Sunday, April 11, 2010

DIY hand-cranked geared string winding machine

One dedicated reader of The Autoamta / Automaton Blog made this cool prototype string-winder contraption. It makes a center-pull ball of string with a diamond pattern. To generate the gear profiles, he used Matthias Wandel's Gear Template Generator.

Here is a nice schematic drawing of the device followed by an explanation.
DIY hand-cranked string winding machine

From bhaaluu's description:

The hand-crank turns a 30-tooth peg-wheel gear which drives a 10-tooth peg wheel gear. The 10-tooth peg-wheel gear spins on a fixed vertical shaft. connected via a wooden tube to the spindle head, which rotates at a 3:1 ratio. At the top of the fixed vertical shaft is a 15-tooth spur gear. It is fixed to the vertical shaft and doesn't move. At the base of the spindle tube is a 42-tooth spur gear which rotates on it's own axis, which is tilted at an angle. As the spindle tube rotates around the vertical shaft, the 42-tooth spur gear rotates. The spindle tube, a heavy-walled cardboard tube, is connected to the 42-tooth spur gear, so every time it turns around the fixed vertical shaft, it rotates. This is what gives the diamond pattern. This string winding contraption is a prototype.

[ Thanks bhaaluu! ]

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Friday, April 09, 2010

EL CONDOR PASA - hand-cranked bird automaton

Check out this charming automaton by retired civil engineer Roberto LouMa.

See more of his work on his YouTube page.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

The Waiting Hand by Nick Rayburn

Nick Rayburn is an artist who works with an assortment of materials including wood, marble and brass to silver, coral and shimmering beetles. He has started to make automata in a Victorian/steampunk style. Shown here is his latest creation, The Waiting Hand, which is a limited edition of 20.

If you would like more information or would like to discuss acquiring a piece you can send an email to: nickrayburn at asky dot com.

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

An unusual "Happy Meal" automaton

Here's an interesting (hidden) mechanism for you to ponder.

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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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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Per Helldorff's Mekaniskt hjärta (Mechanical heart)

Per Helldorff is a Swedish artist who uses both hand-carving and carpentry techniques to create beautiful automata. The one shown in the video here is called Mekaniskt hjärta (Mechanical heart) is appropriate to one upcoming holiday.

See more of Per Helldorff's automata on his web site.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Marvelous wooden ball-stairway machine

Marvelous wooden ball-stairway machine
Our good friend Falk Keuten over at the excellent Spiel und Kunst mit Mechanik Blog pointed me to this great ball-lifting device made from wood.

From the creator's site:
Driven by hand crank through a small planetary transmission, the rotating camshaft and roller lifters cause the balls to "roll uphill". The balls then deposit in the "dropper", which directs them to the holding tilt-track (a feature borrowed from the Rolling Ball clock). When the sixth ball arrives, the track unbalances and the balls roll down the coaster track to start their journey again.

Here's a link to more info on this cool wooden ball stairway machine.

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Saturday, January 02, 2010

Sky scene automaton with ducks and biplane

Here's a clever hand-cranked automaton that features a sky scene with ducks flying toward the viewer. A biplane does circles around the birds and the sky. Take a look at the beautiful wooden gear works when the video shows the back of the piece. Very nice!

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hand-cranked metal flower automaton

Here is a hand-cranked metal automaton by Jeremy Jackson.

See more pieces by Jeremy Jackson on his YouTube channel.

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

The White Series by artist Casey Curran

Take a few minutes to soak in this new series of wire-based automata by artist Casey Curran. The 11 kinetic sculptures were created around the idea of cultural detritus serving as a basis for micro-ecologies. Like the artist's previous works, the organic feel makes Curran's work truly distinctive.

See more kinetic art by Casey Curran at

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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ingenious marble manipulating machine

From the clever mind of Osamu Kanda: take a look at this hand cranked marble-moving machine. It looks as though the blocks on top can be reconfigured to cause the marbles to follow different paths.

See more of Osamu Kanda's kinetic creations on his web site.

