Sunday, April 18, 2010

Designing Automata Kit available from Amazon

OK...it may be a round-about route, but it is good news in the end: the Designing Automata Kit is now available via Amazon!

From the product description:
"The New Designing Automata Kit is great value and fantastic quality. No glue or tools are required, and you will learn about simple mechanics using cams and a crank slider mechanism. Many different designs can be made, and the kit used over and over again. Produced in Thailand using chemical-free rubber wood, from sustainable sources."

Here's the link to the Designing Automata Kit.


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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 WoodMarvels.com (Vol. 1)

Book: Plans from WoodMarvels.com (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 WoodMarvels.com 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 WoodMarvels.com: Top Sellers (Volume 1)


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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Timberkits: Drummer wood automaton kit

Here's a little video of the drummer automaton kit made by Timberkits.

Here's one place you can get the Timberkit drummer automaton.


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Friday, March 12, 2010

The Waiting Hand by Nick Rayburn

Nick Rayburn is an artist who works with an assortment of materials including wood, marble and brass to silver, coral and shimmering beetles. He has started to make automata in a Victorian/steampunk style. Shown here is his latest creation, The Waiting Hand, which is a limited edition of 20.

If you would like more information or would like to discuss acquiring a piece you can send an email to: nickrayburn at asky dot com.


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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Leonardo's: Machines in Motion exhibit, Nebraska

There is an exhibit that looks simply amazing titled "Leonardo da Vinci: Machines in Motion" at the Strategic Air & Space Museum in Ashland, Nebraska. The models for the exhibit are gorgeous and nearly all of the displays are interactive. The Leonardo exhibit runs through May 9th, 2010.

Here's info on the Leonardo exhibit at the Strategic Air & Space Museum web site.

[ Thanks Rusty! ]


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Monday, February 15, 2010

The Superplexus - absolutely huge 3D puzzle

The Superplexus - absolutely huge 3D puzzle
If you've got $30,000 and a sweater-vest, you might be the in the target demographic for this giant version of the Perplexus 3D puzzle.

About this monstrous puzzle:
This is the three-dimensional spherical labyrinth that challenges the limits of your manual dexterity and spatial understanding as you maneuver a 5/8" wooden marble through its entire course. The Superplexus is a complex network of chicanes, multi-planar hairpin turns, spirals, and staircases--even a vortex. Hand made from 3- and 6-ply Finnish birch that form the track, over 400 hours are involved in its construction. The labyrinth is set inside a 36" diameter acrylic sphere affixed to a Jatoba base using a stainless steel gimbaled mount that allows you to tilt the sphere in any direction to guide the marble.

You can learn more about the huge Superplexus puzzle over at Hammacher Schlemmer.

If you're short on cash (or the sweater vest) you could consider the regular Perplexus Maze Game for a mere $22.


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Sunday, February 07, 2010

The whimsical machines of Edmund Dohnert

The finely crafted & whimsical machines of Edmund Dohnert
Edmund Dohnert designs machines that are meant to be amusing celebrations of mechanical movement. Shown here is a piece titled Victor Rat Trap No. 3.

The artist describes this machine:
In a deliberate escalation beyond Victor Rat Traps Nos. 1 and 2, this one is powered by not one, but two rat traps! Both springs are connected by a steel rod, which is attached to a Swiss cheese-like structure that has a cord wrapped around its edge. (The "cheese" is mounted off-center so as to even out the pull on the cord over the full range of the springs' travel.)

This cord pulls the springs back, and through an arrangement of pulleys, connects to a crank-wound gearbox on the right. The gearbox's output shaft connects to a vertical shaft running through a support structure, on top of which is a 'planetary gear' arrangement with two hollow spheres attached.

When the vertical shaft rotates, not only do the "planets" rotate about their own individual axes, they also orbit around the central shaft (hence the origin of the term 'planetary gear'). Connected to the main gearbox is a second gearbox that operates a small fan which not only helps control the speed of the machine through air resistance, it creates a unique whirring sound.

While the machine only runs for about 30 seconds, it's quite interesting to watch, for the movement is reminiscent of a medieval astronomical orrery.

See more amazing mechanical creations from Edmund Dohnert on his web site.


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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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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Classic marble-lifter mechanism in wood

Here is a nice example of a common marble-lifting device sometimes used in marble track machines. It's cool to see how a few cams, sloped surfaces, and continuous rotary motion can be combined to make marbles climb stairs. This one was made and sent in by reader Richard Thorne.


