Monday, September 18, 2006

Himself's Wooden Wonders

How's it DO that?!

please click image to see it move
While unpacking this morning, Himself recounted to me an experience of pure delight he had in London the other day. He went with his brother and two young nephews to a Megalopolis of a toy store in Soho/West End called Hamleys. He said it was one of those five story vintage places that's been around forever. He remembers his own trips there as a lad. He described to me his reaction when he stepped off an escalator there to find himself face to face with a lighted glass cabinet filled with the wonderments that are marvelous moving, wooden, automata (puppet figures or scenes that move in surprising ways as if alive.) You might think of it as automatic animation or mechanical sculptures.

Let me back track a sec to say that he and are are rabid automata/pop-up hound dogs, we can't get enough of these types of paper crafts. We love to watch the mechanisms move and marvel at the engineering. No matter how long we try, neither of us has yet begun to grasp how any of it works. He's collected and put together several paper automata kits from paper engineers from all over the world for years, some of our favorites are Flying Pig in the UK, Cabaret Mechanical Theater, Walter Rufflo in Germany, Keisuke Saka in Japan. He has a nice stash of them now, in case he ever has a day to enjoy such a thing.

These were wooden machines we'd never seen before in our previous online prowlings. Usually they'd be prohibitively expensive and/or sold as already finished pieces but before him that day was an array of great wooden kits by Timber Kits* for a non-insane price, too great to pass by for us, such is our passion for automata. He splurged and brought three home (I would have done the exact same), the Rower, the Musician (Woody Blues), and the Battery/Colouring Kit which hooks up to any of the machines to drive their mechanisms automatically. If they end up being as wonderful as they look they may be, we'd also like find one listed on the website that wasn't in the toyshop, the clapping pig too. It makes the same silly gesture he and I make as we go through our happy chipmunk life.

*From their site: "Timberkits are both a gift and a hobby; whereas many gifts are subject to whims of fashion, the creative delight in constructing our models is something that can be passed on from one generation to the next and is a welcome alternative in the age of keypad, screen and electronic bleep."


  1. There is something so mesmerizing about watching stuff like this. A sense of wonder of how did they do that, and isn't that cool.

    If you like this kind of stuff you should check out Arthur Gansons kinetic sculpture.

    He has some vidio clips on his site that are so fun to watch

  2. Wow, Mark, Arthur Ganson is a genius artist! You hit the nail on the head with that one! I watched all the clips he posted and couldn't quite believe one person could be so clever, witty, and be able to engineer such artful machines. Great find.

  3. Cool stuff! Oh and hey, check my site where you can make a little extra on the side... nudge nudge wink wink say no more! ;)

    (Looks like you need to click that little trash can icon on the above post Shellsies).

  4. Mike, you are so funny. I did trash that comment earlier and again after reading your comment. We'll see if it goes away, wink, wink.


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