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Saturday, October 03, 2009

Hand-cranked wooden rotating iPhone dock

In part inspired by The Automata / Automaton Blog, Murtaza Lakdawala created this hand-cranked wooden iPhone dock. By turning the handle the gears will reorient the iPhone to either the upright or horizontal position.

Check out Murtaza's blog for complete details on the iPhone dock project.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Hand-cranked pencil writing automaton

Automata that write or draw have a distinguished history. Here's a modern version by the prolific Osamu Kanda for your consideration.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Wooden music box + ball track + automaton

Check out Osamu Kanda's excellent hand-cranked mechanical metallophone with integrated rolling ball track and animated marionette figure. This man has some wildly creative ideas and the skills to bring them to life!

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Hand-cranked mechancial laughing device

Take a look at this beautifully made mechanical laughing machine. The Pink Tentacle web site does such a nice job with the description that I will just quote them (below.) I love this thing!

Description of WAHHA GO GO from Pink Tentacle:
According to the video, WAHHA GO GO is activated by spinning the torso-mounted metal disk (an optional crank arm can be used for greater speed). The disk's rotational energy is transferred to the machine's left and right arms via a gear assembly in the lower back. As the arms rotate, the accordion-like lungs expand upward, drawing in air that is then exhaled through the machine’s artificial vocal cords.

Another set of gear wheels in the spine transfers some of the spinning disk's rotational energy to the head assembly, which includes a pair of tiny arms that stretch and relax WAHHA GO GO's artificial vocal cords (thus regulating the pitch), as well as an arm connected to a valve that controls the flow of air from the lungs. This arm also opens and closes the mouth, which alters the so-called "formant characteristics" (resonant frequency) of the laugh, producing the "wa" and "ha" sounds.

By incorporating a series of mechanisms that work together to control the pitch, resonant frequency, and amount of air supplied to the artificial vocal cords, WAHHA GO GO is able to produce an uncanny human-like laugh.

Here is the original post: Video: Anatomy of WAHHA GO GO.

[ Thanks Joanne! ]

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Hand-cranked bell ringing cat automaton

Another great piece by Osamu Kanda, or Okan.

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Tin clown artist - picture drawing automaton

Tin clown artist - picture drawing automaton
I've only had the pleasure of seeing this toy/automaton in books. This tin toy clown is able to draw a variety of pictures with a pencil on paper. You insert different cams into the base of the toy to change the picture that the clown will draw. Very, very clever.

From the eBay description
Turn the crank and it makes little drawings! This clever Phillip Vielmetter Tin Clown Artist toy was manufactured around 1885-1905, and is in excellent working and great cosmetic condition. It comes with 5 different cams and the original box.

Here's the full eBay listing with some great photographs of this mechanical drawing clown automaton.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wooden helicopter contraption automaton

I like the (nearly) all-wood construction of the helicopter contraption automaton shown in this video.

[ Thanks philsing! ]

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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Ambigram + Automata = Ambigramautomata

Check out this totally brilliant word-oriented hand-cranked automata. Created by artist Tom Banwell, he calls these creations "Ambigramautomata" -- a combination of the words "ambigram" and "automata".

From the artist's site
The S, I, L, and T are all vertically symmetrical so that they read the same when rotated 180 degrees. The disc with SIL is on a cam so that it moves left and right when rotated. The EN is stationary.

See more of Tom Banwell's many creations at his web site and on his Etsy site featuring some AMAZING masks.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hand-cranked gear sculpture by Bill Durovchic

Hand-cranked gear sculpture by Bill Durovchic
Take a look at the stunning mechanical beauty of Bill Durovchic's kinetic sculpture. Shown here is a piece entitled Magnetic Gear Box . The sculpture has a 5-inch diameter steel plate with 3-inch tall black anodized aluminum legs, and some 30 brass gears! When you turn crank, the gears rotate on magnetic spindles. You can reconfigure the spindles to change patterns. Very, very nice.

Visit Bill Durovchic's web site for more information and photographs of his work.

