Sunday, September 06, 2009

Clever hand-cranked mechanical brooches

Take a look at these clever little mechanical brooches made by Gary Schott for the Society for Contemporary Craft.

From the artist's description:
These wearable objects emphasize and play with the already existing intimate nature between a wearer and their jewelry object.

In order to fully succeed, both my mechanical works and my wearable objects require human interaction, celebrating intimate moments between object and user(s). This playful collaboration becomes the artful moment for me.

See more work by Gary Schott on his web site.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Stunning posable mechanical cheetah sculpture

Stunning mechanical cheetah sculpture
I guess this made the rounds on some of the big blogs a few weeks ago, but I missed it. Maybe you did too. This is a mechanical, posable cheetah made of steel and various recycled parts. The creation of artist Andrew Chase, the cheetah took 60 hours of time to create. That's fast work if you ask me!

From the Wired article online:
'She's constructed out of electrical conduit, used transmission parts, disemboweled household appliances, 20-gauge steel and a lot of fender washers," says Chase.

The 24-inch tall cheetah measures about 50-inches nose-to-tail and weighs about 40 lbs. It also mimics the joints and movements of a real cat.

The cheetah is part of an ecosystem in a six-year art project called the 'Timmy universe.' The project has, so far, led to a mechanical giraffe and an elephant. Chase who has shown the giraffe at crafts fairs earlier had priced it at $6,000. No word on how much the cheetah will cost.

Here is the full Wired article on mechanical cheetah with lots of additional photographs.

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, July 10, 2009

Plans for mechanical flying goose on radiator cap

Plans for Mechanical flying goose on radiator cap
The folks over at the always interesting Modern Mechanix Blog recently posted this great set of plans for an animated mechanical hood ornament originally published in 1932. Like a reverse-whirligig, the air speeding past the car's hood powers the motions of this mechanical bird.

From the original article:
While your car is standing still this wild goose isn't so wild. He perches sedately upon the radiator cap surveying the world with a glassy eye. But as soon as you start up and shift into high he flattens out his tail, stretches his neck forward and begins to flap his wings as if he were going somewhere, and going there in a hurry.

The article has been converted in to text and scanned as three large images -- everything you should need to make this project yourself.

Here's the article on the Mechanical Flying Goose Decorates Radiator Cap.

[ Thanks deanS! ]

Labels: , , , , , ,

Saturday, March 07, 2009

A new Mechanical Confection every day!

Artist Gina Kamentsky has set a challenge for herself for the next few weeks. She will be creating one of her signature 'Mechanical Confections' every day she is in her studio (about three days per week). She is aiming to create 10 to 12 new small works.

Not only will this be fun to follow, but it is also a good chance to own some interesting work at a very reasonable price!

Gina Kamentsky on this project:
I'm calling this The $149.99 Challenge, as I will be selling these on-line for a fixed low low price. Every day, After I'm done, I will shoot the work and create a small video which will be posted on the On the Workbench blog. The work will be available on a first come first served basis ( via paypal or check ).

Here's the link to Gina's On the Workbench blog.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bionic Robotic Hand Kit

Bionic Robotic Hand Kit
The folks over at Edmund Scientifics offer this cool-looking hand kit.

From the product description:
This customizable kit allows you to construct a moving, life-size, robotic hand. Using simple tools, you can enjoy every step of the building process.

No soldering or electronic skill is required. Once completed, your hand will be able to open and close at the touch of a button and even grasp items.

Decorate your hand with a glove and jewelry or leave it bare to watch the mechanisms inside. However you choose to use your Bionic Hand, it will be an enjoyable project and intriguing conversation piece for years to come!

Includes an illustrated assembly manual with step-by-step instructions and an AA battery. Requires, but does not include, a screwdriver, small pliers, wire cutter, and drill for assembling the model.

This and many cool robots and kits may be found at Edmund Scientifics.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Trebuchet and Catapult Gift Guide from MAKE

Trebuchet and Catapult Gift Guide
The holidays just got a bit I am so happy to share with you MAKE Magazine's complete Gift guide for the trebuchet and catapult maker. Build one, learn things, and by all means -- fling something!

(I am staunchly pro-catapult. There, I said it.)

Labels: , , , , , ,

Monday, October 27, 2008

Working wall clock with hidden safe

Wall Clock With Hidden Safe it's not an automaton or mechanical toy, but it is a clock and mechanically nifty.

This safe seems like it would be particularly secure if you recessed it into the wall and then mounted it high up so that you needed a ladder to get to it.

