various Gravitrams:
The largest ball that I used was 6 inches in diameter and the smallest less than one inch. Some of the Gravitrams that were created in my studio were made from 3/16" stainless steel track, using balls that are between 2-4 inches made of hard plastic. Some Gravitrams were musical. In one Gravitram, 25 feet long and less than 2 feet deep, the tracks were made of hardwood. Another Gravitram used copper troughs in which water flowed and tripped various devices. The largest and most complex Gravitram was built for a museum in Brazil in 1995. It is approximately 15' tall and 12' in diameter and is controlled by the visitor through a computer console allowing different gates and tricks to operate according to the visitor’s input.

See many more of Shab Levy's Gravitrams on his web site.

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Friday, November 26, 2010

Ingenium: Five Machines That Changed the World

Ingenium: Five Machines That Changed the World
In his book Ingenium, physicist Mark Denny examanes five devices -- the bow and arrow, the waterwheel, the counterpoise siege engine, the pendulum clock anchor escapement, and the centrifugal governor. The author combines narrative, illustrations, and even equations to cover the history of each device. As a physicist, he is able to explain the physics behind each machine, how it was used, how it changed over time, and the impact they had on the world.

Here's where you can learn more about the book Ingenium: Five Machines That Changed the World

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

How to make a tippe top out of marbles!

Need something to do after eating a lot today? Make a tippe top out of four marbles and some two-part epoxy or JB Weld.

Here is an article on the surprising physics of the tippe top.

Here's a book on how to make all kinds of tops of your own: Tops: Making the Universal Toy.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

See Bruce Campbell's automata art in 3D!

As promised, here is a 3D video featuring the work of Bruce Campbell. Still need glasses? It's not too late to get a FREE pair. Just send an email request for the 3D glasses to Leafpdx.

The 3D movie was made by Shab Levy. Thanks to Shab for his hard work!

Bruce Campbell's wireart automata are currently on display at Leafpdx Gallery in Portland, Oregon. As you will see, Campbell uses levers to articulate the legs, wings, tails and adds basic gearing to create multiple movements, speeds, and articulation within the same piece.

Here is where you can read Bruce Campbell's bio and artist statement.

To see the work in person visit the Leafpdx Gallery:
Leafpdx Gallery
1720 NW Lovejoy St. (entrance on 18th Ave. at Lovejoy)
Portland, OR 97209
Wednesday–Saturday 12:00–6:0

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Video tour: Craftsmanship Museum in Vista, CA

If you are interested in things mechanical, miniature, or machined you'll want to check out the The Craftsmanship Museum in Vista, California. Here's a little video tour of the exhibit. The is some unbelievable stuff there!

From the video description:
The museum features projects at the small end of the size scale that exhibit exceptional craftsmanship. Included are model steam, Stirling, jet and gas engines, model aircraft, tractors and trains, miniature guns, tools, clocks and more. There is also a working machine shop on site where a master machinist can be seen building a small engine or other project. The 6500 square foot museum is on two levels with an electric stair lift available for handicapped access to the 2nd floor. It is located at 3235 Executive Ridge, Vista, CA 92081.

Here is where you can get more information on The Craftsmanship Museum.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Book: Mechanical Engineering Principles

Mechanical Engineering Principles book
This book introduces mechanical principles and technology. Meant to be an accessible introduction for undergraduate-level college students, the book does not assume the reader has any background in the study of engineering. The concepts presented are supported by hundreds of worked examples and quiz problems (with answers). This book does not look like light bedside reading; it is more challenging than that. It certainly should give the reader a foundational understanding of mechanical engineering principles.

Here is where you can take a closer look at Mechanical Engineering Principles

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ron Fuller's Lion Tamer - free schematic drawing!

Ron Fuller's Lion Tamer - Free Schematic Drawing
As part of their extraordinarily fun 40-day long seasonal event called the 'Mechanical Magic of Cabaret', Cabaret Mechanical Theatre are offering a free download of a detailed diagram of Ron Fuller's famous Lion Tamer automaton. The diagram has an exploded view, plan views, detail views, and a comprehensive parts list. This is useful material if you are a fan of Fuller's work or if you plan to make your own automata.