[ Thanks philsing! ]

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Bowling automaton with free & semi-free objects

My friend and colleague, Falk Keuten, over at the excellent Spiel und Kunst mit Mechanik blog has discovered an innovative -- if somewhat mysterious -- automata artist via some YouTube videos.

Check out the use of a ball-lifting mechanism, an articulated figure, a free object (the ball), and some semi-free objects (the bowling pins). This is a impressive combination of techniques. I admire the all wood construction and the fact there is no need for the user to 'reset' the piece.

Here is the original post (in German) from Spiel und Kunst mit Mechanik.

[ Thanks Falk! ]

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Rocky Mountain High by Uncle Don's Mechanicals

Rocky Mountain High by Uncle Don's Mechanicals
Turn the crank on this nifty wall-mounted automaton and the grass waves back and forth, the car bounces with steam coming out of the hood and exhaust coming out the back, and the driver bounces up and down in his seat. Finally, the sun moves across the sky with the clouds just missing it every time.

See this and other wall-mounted automata at Uncle Don's Mechanicals.

[ Thanks Joe! ]

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Monday, April 06, 2009

Other cool mechanical sculpture by Casey Curran

Check out five more great pieces by artist Casey Curran called (in order of appearance): Law of Karma, Dick and Jane Have a New Game, Drawing on the Self, Green Pastures, and Distopia.

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

'The Twittering Machine' - metal automata birds

Check out this huge hand-cranked automata bird installation made from stainless steel vegetable steamer baskets, machine screws, nuts, threaded rod, water pipe, couplings, steel, wood and a crank. Excellent!

[ Thanks philsing! ]

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Giant hand-cranked butcher automaton

"Hand-cranked" may be a bit misleading, as it seems like operating this giant automaton would be a full-body workout!

See a few other shots of the giant butcher automaton at flickr.

[ Thanks philsing! ]

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Artist Andy Hazell's web site with metal automata

A dedicated reader of The Automata / Automaton Blog was kind enough to draw our attention to the relatively new web site of artist Andy Hazell.

Among the many things this artist does (including photography, sculpture, and film) are very nice tin automata like the one shown here entitled 'Monday Morning'.

Check out all of the cool creations on Andy Hazell's web site.

[ Thanks Sergio! ]

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Beautiful hand-cranked Wooden Orrery

Beautiful hand-cranked Wooden Orrery by Dave Goodchild
Dave Goodchild of Norfolk, England has been making automata for well over 10 years. Most recently, he has chosen to focus his considerable talent on the designing and making of orreries -- mechanical models of the solar system. What is particularly remarkable is that he uses wood as the main material.

The artist says he is about to embark on a new 9-planet orrery which will he will blog as it is built. Take a look at the video below to see some of his handiwork in motion.
See more pictures and videos of Dave Goodchild's Orreries at

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

'Oceania' kinetic art by Casey Curran

Take a look at the amazing hand-cranked automata of Casey Curran. The artist uses twisted wire of various materials to create very original and organic forms. There is no welding or soldering involved -- just twisted wire! Kudos all around!

Casey Curran's work can be seen in person at Gallery IMA in Seattle, Washington.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

'Masters of the Obvious' - hand-cranked sculpture

Check out this video of the newly finished hand-cranked kinetic sculpture by Gina Kamentsky entitled Masters of the Obvious.

In her recent posts I made a discovery: I'm not the only one looking to Five Hundred and Seven Mechanical Movements for inspiration!

Not only is the piece a lot of fun, but she documented much of its construction on her blog.

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Corkscrew by Rob Higgs - Fantastic machine

The Corkscrew by Rob HiggsIn case you missed this on various blogs the other day, I really must ask that you check out this machine.

Mechanical sculptor Rob Higgs assembled an machine that opens a wine bottle and pours a glass. He uses many old parts, some as is, some modified and recasts them in bronze. The result is astounding.

Here is an article on The Corkscrew. Here is a link to a video of The Corkscrew by Rob Higgs.