From the product description:
At a glance, it looks like any other regular wall clock. But you know the secret! It swings open to store your valuables and small mementos on three shelves. Clock runs on 1 AA battery, not included. Has three predrilled mounting holes, hardware not included. Outside dimensions: 10"dia. by 3"deep. Inside: 8.5" dia. by 1.75" deep.

Here the link to the Wall Clock With Hidden Safe

Labels: ,

Friday, September 12, 2008

Gina Kamentsky Films and Mechanical Art Demo

Coke Buddha by Gina Kamentsky
This Sunday, September 14th at 2:00PM, artist Gina Kamentsky will be at the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, MA (USA) presenting a line up of her animated film work, followed by a live and kicking demonstration of Mechanical Confections sculptures in the gallery. Shown here is her wind up sculpture titled Coke Buddha.

Among the films she will be presenting is Einstein's Riddle which recently won Best Narrative Short at Animation Block Party in New York. Congrats!

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mind-bending KATAKA Linear Actuator Mechanism

Take a look at this video of a linear actuator. It looks like a magic trick, but it's not.

The mechanism is based on segmented spindle technology. Not only is the whole thing incredibly compact, it's also strong. Here is a photograph of a KATAKA actuator lifting a car. This amazing device opens up entirely new possibilities for engineers and designers. I know I want one.

Learn more about the KATAKA actuator at

[ Thanks Soren! ]

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, August 01, 2008

Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum

Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum
Marvin Yagoda has been collecting vintage coin-operated machines since 1960. Open since 1990, his little museum is located a shopping mall north of Detroit in Farmington Hills, Michigan. The interior is filled with historical and modern arcade machines, sideshow wonders, fortune tellers, automata, and curiosities.

Here is the web site for Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum.

[ Thanks Shel! ]

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, June 06, 2008

South Pointing Chariots, Ancient Gearing Marvels

South Pointing Chariots Ancient Mechanical MarvelsSouth Pointing Chariots are an amazing mechanical invention from ancient China. From a distance, it would look like a figure standing in a horse-drawn chariot. No matter which way the cart turns or how often, the figure's arm always points South -- the direction of preference in that culture at that time. Seen here is a modern functional model.

So,'s a magnetic compass hidden inside of a figure, right? Nope. it's a gyroscope of some kind then? That's not it either. These South Pointing Chariots use complex gear arrangements to adjust the figure's orientation depending on the motion of the wheels.

Here's a great web site with tons of info about South Facing Chariots. Of particular note is the functional models page showing working examples made from everything from brass, to wood, to LEGOs! So cool.

Thanks bhaaluu!

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, April 21, 2008

Clockwork Mechanical Art by Gina Kamentsky

You have got to love the playful mechanical sculptures by Gina Kamenstsky. This video should give you a sample of what I mean.

A reminder: her solo exhibition, Gina Kamentsky: Mechanical Confections, will be on exhibition in Fuller Craft Museum through November 9, 2008.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Master of Windmills and Whirligigs

Whirligigs are a form of automata -- to my mind at least. They depict an animated scene with a person or animal. The only distinction between a contemporary automaton and a whirligig is that the latter are outside and are powered by the wind.

The folks over at The Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society have a great post about a man with a passion for windmills and whirligigs. The man's name is Vollis Simpson, an 87-year-old retired mechanic from North Carolina. Simpson's back yard is filled with dozens of his wind-driven creations.

A quote from Simpson:
"The main part of doing anything that turns is to get it centered".

Truer words were never spoken.

Check out the post on Vollis Simpson's Windmill Farm at the Kircher Society blog.

Here's a list of books on how to make whirligigs:

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

5 Best Mechanical Reference Books

Here is a list of 5 great reference books for automata-makers and people that love or want to learn more about mechanisms.

1 - 507 Mechanical Movements: Mechanisms and Devices (Dover Science Books)-Henry T. Brown

2 - Ingenious Mechanisms for Designers and Inventors (4-Volume Set) (Ingenious Mechanisms for Designers & Inventors)- Franklin D. Jones

3 - Mechanisms and Mechanical Devices Sourcebook- Neil Sclater and Nicholas Chironis

Also the improved Mechanisms and Mechanical Devices Sourcebook, Fourth Edition - Neal Sclater and Nicholas Chironis

4 -Illustrated Sourcebook of Mechanical Components- Robert O. Parmley

5 - Machine Devices and Components Illustrated Sourcebook- Robert O. Parmley

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, February 03, 2007

5 Best Books for Making Wooden Mechanisms

Here is my list of the top 5 books for people who want to make mechanisms out of wood. These devices are often used, or could be used, in the making of contemporary automata. The projects are great skill-building exercises and make great gifts.

