Monday, April 05, 2010

Wood and ball bearing version of classic karakuri

Check out Osamu Kanda's modern update to the classic tumbling karakuri figure. He has made the figure out of wood and loaded it with ball bearings to serve as the shifting internal weight.


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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sand-powered acrobat automaton

Sand-powered acrobat automaton
'ALFRED THE AMAZING' is a sand-powered acrobatic automaton currently available on eBay.

From the eBay description:
When the box is rotated and set down, the sand turns a wheel (axle) and the trapeze guy does his acrobatic wonders, and extremely dangerous feats of daring and thrill, and he doesn't use a net.

Here the eBay listing Alfred the Amazing sand-powered automaton


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Monday, February 23, 2009

Wall-mounted automaton of acrobatic cats

Wall-mounted automaton of acrobatic catsHere is a wall-mounted wind-up automaton selling on eBay today. The scene depicts performing acrobat cats. The cat figures are printed paper applied to wood. As an integrated music box plays, a few of the cats perform flips on the high wire, while others below dance.

The listing has additional photographs, including a few of the back of the piece in which you can see the mechanism.

Here's the full eBay listing for the wall-mounted automaton of acrobatic cats.


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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

L'Homme Serpent automaton by Michel Bertrand

L'Homme Serpent automaton by Michel Bertrand
Inspired by a Vichy model, this acrobat automaton was created by Michel Bertrand of Switzerland in 1990. Bertrand used many original Vichy/Triboulet parts including the sculpted head, the ingenious torso mechanism, and a six-tune musical movement.

From the auction listing description:
He lies on his stomach upon the table which swivels as he makes a scissor movement with his legs while nodding his head. He then raises his legs. The table swivels again. He raises his head, lifts his stomach off the table and arches his back in an amazing contortionist manner, with his legs raised high. He repeats the scissor movement before lowering himself back onto the table and scissoring his legs once more in the horizontal position.

An amazing piece with a strong and prestigious lineage.

Here is the full auction listing for The Serpent Man, L'Homme Serpent automaton.


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Monday, June 16, 2008

German Made Tumbling Acrobatic Automaton

This is a hand-made wooden toy made in Germany. The little wooden figure performs back-flips down three small steps.

German Made Tumbling Acrobatic Automaton
Automata like this have a long history in Japan and in the West. Now, a traditional German toymaker has re-invented the toy, with a new mechanism (the old ones relied on mercury).

The toy comes in a wooden box, which opens to form the steps on which the tumbler performs his act.

Here is a link to the product page for the Tumbling Acrobat Automaton. Here is a link to a movie of the Tumbling Acrobat Automaton in action.

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Sunday, June 08, 2008

Two Vintage French Cirque Int'l Clowns & Props

Two Vintage French Cirque Int'l Clowns & PropsHere is an eBay listing is for a set of vintage Cirque International clowns made in France. The two clowns come with props that include a set of parallel bars, two chairs, and two ladders. Both are just under a foot tall.

As a nice surprise, the seller has a copy of the original instructions detailing the clowns, their actions, and original price!

The clown in the purple outfit is an automaton with a working wind up mechanism. When wound this clown lifts his head, arches his back, and performs acts on the parallel bars, chairs, or ladders.

The second clown, in the light blue outfit can be posed in various positions and will hold the position into which it is put.

Here is the eBay listing for Two Vintage French Cirque Int'l Clowns & Apparatus.

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Saturday, May 03, 2008

Karakuri Acrobat Automaton Flipping Down Stairs

I posted in the past about Japanese Karakuri Ningyo. In particular, I mentioned the fantastic drawing karakuri. Gakken is a company that sells a few kit including a tea serving karakuri and archer karakuri that actually shoots miniature arrows.

Here is a tumbler or acrobat. I have also seen a similar design from a company in Germany, though I don't know who came up with the idea or if this is a case of independent invention. It's that last flip that really surprises me.

Here's one karakuri book and here is another karakuri book (both in Japanese).

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Automaton Recreation of Robert-Houdin's Acrobat

Here is a very ambitious recreation of Robert-Houdin's famous acrobat automaton named Antonio Diavolo. This version was created by automata expert Kevin Wright as a tribute to Robert-Houdin's original Acrobat.

Wright's automaton, entitled Dante the Daring, performs the same routine as Robert-Houdin's automaton from 1849. The original was approximately 34 inches tall, while this one is 40 inches. He is fully functional with the ability to nod, turn his head left to right, and perform somersaults and handstands.

Robert-Houdin was trained as a watchmaker and is widely regarded as the father of modern stage magic. To recreate one of his automata is an astonishing feat of mechanical detective work and craftsmanship.

Visit Kevin Wright's site called The Clockwork Universe to see this and other amazing projects.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Vichy Gymnast Automaton Uses Free Object

Of all of the automata I have seen working in person to date, I would have to say that this acrobat by Vichy is among the most impressive. The engineering sophistication is astounding.

From the eBay listing:
Rare Coin-Operated Vichy Automaton Gymnast with Two Chairs, with papier-mache head, brown glass eyes, smiling mouth with painted teeth, arched brows and theatrical make-up, standing between two white-painted chairs on paneled oak base with coin-slot, massive going-barrel motor driving five cams and four-air cartel cylinder movement, in the original spangled gold satin theatrical costume decorated with silver sequins and glass beads, ht. 35 1/2 in....

The sequence begins with the acrobat standing, poised, between the two chairs. At the drop of the coin, he raises the chair in his right hand waist-high, flexing his wrist three times so that hand and chair outstretched. He then lowers the chair to the ground and, with his hand still grasping the top rail for support raises his body into a handstand position, tilting the chair so that only its back two legs are resting on the stage. When his body is at ninety-degrees from the base, he raises the chair into the air, once again flexing from the right wrist so that the chair is horizontal and his entire weight rests in his left hand while simultaneously raising his head as if to survey the crowd, until body and chair are held in perfect alignment, before gracefully lowering himself back to a standing position. As a finale, he stretches his hand to release the chair, raising his free arm in the air, and bowing his head for applause.

It is a huge challenge to make an automaton interact with a free object. This is an amazing example both for its complexity, the size of the object, and the leverage it must exert on the figure. This is Vichy at their best.

The Vichy Gymnast Automaton is on eBay and will be part of the live auction held by Skinner Auctioneers on October 28th, 2007.

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