Sunday, February 14, 2010

Fluttering Heart - animated papercraft model

Fluttering Heart - moving papercraft model
Another clever animated model from Rob Ives. Here is the idea: the heart model folds flat so it can be placed into a card. When the card is opened the heart will pop out and 'flutter' to the amazement of the recipient.

Check out this fluttering heart papercraft model.

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

'You have captured my heart' brass automaton

Check out this Valentine's Day automaton by Keith Newstead made with laser-cut metal.

See more automata by Keith Newstead on his site.

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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, November 16, 2009

Mechanical Christmas tree stand with four tunes

Made around 1900, this German clockwork Christmas tree stand spins the tree around and plays four tunes.

For more info, visit

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Reindeer Ride paper automaton kit downloads

Here is the latest paper automaton creation by Rob Ives, called Reindeer Ride. There are two versions of this one. The colored version costs the usual £2.50 GBP (about $4 US dollars). The uncolored version is a completely free download! This could be a great holiday project for you or the kids.

Also, be sure to check out Rob's Workshop Notes blog in its new home of He posts to it most days about the fascinating process of creating paper automata.

Here is where you can get the Reindeer Ride paper animation kits.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Ellen Rixford mechanical puppets & automata

Ellen Rixford mechanical puppets & automata
Ellen Rixford Studio has been in business for 35 years and specializes in sculpture, art dolls, mechanical puppets, displays, and miniature sets.

In addition to being sought out by corporate and private collectors, some of their large pieces have been acquired by the Doll and Toy Museum of New York City, and the Ballard Institute of Puppetry Museum at the University of Connecticut.

Visit the Ellen Rixford Studio web site to see all of their wonderful creations.

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Saturday, January 31, 2009

'Be still my blinking heart' by Paul Spooner

I guess with February right around the corner, it's not unreasonable to start thinking about Valentine's Day...or at least heart-themed automata! This cute little blinking heart automaton is another fine Paul Spooner creation.

Here is a link to Cabaret Mechanical Theatre's page for 'Be still my blinking heart'.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Is there a site that focuses on documenting toys?

A reader of The Automata / Automaton Blog recently wrote to me about a neat little motorized toy he has. He also posed a question.

Reader John Grabowski writes:
Last Christmas, my mom gave me a wind-up tin toy Santa that they got a couple of years before I was born (circa early '60s). I have always loved this wind-up Santa, so I searched the web to try and find out more about him or see similar pieces. I didn't find any like him anywhere though. This year, I got him working really smoothly again, so I filmed a video of him doing his thing. That way, I figured anyone into this sort of stuff would get a chance to see him. Do you know of any site that focuses on displaying and documenting toys (rather than simply selling them)?

I don't have an answer myself. How about the rest of you out there? Do you know of a site like the the one John asks about? If so, post a comment here. Thanks! -Dug North

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Paper snowman model, automata, & surprise gifts

Snowman paper model kitRob Ives over at Flying Pig Paper Animation Kits has just released a new paper model for the holiday season. The snowman shown here is a downloadable model. You simply pay online using your Paypal account or a credit card, then download the .PDF that contains the pattern and instructions. Don't worry if you are not used to paying in Great Britian Pounds (GBP) -- PayPal will convert the transaction into your currency. Most cost less than a cup of Starucks coffee. Once you download the file, print it, cut out the pieces, and glue it together as instructed.

If you have kids at home on vacation complaining of having "nothing to do", check out all of amazing paper animation kits from Flying Pig. There are dozens, ranging from dinosaurs to working paper locks. You can let the kids choose the model and have the kit printed out in just minutes. That ought to keep them busy!

Struggling for what to get the crafty/clever person in your life for the holidays because you think they already have everything? Why not surprise them by pre-ordering Rob's forthcoming book? It's called Paper Engineering & Pop-ups For Dummies.Give them an envelope with a print out of the book's cover and they'll look forward to receiving a great gift in just a few months.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Mechanical toy gifts for the holidays 2008 - Part 1

You've still got a few shopping days left! Here is a list of mechanical toys that can be ordered online and at your home in plenty of time for the holidays.

Battery Science: Make Widgets That Work and Gadgets That Go
Battery Science: Make Widgets That Work and Gadgets That Go - An affordable, creative kit for making all kinds of crazy little contraptions with little more than a small battery-powered motor. At $15, this is a great value and great fun.

More fun engineering from Klutz:
Klutz Book of Paper Airplanes

Karakuri: Bow Shooting Boy
Karakuri: Bow Shooting Boy by Gakken - A kit for the advance or ambitious maker, this is a plastic recreation of a famous Japanese karakuri. The boy actually picks up arrows, places them on the bow, and shoots at a mini target. Amazing! At $150 this may be best for the "big kid" in your life or a gifted youngster. A different Gakken Karakuri kit may be found at the MAKE magazine store.

