Monday, February 28, 2011

Download plans for ramp-walking wooden robot!

Exclusive: The Automata / Automaton Blog is pleased to present this set of free mechanical toy plans for a ramp-walking wooden robot!

Roberto Lou Ma previously shared plans for making a ramp walking rhinoceros. He has once again graciously supplied us with a set of instructions and images, this time showing how to make a ramp-walking wooden robot like the one in the video above.

Click on each of the images below for full-sized plans and patterns. Download these to your computer or print them directly from your browser window (being sure that they are at full size).

Step 1 - Introduction to Walking Robot Project

Step 2 - Parts list for Walking Robot

Step 3 - Exploded Diagram of Walking Robot

Step 4 - Components Photograph

Step 5 - Making the Robot's Feet

Step 6 - Assembly Sequence for Robot

Step 7 - Variations on the Robot Theme

Many thanks to Roberto Lou Ma for this excellent set of mechanical toy plans! Check out more cool creations by Roberto Lou Ma on his YouTube channel.

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

How to make a tin can Stirling engine out of scap

I have yet to make a Sterling engine. I have bookmarked this particular Instructable because the engine looks great, requires only a few tools, and is made almost entirely from recycled materials and scraps!

Here is the full Instructable on how to make this Tin Can Stirling engine.

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Giffi set: build kinetic sculptures & simple robots

Giffi is an invention/construction set which allows you to build kinetic sculptures and simple robot-like creations. The kit is made up of three types of moving parts -- rotating, straight line motion, and sweeping -- connected by supporting parts. You bring your moving creations to life by combining the different parts and connecting the power via a battery box or wall plug.

Giffi was created by Kuan-Ju Wu, a tangible interaction designer, toy maker, and kinetic sculpture artist.

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Friday, February 25, 2011

They have almost everything at

Free two-day shipping at
If you are looking for tools and materials to make an automaton or any other project, is offering free two-day shipping on orders over $50.00 for a limit time.

What do they have? Well...almost everything! Seriously. Here's a very small sample:

Springs, tweezers, drill bits, brass tubing, music wire, needle-nose pliers, calipers, universal joints, cam follower bearings, WD-40, shoulder washers, gears, wood screws, pin vises, worm gears, brazing torches, cyanoacrylate adhesives, ball bearings, pulleys, hole saws, router bits, machine screws, epoxy...and way, way more.

And, despite the name, it's NOT just small stuff. They sell full sized milling machines!

If you haven't already, I suggest you check out all the cool stuff available from

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Crowd - kinetic art by Christopher Furman

Take a look at some video of this kinetic sculpture by artist Christopher Furman. Noisy, poignant, funny, curious, creepy, thought-provoking? All of these things? Whatever your take, it is undeniably engaging.

See more sculptures by Christopher Furman on his web site.

[ Thanks Christopher! ]

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Video profile of marionette maker Geahk Burchill

Here's a lovely video profile of marionette maker Geahk Burchill of The CastIron Carousel Marionette Troupe in Portland, Oregon. The video gives many fascinating glimpses into the process of making lifelike moving figures.

From the The CastIron Carousel web site:
The CastIron Carousel is a small, Portland local marionette troupe which does shows for grown-up audiences. Our themes include: Victorian era Science Fiction, 1920’s horror, prison, gangsters, Fairy tales and monster stories. We are inspired by Tom Waits, William Dwiggins, H.P. Lovecraft, H.G. Wells, Jack tales and Jules Verne. We work with Marionettes, Shadow puppets, Rod puppets and a smattering of other things. We do small beautifully strange plays with gorgeous sets and splendid puppets.

Learn more about The CastIron Carousel on their web site.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Pedaling man wood automaton by Andrew Boyce

Pedaling man wood automaton by Andrew Boyce
Check out this really nicely made automaton by artist and craftsman Andrew Boyce. I love the figure.

From the automaton description page:
The Automaton featured here is made from European Lime wood and MDF. He sits on a box platform made from a 17th century English Oak floorboard. This photograph shows the figure in an unfinished state, and when completed will have a corroded iron finish. He is crank handle driven and pedals and moves the gear stick back and forth.

See all kinds of excellent creations by Andrew Boyce on his web site.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Nice article on the automata of Carlos Zapata

The Figurative Artbeat blog has a nice long post on the automata sculpture of Carlos Zapata.