Here is where you can download The Lion Tamer drawiong by Ron Fuller from Cabaret Mechanical Theatre.

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Timberkits - designed & made by Eric Williamson

A kind reader of The Automata / Automaton Blog has reminded me that Timberkits is a trade name for a range of kits designed and produced by Eric Williamson. Based in the countryside of Llanbrynmair, in Wales, Williamson has produced more wooden automata kits than anyone else over the years and continues to offer a wide range of them. Here is a page with the complete line of Timberkits.

For those on the other side of the Atlantic, here is where you can find Timberkits in the U.S. and Canada.

Here is where you can learn a bit more about Eric Williamson, the creator of Timberkits (scroll down to the lower portion of the page).

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Ghost illusion automaton by Thomas Kuntz

Another masterpiece by Thomas Kuntz! Watch the video and read about the work that went into this automaton. There is a reason he is probably my favorite of all living automata makers.

From the video describing the automaton:
The French poet and notorious absinthe drinker Paul Verlaine sits in the late night Parisian cafe sipping his "Humble Ephemeral absinthe". No words flow from his quill. It's nearing closing hour and through his blurred vision the Green Muse appears to him offering inspiration and a kiss...

As he begins writing, a cool breeze is felt and the image of his dead friend Arthur Rimbaud appears seated next to him, but its not possible he died years before from an abscessed leg! A last sip of absinthe peels the face away from the apparition revealing a smiling death's head. He knows his bitterness and loneliness will soon be put to rest in a final slumber...

Thia automaton represents 5 months worth of development. Just from a sculptural standpoint it required making over 27 sculptural pieces from scratch including the four main characters each based on real people . The debauched, albeit groundbreaking poets Paul Verlaine Arthur Rimbaud, "The green Fairy" (modeled after Blake Bolger), and last but not least Bi bi- La -Puree (who stands outside and cues the show) resplendent in his ragged clothing, musketeer hat and stolen umbrella.

From the technical side this automaton was difficult to do in small scale (roughly 1/12 scale on the interior figures) all the movements are stored on brass cams, 12 of them just for the main movements; heads, arms, bodies etc. and other mechanisms, gears springs levers etc, to control various systems. These cams we're worked out in wood before hand machining them to the final form. The illusion works on the Pepper's ghost principle, a staple in the grand era of magic and showmanship. The Sculpture, mechanical design, engineering, painting, etc. are all the work of Thomas J. Kuntz.

See more automata by Thomas Kuntz on his web site.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

The history of vintage Japanese tin toy robots

The history of vintage tin toy robots
Toy robots are in the air! A few days ago, I introduced you to the toy robot paintings of Steven Skollar. Here is an interview with toy robot collector Justin Pinchot who provides a detailed account of the history of Japanese tin toy robots.

Found via Boing Boing.

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Stephenson's Rocket - automata kit...and book!

Stephenson's Rocket - Wood automata kit
I've been rambling at length to anyone who will listen about this great book I just finished called The Most Powerful Idea in the World, which centers around a locomotive named "Rocket" invented by Robert Stephenson in 1829. It just so happens that automata kits have also been on my mind a lot lately too. Imagine my surprise when the good people at Cabaret Mechanical Theatre sent out a recent email featuring a wood automata kit of Stephenson's Rocket!

The book is one of the best I have ever read on the history of technology (and have read many). The author uses Rocket as a destination and leads the reader on several avenues of inquiry to explore its invention: history, culture, technology, invention, economics, science, industry, intellectual property...even psychology. It's incredible. Someone should make a documentary series based on this book!

As for the kit, I haven't assembled this one myself, but it looks like a nice model. All of the Timberkits are made of solid wood pieces that you simply peg and glue together according to the instructions.

Here's where you can order the wood automata kit of Stephenson's Rocket. For those of us in the USA, you can also get the kit at http://www.timberkitsus.com. Here's the product page for Stephenson's Rocket kit.