1 - Making Wooden Mechanical Models: 15 Designs With Visible Wheels, Cranks, Pistons, Cogs, and Cams- Alan Bridgewater, Gill Bridgewater

2 - Making Mechanical Marvels In Wood- Raymond Levy

3 - Making More Wooden Mechanical Models- Alan Bridgewater, Gill Bridgewater

4 - Making Marble-Action Games, Gadgets, Mazes & Contraptions: Designs for 10 Outlandish, Ingenious and Intricate Woodworking Projects- Alan Bridgewater, Gill Bridgewater

5 - Making Working Wooden Locks- Tim Detweiler

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, December 29, 2006

A Cabinet of Curiosities

I was fortunate enough to see a DVD recently released by Cabaret Mechanical Theatre -- home to many great automata-makers. I was delighted to see work by CMT artists old and new. The DVD covers many items currently available in their online store. For example:

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, December 11, 2006

Belt-buckle with Gears that Move that's a nifty belt buckle [via - via] - Link on YouTube

Labels: ,

Friday, December 08, 2006

New England Model Engineering Society

Dug North speaking for the New England Model Engineering SocietyI would like to thank the members of the New England Model Engineering Society for having me as a guest at their most recent meeting. Four automata-makers were invited to say a few words, and I was one of them. Despite my lack of preparation, the members were very gracious and asked many interesting questions.

There are a lot of good metal-working and model making resources to be found on their web site. If you live in New England and are a fan of this sort of thing, you might consider joining their group.

Here's a link to the NEMES web site.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, December 03, 2006

More on the Antikythera Mechanism

The journal Nature and the NYT have more this month on the Antikythera Mechanism which I posted about here back in September.

From the article in the NYT:
The mechanism, presumably used in preparing calendars for seasons of planting and harvesting and fixing religious festivals, had at least 30, possibly 37, hand-cut bronze gear-wheels, the researchers reported. An ingenious pin-and-slot device connecting two gear-wheels induced variations in the representation of lunar motions according to the Hipparchos model of the Moon’s elliptical orbit around Earth.

That's just amazing. This would be a huge accomplishment if someone made this today wih the aid of the internet, books from the last two thousand years, computers, and CNC milling machines. Bear in mind, they believe this was made around 150-100 B.C.!

Here's the New York Times article on The Antikythera Mechanism

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Swiss Watches and Objects with Automata

The photographs are too darn small, but you really must take a look at these watches and clocks with integrated automata. The site says they date from 1770 to 1850.

The cursor doesn't change when you roll over it, but the text that says "Full printable version" is a link that will open a small window with a photograph of the item.

Most unusual is the derringer that is really a small clock with a singing bird automaton. That's got to be one of the strangest combination of things I've ever heard of. Funny, beautiful, clever, incongruous, and chock full of man-hours. Yup, you guessed right: I love it.

See this Collection of Swiss Watches and Objects with Automata

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Not Your Father's Erector Set - Interactive Robot

This Erector set builds 6 ultra-cool robots that can be motorized and programmed. The Sleek and futuristic design comes with 2 motors. The new Erector assembly system is faster and easier than ever and includes a power tool that doubles as an additional motor. The set comes with over 500 plastic and metal pieces

This is not your father's Erector set!

Check out the Erector Interactive Motorized Robot Speedplay Set

Labels: ,

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Schylling - Wind Up Mechanical Tin Toys

It warms my heart that Schylling is still making classic tin toys. While my preference is for wood and hand-cranking, I love retro metal toys that you wind up.

Some of them are very clever...and no batteries required.

I dealt with their customer service folks once and they were really nice. I broke a crucial piece on my Balancing Bear Ernestand they shipped me a new part, free of charge!

Check out a bunch of Schylling Tin Toys

Labels: ,

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A Maker's Manifesto - Dave Gingerly

Formal title of the essay: Most of my life was spent in trying to figure out how to do a $50.00 project for 50 cents, and the remainder of my time was spent in trying to scrounge up the 50 cents.

My title for the essay: A Maker's Manifesto

This is great essay about how to think about making things by the late Dave Gingerly. Both logical and inspirational reading for all Makers.

Click here to read A Maker's Manifesto.

Labels: , ,

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Antikythera Mechanism

Long suspected as being an astronomical showpiece, navigational instrument or rich man's toy, the Antikythera Mechanism is a bronze mechanism built before the birth of Christ.

New research has convinced scholars in Greece that it is, in fact, the world's oldest analog computer.

Here's the recent news article: Revealed: world's oldest computer

And here is the Wikipediea article on The Antikythera Mechanism

Labels: , ,