Saturday, April 24, 2010

El Toro - motorized bullfighter and bull tin toy

El Toro - motorized bullfighter tin toy automaton
Here's an unusual -- and perhaps a somewhat grim -- vintage tin toy depicting a matador and bull. I'm not entirely sure in what ways the figures move, but it seems like it has some interesting possibilities.

From the eBay item description:
This El Toro snorting bull and matador is in totally unused condition and has its original box. No paint damage at all on this and no corrosion within the battery compartment. This toy was working perfectly when I put it in store with rest of the collection some 25-30 years ago. I put a battery in it but it’s not responding. I guess this is an easy fix but I don’t want to force anything. The box is a little stained – please see pictures – and the base has some damage but, apart from a little creasing, the lid is fine with great graphics. Assembled, the toy is around 6 inches high.

Here's the eBay listing with additional photographs of the El Toro - motorized bullfighter tin toy automaton


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Thursday, April 15, 2010

A mechanically clever, but downright creepy toy

The folks over at The Weirdo Toys Blog, discovered this unusual mechanical toy. The toy makes use of those odd rubber finger puppet faces. The interchangeable faces are mounted on motorized "fingers" located on the figure's head. The range of expression created by this arrangement is truly disturbing. Add a raised axe in one hand and the tune "When the Saints go Marching in" and you have yourself one very hard-to-explain toy.

Here's a comprehensive write-up with additional videos on the Magic Monster on the The Weirdo Toys Blog.

[ Thanks Bob! ]


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Thursday, April 08, 2010

Wind-up Meccano bird sculpture by Aaron Ristau

Check out this automata sculpture by Aaron Ristau made from Meccano toy parts! The bird bodies are parts from antique hair curlers and the wings made of Mylar. A crank allows you to wind-up the device which will run for about a minute.

See more great sculptures by Aaron Ristau at aaronristau.com.


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Thursday, February 11, 2010

More cute wind-up robots that do unlikely things

wind-up robot salt and pepper shakers
Recently, we featured a little wind-up robot that serves as a pencil sharpener. A trend is emerging. Here are more wind-up robots with a utilitarian purpose: they dispense salt and pepper. So, if someone asks for the salt at dinner -- and they are very patient -- you can wind the appropriate robot up and send it walking over to them. I suppose it would be fun to do to an unsuspecting guest.

Here's a link to the wind-up robot salt and pepper shakers


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Monday, February 01, 2010

5 foot long working scale roller coaster model

5 foot long working scale roller coaster model
Shown here is a 1/48th scale working roller coaster model.

From the model description:
A rotating spring lifts the train up the first hill, then releases the train, where it dives and rises into its second turn. The second hill provides enough potential energy for the train to continue smoothly around the loop and power it through its corkscrew. The kit consists of 464 pieces made of durable ABS and POM plastic. When fully assembled, it spans 4' 9" long by 15" wide and stands 25" tall.

Here's a link to the working scale roller coaster.


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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Techno Gears Marble Raceway Mania

Techno Gears Marble Raceway Mania
This is a 420 piece marble track with a competitive twist (sorry for the pun). Two players release one marble each simultaneously with the press of a button. Each marble encounters spinning wheels, dips, a chicane, a corkscrew, a pachinko-like bumper course, a lane switching trigger, and a set of weighted levers. When a marble reaches the finish line, the clock stops and flashes "Winner" on the screen.

Here is a link to the Techno Gears Marble Raceway Mania.


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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

PARABOLA mechanical sculpture with wood gears

Here's a charming kinetic sculpture by Brett Dickins titled Parabola. The free-standing mechanical sculpture features wooden gears and matte black wooden framework and is driven by electric motor. It shoots a ping-pong ball up and out to land on a slanted platform that causes it to bounce neatly back into the machine. There is something very satisfying in that cycle.

See more artwork by Brett Dickins on his YouTube channel.


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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Levitron - floating top supported by magnets

Levitron cherry wood floating top gizmo
The Levitron top floats in space -- supported only by magnetic waves and the balance imparted by the spinning top. This is the upscale version of the Levitron featuring a cherry wood housing and brass leveling legs. Very nice.