This story comes to us by way of

[ Thanks to Jim Jenkins! ]

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Impressive hand-cranked marble run video

Check out this video of Michael Shulteiss's marble machine. This thing is incredible. It has some of the expected ramps, flip-flops, and funnels. It also has much that is quite unexpected like the catapult-style lifting arm, a 'marble pump', a wooden chain elevator, and wood gears with holes in them that receive and lift marbles. It looks wonderfully well-made and makes a satifsying clickity-clack sound as the handle is turned.

See more pictures and a diagram of Michael Shulteiss's marble machine on Matthias Wandel's outstanding website.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Steam-powered kinetic sculpture made of glass

Steam-powered kinetic sculpture
Just when I think I've got a handle on the bounds of human ingenuity in the domain of automata, mechanical toys, and mechanical sculpture -- my eyes are opened anew. Consider: a mechanical kinetic sculpture driven by steam...and made of glass!

Shown here is one of several "Glass Engines" built by glass artist Bandhu Scott Dunham. The form of power, the various shapes, the smooth motion, the assorted colors, the levels of translucence, the inherent fragility of the material itself.

I may have used the term "astonishing" on this blog before. I don't think I had a suitable frame of reference for the word until now.

Check out the Salusa Glassworks site for more images and QuickTime movies of Bandhu's Glass Engines and a hand-cranked marble track (and WHAT A MARBLE!)

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Fort Libellula Hand Cranked Automaton

Soak in the elaborate and lavish detail in this fantastical hand-cranked automaton by Pascale Michalski entitled Fort Libellula.

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Saturday, November 01, 2008

Heart automaton made of meshed moving gears

I'm uncertain if the material used in this hand-cranked automaton figure of a heart is wood (the narration is in Japanese). Of this much I am certain: the effect is mind blowing.

It just doesn't seem possible that the gear shapes that make up the outline of this sculpted heart shape can rotate freely -- but they do! And smoothly at that. It takes a few revolutions of the handle before the pieces of the moving, fragmented heart gently reassemble. A wonderful metaphor for the the breaking and healing of hearts, but I have no idea if that was the artist's intention.

This is one of the most amazing pieces I have seen, both for its artistry and the technical accomplishment.

[ Thanks Martin! ]

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Hand-Crank Marble Climbing machine with Plans!

Hand-Cranked Marble Climber with PDF Plans
It is with great pleasure that I inform you that Steve Good, proprietor of The Scrollsaw Workshop, has created downloadable plans and a three part video series to help you make the hand cranked marble machine shown here. What more could you ask for?

Here is part 1 of the marble climbing machine tutorial:

Here is part 2 of the marble climbing machine tutorial:

Here is part 3 of the marble climbing machine tutorial:
Finally, here's where you an get the free download of the plans for the climbing marble automaton.

Note: The Scrollsaw Workshop is primarily supported by donations. If you enjoy this pattern, please consider giving Steve Good a donation. He has certainly earned it!

[ Thanks to Charles and Travis! ]

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Raven: Hand-Cranked Flying Bird Automaton

Here is an automaton that seems right for the season. The Raven is a mixed media automaton of paper clay over a wire armature. The piece was finished with acrylic paint, black lace, feathers and a crown of quartz crystal arrowheads. Very nice, indeed.

Visit the Remnants Of Olde website to see more photographs of The Raven automaton.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

No Reward for Good Behavior - Metal Automaton

Here is a charming all-metal automaton that features five little figures jumping up and down as they orbit around the center point. The mechanism is just beautiful.

Entitled No Reward for Good Behavior, the piece is by Benjamin Cowden. Here is a link to an article about the artist.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Build-A-Tune: Programmable Thumb Piano

Here is another great creation from the talented Brad Litwin, maker of The Atom Smacker and other mechanical wonders. The piece is now on exhibit at the Dupage Children's Museum, in Naperville, IL.

This machine uses a series of studded disks to pluck the tongues on an instrument resembling a thumb piano tilted on its side. As the notes to the video remark, by rearranging the disks, the Build-A-Tune offers a near-infinite combination of rhythmic sequences, many of which sound a bit like music out of Africa or a rudimentary electronic sequencer.

