Sunday, December 13, 2009

Satyr Head of Mystery - magical mechancial prop

The Cabaret Mechanical Theatre Blog has been ups to some really great things this month. Yesterday, they posted about this amazing mechanical prop meant for use by a stage magician. It's wonderful prop, though it seems like it may take some practice to get the hang of it.

From the video description:
Made of strong papier mache, gessoed and painted with leather eyelids and fine glass eyes in the tradition of the Parisian automata makers. Designed to produce one or two items from the mouth and top of the head. The final issue is due to awaken in the Spring of 2010, expressions of interest are invited.

Here is the link to the full post on The Mechanical Blog.


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Sunday, November 22, 2009

"The Pasha" automaton by Anatoly ZAYA-RUZO

The Pasha automaton by Anatoly ZAYA-RUZO
Here is the latest automaton creation from Anatoly Zaya-Ruzo.

From the artist's description:
"The Pasha" is a classical automaton 32" x 12" x 24"(H) with 12 movements and 72-note music mechanism playing three tunes. The action is operated by specially designed heavy duty winding motor with 50 lb-in torque. The Pasha makes his magic by transforming the girl from one tent to another. There are 5 characters in this scene.

More about this automata (including video) will soon be posted on Anatoly's web site www.automatadolls.com.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Isis Impossible Titanium Puzzle

Invented by a magician and manufactured from high-grade aluminum (not sure where the 'titanium' name comes from) the Isis puzzle is a mechanical puzzle with an interactive twist. Solving the physical puzzle is just the start. Now we can all feel like characters in The Da Vinci Code.

From the puzzle description:
As the Isis puzzles are supposedly "The hardest puzzles in the world" the manufacturer gives you some clues, encrypted of course available on their website. The Isis is a high quality puzzle, similar to a combination lock. The object of the puzzle is to solve the combination and obtain the secret number inside. Each Isis is unique, and you will need to obtain the key number inside and enter the numbers onto the Isis Adventure website in order to access the "Pyramid Map". Many hidden pyramids will be found on the map, and fantastic monetary awards are available to those that can solve the location and the pyramid passwords.
Here's a link with more info on Isis Titanium Puzzle and its even more difficult cousin known as Ramisis Pyramid Puzzle.


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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Death+Resurrection: In the Chamber of Reflection

Marvel at Thomas Kuntz's self-portrait based on a classic automata motif: the severed and restored head. The entire piece -- including the cams, levers, and actuating devices -- were hand-cut from brass, steel, and wood.

From the video description
This automaton, a nightmarish vision, was inspired in part by the 19th century Phalibois clown automaton. The first version was sold to a private collector and then this 23" tall automaton was made from a completely new set of sculptures with some added features and a completely new mechanical design. It is an auto-biographical self-portrait told through occult allegory and runs for one minute to complete the cycle.

See more amazing art by Thomas Kuntz on his web site.


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Sunday, October 18, 2009

THE HARLEQUIN automaton by PIERRE MAYER

Take a look at this video of a charming new piece by Pierre Mayer called "The Harlequin", which looks to be inspired by a classic automaton of old.

See more automata by Pierre Mayer on his web site.

[ Thanks Phil Sing! ]


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Friday, September 25, 2009

Lady Cut in Half by Anatoly Zaya-Ruzo

Mechanical doll maker, Anatoly ZAYA-RUZO has a new automaton titled "LADY CUT IN-HALF".

From the artist:
The LADY is a classical automaton...with 6 movements, drum and music mechanism. This is a new version of Lady Saw'd in Twain, but instead of a saw the Magician holds a huge sword... There is a rolling drum sound prior to the sword moving down... But everything ends happily and the LADY makes a bow. The music mechanism provides two-tunes using a 72-note musical movement.

See this and other automata by Anatoly Zaya-Ruzo on his site.


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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Changing Faces - optical illusions with paper

Changing Faces - optical illusions with paper
This book on optical illusions using paper certainly looks interesting!

From the product Description
Changing Faces presents an idiosyncratic and humorous collection of paintings, drawings, cartoons, masks, toys, advertisements, and other works of ephemera that -- either by flipping or flopping or just plain staring -- somehow transform the human physiognomy. Here you will find optical illusions from the Renaissance, Enlightenment-era political cartoons, and Victorian toys that all start off as one thing and end up as another. Sometimes these mutations were made for fun (give magnetic hair to a bald man!) sometimes for profit (buy a Studebaker!), and sometimes to score a political point (watch a French king turn into a big fat pear!), but the results are always an intriguing pleasure to watch.