From the product description
Classiest Levitron Anti-Gravity Top - Elegant, wood housing with brass-tone leveling legs. Unique base design amazes onlookers as the high-flying top levitates mysteriously above the opening in the center! Strong magnetic forces hold the top and lifter plate securely in place for easy carrying and storage. A Self-Starter is highly recommended for purchase with Leviton Cherry Wood. Ease in setting the top is essential for not damaging the elegant cherry wood.

Here's the link to the Levitron in cherry wood and brass.


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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

K'Nex Motorized Madness Ball Machine

K'Nex Motorized Madness Ball Machine
Consisting of over 2000 pieces (OK...2,004 to be exact), the K'Nex Motorized Madness Ball Machine is a towering ball run contraption for the ambitious builder. A motorized ball lift continuously carries the 5 balls to the top of the tower, where they are dropped to find their way down 3 different ball runs.

From the product description:
The downward spiral sends balls down a dizzying ride to the bottom. The hammer drop transports the balls off the track and onto 2 swiveling elevators, and the funnel drop sends balls on an express ride straight to the bottom.

Appropriate for builders of 9 years and over, Amazon claims you can still order this with their Standard Shipping to get it by December 24th.

Here's the link to the K'Nex Motorized Madness Ball Machine.


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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Gary Schott's MECHANICAL PLAYTHINGS

Gary Schott's MECHANICAL PLAYTHINGS
Texas-based metalsmith, jeweler and educator, Gary Schott, will be holding his first real solo show, called MECHANICAL PLAYTHINGS starting this week.

The show opens Nov. 28th at Design Works, located in Galveston, TX at 2119A Post Office Street. The opening reception will be held from 6-9PM Saturday Nov. 28th, 2009.

It is sure to be a great show in which you can touch and play with some mechanical art-toys.


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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Jensen steam engine model kit

Jensen steam engine model kit
Here's a nice little working model steam engine.

From the product description

Build a real head of live steam in the boiler, ease the throttle open and watch the engine take off. The stationary steam plants have nickel plated brass horizontal boiler, water gauge, whistle, safety valve, throttle, 3" dia flywheel and power takeoff pulley. Our dry pellet fuel model (includes 20 fuel pellets) has a single action horizontal piston engine and comes as a kit. It requires about 2 hours to assemble and mount on its roughly 7" sq base, using simple tools like pliers and screwdriver.

Here the link for this Jensen Steam Engine Model.


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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 03, 2009

Zombie Shooting Gallery mechanical toy

This would have been better to post before Halloween, but it's still a great mechanical toy. A new spin on an old shooting gallery game.

From the zombie shooting game description:
Take aim with the included laser assault rifle and blast the zombies as they pop up from the windows of the dark mansion. Too slow and they dine on the human hostages inside. Remember, practice hard... not much time before the real hell spawn arrive to feast on flesh of the living.

Here is the link for the Zombie Shooting Gallery mechanical toy.

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Three spherical 3D ball maze puzzles

Check this assemblage of 3D puzzles. With all three puzzles the idea is to rotate the sphere such that gravity pulls the small enclosed ball through loops, tracks, corners, walls, and around the various pitfalls of the 3 dimension maze. They look pretty challenging/fun to me.

Perplexus Maze Game

Perplexus Maze Game


Magicel Intenect Ball - 3D Maze Game

Magicel Intenect Ball - 3D Maze Game


Superplexus 3D Game of Skill

Superplexus 3D Game of Skill


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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Revomaze - extreme mechanical puzzles

Revomaze - extreme mechanical puzzles
I'm not entirely sure how you operate this mechanical puzzle, but they sure make it sound difficult to solve. It comes in three levels of difficulty for personalized levels of frustration.

From the ThinkGeek.com description:
Individually milled from a solid block of metal, the Revomaze features an internal labyrinth full of dead ends, traps, and one way paths you need to navigate to remove the metal core and solve the puzzle.

What makes the Revomaze truly great is its challenge to both your mental and physical aptitude. You need dexterity to manipulate the Revomaze as well as brain power to ferret out the correct path in the labyrinth. One wrong move and you're forced to start from the beginning. However the Revomaze is very fair minded... you screw up, you get punished, but you're always aware of whether you are making progress towards the solution.