Learn more about Brad and his creations at

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Patent for Greeting Card with Motion System

I've done a bunch of post this year about Hallmark's new line of hand-cranked animated greeting cards. First, there was the batch I bought and posted. Another gallery of animated cards came courtesy of a kindly reader. A video of one of the best cards also turned up. Thanks to Joe Freedman, The Automata / Automaton Blog was first to offer an online exclusive look at the inner workings.

Joe's thirst for knowledge uncovered another fascinating item: the patent for the animated greeting cards. Titled GREETING CARD MOTION SYSTEM WITH MODULAR DESIGN, the patent is full of diagrams...many depicting card designs I have yet to see on the store shelves. (Note: There are some new designs out for Halloween, 2008!)

Some automata of old were patented, but it must not have proved to be worth the effort. Many designs were not patented and the European makers of the last century copied each other with abandon.

Check out the full online version of the patent for the GREETING CARD MOTION SYSTEM WITH MODULAR DESIGN.

[ Thanks to Joe Freedman of The Sarabande Press! ]

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Video Details of Hank-cranked Songbird Serinette

I posted recently about the DIY Programmable Bird Song Organ from Gakken. Here's an other video which has a short montage at the beginning to give you a sense for the parts and pieces of the kit. It then goes on to show you a guy tuning the various pipes of the serinette.

You can buy the Gakken Bird Song Organ from The Japan Trend Shop.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

DIY Programmable Bird Song Organ from Gakken

I posted some time ago about a programmable punch-card music box that uses paper sheets you punch yourself and the Gloggomobile -- it's upscale cousin that plays a Glockenspiel based on the placement of pegs you arrange on a wooden cylinder.

 Programmable Bird Song Organ from Gakken
Here is another addition to the family of programmable mechanical music devices: the Gakken Bird Song Organ.

This kit provides everything you need to program a small hand-cranked chirping song bird organ. Another amazing kit from Gakken.

Here is a link to another video of the Programmable Bird Song Organ performing Amazing Grace.

You can buy the Gakken Bird Song Organ from The Japan Trend Shop.

[ More info on the MAKE Magainze Blog ]

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hand-Cranked Wimshurst Electrostatic Generator

Hand-Cranned Wimshurst Electrostatic Generator
This working model of a Wimshurst Electrostatic Generator is mounted on a wooden base and stands 15" tall.

The Wimhurst type of generator consists of two circular plastic plates, which rotate in opposite directions by a hand-cranked belt drive mechanism. On each disc are pieces of metal foil, which both generate and carry small charges of electricity. Brushes on the front and back distribute the charges to a Leyden Jar, which stores the charge like a modern capacitor.

As the plastic discs revolve, a high voltage spark will jump between the electrodes when they are brought close together. Cool!

Here is the Wimshurst Electrostatic Generator available at Edmund Scientifics.

If you would rather build your own Wimshurst generator you will want the book: Homemade Lightning: Creative Experiments in Electricity.

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Automaton Maker Carlos Zapata - New Website

Laughing man automaton by Carlos Zapata
Automaton maker Carlos Zapata has a new website which has what looks to be a complete history of all his work. There are tons of photographs of his automata and many are animated.

Shown here is a hand-cranked automaton titled Laughing man, 2008 (6 inches high, wood and metal).

Check out all the automata by Carlos Zapata on his web site.

[ Thanks David! ]

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Organic Butcher Automaton by Paul Spooner

Paul Spooner's work never ceases to amaze me. This video shows what looks to be an incredible work-in-progress. The automaton features a little devil figure that emerges from doors in the floor. The figure raises its arm and an air organ begins to play. Two doors in the structure above the figure open in turn, one showing the organ pipes. The sequence is then reversed. All of this magic is powered by a hand-crank!