Wooden Pinball Baseball
Front Porch Classics Baseball- I finally had a chance to play at a friend's house and I am pleased to say that this is a really great game. It's well made and doesn't take up a ton of room. This rather nice model runs $80, but there are versions for about half the price. Good for adults and kids.

Kluz and Lego bundled packages
Lego Crazy Action Contraptions and Lego Crazy Action Contraptions: A Lego Inventions Book- Both spiral-bound books ($22 and $14, respectively) have clear instructions with step-by-step diagrams and come with a small pouch of LEGO bricks for the projects. Having additional basic Lego brickson hand is a good idea for the first book, and required for the second.

We'll be back tomorrow with part 2 of our last-minute mechanical gift suggestions. You can also peruse The Automata / Automaton Store where our staff has added hundreds of items that are available at

[ My thanks to the esteemed members of The Automata / Automaton Group on Facebook for many of these suggestions! ]

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Invention of Hugo Cabret - great gift book

The Invention of Hugo Cabret
For those of you looking for a gift for the automata-minded, I would be remiss to not mention The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

The tale takes place Paris in the 1930s and features an automaton as a central element. Profusely illustrated, the pictures are critical to the telling of the tale...they don't just decorate the text. By all accounts -- and I have had dozens of individuals write to me directly to say so -- this is a classic.

From the author, Brian Selznick:
I began thinking about this book ten years ago after seeing some of the magical films of Georges Méliès, the father of science-fiction movies. But it wasn't until I read a book called Edison's Eve: The Quest for Mechanical Life by Gaby Woods that my story began to come into focus. I discovered that Méliès had a collection of mechanical, wind-up figures (called automata) that were donated to a museum, but which were later destroyed and thrown away. Instantly, I imagined a boy discovering these broken, rusty machines in the garbage, stealing one and attempting to fix it. At that moment, Hugo Cabret was born.

If you need a gift for a young person or someone young-at-heart, you should consider The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

WowWee's Tribot talking companion robot toy

WowWee's Tribot talking companion robot toyTribot is one of the latest from robot toy makers WowWee (of Robosapien fame). Tribot has a number of different modes, some of which (like guard mode), are semi-autonomous. Tribot can also be controlled via remote. The standout features of this robot toy are the slick omni-directional wheels and very quick remote-control response.

From the product description
Tribot is one of the latest in the line of personal robots from WowWee. This innovative talking companion is more than just your average robot -- Tribot is fresh off the robot assembly line and is ready to interact with you whether it is playing with his built-in games or telling you jokes. Remember though, he's only a young robot so he will need help from you to give him commands using the remote controller. Requires eight "AA" and three "AAA" batteries, not included. Measures 9"L x 8.5"W x 15"H.

Here's a more complete product overview of the WowWee Tribot Talking Companion.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Diminutive R2D2 Astromech Droid Robot

Diminutive R2D2 Astromech Droid Robot
Hasbro's new R2D2 toy give me "a new hope" that we are not too many years away from having ACTUAL R2 units helping us out. This smaller robotic toy has some pretty impressive features.

R2D2 responds to voice commands when you alert the droid by saying "Hey, R2!" This is then followed by one of 40 voice commands it understands.The droid can also move along on his own, follow you, play music, and act as a room sentry with an alarm.

For a toy, we are off to a good start. I expect fully functional R2D2 Droids in the next thirty years.

Here is more info on Hasbro's Interactive R2D2 Astromech Droid Robot.

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Saturday, December 06, 2008

Tom Haney automata in New York city - Now!

Automaton artist Tom Haney will have several pieces showing at the Chelsea Market in New York City, starting today -- December 6th through December 23rd, 2008. They will be exhibited by Brian Foster Studio in a show called 'Jingle in Chelsea Market'.

The Chelsea Market is located at 75 9th Ave. between 15th and 16th and will be open everyday from 10:30am - 7:30pm. Learn more at

If you live in the area or happen to be passing through New York for the holidays, stop by and see some of Tom Haney's amazing creations!

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Death Trick automaton ... great video!

I've posted about the stunning work of Argentinian automata-maker Pablo Lavezzari and even about the particular piece shown here. In rewatching the video the other day, I noticed that the number of views on YouTube was far too low.

This is a clever, adept, cohesive, and funny automaton by one of the most creative minds in the genre. Do check it out!

Learn more about artist Pablo Lavezzari
on his web site.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Roland Emett sculpture exhibit - Ontario, Canada

Kinetic sculptures by Roland Emett are put on display once a year during the holiday season at the Ontario Science Centre.

Learn more about the Ontario Science Centre.

[ Thanks Keith! ]

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

And Now a Word from Our Sponsor....Batdog! has tons of Halloween costumes and is offering free shipping for orders over $25. They have:
  • Women's costumes
  • Men's costumes
  • Girl's Costumes
  • Boy's costumes
  • Baby costumes

Would you believe they even sell costumes for DOGS? Shown here: Batdog?