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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Timberkits - wood automata kits make great gifts

Timberkits - wood automaton kits
It's not to late to get the people in your life the gift of automata for the holidays. One nice option are Timberkits -- all wood automata kits featuring a variety of themes and characters. Shown here is their Penguin Wooden Model. All of their kits come with pre-cut parts that need to be pegged together and glued. You can leave it unfinished or add a personal touch by painting it.

Here is a link to a full range of Timberkits Wood Automata Kits


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Monday, December 07, 2009

The assorted wood automata of Michel Fleau

The wood automata of Michel Fleau
Check out this wood automaton by Michel Fleau, entitled Mister Bone.

Here is a link to more images and video of automata by Michel Fleau.

[ Thanks Charles! ]


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Sunday, December 06, 2009

Large-scale all wood "pocket" watch

Back in March of 2007, I posted about a real wooden pocket watch. The one shown here is also made of wood and also a pocket watch. The big difference is that this one isn't at pocket watch scale. It's actually 10-1/2" in diameter and 3" thick. Even so, this is a stunning demonstration of artistry and craftsmanship.

Some details on the watch:

The escape is a double-roller Swiss Lever with a half-second balance wheel. ...The escape has banking pins and a safety roller, so - like a watch - it runs in any position. You can even shake it or bang it around, and she keeps on ticking!

The balance wheel is in Teflon bushings and the escape wheel is on ball bearings. The pins on the balance wheel have small screws inside to adjust the poise. The cherry pallets are adjustable. The anchor for the "hairspring" (actually a very small clock spring) moves with an adjustment lever to regulate the watch. It keeps perfect time.

Here is a link to see more images of the wooden watch.


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Monday, November 30, 2009

Beautiful all-wood marble run machine

I don't know if this is part of a system, or something that some talented individual came up with, but this much is sure: it is one beautiful and well designed all-wood marble track. Love the wooden gears!


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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Exploding and reassembling picture with gears

Here is a great wall-mounted kinetic sculpture featuring wooden gears and other wooden mechanical parts. The mechanism makes the frame of the piece come apart, then come back together. The piece is driven by an electric motor.

[ Thanks Art! ]


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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wooden clock sculptures by James Borden

I had the great pleasure of meeting and speaking with James Borden, creator of mechanical weight-driven clocks last weekend at the Paradise City Arts Festival. "Clock" doesn't quite sum up what Borden creates however. His pieces are large, artistic expressions of time described in beautiful hardwoods, long graceful curves, and inventive structural configurations.

From the artist's site:
In his Timeshapes, James Borden presents a different vision of the passage of time: Less frenetic and urgent than the normal ticking of a clock; slower paced; peaceful; playful; something easier to live with.

Here is a close up of a mechanism from one of his pieces:

To see more wooden clock sculptures by James Borden visit the Timeshapes web site.


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Thursday, November 19, 2009

A 'Convolution' of purely wooden mechanisms

Woodworker Ken Schweim built this collection of wood mechanisms and titled it Convolution. It is a wonderful assortment of drives, linkages, and gears. Well done, Ken!

From the video description:
This is a collection of wood mechanisms driven by a common wood crank. The entire project is wood, no nails, screws, wires, etc. Each assembly is removable. The wood is primarily common pine with some black walnut. Total time required was about 4 months with the majority in the design phase. I was going to add more to the open sides and the interior but decided against it for two reasons; one - it would require more cranking power and two, it would make it difficult to see the existing interior mechanicals. Plus, it now leaves the door open for another possible project to explore more wood mechanisms. In reviewing the audio I mistakenly said there is wire in this thing but not so, it is all wood.



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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The mechanical wooden art of Per Helldorff

Check out about ten automata and other mechanical wooden creations created by Per Helldorff on his web site.

I don't know what all of the pieces do, but it is clear that there is some serious creativity and ingenuity behind them.

Here's the link to the 'Mekanik' section of Per Helldorff's web site.

[ Thanks Charles! ]


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Saturday, October 03, 2009

Hand-cranked wooden rotating iPhone dock

In part inspired by The Automata / Automaton Blog, Murtaza Lakdawala created this hand-cranked wooden iPhone dock. By turning the handle the gears will reorient the iPhone to either the upright or horizontal position.

Check out Murtaza's blog for complete details on the iPhone dock project.


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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 http://www.woodenclocks.co.uk. 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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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Making Wood Trucks & Construction Vehicles

Making Wood Trucks & Construction Vehicles
Time to start making some gift for the holidays. Why not make some wooden trucks and vehicles? Beautiful, durable, and without those annoying sound chips.

Product Description:
An old favorite gets a fabulous freshening up, with full-color images throughout -- but the projects remain as wonderful as ever, appealing to children of all ages. Bulldozers, dump trucks, loaders, and forklifts, each with a variety of moving parts: all these toy vehicles are included for the making, with plenty of diagrams, very detailed instructions that proceed logically and clearly from part to part, and images of the final product. Try a box trailer with a semi-cab, doors, axles, wheels (with simulated tread, if you like), and mud flaps. They're fun to craft and fun to receive.