[ Thanks David! ]

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Video and Images of Wood Machine by Del Short

Wooden Machine Craftsman, Del Short
I posted recently about an amazing wooden machine. I've learned that Del Short is the unassuming master craftsman behind this piece that he describes as "a nutty device".

Not only is the entire device a marvel, but it's held together with pegs and threaded wooden dowels with wooden nuts. It is even built in components, so that it can be worked on in sections. Remarkable.

If the YouTube video didn't satisfy, here is a higher resolution video of Del's Amazing Wooden Machine.

Also, here is a link to a few large photographs of Del's machine, courtesy of Art Maddox.

If you want to get started with this sort of thing (on a more modest scale), check out these books:
* Making Mechanical Marvels In Wood
* Making Wooden Mechanical Models
* Making More Wooden Mechanical Models

[ Thanks Del and Art! ]

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Even More Animated Greeting Card Images

Hallmark has created a whole line of animated greeting cards that feature a little plastic crank mounted to the corner. When you turn the crank, the scene starts to move. Here a bunch of their new designs in this line. I posted about some of the other designs here and here.

Animated Yoga Greeting card
Figures doing Yogo

Sound and motion card of pirates
This one has sound and motion.

Schroeder and Snooopy card

Dog in front of fan card
Dog in front of fan card

Office themed birthday card
An office themed birthday card

Baseball pitcher animated card
Baseball pitcher winding up to throw

[ Thanks, again to Alan and Family! ]

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Amazing Wooden Machine Video with No Metals

With the exception of Brad Litwin's piece entitled Extra-Universal Movement, I don't know if I've seen such an elaborate hand-cranked wooden machine. This gentleman has constructed an amazing device using only wood and glue -- no nails, no screws or ball bearings. It is quite an achievement. It is my sincere hope I'm doing things like this at 70 years old. Bravo!

[ Thanks Falk! ]

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Three More Hand-Cranked Animated Cards

Hallmark (or the Shoebox division, rather) must be testing their excellent new line of hand-cranked animated greeting cards in different markets. The three shown below were not offered among the several that I bought in the Boston area. The cards also seem to vary quite a bit in terms of style and tone -- some retro, some contemporary, some cartoon, some photographs, some tame, and some raunchy.

Hallmark animated card, woman with twirling pasties
I believe the pasties twirl on this one.

Hallmark animated card, dancing cartoon woman
No, I don't know what this one says on the inside!

Hallmark animated card, woman with martini shaker
Back to retro with this one Martini maker

Some of the greeting cards have sound and motion, and some just have motion. These are of the motion-only variety.

[ Thanks Alan and Family! ]

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Video of Internal Mechanism of Animated Card

I posted recently about a the internal mechanism of a Hallmark animated greeting card. Here is a (very) short video of the card internal mechanism in action.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Hallmark Hand-Cranked Animated Card Dissected

Not long ago, I posted about Hallmark's new line of animated greeting cards. I bought a few, but didn't have the heart to dissect them. Fortunately for us, master papercraft artist and Retroscope creator Joe Freedman wasn't squeamish. Here are some of his photographs showing the internal mechanism of one of the cards. All images courtesy of Joe Freedman of The Sarabande Press.
Hallmark Hand-Cranked Animated Card Dissection 1
Hallmark Hand-Cranked Animated Card Dissection 2
Hallmark Hand-Cranked Animated Card Dissection 3
Hallmark Hand-Cranked Animated Card Dissection 4
Hallmark Hand-Cranked Animated Card Dissection 5
Hallmark Hand-Cranked Animated Card Dissection 6
Hallmark Hand-Cranked Animated Card Dissection 7
Hallmark Hand-Cranked Animated Card Dissection 8
Hallmark Hand-Cranked Animated Card Dissection 9
Hallmark Hand-Cranked Animated Card Dissection 10
Hallmark Hand-Cranked Animated Card Dissection 11
Hallmark Hand-Cranked Animated Card Dissection 12
Thanks again to Joe Freedman -- creator of innovative dimensional graphics -- for these images.

