Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Build your own obstacle-avoiding beetle robot

Why not build a capable little beetle robot that can scurry about and avoid obstacles? The really cool thing about it is that the behavior is all hard-wired and/or mechanical -- no computer or programming required. The parts are easy to find too!

Here's a link to the Instructable on How to Build The BeetleBot.

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Monday, March 29, 2010

Make this charmingly disagreeable machine

Check out this wonderful little motorized contraption that simple does NOT want to be on.

If you are inclined to make one, or learn more about it, there is a full instructable on how to build what they call "The Most Useless Machine EVER!". (I don't agree with the name of the device; entertainment and laughter are far from useless.)

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Video showing how to make a working wooden lock

Here's a great little video by Adrian Iredale showing the steps in making one of the projects from the book Making Working Wooden Locks. I've been eying that book for years; now I really want it!

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Book: Plans from (Vol. 1)

Book: Plans from (Volume 1)
An interesting woodworking book, with scalable designs. The designs look very clean.

From the book description:
This book features woodworking projects at three different skill levels. They include materials list, tools and step-by-step assembly instructions. What makes our philosophy unique is that all our blueprints are completely measurement free which means you can build them to whatever scale you wish using only the thickness of the wood as your guide. This book includes the following models: Abacus, Bird Feeder, Bird House, Bread Box, Brontosaurus, Dolphin Future Car, Parasaurolophus, Pen and Pencil Holder, Portraits, Ring Stacking Game, Showcase, Stegosaurus, Table Protector, Tower of Hanoi, Wood Stacking Game, Abstract Bank, Chessboard, Crab, Cutting Board, Pterodactyl, Medieval Castle Walls, Platform Crane, and Straddle Carrier

Here is more info on Top Sellers (Volume 1)

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Sunday, March 07, 2010

The Pie Factory - great paper automaton kit

Check out this amazing paper automaton kit and its delightfully dark humor!

Here is where you can get The Pie Factory automaton kit at Cool4Cats.

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Monday, February 08, 2010

CPR wood automaton with available plans

Here's a video that shows a fun automaton designed by Ken Schweim. He has written complete construction plans describing how to build it. It has 36 pages, 36 photos, and 26 blueprints with complete step-by-step instructions. It is available for download for a cost $10 payable through PayPal. This might be a great way to get into making wood automata.

You can purchase and download plans for this wood automaton at Ken's Devil Dog Automata page.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Book: Making Simple Model Steam Engines

Making Simple Model Steam Engines
I don't have this book yet, but it is most definitely on my wishlist.

From the book description:
A highly illustrated, step-by-step guide to constructing a range of simple model steam engines, aimed at both beginners and the more experienced. This book details the construction of a range of simple miniature steam engines and boilers. The projects, each of which can be completed with only a basic workshop, range from a single-acting oscillator to more sophisticated twin-cylinder double-acting engines and a variety of boilers. A final project brings together engine and boiler for a simple steam railway locomotive. These projects are a perfect introduction to model engineering and an enjoyable exercise for the more experienced engineer or those who wish to pass on their hobby to a younger generation.

Here is a link to the book Making Simple Model Steam Engines.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Four solid wooden clock designs and plans

This clock with wooden works was the maker's FIRST attempt at designing and building a wooden clock. The gears were cut with a home-made CNC machine and finished by hand. The maker's extensive experience with 3D modeling software surely helped, but it is an amazing feat to have a working clock from the first design. He has gone on to design four other clocks. You can order finished clocks from his site. He also sells plans for 40 Euro.

Here is a link to four solid wood clocks by this talented craftsman in Italy.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Book: Making Working Wooden Locks

Book: Making Working Wooden Locks
This book provides plans and instructions for building working locks from wood. The book includes step-by-step instructions, color photos, measured drawings, and advice on wood selection, tools, and finishing. Projects include a warded lock, a combination lock, an antique lever lock, a railroad switch lock, and an antique push key lever lock.

Here is a link to the book Making Working Wooden Locks).

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Monday, November 09, 2009

Karakuri: Make Moving Mechanical Paper Models

Karakuri: How to Make Mechanical Paper Models That Move
Here is a book on how to make paper automata by Keisuke Saka.

From the book description:
Detailed explanations, accompanied by diagrams, explain the physics behind how karakuri move and operate, so you really learn about the properties of the different types of gears and cams. And to inspire you, also included are four fun, full-color karakuri models designed by the author, a well-known paper engineer.