Here's the link for the book Changing Faces


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Sunday, August 02, 2009

The Conjuror, automaton by Anatoly ZAYA-RUZO

The Conjuror, automaton by Anatoly ZAYA-RUZO
Here is a photo of "The Conjuror" -- the latest creation from mechanical doll maker Anatoly ZAYA-RUZO.

From the artist's description:
The Conjuror is a classical automaton about 2 feet high with 7 movements including gong and and music movement. The action is operated by specially designed heavy duty winding motor 36 lb-in torque. The Conjuror makes his magic with 5 objects, which replace each other on the table. Music mechanism acts by "endless" perforated paper strip.

More about this automata (including video) will be posted soon on Anatoly's site www.automatadolls.com.


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Saturday, July 11, 2009

King of Magic automaton by Anatoly ZAYA-RUZO

King of Magic automaton by Anatoly ZAYA-RUZO
Anatoly ZAYA-RUZO, mechanical doll maker, has announced his new creation entitled 'KING OF MAGIC'.

From the artist's description:
The King is a classical automaton about 2 feet high with 9 movements and music mechanism. The action is operated by specially designed heavy duty winding motor 36 lb-in torque. The King makes his magic with street monkey-gambler, and monkey-gambler makes his own trick with dice.

More about this automata -- including video -- will be posted soon on Anatoly's site.


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Saturday, July 04, 2009

Siegfried and Roy automaton by Pierre Mayer

Here's a fantastic automaton by Pierre Mayer depicting magicians Siegfried and Roy. The video shows the magicians transport and transform. You also get an up-close look at some of the mechanics behind the magic! So cool.

See more of Pierre Mayer's magic automata on his web site.


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Monday, June 15, 2009

New site for the magical automata of Pierre Mayer

The magical automata of Pierre Mayer
My friend, collegue, and hero -- Pierre Mayer -- has a new web site featuring his amazing work! He specializes in contemporary wood automata that perform magical illusions. Be sure to check it out!

See all of Pierre Mayer's magic automata on is new web site.


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Monday, April 27, 2009

Multi-stage wooden mechanical puzzle box

Multi-stage wooden mechanical puzzle box
Here is a neat little wooden puzzle box I acquired recently. It was a lot of fun figuring out how to open all of the little compartments of the box. It was an exercise in 3-dimensional and lateral thinking.

The box is sturdy, made entirely of wood, and measures about 6 x 3.5 x 2 inches. It could be used as a low-tech "safe" for kids who want to store secret messages or other small items. For the price, I give this little wooden puzzle box the thumbs up.

The puzzle box is offered by BudgetGadgets.com. Their product page for the puzzle box has many photos, if you are interested in the multi-stage opening sequence. (If you do not want to know how to open it, you may want to have someone else order it for you.)

Here's the link to the clever and affordable wooden mechanical puzzle box. I am told you can use a the code DM5OFF4 to get 5% off discount for anything on their site.


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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Fiendish Japanese mechanical pocket puzzles

solid metal Japanese pocket puzzles
These solid metal Japanese pocket puzzles are precision crafted in Japan and are based on classic mechanical puzzles from around the world. ThinkGeek.com is offering four different difficulty levels of puzzles ranging from level 3 (solvable) to level 6 (insanely hard).

From the ThinkGeek.com
What makes these puzzles so appealing is how you always seem to be on the verge of solving them. The precision metal casting becomes apparent as you try to separate the parts of each one to solve it. They are just sooo close to coming apart you will be cringing with delight.
Here is the link to the solid metal Japanese mechanical pocket puzzles.




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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Automta in antiquity article from SPIEGEL Online

Automta in antiquity article from Speigel Online
The German magazine SPIEGELhas published an article on automata in antiquity. Or...at least that's what I believe it is about. I cannot read German. Nevertheless, they have a number of wonderful drawings and photographs that accompany the article.

Once again the credit must go to Spiel und Kunst mit Mechanik for finding this great resource.