From the profile on Carlos Zapata's blog:
Working from my present studio in Mabe, Cornwall I have been making kinetic or mechanical sculptures professionally for the past 11 years. Although my background is within Fine Arts, I am a self taught automaton artist, who often accepts commissions for my sculptures from both private and public collectors worldwide. My sculptures are made out of wood and metal, and I often use reclaimed wood and scrap (or recycled) metal in my artwork, as I believe this makes the sculptures even more unique, with a story behind the story. I take my influence mainly from South American, Asian,African and British art and my work is colourful and full of emotion, and often carries a political or social comment, in sharp contrast with humorous language.

Here is the post on The Incredible Automata Sculpture of Carlos Zapata.

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Automaton of walking man pushing wheelbarrow

Automaton of walking man pushing wheelbarrow
An interesting walking man automaton. Not many specifics regarding its age, maker, or origin, but it's generating a fair number of bids on ebay right now.

From the ebay description:
An unusual French (or German) automaton of a man in silk finery, all original, pushing the wheelbarrow which has a second smaller figure in similar clothing. The clockwork is inside the body of the the larger figure and causes the legs to move which have a very clever mechanical connection . The piece is 10" tall and 9" tall. The clockwork does work fine. The actual ability of the whole thing to work correctly is questionable not due to any mechanical problem but rather the design of the toy is topheavy.

Here is a link to this Automaton of walking man pushing wheelbarrow.

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Radio story about Guinness automata collection

We don't feature audio very often here at The Automata / Automaton Blog. This may be a first. Here is a radio story on the The Murtogh D. Guinness Collection of automata at the Morris Museum. Jeremie J. Ryder, Guinness Collection Conservator, is interviewed in this interesting piece by WBGO, a public radio station broadcasting from Newark, New Jersey.

Here is where you can learn more about the Murtogh D. Guinness Collection of automata.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Chirping Bird Automaton by Bliss Kolb

A few days ago, we featured a crow automaton by artist Bliss Kolb. Here is another piece by Bliss Kolb which features the same excellent craftsmanship and attention to detail. He's got a way with birds!

See more automata by Bliss Kolb on his web site.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Automata exhibit in New Orleans, April 2 - 9, 2011

Automata exhibit in New Orleans
Mimi's in New Orleans, LA is holding their first fundraiser for Automata this Sunday evening. Automata is an annual show of kinetic and machine sculpture, this year to be held at the Old Ironworks at 612 Piety St. from April 2- 9.

Visit for updates on Automata and to preview some of the available work.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Kinetic sculptures made from recycled materials

The EcoFriend web site has a neat round-up of various kinetic sculptures made from recycled and found objects. Shown here is a piece called Orvog by the talented artist Chris Cole. The piece is made from bike parts, reclaimed steel, and sheet steel.

Here's a link to the post on 12 incredible kinetic sculptures made from recycled materials.

[ Thanks Tom! ]

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Crankahead automaton contest winner list!

The First Crankahead Automata Contest has ended and the winners have been announced. They are as follows:
Congratulations to all the proud makers and those selected for a prize!
See these and ALL of the great entries for the Crankahead Automata Contest.

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Minotaur & other kinetic sculptures by Nemo Gould

Shown here is one of three new pieces by Nemo Gould, this one titled Minotaur. I always love the little-guy-inside-of-the-big-guy thing.

You can see all three new sculptures by Nemo Gould on his website.

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Action whirligigs: 25 easy-to-do projects online

If you have ever wondered what you might find in the book Action whirligigs: 25 easy-to-do projects By Anders S. Lunde, you are in for a treat. A 'limited preview' of the book is now available online. When you've accessed the maximum number of pages allowed for the book, the remaining pages will be omitted from your preview. You can order full copies digital edition of the book on Google eBooks. If you really like it, you can always order your own hard copy of the book.

Here's a link to the full-size eBook Action whirligigs: 25 easy-to-do projects.

[ Thanks Charles! ]

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Tom Haney's 7 new pieces and upcoming show

Tom Haney's 7 new pieces and upcoming show
Shown here is one of seven new pieces by Tom Haney, this one entitled Epiphany. (You've got to see the movie to appreciate the title of this one!)

Haney's work will also be featured in an upcoming exhibit at Young Harris College in Young Harris, GA. Called 'Foundation to Fruition', the show will run from March 3 to April 1, 2011.