Here is the link to Karakuri: How to Make Mechanical Paper Models That Move

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Make a Lathe from other peoples rubbish

Here's another cool Instructable. This one is a very complete manual on how to make your own wood lathe from a variety of recycled parts.

Here is the link to see the original Insructable on how to make your own lathe.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Four free wooden clock plans to download

Four free wooden clock plans to download
If you have an interest in wooden clocks and clockwork, you will want to head over to Not only is there a lot of great information on the site, there are four clock plans that are free downloads. This is a great resource. Thanks to Brian Law of Wooden Clocks for making these available!

Check out the Wooden Clocks site.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Great Book of Wooden Toys: 50 Easy Projects

Great Book of Wooden Toys: More Than 50 Easy-to-Build Projects
This looks like a good book on making wooden toys. Anyone out there have this one?

From the book description:

Detailed and copiously illustrated, this in-depth handbook offers instruction for constructing more than 50 wooden toys designed to appeal to a child’s sense of imagination and playfulness. A brief introduction covers the basic techniques—gluing, sanding, and making wheels—and each project presents a meticulous diagram, a handy materials list, step-by-step instructions, and a photograph of the completed toy. Designs include stylized versions of a Model T car, a crane, and the Spirit of St. Louis airplane, as well as projects specifically for beginning woodworkers, such as pull-along trains and circus animals. Instructions for finishing and detailing ensure that the completed crafts will last for years.

Here is the link for more information about Great Book of Wooden Toys: More Than 50 Easy-to-Build Projects

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Saturday, September 05, 2009

Motorized Marble Roller Coaster Instructable

Here's a nice Instructable on how to make a rolling ball track out of cardboard, hot glue, some old printer parts, and a few other odds and ends.

Here's a video of the completed marble track in action:

Here's a link to the complete Marble Roller Instructable.

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Zany Wooden Toys That Whiz, Spin, Pop, and Fly

Zany Wooden Toys That Whiz, Spin, Pop, and Fly: 28 Top-Secret Projects You Can Build from the Toy Inventor's Workshop
This book looks fantastic! I just ordered it.

From the book description:
Inventive and unique, this dynamic collection of woodworking projects teaches the basic skills needed to make exciting, action-packed toys. From rapid-fire nickel launchers and ball-and-socket robots to a monkey-toss gumball machine, each project includes a color photograph, a tools and materials list, a full diagram, woodworking plans, and instructions for using the finished product. Covering all the methods necessary for creation—selecting wood, drilling and shaping, making wheels and axles, and decoration—these constructions are simple enough for children and parents to complete together, all in an afternoon's time.

Here is the link to Zany Wooden Toys That Whiz, Spin, Pop, and Fly: 28 Top-Secret Projects You Can Build from the Toy Inventor's Workshop

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Making Mobiles: a step-by-step instruction book

Making Mobiles: a step-by-step instruction book
Here is a book that provides practical step-by-step instructions for making horizontally balanced mobiles. Though only 80 page long, the book covers materials, tools, designing, fabricating, assembly, painting, and hanging of mobiles.

Product Description
...19 carefully written chapters and 190 color photographs let you see and understand all the stages toward creating your mobiles. He even shows you how to fix a mistake and pack it for shipping. By following Bruces steps and positive attitude, hours of fun and challenge will be rewarded with art you are proud of.

Here is the link for Making Mobiles

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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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Monday, July 13, 2009

Pendulum clock made entirely of paper

Marvel at this beautifully made working pendulum clock made entirely of paper.

Here is a link to the creator's web page with many additional photos and ordering information if you want to buy the PDF plans for the paper clock.

You might also consider the pre-printed book Make Your Own Working Paper Clock.

[ Thanks philsing! ]

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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! ]

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Making Moving Toys: 30 Quick and Easy Projects

Making Moving Toys: 30 Quick and Easy Projects to Make
I don't have this book myself (yet), but it looks like it could be a lot of fun. Making Moving Toys offers instructions and templates to make 30 different types of moving toys out of common materials. The projects range from spinning tops, wind-powered figures, paper airplanes, a carousel, a climbing monkey, a zoetrope, and many more. See? Fun!

Here's the link to Making Moving Toys: 30 Quick and Easy Projects to Make.

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Monday, June 01, 2009

Galloping dinosaur vintage mechanical toy plans

Galloping dinosaur vintage mechanical toy plans
The folks over at The Modern Mechanics blog have scanned and typed up the plans for this animated wooden dinosaur pull-toy.