Here's where you can get a copy of the book The Most Powerful Idea in the World: A Story of Steam, Industry, and Invention

The two items together would make a very nice gift package for the mechanical-historian type of person in your life.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Baranger window displays from House on the Rock

Artist Aaron Kramer was kind enough to share some video of the collection of Baranger animated window displays from The House on the Rock in Spring Green, Wisconsin.

Aaron Kramer on this video:
I first became aware of the Baranger displays at the House on the Rock in Spring Green Wisconsin. I shot this old video of several playing in 1997. ... I did not get much info on the inner workings of these. At the auction John Daniel was nice enough to open the back of one. The were all chain driven with cogs, shafts and linkages. Electric. In editions of 30 but some were repurposed over the years. At House on the Rock they have taken parts from some and re-made their own displays.

Here is a link to a rare book on the subject: Baranger: Window displays in motion: dramatizing the jewel

[ Thanks Aaron! ]

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Book: Making Things Move - DIY Mechanisms for Inventors, Hobbyists, and Artists

Book: Making Things Move DIY Mechanisms for Inventors, Hobbyists, and Artists
I just ordered this book from Amazon and I cannot wait for it to arrive. If it lives up to the description, this could become a maker's bible!

The book explains mechanical design principles and their applications in non-technical terms, using examples and a dozen topic-focused projects.

Some of the topics covered include:
  • Introduction to mechanisms and machines
  • Basic physics
  • How to fasten and attach things
  • Converting between rotary and linear motion
  • Using off-the-shelf components
  • Using and finding materials such as metals, plastics, & wood
  • A variety of fabrication techniques
This book sounds truly outstanding for makers of all sorts! I'll let you know what I think when the book arrives. It's due to ship in mid-December of 2010.

Here is where you can order the book Making Things Move DIY Mechanisms for Inventors, Hobbyists, and Artists.

[ Thanks Gary! ]

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Wire art automata video in 3D coming soon!

The Automata / Automaton Blog is pleased to announce that in the next few weeks we will be posting a video of automata in 3D!

The featured work is by Bruce Campbell whose wireart automata are currently on display at Leafpdx Gallery in Portland, Oregon. The artist uses simple levers to articulate the legs, wings, and tails. He adds simple gearing to create multiple movements, speeds, and articulation within the same piece.

You will need special 3D glasses to view the movie in all of its glory. Don't have the glasses? The good folks at Leafpdx will send a FREE pair of glasses to the first 100 people who request them!

Here is where you can request a pair of 3D glasses from Leafpdx.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Coin Collector automaton by Jim Kransberger

The Coin Collector by Jim Kransberger
The Coin Collector is a recent piece by Jim Kransberger. When the crank is turned, the seated collector raises both arms to look at a single coin through a magnifying glass. He, then the lowers both arms to the starting position.

See more automata by Jim Kransberger on his web site.

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Review: Enter the Flying Dragon Automaton Kit

Enter the Flying Dragon, Wood Automaton Kit
Enter the Flying Dragon, Wooden Automaton Kit by Pathfinders Design and Technology

What is it?
The Enter the Flying Dragon is a wood automaton kit produced by the Pathfinders Design and Technology. The completed automaton depicts a flying dragon measuring about 45 centimeters long.  When a small hand-crank is turned, the dragon’s wings beat, its arms and legs move forward and back, and the head, neck and tail move up and down.

Who is the kit for?
The kit is intended to be assembled by builders age 9 years and older. I’m considerably older than 9 years old and I had a great time building it. I think it is fair to say that this kit is suitable for anyone who enjoys putting stuff together, mechanical things, and/or dragons.

What comes in the kit?
The kit comes in a cardboard box with no excess packaging. The dragon’s parts consist of pre-cut pieces of 1/4 inch thick solid wood and 1/8 inch thick plywood.  Other parts include assorted dowels, plastic tubing, string, and four screw eyes.  The kit also comes with a sturdy piece of sandpaper (needed for certain steps of the assembly) and white glue. Though the container of glue was small, I found that it was more than enough to complete the project. An instruction booklet completes the package.