Shown above is a diagram of Hero of Alexandria's clever method for automatically opening temple doors. The fire in the pot, creates pressure in the large water tank. This causes water to spill into the bucket, the weight of which works against the counterweight to rotate the vertical axle attached to the temple door. Very clever. Done with the right amount of ceremony, this must have seemed very magical indeed to the ancient Greeks.

Here is a link to the photoset associated with the article. If you are able to read German, you might also like to read the original article on automata in antiquity.

[ Thanks once again to Falk Keuten! ]


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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Anatoly ZAYA-RUZO's hybrid automaton/robot

Anatoly ZAYA-RUZO's hybrid automaton/robotAutomata maker Anatoly ZAYA-RUZO has unveiled his new creation, entitled ATTABOY.

ATTABOY is a hybrid automaton/robot that has 8 body movements, can speak, do a card trick with special prop, and draws 17 images on the paper with a marker.

The piece includes some 15 motors, 46 relays, 34 cams, and a 24-button wireless transmitter/receiver.

More about this automaton will be soon be available on Anatoly’s site.


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Saturday, March 21, 2009

'El Gran Garmendia the magician' automaton

'El Gran Garmendia the magician' is an absolutely amazing new automaton from artist Pablo Lavezzari. Lavezzari has a way of incorporating surprising and clever features in ways I greatly admire. He is one of my favorite automata artists -- without question.

The video production is top-notch too! A pleasure to watch.

See more of Pablo Lavezzari's automata Flash-based web site.

[ Thanks Pablo!, Thanks Sergio! ]


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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Pierre Mayer's Siegfried and Roy Automaton

 Pierre Mayer's Siegfried and Roy Automaton
A new magic-themed automaton by one of my favorite makers: Pierre Mayer. Here we are given a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse of how the magic happens!

From the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre shop:
The latest piece from Pierre Mayer is a homage to the legendary Las Vegas performers. The illusion that they perform here is known as The Substitution Trunk, and was popularised by Houdini.

Here's the Siegfried and Roy automaton page at CMT.


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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Junod's Wonderland - video of a true master

A wonderful video with English translations profiling a modern master of classic automata. I'm so glad people like Francois Junod and his team still exist.

From the YouTube description:
Swiss artist Francois Junod has changed the automaton into a new art form. He calls his unique creations androids - mechanical robots designed to resemble humans in both appearance and behaviour. (swissinfo, Julie Hunt) visited his studio in St Croix, in the Jura mountains.


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Thursday, January 22, 2009

"L'Oracle du Mort" - Fortune Telling Automaton

L'Oracle du Mort (ORACLE OF THE DEAD MAN) is the latest stunning automaton by Thomas Kuntz.

The automaton depicts an 1880's magician from the French occult revival. The complex mechanical system -- consisting of cams, gears levers, springs, sprockets and pulleys -- tells 7 fortunes. If you attempt to fool the magician a devil appears in the window to correct your error!

See more automata Thomas Kuntz on his web site.


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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Waltzing teacup automaton by Kazu Harada

Here is a wonderfully clever automaton of waltzing teacups by automata-maker Kazu Harada. Ingenious and charming.

See more of Kazu Harada's automata at http://nizo.jp/.


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Monday, November 24, 2008

Anatomical Levitating Head Experiment

From the massively talented Thomas Kuntz, here is a glimpse of a work-in-progress. In this video we see the artist experimenting with a levitating mechanical head automaton. Take a look at his skill as a sculptor and at those beautiful brass works. If only my experiments look this good!

To see more, visit Thomas Kuntz's web site.


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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Magician Automaton - Conjuror with Six Secrets

Magician Automaton - Conjuror with Six Secrets
I am particularly fond of automata featuring magicians. Here's a piece in the upcoming Theriault's auction that is a classic. This is another piece by Michel Bertrand -- successor to the famous Vichy/Triboulet/JAF lineage.

From the catalog description:
In his right hand, he holds the top of a large, red conjuring cup and in his left hand is a white magic wand. Movements and Music. While music plays, the Clown nods and looks around him. He blinks and moves his mouth as if talking to an assembled crowd of on-lookers, and waves his magic wand. As he raises and lowers the upturned red cup, objects appear and disappear in six successions: mouse, jewelry, flowers, goldfish, dice and bird in a cage. The movements are executed with grace and dexterity, directed by a large clockwork mechanism with eight cams hidden within the base. The six-tune musical movement is an antique one of good quality.