From the original article:
A TOY saurian from the far-away past proves to be a refreshing novelty to the youngsters. The toy is extremely simple to make, as there are only six major parts. In addition to these, four wheels and some wire complete the whole thing.

Here is the article with photographs and drawings of the dinosaur on The Modern Mechanics blog.

[ Thanks deanS! ]

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Building a real woodworker's workbench

Here is a great Instructable on how to build a high-quality woodworking bench based on a set of plans originally published in Fine Woodworking Magazine (the best magazine of its kind, in my opinion).

The design used here is simplification of a bench from Sam Allen's book Making Workbenches.

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Saturday, May 09, 2009

Big Book of Wooden Clocks: Projects & Patterns

Big Book of Wooden Clocks: 25 Projects & Patterns
Here is a new book on wooden clocks scheduled to be released in July of 2009.

The book compiles a number of projects from Scroll Saw Woodworking & Crafts magazine.It looks pretty good -- especially the wooden gear clock depicted on the cover and detailed in pages 120 to to 134. Those 14 pages alone were enough to convince me to pre-order it.

Product Description from Amazon
Featuring some of the most popular projects from sold-out issues of Scroll Saw Woodworking & Craftsmagazine, the projects in this collection include a wide range of clock styles, such as grandfather clocks with intricate fretwork, classic pendulum clocks, and whimsical desk clocks. Detailed plans for more than 25 projects cover the entire process with step-by-step instructions, complete materials lists, instructions on buying and inserting clock parts, cutting the clock using a scroll saw, assembling the pieces, and applying finishes.

Here's more information on Big Book of Wooden Clocks: 29 Favorite Projects & Patterns .

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How to build your own plan holding stand for $10

How to build your own plan or pattern holding stand
If you make models, miniatures, or work from plan drawings of any sort you can spend good money on a plan holder. This one is the product of a great do-it-yourself guide. For about $10 you can make the plan holder shown here. This is a good way to get those sheets off your workspace and into plain view.

Here's the link on HOW TO BUILD A $10 PLANS HOLDER.

[ Thanks bilagaana! ]

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Download Mario Brothers paper automaton plans

Free Mario Brothers paper automaton pattern
The good folks over at Nintendo Papercraft have a free download of this animated Mario. When you rotate the lever, Mario jumps up and a coin pops out of the box above him.

Here is the page featuring the download link for the free Paper Mario Automata plans.

[ Thanks Carlo! ]

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Free plans to make wood barking dog automaton

Free plans to make barking dog wood automaton
A while back, Lee Valley Tools published the first of a two-part article on automata by our friend Charles Mak. In this second installment, the author provides full instructions and plans for making a wood automaton of a barking dog. Automaton plans are not easy to come by so this is a rare treat!

Here is the link to Charles Mak's article on how to make a barking dog automaton courtesy of Lee Valley Tools.

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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 05, 2008

Movable Illustration - Book by Aquio Nishida

On my list of Essential Automata Books, Movable Illustration by Aqui Nishida is rather hard to get outside of Japan. Cabaret Mechanical Theate's online shop has them back in stock.

From the CMT site:
Specially imported from Japan, this is a delightful book by an automata maker and director of the Contemporary Toy museum of Japan. Plenty of drawings and photographs, text is in Japanese, with only partial English translations. However, it still of great interest to the automata enthusiast, and contains many examples of Mr. Nishida's work along with his ideas and tips and plans for making automata.

Here's the link to order the book Movable Illustration by Aquio Nishida.

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

How to Make a Circle Cutting Jig for a Router

Circle Cutting Jig for the Router
Perhaps you've been inspired to make a wooden machine with some rather large pin-wheel type gears. There are many ways to cut circles including freehand on a scroll saw or band saw. You can also make or buy a circle cutting jig for the bandsaw. Additionally, you can consider using a fly type circle cutter or using a hole saw in a drill press.

Here is a complete article on how to make your own adjustable circle-cutting jig for a hand held router.

Unlike many a circle-cutting jig for the router, this one overcomes a common limitation -- cutting a circle with a radius shorter than the distance between the router bit and the pivot on which is spins.

John English came up with the ingenious jig you see in the photo above. It doesn't rely on a pivot point, which means it can be used to cut range of circle sizes.

Here is the article on How to Make a Circle Cutting Jig for a Router

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Paul Boyer Museum Of Animated Carvings

Paul Boyer Museum Of Animated CarvingsThe Paul Boyer Museum Of Animated Carvings is in Belleville, Kansas. The Museum has a web site with many photos and animated GIF images of the automata in action.