Here's the link for the Revomaze mechanical puzzles.


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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Zilotone musical automaton wind-up toy

Zilotone musical automaton wind-up toy
Here's a tin-toy musician capable of playing three differrent songs. The actions required for the figure to play each song are "recorded" on interchangeable cams (seen behind the figure's feet). Very cool!

From the eBay description:
Even non-collectors find this an enchanting piece. The Zilotone, made by the Wolverine Supply & Manufacturing Co of Pennsylvania, circa 1930, features a little man playing a xylophone. A metal song disc is inserted in the toy, and the clockwork is wound up. When switched on, the musician moves back and forth, hitting the keys with a mallet. Comes with 3 different discs: Yankee Doodle, My Old Kentucky Home, and The Farmer in the Dell. Measures approximately 10" x 8 "x 7", sturdy pressed-steel construction.

Here's the eBay listing for Wolverine Zilotone musical automaton wind-up toy


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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Green Science's Amphibian Rover kit

Green Science's Amphibian Rover kit
Create your own motorized amphibious vehicle using 4 recycled plastic bottles and this kit which includes plastic body parts motor, battery case, wheel hubs, paddles, screws, terminal caps, and instructions. You will also need to supply 2 AAA batteries and a small Philips screwdriver.

Here the link for the Amphibian Rover Kit




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Friday, August 21, 2009

Green Science Windmill Generator by Toysmith

Green Science Windmill Generator by Toysmith
I am pleased by the fact that many of the newer mechanical toys have "green" theme. Take this small scale wind generator. The Windmill Generator has a gear motor (which serves as a generator) and 6 inch propeller with a tail. After a bit of assembly you can watch the wind light up its LED bulbs.

From the product description:
How is energy produced by using windmills? Build this amazing wind generator and learn about renewable energy/ "green energy". Watch the LED glow as it is powered by free energy from the wind. No batteries required! Help save the planet by using a recycled plastic bottle to support your wind generator. Ages 8+

Here is the link to the Green Science Windmill Generator


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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Doodling robot / Vibro-bot mechanical kit

Doodling robot mechanical kit
This kit allows you to build a simple robot with pen for feet. Doodle robot's motor makes it shake, rattle, and spin which results in a variety of patterns being drawn on the paper below it. You can also remove the pens to transform it into a classic little vibro-robot that slides across smooth floors, tables, and countertops.

Here's the link for the Doodling Robot kit.


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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Great used book - How to Make Animated Toys

Great used book - How to Make Animated Toys
A very affordable volume (purchased used) this book features detailed plans and scaled drawings for 30 different animated wooden toys. The author also goes into some detail about the processes of designing and building good toys -- including writing about child-safe materials and finishes. Projects include a waddling duck, a hopping rabbit and a lumbering gorilla.

Here's Amazon's page where you can buy a used copy of How to Make Animated Toys


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Sunday, August 09, 2009

Le Pinch stainless steel wind up inch worm toy

Le Pinch stainless steel wind up inch worm toy made by Kikkerland. It's nice to see wind-up toys taking some new evolutionary steps (no pun intended).

Here's a link to the Le Pinch Wind Up.


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Saturday, August 08, 2009

Solid wood Sacred Myths Legendary Puzzles

Solid wood Sacred Myths Legendary Puzzles
This isn't just one puzzle, but 7 different puzzles -- all based around great moments in science and history. If you solve each mechanically unique puzzle in order, each will provide a clue to solving the next one.

Sacred Myths Legendary Puzzle details


From the ThinkGeek.com item description:
Sacred Myths is a series of 7 individual puzzles. Following the series sequentially, each puzzle contains clues and codes to solve that particular puzzle, as well as a password needed for additional hints for subsequent puzzles. It is possible to solve each puzzle individually, or solve them in order to take advantage of the hints. Up to you.

These puzzles can be pretty taxing. Solving them without using the hints makes them especially difficult. We were floored by the mechanism used the Carta Blanca puzzle box. It's one of the most unique puzzles we have ever seen. All of the Sacred Myths puzzles are hand crafted from solid wood.

The seventh puzzle will be released in the winter of 2009. Interesting. It could be a puzzle figuring out what the next puzzle will be!