What is needed to assemble the kit?
The kit lists only three things that you will need:
●    Enter the Flying Dragon Kit
●    Scissors - these should be sturdy metal ones
●    Ruler  - with markings in centimeters and millimeters

What was the experience of building it like?
The kit contained all of the parts is was supposed to come with it. The pieces were cut well and the drill holes accurate. The wooden pieces required no tweaking whatsoever on my part.

The 10 page instruction book has a playful tone, step-by-step written instructions, and very clear line drawings. You are building a piece of kinetic sculpture here. As such, there are 16 steps involved and you really do need to read the instructions -- including the notes adjacent to the drawings. Some of these are quite important.

Some of the steps involve gluing pieces together. Because the glue will need to dry, you should expect to build your dragon automaton in a couple of shifts.

The instructions call for scoring the thin dowels with scissors and then breaking them. I hadn’t tried this technique before and I wasn’t entirely sure it would work. Well, the technique worked just fine! Just be careful with the scissors and bend the dowel toward the notch made by the scissors. Alternatively, look up Pathfinder’s helpful article on how to use wire cutters to cut dowels.

Where there any issues with the kit?
Not really!

I was a little confused in spots because not all of the parts specified in the directions correspond with what I found in the kit. For example, the 4.5 cm follower part listed in step 5 was actually 3.5 cm. This was not a big deal because the diagrams show the parts so clearly. You can also refer to the parts list illustration at the beginning of the booklet to sort out which pieces you need to use.

The color of the wood parts varied a little. I had one darkish set of front and back legs and one lighter set. Some of the plywood has small gaps that have been filled, but they are so small. If you choose to paint your dragon as recommended, both of these things are non-issues.  There is a coloring template at the back of the booklet that you can use to work out the color scheme of your dragon.

Can you offer any tips and tricks?
In addition to the recommended items, I found the following tools and supplies to be useful:             
●    Small tack hammer - for tapping a few of the pieces together
●    Pin vise with small drill bit - for pre-drilling holes for screw eyes
●    Pencil - for marking lengths of dowels that must be cut
●    Fine tipped marker - for marking lengths of plastic tubing
●    Wire cutters - for cutting thin dowels
●    Masking tap - for temporarily holding strings
●    Toothpicks - for spreading glue
●    Paper towel - for cleaning up any excess glue

There are a few spots where you need to glue parts together, but NOT glue them to adjacent parts. With a little care this is pretty easy to avoid. You can also use a bit of wax paper between parts to keep them from being glued together.

It’s worth the effort to sand the ends of the sticks where instructed. This makes it much easier to insert into the plastic tubing. I found a slight twisting motion helped too.

What’s the final verdict?
You can learn a lot about basic machines from this kit. The automaton incorporates a crank shaft, axle, crank-slider, a follower, rigid and flexible linkages, pivots, and hinges. Likewise, a variety of ingenious construction techniques are used that would be valuable additions to any maker’s catalog of useful knowledge.

My finished automaton needed only a tiny a bit of tuning to work smoothly. This was fully anticipated and addressed in the instructions. I merely had to move the two sides of the head a bit closer to each other and the arms a bit farther apart so they did not hit the head when in motion.  Having made, tweaked, and tuned many automata, I can tell you that this flying dragon was well designed.

Highly recommended!
The finished piece is an attractive working wooden automaton. Whether you leave it unpainted or give it your own artistic touch, it is the kind of thing you will want to keep around and enjoy for a long time.

In action, the dragon performs a dynamic compound motion.  An automaton with a comparable amount of motion by an established automaton artist would easily cost hundreds of dollars. At its current price of $20  -- or even two or three times as much -- the Enter the Flying Dragon wooden automaton kit is a tremendous value. I highly recommend it.

The Enter the Dragon Wooden Automaton Kit can be purchased directly from the Pathfinders web site where you can find an awesome assortment of wooden mechanical kits.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

Mechanical toy robot paintings by Steven Skollar

On the sleeve - oil on linen mounted on panel Steven Skollar
Arcadia Fine Arts in New York city will be featuring the paintings of Steven Skollar from November 13th to 26th, 2010. Skollar's works feature robots, mechanical toys, and spaceships among other things. The opening reception is tomorrow, November 13th from 2 to 6pm.