You can also see some of his available automata here. Shown at left is a piece entitled The Old Lamp Lighter.

Finally, he offers plans for creating an animated wooden dog automata that uses magnets and a small circuit board. This looks like a great project for people learning about electronics.

Visit the web page for The Paul Boyer Museum Of Animated Carvings.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Woodcraft Woodworking Store Sale Items

Woodcraft Woodworking Store Sale Items
Woodcraft is one of my favorite woodworking supply stores. They always have some sale items -- often several hundred. They sell some really high quality stuff like the Lie-Nielson bench plane shown above. (Sadly, this item is NOT on sale.)

They also have articles and videos to accompany many of the products they sell.

Visit Woodcraft's Sale Section to see what they've got.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Video Tour of Clayton Boyer Wooden Gear Clocks

In this video, wooden clock designer Clayton Boyer takes you on a tour of his wild and beautiful assortment of clock designs.

See all of his designs at Clayton Boyer Clock Designs.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Mr. Machine Collectible Robot Toy Patent

Mr. Machine technical drawingThe following is the patent abstract for the classic mechanical toy known as Mr. Machine. The full patent has several drawings and a lot of descriptive text.

Patent No.: 3,050,900
Category: TOY
Inventors: Marvin L Glass and Leonid Kripak
Date Filed: Dec. 28, 1959, Ser. No. 862,208

This invention relates generally to, and has for its principal object, an animated toy. More particularly, the invention relates to, and has for a further object, a mobile toy including a construction and arrangement of the parts which can be readily assembled and disassembled, which resembles a mechanical man incorporating various interest attracting features, and which are generally fabricated of translucent, differently colored plastic materials so that a fascinating mechanical, multicolored activity is observed during operation of the top.

A still further object of the invention is the provision of a toy of the type described which is of inexpensive construction, which has educational value in developing the mechanical skill of a child through assembly, disassembly and operation of the toy, and which will attract and maintain the attention of children over an extended period of time.

Mr. Machine Toy PhotographI guess patents are not intended to sound fun. But Mr. Machine is fun! So, I'll leave it to the marketing copyrighters to convince you...

"1960's authentic Mr. Machine! An early robot collectible toy manufactured using original molds! Rolling, spinning, ringing, squawking fun! Take Mr. Machine apart & put him back together! Includes authentic numbered Mr. Machine & his "toy wrench," DVD, Replica of US Patent Certificate, Numbered Certificate of Authenticity, Collector's Manual."

You can order the Mr. Machine robot gear toy online.

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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, May 06, 2008

Make a Kicking Mule Articulated Wooden Toy

Kicking Mule Articulated Wooden ToyHere's a short article on how to carve and assemble this kicking mule toy.

From the article:
"The mule consists of four components: head, ears, front legs joined to the main body, and hindquarters. Pieces of brass rod hold the various parts together, and lengths of string keep them articulated."

Here is the link to the article on how to make a kicking mule toy.

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Monday, May 05, 2008

Hand-Cranked Karakuri Box Writes in Japanese

Hand-Cranked Karakuri Box Writes in JapaneseThis beautiful wood machine created by Osamu Kanda is able to write Japanese katakana characters.

In a clever bit of reflexivity, the machine itself writes the word "karakuri" in pencil as the handle is turned twenty times through a complete cycle. The machine is 42cm long by 45cm wide by 30cm high -- smaller than it looks in the photos

The machine is thoroughly documented and photographed and described in Japanese and English. There are even schematic drawings!

Here is the link to the Pencil Karakuri page.

[Thanks Falk!]

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Wooden Gear Clock Plans: Clayton Boyer Designs

Wooden Clock PlansMy recent post on a video about making a wooden gear clock drew some attention from the MAKE magazine blog. I received a several emails and comments asking where to get the plans for the clocks shown in the video.

I found out that the two clocks shown are both from Clayton Boyer Clock Designs. The two clock models in the video are the Swoopy and the Solaris. Shown here is the Vortex.

What exactly do you you get when you order these plans?
All of these clock plans are drawn in CAD and sent as paper patterns (no electronic files or transfers are included).

Included in the clock plans are full size drawings for most of the parts. All of the major components, like the wheels, pinions, and spacers are given as full size patterns. The drawings can be cut from the plans, glued to the appropriately sized stock, and cut to the line.

All of the clock plans come with a full set of instructions and a materials list. Each page also has instructions for each of the parts, and there are a couple of pages that show the completed clockworks.

Visit the Clayton Boyer Clock Designs for over a dozen different wooden clock plans.

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