Here's the link for the book on Making Wood Trucks & Construction Vehicles


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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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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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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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Sunday, July 05, 2009

'MAN EATING SHARK' automaton!

Artist Michael Jacobs created this playful automaton using recycled wood and tin, a rebuilt plastic doll's head, copper and steel wire, screws, nuts and bolts, pop-rivets, paper mache, molding paste, and acrylic paints

From the automaton description
When you continuously turn the crank at the lower right, the man uses his arms and hands to raise the shark, his mouth opens hungrily, his legs move up and down and back and forth, and the shark's tail and mouth wriggle up and down furiously.

See many more nice photographs with captions for the Man Eating Shark automaton.

[ Thanks philsing! ]


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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Compact brass and wood motorized ball track

Here's a very compact and mesmerizing rolling ball machine that uses a combination of wood, brass, and a small battery-powered motor to great effect. Enjoy!

[ Thanks Bre! ]


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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Wooden camel toy driven by a cam mechanism

Wooden Camel toy driven by a cam mechanism
This is a cam-actuated camel toy designed by John Hutchison. The plans for the toy were part of an article in the Woodworker's Journal December, 2000. This particular one was built by a gentleman named Mike for his grandson. A cam is attached to the back wheel axle which drives a dowel that in turn causes the humps, head, tail and legs to move up and down when the toy is pushed.

Here is a page with the builder's notes and several pictures of the wooden camel cam-driven toy.

[ Thanks Charles! ]


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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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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wooden helicopter contraption automaton

I like the (nearly) all-wood construction of the helicopter contraption automaton shown in this video.

[ Thanks philsing! ]


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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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Friday, April 17, 2009

Carving tools sets with interesting handle design

Carving tools sets with interesting handle design
I've used the traditional carving knives, chip carving knives, and palm carving tools, but I can't say I've ever used a carving knife with this style of handle.

I gather that the handle design is meant to serve two purposes. They can be held fully in the palm for larger, forceful cuts, or griped by the narrow part at the neck -- rather like a pencil -- for finer cuts. It sure sounds like a good idea.

Woodcraft has a seven piece set (shown here, $50) and a a five piece set ($40). Both come in a storage box of some sort.


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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Bowling automaton with free & semi-free objects

My friend and colleague, Falk Keuten, over at the excellent Spiel und Kunst mit Mechanik blog has discovered an innovative -- if somewhat mysterious -- automata artist via some YouTube videos.

Check out the use of a ball-lifting mechanism, an articulated figure, a free object (the ball), and some semi-free objects (the bowling pins). This is a impressive combination of techniques. I admire the all wood construction and the fact there is no need for the user to 'reset' the piece.

Here is the original post (in German) from Spiel und Kunst mit Mechanik.

[ Thanks Falk! ]


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Thursday, April 09, 2009

Koch Studio Kollegs - carving instruction manuals

Koch Studio Kollegs are written by master carver Kurt Koch. Each Kolleg focuses specifically on building your carving skills in a particular area while also covering proper tool selection, handling, and use. They feature numerous illustrations and photographs along with easy-to-follow instructions in four languages: English, French, German and Spanish.

From the product descriptions:
 Koch Studio Kollegs - carving instruction manual on hands
Kolleg #5 - Hands
Instruction in carving the seven known carved motives of hands: The working hand; the hand of the crucified; open hand of a woman; hand with firm grip, half closed hand, hand grabbing something fine and hand of an infant. 44 pages. Over 340 photos.

Koch Studio Kollegs - carving instruction manual on heads
Kolleg # 10 - Heads
Instruction in carving the different faces (heads) that lend itself to a family grouping: Young lady, child and man with beard. 40 pages. Over 340 photos.

Koch Studio Kollegs - carving instruction manual on clown
Kolleg #30 - Climbing Clown
Instruction in carving a clown climbing a rope. Once finished you'll be able to actually hang the clown from a piece of rope. A large carving approximately 19" tall, this project is generally regarded as one for the more advanced carver. 52 pages. Over 350 photos.

Koch Studio Kollegs - carving instruction manual on bear
Kolleg #46 - Standing Bear
Instruction in carving a standing bear approximately 15½" tall not including the base. Over 81 steps, 365 photos along with copious illustrations guide you through the project. Considered a project for the more advanced carver. 56 pages.


Here is the link to the Koch Studio Kollegs - carving instruction manuals.