From the artist:
These toys are visions of the future, from the past. I imagine these paintings placed on alters and worshiped as benevolent gods of technology, mercifully healing our iPods. But...if angered, causing our batteries to rundown, destined to wonder the earth without windup keys.

Zoomer & Rachet the Twins - Oil on linen 2010 By Steven Skollar

Here are the details for the exhibit:
Paintings By Steven Skollar
November 13-26, OPENING RECEPTION NOVEMBER 13, 2-6

Arcadia Fine Arts
51 Greene Street, New York, NY 10013
telephone: 212.965.1387
email: arcadiafa@aol.com

A virtual show of Steven Skollar's paintings can be seen by visiting http://arcadiafinearts.com/ and following the links to > Exhibitions > Current Exhibitions

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tom Haney at Obsolete gallery in Venice, CA

Tom Haney now at Obsolete gallery in Venice, CA
Tom Haneys's show "UNDAUNTED" at Obsolete Gallery in Venice, California will have an opening reception on November 13, 2010. The show will run through December 11, 2010.

From Tom Haney's announcement:
I am pleased to announce that Obsolete, an incredible store/gallery in Venice, CA is now carrying my work. I've been a fan of this store for years and love their wonderful aesthetic. Their collections include artist mannequins from the 17th through 19th centuries, santos figures, scientific instruments, taxidermy and unique antique furniture. This eclectic shop is considered one the top 3 destinations in the Los Angeles area for unique items, and is a perfect setting for my recent work. Stop by in person or visit their website to experience this unique treasure.

Here is a link to information on Tom Haneys's "UNDAUNTED" show.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Vintage 1947 animated Baranger diamond display

Vintage 1947 animated Baranger diamond display
Baranger Motion machines were animated mechanical store window displays made from 1925 to 1959 by the Baranger Company of South Pasadena, California. They were typically rented to jewelers and were changed on a monthly rotation. The example above is currently available on ebay.

From the ebay listing:
Their appearance was toy-like, cartoonish, or Art Deco, and they featured simple, repetitive motions performed by the doll-like sculptures. No brand names or jeweller's names appeared on the displays; most of them pitched the generic idea of buying diamonds or watches. A typical motion showed technicians working on a "diamond reactor" with dials labelled "fire" and "sparkle," and a plaque noting that "Your diamond will appear much larger in one of our modern mountings." Many depicted couples courting or honeymooning, often in fanciful surroundings such as a Well Fargo stagecoach. Placards often suggested that a diamond could facilitate a favorable courtship outcome: "You will always be on the right road with one of our beautiful diamonds."

Here is the full ebay listing for this animated Baranger diamond display.

[ Thanks Aaron! ]

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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

"Zoltar Speaks" coin-op fortune teller recreation

Did you ever see the Tom Hank's movie Big? Do you remember the fortune teller machine? What appeared to be a classic vintage coin-op fortune teller was actually just a prop. The "magic" of Hollywood. The one shown here, made by Roger Hess, is a fully functional stand-alone interactive game. In 2008, Hess built this incredibly accurate working replica in his basement workshop! Amazing.

Zoltar was featured in an article the Homebrew section of MAKE magazine, Volume 21.

You can contact the creator via email at parlour.automata at gmail.com.

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Monday, November 08, 2010

It's the things you can't change that shape you

Check out this kinetic sculpture by Benjamin Cowden. The piece features a planetary gear around which a small wooden figure revolves and rotates.

See more work by kinetic sculptor Benjamin Cowden on his web site.

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Sunday, November 07, 2010

Spring-powered automaton with verge escapement

Here is a very interesting wood automaton that is spring-powered. The mechanism incorporates an escapement that looks a lot like a verge escapement.

The verge escapement -- also known as the "verge and folio" -- is among the earliest known type of mechanical escapement, which allows a steadily applied force to be measured out in even intervals. Dating back to 14th century, the verge and foliot made mechanical clocks possible and set the precedent for using an oscillating motion to regulate time. This method -- in form of pendulums and springs -- would become the dominant method for regulating clocks.

See more automata by Cristian Blanco at the Juguetes Autómatas blog.

