Friday, December 09, 2011

Inside the vintage mechanical bartender toy

You've probably seen them: the bartender toy that shakes a drink, pours it, lifts it as if drinkings, smack his lips, turn red, then blows smoke out of his ears. I have one that I plan to fix. My question is this: how is that smoke produced? The end of the video shows the mechanism with wires leading into it. This suggests that heat from the wires burns a little something. But these toys have been around since the 60s and many still work. Nobody seems to recall adding anything to make the smoke work, so it has been there since the toy was made. What on earth could last so long? Is it oil or wax perhaps? I'd like to know! Here is what the assembled toy looks like:

[ Thanks Aaron! ]

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Anonymous Les said...

I'm thinking it uses some kind of model railroad smoke fluid, which is apparently a light oil. I'm not familiar with the mechanism, but you would think it would be in a waxy or high-viscosity form to prevent spillage. It is remarkable that it lasts so long.

My folks had one of these when I was a kid. There was also a "Charlie Weaver bartender" version, modeled on a character played by comic actor Cliff Arquette.

December 9, 2011 at 5:09 PM  
Blogger Gary B Watts said...

Light grade train set oil works. If you search on battery toy smoke oil you can find scented oils as well.

December 28, 2011 at 2:11 PM  
Blogger vwbob said...

yes but where do you put the oil?

February 8, 2012 at 9:12 PM  
Blogger Dug North said...

vwbob -- Yeah, I don't think these were intended to be refilled. I could be wrong.

February 9, 2012 at 9:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Put some train smoke oil in a syringe and inject a little bit into the tubes that the smoke comes out of in his ears-I did it to mine and he smokes fine

July 20, 2012 at 1:20 PM  
Anonymous Grandpa said...

I have restored many of these bartenders. There is a small canister inside called a smoke generator. Inside it is a filament, similar to a light bulb. There is also a small wad of cotton around it, soaked with a light oil. When heated, it smokes. The smoke is driven by a bellows out the ear tubes. The oil can be replaced.

January 18, 2013 at 4:32 PM  
Blogger Dug North said...

Thanks for the information Grandpa! What keeps the cotton wad from simply catching on fire?

February 4, 2013 at 10:32 AM  
Anonymous Peter said...

Im in Australia and found one of these at at a Garage sale... I put batteries in him and his face glows and thats it. someone has altered some wires by the look of it on the bottom, does anyone have a photo of the bottom of this bartender. Thanks

March 16, 2013 at 4:19 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I know this is a long shot...can anyone point me in a direction to find information to fix one of these. Mine moves back and forth, but never shakes his arms.

December 21, 2016 at 2:52 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

any updates on what oils best i have a few of these some smoke better than others

February 7, 2018 at 8:33 AM  
Blogger 3.1runmom said...

I just bought one that needs to be fixed. Where do I start?

April 11, 2018 at 10:33 PM  
Blogger Julie said...

I have one of these that works fine. My version is DIFFERENT from all others I have seen on the internet. I think mine is an original and not one made in Japan. His face is much better detailed, and the red face comes up from bottom to top of his head like he is filling up.

January 2, 2019 at 12:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used J.T.`s Megasteam for Trains with a syringe needle with a a little bit in each ear a nd stood it up right afterwords & waited a bit...It seemed to`s up to you to decide or you can take it apart & inject the oil into the smoke unit you see on the video...But it worked for me...

May 31, 2020 at 2:39 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

How do you replenish the oil?

June 28, 2020 at 12:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Be careful when putting smoke fluid in the ears!- I put too much in the ears & damaged the motor! have to try & take it apart-

July 8, 2020 at 2:10 PM  

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