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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Rocky Mountain High by Uncle Don's Mechanicals

Rocky Mountain High by Uncle Don's Mechanicals
Turn the crank on this nifty wall-mounted automaton and the grass waves back and forth, the car bounces with steam coming out of the hood and exhaust coming out the back, and the driver bounces up and down in his seat. Finally, the sun moves across the sky with the clouds just missing it every time.

See this and other wall-mounted automata at Uncle Don's Mechanicals.

[ Thanks Joe! ]


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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

BlueBell Folk Art Gallery featuring wood automata

BlueBell Folk Art Gallery featuring wood automata
Michael and Marlene Forte create one-of-a-kind wood and fabric folk art -- mostly featuring animals -- from their studio in rural Vermont. They also have a few automata on display in their online gallery.

Here is a link to the BlueBell Folk Art Gallery page with wood automata.

[ Thanks philsing! ]


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Friday, March 27, 2009

Quandary - kinetic wood sculpture by David Roy

Soak in the hypnotic motion of this kinetic wooden sculpture by David C. Roy. Entitled Quandary, this is one of a limited edition of 95.

See this an more amazing moving wooden sculptures at Wood That Works.


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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wanda Sowry's wonderful wood automata @ flickr

Wanda Sowry's wood automata images on flickr
Be sure to check out the videos and photographs of Wanda Sowry's wonderful automata now accessible via a flickr photostream.

Shown here is her piece entitled 'Skeleton Xylobone'.

Here is the link to Wanda Sowry's automata on flickr.


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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Micro carving tools for very small wood carvings

Dockyard micro carving tools for small wood carving
The other day I mentioned the Rick Bütz woodcarving knives I use. While about 70 percent of the time I use either the standard carving knife or the detail knife, there are times when a specially shaped carving tool is just what you need. For a long time, I struggled with a mediocre set of palm carving tools. Mine didn't hold an edge very well and were just too big to be very useful.

A few years ago I discovered these unassuming little micro carving tools. They may look simple but they are hand forged, tempered, and tested for a correct edge profile. Not only that: they come sharpened and ready to use. Hallelujah!

They offer sets like the one shown here in three different sizes -- 1.5mm, 2mm, and 3mm. I went with the 2mm and am very happy with it. The micro carving tool set I bought has single and double bevel chisels, a skew chisel, a 90 degree V-shaped tool, and U-shaped gouge. All in cherry wood handles.

Here's the full line of Dockyard micro carving tools.


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Friday, March 13, 2009

Carved wooden cuckoo clock with moving figures

Carved wooden cuckoo clock with automata figures
We don't normally feature cuckoo clocks here on The Automata / Automaton Blog. But...why not? Carving, mechanics, historical tradition, wood, automata figures...it's all there as far as I'm concerned.

Here's a rather grand cuckoo clock I found listed on eBay. This clock already has many bids on it with a fair amount of time left. I don't know much about cuckoo clocks, but this suggests to me that this is a good one. Those of you who know more about this sort of thing: please comment!

This listing features many nice detail photographs.

Here the eBay listing for this large carved wooden cuckoo clock with automata figures.


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Sunday, March 08, 2009

Rick Bütz two-knife woodcarving set on sale

Rick Butz two-knife woodcarving set
If you are a wood-carver or interested in learning, I came upon this deal from Woodcraft Woodworking Supply. This is a set of Rick Bütz carving knives -- the same to I use to carve the figures of my wood automata.

Rick Bütz wrote the book on wood carving. No, really...he DID write the book called How to Carve Wood. He also wrote a great book on How to Sharpen Carving Tools. Both are excellent.

The two knives shown are a standard carving knife (bottom) for most roughing out and carving and a detail knife (top) for doing fine cuts. Together, they should be the only knives you'll ever need. Now...other carving tools...well, you may want/need those in time, but this is a great start. Don't mistake these knives for the ones you find at your local arts and crafts chain store: these are much better. I learned this the hard way.

Woodcraft offers either knife individually, or will give you a great deal on the two -- saving you 33% -- through March 31, 2009.

Here's the product page for the Rick Butz two-knife woodcarving set.


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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Beautiful hand-cranked Wooden Orrery

Beautiful hand-cranked Wooden Orrery by Dave Goodchild
Dave Goodchild of Norfolk, England has been making automata for well over 10 years. Most recently, he has chosen to focus his considerable talent on the designing and making of orreries -- mechanical models of the solar system. What is particularly remarkable is that he uses wood as the main material.

The artist says he is about to embark on a new 9-planet orrery which will he will blog as it is built. Take a look at the video below to see some of his handiwork in motion.
See more pictures and videos of Dave Goodchild's Orreries at www.woodenorrery.com


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