The auction on November 23rd, 2008 will be at the Westin Governor Morris in Morristown, New Jersey. A preview will be held on the 22nd from 6 to 8 PM as well as from 9 to 11 AM on the 23rd. The collection can be viewed and bid upon online also.

Here is the full description of The Clown Conjuror w/Six Secrets.


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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Levitation Magician Automaton by Thomas Kuntz

Levitation Magician Automaton by Thomas Kuntz
Shown here is The Great Kundalini Thelema-gician!, a one-of-a-kind automaton by artist Thomas Kuntz.

The automaton performs the following sequence:

1 - The magician looks left to right and his mouth opens and closes as if addressing the audience.
2 - He waves a wand over the girl.
3 - The girl struggles as if to covey something has gone wrong.
4 - Her feet wiggle and she begins to levitate.
5 - The magician's long pointed hat levitates also.
6 - The girl descends and the magician opens the left side his robe. (A message or item could be included here.)

A very complex modern automaton, the masterful sculpting, engineering, painting, and cohesive theme are hallmarks of Kuntz's work. He is a rare talent.

Here is the eBay listing for this amazing Levitation Magician Automaton by Thomas Kuntz


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Monday, August 25, 2008

Thomas Kuntz Incredible Decapitation Automaton

This eerie, life-like automaton by (and of) automaton artist Thomas Kuntz does a version of the classic decapitation trick. This is mastery of a craft -- or actually, several.

From the YouTube description:
This automaton, a nightmarish vision was inspired in part by the 19th century Phalibois clown automaton. The first version was sold to a private collector and then this 23" tall automaton was made from a completely new set of sculptures with some added features and a completely new mechanical design. It is an auto-biographical self-portrait told through occult allegory and runs for one minute to complete the cycle. A mechanical musical "dirge" is built into the machine (but not heard on this clip). The entire figure including the cams, levers, and actuating devices below the figure were made from scratch hand-cut from brass steel and wood.


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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Large Magician Automaton from the Film 'Sleuth'

Check out this fantastic vintage magician automaton that was featured in the film Sleuth (the original one).

At 56 1/2 inches high, the figure is approaching life-size. The magician does a transformation routine, magically changing the items under the hat four times.

This was the very automaton used in the movie "Sleuth" (1972)-- a thriller, starring Sir Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine. Amazing!

Here is a very complete listing with additional photographs of the Large Magician Automaton from the Film 'Sleuth'.


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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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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Automaton Tribute the Magician Howard Thurston


Here is a brand new automata by up-and-coming automata artist Oscar Dorian. Dorian is a talented special-effects artist who is especially adapt at horror-themed effects.

In this piece, Dorian has given new life to an old mechanical clock to create an homage to the great magician Howard Thurston.

I really love the production effects and old-time music in this video.

Check out this and other works on Dorian's blog.

Here is a book that features the magicians Harry Houdini and Howard Thurston: Wizard Exposed: Magic Tricks by and Interviews With Harry Houdini Howard Thurston and Other Past Masters of Magic.There are also tons of nice reproductions of Thurston the magician posters.

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Letters on Natural Magic Book by David Brewster

Letters on Natural Magic by David Brewster
Here is a book on eBay entitled LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC by Sir David Brewster.

The book covers natural phenomena as used in magic. Topics include optical illusions, spectral illusions, magic lantern, feats of strength, automata, Babbage's calculating machines, ventriloquism, wonders of chemistry, alchemy, breathing fire, and spontaneous combustion.

13 pages and 11 small drawings are devoted to The Turk, automaton chess player.

Here is the eBay listing for LETTERS ON NATURAL MAGIC - DAVID BREWSTER FIRST EDITION

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Build Hidden Compartments into Wooden Drawers

How hidden wooden drawers workThis post may seem a little off-topic, but I'm going to justify it because a) it's about woodworking, b) it's mechanical in nature, and c) it's just plain cool.

Who doesn't love trap doors and hidden compartments?

This is a short, but useful article describing a few different ways to build hidden compartments into chests, bureaus, jewelry boxes, or even cabinets built into a wall.