Here is a link to Amazon's Halloween Costumes Store.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Scaretaker Motorized Animated Halloween Prop

Scaretaker Motorized Animated Halloween Prop
Check out "The Evil Scaretaker" a life-sized animatronic Halloween prop.

The Scaretaker's body shakes while he glares at you menacingly. His jaw moves up and down, as does the jaw of the head he is holding! The lantern in his hand is powered by two AA batteries, but the rest is powered by a 9V wall adapter. The figure is hand painted and stands approx 5 1/2 feet tall. Nice details on the clothes, it appears.

Set this thing up with a basic motion detector and a prerecorded message and you've got one seriously scary greeter for you front yard or entryway. Imagine seeing this guy all of a sudden in a dark hallway.

Check out Scaretaker Animated Prop

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Still Time to Order Halloween Costumes & Props

Fright Catalog - Halloween masks, costumes, props, and decorations
A vast selection of costumes, masks, & decorations for Halloween may be found at The Fright Catalog.

They have a huge array of motorized animated props and full-fledged animatronics if you want to have THE scariest house on the block. Consider it an investment -- one that is likely to pay off in years of fun. That's far better than most investments can offer these days.

Visit The Fright Catalog's Halloween Central while you still have plenty of time for shipments to arrive before Halloween.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Mechanical Haunted Bookshelf Halloween Prop

Motorized Haunted Bookshelf Halloween Prop
Here's a clever, subtle Halloween or haunted house effect in which books on a bookshelf move in and out as if on their own.

Product Description
Spookify your library shelves with this haunting collection of books. Books move forward and back on a black wooden base. Requires AC power. Sizes and titles of books will vary. Bookshelf is also available in white!

Visit Fright Catalog to see their huge selection of animatronic Halloween props.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dug North Automaton Plans Bootlegged on eBay?

Bootleg Dug North Automaton Plans
Well, I honestly don't know whether to be flattered or indignant. A good reader of The Automata / Automaton Blog alerted me to the fact that someone on eBay is trying to auction off plans for my Training for Christmas automaton. Above is a screen shot of the listing.

I suppose if someone is willing to sell bootleg plans of my work (at least that's what they seem to be), I've reached a whole new level of fame. Perhaps these are actual pages from the magazine, which may be legit to sell. It's kind of hard to tell.

Woodcraft issue with automaton plansThe plans are from an article I wrote for Woodcraft Magazine's Holiday 2005 issue. The article describes how to make the piece step-by-step with some plan drawings and many color photographs.

If you would like these plans, I would recommend simply buying a back issue of Woodcraft, which includes my article and dozens of other holiday-themed projects.

I may consider republishing the project (with my own images) at a future date. (I need to review my own agreement.)

Here's a link to Woodcraft's site where you can order the Woodcraft Magazine's Holiday 2005 Issue.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Animated Cupid Automaton for Valentine's Day

Want to make an impression on Valentine's Day this year? Forget the card...make an animated paper automaton!

From the Flying Pig Site:
Romance and engineering in perfect harmony. Turn the handle on this delightful new model and cupid flies. Make a model for your one true love!

This is a downloadable kit. Once you purchase the kit, you download it and print it on to heavy paper (or card stock if your printer can handle it). You then just follow the instructions to cut and glue the model together. The time and effort you spend will show you really care.

Check out this and other amazing animated paper kits at Flying Pig.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Laughing Santa Paper Automaton Kit Download

In time for the holidays, here is an paper animation kit you can download, cut-out, and glue together. This comes to us from the fine folks at who offer paper animation kits of every sort.

Each kit comes with instructions and requires you to have Adobe Acrobat (which is free). You can pay the modest price for the kit with Paypal or a credit card. Then download the file, print it on card stock, and you are ready to start building!

Check out the Laughing Santa Paper Animation Kit.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Automaton How-To Article, MAKE Halloween Issue

Automaton article in MAKE MagazineI am very pleased to announce that I have contributed an article to MAKE Magazine's first-ever special Halloween issue. The article shows the secret behind the trick top hat I designed, so that you can build one for yourself!

You can pre-order MAKE Magazines Special Halloween Issue now. I have a feeling it is going to be a really great issue of MAKE.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Valentine's Day Automaton by Dug North

I realize that this comes about a month too late, but I thought you might like to take a look at another recently completed wood automaton of mine.

The automaton depicts a poor fellow in search of a Valentine's day card. To his dismay, there are many options, but none match the sentiments he feels:

Which card says 'I love you' as much as I really do?

When the crank is rotated the carousel of cards on the right spins to display all sides. The attention-grabbing heart display on the left jumps up and down. Our protagonist is overwhelmed and madly scans the choices by swinging his head back and forth.

See additional picture of The Valentine's Automaton by Dug North

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