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Saturday, November 06, 2010

Gakken's Mechamo all-metal robot crab kit

Gakken's Mechamo all metal robot crab kit
Japanese mechanical toy maker, Gakken, offers a number of cool kits. The crab robot shown here is part of their "Mechamo" series. If you know someone who simply LOVES to put things together, this looks like a fun project. I'd wager that the all-metal construction is quite sturdy.

Here is a time-lapse video of someone assembling the Gakken Mechamo Crab (video 50 seconds, actual build 200 minutes).

Here is where you can get the Mechamo metal crab kit.

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Friday, November 05, 2010

Sand powered acrobat automaton mechanism

Michael Start from The House of Automata sent along this nice video of a sand-powered acrobat automaton.

From the video description:
Made for a National Museum. The Acrobat is a copy of a Victorian example but strongly made and with a Perspex back to allow the public to operate it and inspect the mechanism. Note the use of a suspended glass bearing as per the original.

[ Thanks Michael! ]

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Thursday, November 04, 2010

Roomful of motorized mechancial wooden puppets

Take a look at this video tour of a exhibition by artist Juan Pablo Cambariere, currently on display in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The collection features a team of motorized mechanical wooden puppets mounted to the walls each performing a different action. Very inventive and cohesive, it looks like a wonderful show!

See more sculptures by Juan Pablo Cambariere on his web site.

[ Thanks Charles! ]

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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

ASIMO the walking humanoid robot turns 10

Honda celebrated the 10th anniversary of ASIMO, one of the world's most advanced humanoid robots, on Sunday October 31.

I didn't realize they have the little fellow moving at a run these days -- albeit still in that funny semi-crouched posture.

To mark the anniversary, Honda has launched a website hosting films and photographs detailing ASIMO's evolution over the past 10 years.

[ Thanks Steve!]

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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Turk chess playing automaton sculpture

The Turk chess playing automaton sculpture
Thomas Kuntz is a Los Angeles-based sculptor who builds automata and other magical pieces. Here is a static sculpture by Thomas Kuntz of the infamous chess playing automaton that was known as "The TURK". Limited to only 25 world wide, this one currently on ebay is number 20 of 25.

About The Turk sculpture:
This amazing and beautiful hand-finished sculpture is an incredibly detailed jewel of a piece, it has been meticulously cast in a special hybrid resin with some turned metal parts of brass and accents in steel. It sits on a luxurious velvet oval base atop a solid marble base. Only three of the edition have this special base which also has the maker's badge on the back marked "Thomas J. Kuntz USA". The hours needed to finish this piece, about 48-60 hours of time not counting the time it took to sculpt the original and tool the molds! Please see the photos of the micro handle components being made on the watchmakers lathe. The whole cabinet is only 4" in width! This sculpture has ended up in some very interesting and important collections collections.

Here is the full ebay listing with a number of photographs of The Turk, chess playing automaton sculpture.

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Monday, November 01, 2010

Ethiopian Caterpillar automaton by Maillardet

The Ethiopian Caterpillar is an exquisite automaton from 1820 going to auction at Sotheby's November sale in Geneva. The automaton is attributed to Henri Maillardet -- creator of the famous drawing automaton now at the Franklin Institute.

Only six automaton caterpillars are known to exist and only two of these are studded with diamond, emeralds, rubies, and turquoise as the one for sale by Sotheby's is. This is a fantastically rare, important, and valuable piece. The pre-auction estimates place its value somewhere between $350,000 to $450,000.

From the Sotheby's catalog:
The body realistically designed to represent a caterpillar comprising eleven jointed ring segments, framed by seed pearls, and decorated with translucent red enamel over an engine-turned ground, studded overall with gold-set rubies, turquoise, emeralds,and diamonds. The underside is decorated with champlevé black enamel. When the automaton movement is engaged, the caterpillar crawls realistically, its body moving up and down simulating the undulations of a caterpillar by means of a set of gilt-metal knurled wheels. The automata work is composed of a barrel, cam and two leavers all working together to create the crawling motion.

Here is the Sotheby's catalog listing for the The Ethiopian Caterpillar automaton by Maillardet.

[ Thanks Michael! ]

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