Here's the article on Building Hidden Drawers courtesy of Woodcraft.com.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Man Behind the Magic: A Profile of John Gaughan

John Gaughan and The Turk

Image by Natasha Calzatti for The New York Times


The New York Times has done a profile on automata and magic prop expert John Gaughan. Here he is shown with a recreation of the famous hoax automaton know as The Turk.

Here is the link to the New York Times article on John Gaughan.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Coin-Operated English String Magic Trick Machine

Coin-Operated String Magic Trick AutomatonThis is another magic-related piece going to auction today, May 11th 2008.

This appears to be a coin-operated magic trick. It clearly involves string, so I am guessing that it performs some type trick in which the string is cut into two and then restored to a single string again. Just a guess.

We do know that this machine was made by Bryans Works from Kegworth, Derby, England. There is a scrolling text window to explain what is happening during the trick. The machine requires an old (English) penny (the large ones) so must be of some age. The mechanism looks very clean. I'd love to see a video of the trick being performed.

There are many close-up photographs of the various parts of this piece and its mechanism on the eBay listing for this Coin-Operated String Magic Trick Automaton

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Chinese Magician Automaton by Mueller circa 1895

Chinese Magician Automaton by Mueller Here is a very nice looking piece going to auction today -- May 11th, 2008.

I am not sure what trick the magician performs, but the piece looks to be in fantastic shape. The seller writes that this is an automaton by Adolphe Mueller of Germany from circa 1895. It is in working condition. The piece stands 80cm high.

Given the cone in the magician's hand, I would assume that an item on the the table either disappears or is transformed into another item altogether.

I am impressed with the clothing and fabrics on this piece. This must have been in a a carefully maintained collection.

Here is the eBay listing for the Chinese Magician Automaton by Mueller

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Coin-Op Fortune Teller Automaton with Film Strip

Fortune Teller Automaton with Film StripThis coin-operated fortune teller automaton seems to have used a film strip to show a fortune in the "crystal" ball.

My guess is that the mechanism used a Geneva wheel to advance the film one (or some other odd number) of frames. When the film was in place, a small light bulb would probably have lit for a few moments, allowing the viewer to read their fortune.

Here's a tantalizing view of the actual mechanism:
Fortune Teller Automaton with Film Strip Mechanism You can see the old battery in the lower right. Hey...are those thread spools on which the film sat? I would love to get a chance to fix this piece up.

Here's the listing on eBay for the fortune teller automaton with answer strip and coin mechanism.

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Friday, May 02, 2008

French Mystery Clock of Woman Figure circa 1870

French Mystery Clock with Woman FigureThis is a beautiful mystery clock made in France around 1870. Typically, a mystery clock functions as a clock but the mechanism is hidden or obscured in some way. Here the sort of mystery clock I am talking about.
I am not sure what particular mystery this one performs. I'd love to know -- especially with an estimated value of roughly $5,000 to $10,000. This clock is a double-mystery, I suppose. They mystery of the mystery.

Here is the eBay listing for this French Mystery Clock to be auctioned on May 11th, 2008.

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Wild Contemporary Magician Automaton on eBay

Contemporary Magician Automaton frontHere is a very interesting automaton depicting a contemporary magician performing a trick. The image is a bit small, but the magician appears to make a rabbit disappear or else turn into another animal It is hard to tell exactly which.

Contemporary Magician Automaton backSimilar automata I have heard about have a concealed item turn into something else. This piece looks quite complex with a lot of activity to supplement the actual magic trick being performed. Just take a look at all those gears and linkages!

Here is the listing on eBay for the Contemporary Magician Automaton.

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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, April 15, 2008

Automaton Magic - Lady Changes Dress Instantly

The good folks over at Cabaret Mechanical Theatre were kind enough to alert me to the arrival Pierre Mayer's latest magic-themed automaton: Valerie - The Quick Change Artist.

Here's the shop link to the Valerie Automaton at the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre online shop.

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Robert-Houdin's Home - La Maison de la Magie

One of my top five heroes is Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin. He is widely regarded as the father of modern magic, having taken it from the streets and into the parlors for respectable European audiences.

Trained as a watchmaker, he developed a passion for magic. He produced some of the most amazing mystery clocks and automata ever.

His home in Blois, France is open to the public as a museum and theater. Here is a short promotional clip of the Maison de la Magie (House of Magic).