Here is Thinkgeek.com's link for the Sacred Myths Legendary Puzzles.


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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Amazing LEGO-based automata theater

'The Pirates and the NXTfied Theater' combines LEGOs and the programmable LEGO Mindstorms NXT components to create a 3-dimensional miniature mechanical theater. It's a wonderful combination of old story telling techniques, puppetry, automata, toys, and programming. The effect is not unlike some of the old coin-operated mechanical scenes you might find in Penny-in-the-Slot Automata and the Working Model. The film runs about three minutes with some cool behind-the-scenes shots at the end.

Visit this site to learn more about The Pirates and the NXTfied Theater.

Here's a link where you can get your own LEGO Mindstorms NXT kits and instructional books.

[ Thanks Mario! ]


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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Antique automata and toy auction, July 25th 2009

Upcoming antique autoamta and toy auction
An upcoming auction on July 25th, 2009 in Indianapolis will feature twelve vintage automata including a French 19th century monkey violinist automaton, a Tete Jumeau Russian tea server, a Prussian dancing couple, a French flower girl, a magician, and a cat in milk pail.

There will also be a large number of vintage toys including a large collection of tin wind-ups and battery operated toys, cast iron mechanical toys, pull toys, a balancing musician, a doll on horseback, and an acrobatic clown.

Here is a link with more photographs and information on the upcoming automata and vintage toy auction.

[ Thanks Genevieve! ]


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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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Friday, July 03, 2009

The Way Toys Work - book on the science of toys

The Way Toys Work book
The full title of this intriguing book is The Way Toys Work: The Science Behind the Magic 8 Ball, Etch A Sketch, Boomerang, and More. The book covers 50 well-known toys examining their history and the technology that makes them work. Throw in a mention of DIY experiments and some reverse engineering (see below) and this book is definitely on my reading list!

From the book description on Amazon:
Discover how an Etch A Sketch writes on its gray screen, why a boomerang returns after it is thrown, and how an RC car responds to a remote control device. Leaving no detail unrevealed, the guide includes original patent-application blueprints and photos of the “guts” of several devices. Inventors and museum curators also offer their observations of favorite gizmos while dispelling (or confirming) several toy legends. Complete with explanations of do-it-yourself experiments and tips on reverse engineering old toys to observe their interior mechanics, this entertaining and informative reference even provides pointers on how budding toy makers can build their own toys using only recycled materials and a little ingenuity.

Here is the link to The Way Toys Work: The Science Behind the Magic 8 Ball, Etch A Sketch, Boomerang, and More on Amazon.com.


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Thursday, July 02, 2009

Hyper-beading nano-technology water fountain


It's not often that I get to point out mechanical toys that make interesting use of water. Well, here's one! The Aqua Dance creates an strange motion effect using a specially designed surface that causes water to "hyper-bead". And hey...no batteries!

From the ThinkGeek.com Description
Simply fill the tank on the top of the Aqua Dance with water then push the pump a few times to pressurize. Turn the lever beneath to control the size and speed of the water beads as they drop repeatedly out of the tank. With the reduced friction the natural surface tension of the water takes over to create some unusual liquid dynamics. You'll find beautiful patterns in the water that are different each time. The ridges and funnels on the surface scatter the water in unpredictable ways as it zooms like quicksilver to the bottom.

Here's where you can order or get more info on the Hyper-beading Nano-Technology Fountain.


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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Mxykikker mechanical wind-up crawling critter

Mxykikker mechanical wind-up crawling critter
A clever new spring-powered stainless-steel beastie that can even climb over small obstacles.

From the Amazon description
Mxykikker is a tongue-twisting, multi-legged, multi-purpose commemorative wind-up celebrating the 15th year of Kikkerland Design's founding. Mxykikker loves to climb over objects and it sometimes enjoys galloping upside down, with its eighteen fidgety feet. At 6.5" long and 3" tall, this is one buggie that is sure to impress. An occasional bit of spray lubricant is recommended to help keep Mxykikker fit and trim. Designed by Chico Bicalho. Assorted colors, randomly selected.

Here's the link to Mxykikker Mechanical Wind-up Critter.


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