From the exhibit web site:
Consisting of pieces that span the career of Georgia artist Tom Haney, Foundation to Fruition includes some of his early work that was heavily influenced by Southern folk art as well as more recent works that reflect his current style, highlighting his experimentation with new material and methods. Focusing on kinetic work, much of the show will feature kinetic, interactive pieces along with some static pieces and new pieces operated by electric motors.

See images and movies of Tom Haney's latest work on his web site. Here is where you can learn more about the exhibit by Tom Haney 'Foundation to Fruition'.

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Book: Sublime Dreams of Living Machines

Sublime Dreams of Living Machines: The Automaton in the European Imagination
Due out late in February of 2011 is a most intriguing book by Minsoo Kang entitled Sublime Dreams of Living Machines: The Automaton in the European Imagination. The book explores the Western world's fascination with automata in order to better understand ourselves as humans.

From the book's press release:
Kang tracks the first appearance of the automaton in ancient myths through the medieval and Renaissance periods, marks the proliferation of the automaton as a central intellectual concept in the Scientific Revolution and the subsequent backlash during the Enlightenment, and details appearances in Romantic literature and the introduction of the living machine in the Industrial Age. He concludes with a reflection on the destructive confrontation between humanity and machinery in the modern era and the reverberations of the humanity-machinery theme today.

That is an impressive scope of inquiry! This book is sure to be a fascinating read for anyone interested in automata.

Here is where you can get the book: Sublime Dreams of Living Machines: The Automaton in the European Imagination.

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Gadget Nation: The Eccentric World of Invention

Gadget Nation: A Journey Through the Eccentric World of Invention
Check out this book which examines all manner of quirky inventions and the people who create them. It is both an interesting look at an assortment of inventions and a useful study of the process of bringing an invention to market -- or not!

From the book description:
Americans love their gadgets, and Steve Greenberg, the "Innovation Insider," pays tribute to the country's spirit of inventiveness. Featuring more than 100 quirky innovations, Gadget Nation is a fun and inspirational showcase of clever creations. From the useful (a "Finger Shield" for when you're chopping food) to the offbeat (a diaper for your pet bird), you'll get a behind-the-scenes journey through the eccentric world of invention.

Here is a link to the book: Gadget Nation: A Journey Through the Eccentric World of Invention.

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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Brilliant crow automaton by Bliss Kolb

Check out the outstanding artistry applied to this crow automaton by Bliss Kolb. The mechanics, the framework, the bird figure, the aging...just beautiful. The motion is really nice and the sound tops it off. Can you tell I like this piece?

See a variety of different work by Bliss Kolb on his web site.

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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Book: The Complete Book of Marionettes

The Complete Book of Marionettes
Recently, I decided to start reading up on marionette construction techniques. After years of thinking about it, I finally bought the book Making and Manipulating Marionettes. I would certainly recommend it! It's a beautiful book with many detailed construction techniques.

I do not have the book shown here, but it gets a few good reviews, seems very comprehensive, and those Dover books on art instruction are almost always a great value.

From the book description:
Absorbing, entertaining guide provides all the information needed to construct puppets and puppet theaters, including valuable advice on making heads, bodies, wigs, and puppet clothing, manipulating the puppet, setting up and furnishing a stage, lighting scenes, and building miniature pieces of furniture. Complete script for Beauty and the Beast. Over 200 illustrations.

Here is where you can check out The Complete Book of Marionettes.

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Monday, February 07, 2011

Neil Hardy automaton 'Ron's Sub' for sale!

The owner of a wonderful one-of-a-kind piece must sell the jewel of his automata collection: Neil Hardy's piece titled Ron's Sub.

From the ebay description of Ron's Sub:
This was a one-off, exhibited in Falmouth at the "All Hands On Deck" exhibition in 1998, at that time entitled "Pink Submarine". I subsequently bought it direct from Neil, and have had it ever since.

It has recently been restored to full working order by Neil in his workshop, but unfortunately I can no longer keep it. There is no reserve and the starting price is less than I paid for it more than ten years ago.

It is 24" high, 25" wide and 8.5" deep at its fullest extent - a large piece!

See the video for how it works - the piece unfolds the sad story of Noah's brother Ron, who unwisely opted to build a submarine rather than an ark, and due to the regrettable actions of the legendary fauna on board, came to a watery end along with his cargo of dinosaurs and other fantastic, and now unfortunately extinct, creatures.

I wish I could be the next lucky owner of this one!

Here is where you can see the full ebay listing for this amazing one-of-a-kind automaton: Ron's Sub by Neil Hardy.