There are many books by or about Robert-Houdin. Dover published an inexpensive reprint of his memoirs that you can probably find used. Steer clear Houdini's book on The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin, unless you are interested in exploring Houdini's misguided attempt to defame Robert-Houdin.

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Friday, March 07, 2008

Automaton of Magician Doing a Levitatation Trick

I adore and admire the work of automata maker Pierre Mayer. Here is one of his recent pieces depicting a magician levitating from his stool. Simply amazing!

From the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre:

Fechner's Levitation on Stool Automata

The latest piece from French magician/automatist Pierre Mayer, this piece is based on the cigar smoking magician Fechner, who levitates above his stool, even more puzzling is that the arms raise during the levitation without any links to the mechanism -- many magicians have already been fooled by this!


Do visit the CMT online shop to see Fechner's Levitation on Stool Automata and MANY superb automata.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Dunninger's Encyclopedia of Magic in MAKE

I'm thrilled to have played a small part in MAKE Magazine's latest issue, Volume 13. The theme of the issue is magic. I review a classic book on the subject: Dunningers Complete Encyclopedia Of Magic.

Magicians have a long history of being exceptional makers. Just to assure you that this post is on-topic, the book contains details of one of Hero of Alexandria's automata and instructions on marionette construction.

The book is out-of-print, but available used online.

Pick up a copy of MAKE, Volume 13 to read my concise book review. The issue also has a TON of articles on magic, makers, and cool things to make for yourself.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Video of Robert-Houdin Automata in Action

In this clip you see some of Robert-Houdin's famous automata including: The Orange Tree, The Pastry Cook of the Palais-Royal, The Trapeze Vaulter (Antonio Diavolo).

You'll also see some of the non-automata stage illusions that he made famous including The Ethereal Suspension (levitation of a boy), a glimpse of one of his Mystery Clocks, and shots of the Robert-Houdin Musuem.

The complete DVD is available in French or English. Here is the link to ROBERT-HOUDIN, A MAGICIAN'S LIFE DVD.

Learn more about Robert-Houdin and his automata in the book: King of the Conjurers.

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Robots, RC, Electronics Clearance @ HobbyTron

HobbyTron.com is offering a whole bunch of cool stuff in a clearance sale. Included in the sale are many robot toys (like Robone shown here), radio controlled vehicles, electronic kits, and magic tricks. Cool store, eh?

They are also offering a coupon code that should get you an addition 10% off the listed prices.
Here are the details:
Coupon code: 10CLEARANCE
Expires: 11/14/08

Take a look at the HobbyTron.com clearance section

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Robert-Houdin's Orange Tree Automata

Robert-Houdin Orange Tree Magic TrickThe Orange Tree Illusion was invented by Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, automata-maker, clock-maker, electricity experimenter, and father of modern magic. A fanciful version of this illusion was recently featured in the film The Illusionist. This, more faithful recreation, is performed by Paul Daniels on his BBC TV series. The piece was refurbished by John Gaughan -- a famed a manufacturer of magic acts and equipment for magicians.

I couldn't embed the video here, so you will have to visit the link to YouTube to watch it. Witness Robert-Houdin's Orange Tree Automata.

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Featured Artist: Pierre Mayer

One of my favorite fellow automata makers is Pierre Mayer. Like me, he has made contemporary automata that perform and/or depict magicians and magic tricks.

Making an original contemporary automaton function is a challenge in itself. Making the automaton perform a trick that is actually somewhat deceptive or mysterious is a HUGE challenge. This is where Pierre Mayer's work stands out.

In this piece, the sequence starts with a small orange tree. The tree then blossoms, and bears fruit. Next an orange opens at the top of the tree and two butterflies fly out holding a silk handkerchief.

There is a long tradition of automata depicting magic tricks. The famous magician Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin started his career as a watchmaker -- a skill that served him well in his next occupation as a magician and automata-maker. He created the original orange tree piece that inspired Mayer's contemporary version.

The piece shown in the recent movie The Illusionist with Ed Norton borrowed from Robert-Houdin's piece, but showed the tree itself growing. Robert-Houdin's did not actually do that.

Check out Cabaret Mechanical Theatre's page on Pierre Mayer's Orange Tree Automaton

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