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Brad Litwin, Kinetic Sculpture Talk in Philadelphia

Brad Litwin, Kinetic Scupture Talk in Philadelphia
Kinetic sculptor and automaton artist Brad Litwin, who I posted about here and here, will be speaking about his kinetic sculptures on Sunday, July 13th in Philadelphia at The University of the Arts, 333 S. Broad Street, Anderson Hall, 4th Floor. While the talk is free(a $5 donation is suggested), an RSVP is required. Send email with first and last name to

This info comes to us via the MAKE Magazine blog.

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Retroscope: Hand-cranked Paper Movies

Retroscope - Hand-cranked Paper Movies
Retroscopes are hand-cranked looped flip books. When you turn the crank, the pages are flipped rapidly and you see the series of still images spring to life. The reels are removable so you can get extra movies. The company that makes them says they are producing new movies all the time. They even make custom movies for companies and individuals.

The same folks also have a hand-cranked 'Thaumatrope Mechanique' which uses a similar principle, but only two alternating images. Though it uses only two images, the effect is impressive, nonetheless.

Visit The Sarabande Press web site to see several videos of Rotoscope paper movies in action and the related Thaumatrope Mechanique animation device.

[ Thanks bhaaluu! ]

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Diverse Marble-Rolling & Lifting Machines

This video shows a half dozen or more marble rolling machines, labyrinths, and games. There are a couple of very novel mechanisms for raising the marbles back to the top of machines. One such device (toward the end of the clip) uses a pair of side-by-side serpentine ladders to pass the marble back and forth until it reaches the top. Another (in the middle of the video) uses a huge auger-style drill bit to raise the marbles! Ingenious.

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Images of Animated Greeting Cards from Hallmark

In case you hadn't seen enough, I've scanned in the all of cards I bought. There were even more designs, but at $7 and $8 each, I didn't buy them all. The first two have sound and motion, the rest just have motion.

Hula Dancer Automata Greeting Card
Hula and ukulele greeting card with sound & motion

Retro Party Automata Greeting Card
Retro cartoon party greeting card with sound & motion

Hula Hoop Automata Greeting Card
Hula-hoop girl greeting card with motion

Sumo Wrestler Automata Greeting Card
Sumo wrestler greeting card with motion

Plumber Automata Greeting Card
Over-exposed plumber greeting card with motion

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Video of Animated Greeting Cards with Sound

It looks like I sparked some interest on the web with my recent post about the new automata greeting cards from Hallmark. Both and BoingBoing Gadgets did posts themselves. I'm sure many others followed their lead.

While I posted a picture of one of the cards, I didn't take the time to shoot any video of the cards in action. Well, just wait a few hours and the Internet will deliver. Here is a video showing two of the cards in action.

I believe the Gear Diary fellow make be mistaken in saying that when you turn the crank you are actually generating the power for the sound. I think the card holds a battery and you are just activating a switch for the sound unit when you turn the crank. I have not performed surgery on one of these cards, so I can't be sure. Anyone?

There is a third motion-and-sound card that shows a island scene with a hula dancer and ukulele player that is also very well executed. I also want to remind you there are several very nice designs that use the motion component but do not have any sound.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Animated Automata Greeting Cards with Sound

For some time now, many greeting cards have featured a small electronic sound device that is triggered when the card recipient opens the card. Greeting card maker Hallmark has introduced a new line of greeting cards that also incorporate motion.
Animated Automata Greeting Cards with Sound by Hallmark
Their motion-related cards come in two forms. The motion-only variety feature a small finger-crank on the lower right face of the card that, when rotated, sets the design on the face of the card in motion. Hallmark has also introduced a few larger-format cards the incorporate motion and sound -- as seen here in this retro party scene card. When the crank is turned the cartoon party-goer characters on the front of the card move in appropriate ways and the song "Soul Bossa Nova" by Quincy Jones is played.

This design in particular is a perfect blend of artwork, motion, and sound. This is the first time in my life I have bought greeting cards for no reason other than I liked them so much.

Thanks to automata-maker Tom Haney for telling me about them!

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