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Sunday, February 06, 2011

Wooden marble machine with pretty ring gear lift

I spotted this last week over at the excellent blog called Spiel und Kunst mit Mechanik.

This beautiful machine made by Roland Waters is well-document in the video shown here. The number of different mechanisms packed into such small space is extraordinary. The gear-based ring elevator is amazing, as is the rate of feed.

From the YouTube description:
This is intended to be an awkward, overly complicated mechanism for the sole purpose of entertainment and to make noise in the process. People seem to enjoy watching gears turn and marbles running around in circles making noise. There are 16 gears hand-cut from 1/2" Baltic Birch plywood driven by an electric gear reduction motor.

Here's the original post from Spiel und Kunst mit Mechanik.

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Saturday, February 05, 2011

Paper Models That Move: 14 Ingenious Automata

Paper Models That Move: 14 Ingenious Automata, and More
One of the undisputed masters of paper automata, Walter Ruffler, has a new book coming out called Paper Models That Move: 14 Ingenious Automata, and More. Knowing the quality of the author's work and given the price, this is sure to be an outstanding value! Paper automata are perhaps the best way to get started in making your own.

From the book description:
Enter the world of animated paper engineering with these 14 whimsical projects for making automata out of cardstock. Well-illustrated directions explain the use of levers, gears, cranks, and other devices and precise cut-and-assemble components put these ingenious paper "whirligigs" within reach of papercrafters of modest skill and experience.

Here's where you can order the book Paper Models That Move: 14 Ingenious Automata, and More.

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Friday, February 04, 2011

Kinetica Art Fair, London, Feb. 4th – 6th, 2011

Kinetica Art Fair, London  February 4th – 6th,  2011
Today is the start of the Kinetica Art Fair at the Kinetica Museum in London. This year the event will explore the evolution of the human body, brain, mind and consciousness via various means including kinetic, electronic, robotic, sound, light, time-based and multi-disciplinary new media art.

Our good friends at Cabaret Mechanical Theatre will be at Kinetica Art Fair with pieces by Paul Spooner, Arthur Ganson, Fi Henshall, Pascale Michalski and Carlos Zapata.

Here is a link to more information on the Kinetica Art Fair.

[ Also posted today on the Spiel und Kunst mit Mechanik ]

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Thursday, February 03, 2011

Antique caged bird automaton from Germany

Antique caged bird automaton from Germany
I like to post about these singing bird automata every now and then to remind myself to learn more about them. I have yet to place a bid on one, but -- one day -- I will have one of these of my own!

From the ebay description:
It is a bird in brass wire birdcage that sings, chirps and turns its head, beak and tail flutters around. It is made in Germany by UKA, which has a brass plate on the bottom. Considering its age -- over 80 or 90 years -- it is in excellent condition. Some bars are simple solid and then twisted wires every 4. The base has 3 feet and embossed floral designs. The green felt is dusty but in very good condition. The birdcage is 12 inches high and the base is 7 inches in diameter. Bottom of base says UKA Germany.

Here is the ebay listing for this antique singing bird automaton from Germany.

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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Sisyphus in Hiding by Dave Johnson

Dave Johnson continues his series of automata featuring Sisyphus of Greek myth. The results are impressive as always!

From the video description:
Here's our old pal Sisyphus again, this time trying to avoid his responsibilities by hiding in a box.

My core inspirations were these:
1) Claude Shannon's Ultimate Machine
2) The availability of a nice old microscope box.
3) The astonishing human capacity for denial.

This machine is a sort of cousin to the "Most Useless Machine" or "Ultimate Machine", originally built by Claude Shannon. (See for some history.) Many versions can now be found on the internet, almost all of which use electronics. I wanted to get a similar effect purely mechanically.

Your can see still photos of the Sisyphus in Hiding automaton in this flickr set.

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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Build a mini wind-powered Theo Jansen beast

Build your own wind-powered mini Theo Jansen beast
If you are into the amazing mechanical life-forms created by artist Theo Jansen, then you'll be excited to learn about Gakken's Otona no Kagaku Kit #30. Called the Animaris Ordis Parvus, the kit is a tiny version of one of Jansen's huge wind-powered beach-walking creatures.

Here is one review of the Gakken's Otona no Kagaku Kit #30.
Here is a second review of Gakken's Otona no Kagaku Kit #30.

[ Found via this post at MAKE ]

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