Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Another Complex Black Forest Automaton

This Knodelfresser or Dumpling Eater C. 1870, is a great example of Black Forest Figurenuhren. Seated on the top of the case, on a grassy hill, is a figure of a man, holding a plate of dumplings. Every fifteen minutes, or on demand… he eats three dumplings.
He is animated in his eyes, mouth, arm, and of course the dumpling that passes into his mouth. Although one of the most common forms of figural automation made in the Black Forest(Dumpling Eater, King Drinker, Magician, Sewing Lady, Knife Sharpener, Shaving Monkey to name a few examples). Today any example is difficult to find.

The way this figure works is quite simple, yet when in action it is nothing short of amazing (There is a link towards the bottom of this page, where you can see him in basic action.):

On the back of the clock movement there is a wood spool. When the automation sequence is activated, this spool makes one revolution.

The wood carved figure seated on the top of the clock is hollow. The "hump" in his back is removed to reveal another spool located inside the figure. This spool is 1/3 the size of the larger spool that is driven off the clock movement. This spool is pinned in different places to controll the eyes, and the mouth. There is also a thin steel wire that extends from the spool. On the end of this wire is a small wood carved "dumpling".

A string is ran taunt through the grooves in both spools...through a passage between the figure and the top of the case. When the large spool on the movement makes one revolution, the small spool in the figure makes three...With each revolution of the small spool in the figure, the dumpling travels out of the plate in his hand and up a small notch in the figures chest. While it apears that the fork is raising the dumpling to the mouth, it is actualy the dumpling that is raising the fork!

As the dumpling aproches the mouth, the eyes roll down to look at the treat...and the mouth opens... the dumpling passes into the mouth, and the arm holding the fork is released and falls back to the plate... The mouth closes and "chews" the dumpling several times with movements to the eyes... (controlled by a set of pins carfuly placed on the spool in the right position).

During this time the spool has rotated and placed the dumpling back to the start place at the bottom opening...and the process repeats itself again. This happens three times in total, as the large wheel on the back of the movement will make on compleate revolution.

It should be noted that in the German language a "knodel" is a dumpling… and to “fress” is to eat… but not in a human way. Dogs “fress” and Pigs “fress”, but people do not. Another way them Germans, once again use there animated clocks to poke fun at other people or cultures.
The Rat eater displayed further down on this site, is a excellent example of this mockery.

This particular clock was displayed in 2004 at the Pasadena NAWCC Regional, in a large display on the subject of Black Forest Clocks. The clocks that were included in this display were featured in a publication produced to document both the display and the clocks. The book is titled " Black Forest Collage Crafted Clocks 1800-1900". We are including a scan of this clock and its documentation. The GLAR committee put together a website documenting the display, which can be viewed along with the autoamation by clicking this link: http://www.nawcc-glar.com/exhibits/2004exhib/16/16.html

For those interested in learing more about Animated Black Forest Clocks:
One of the best books on the subject is , “Figurenuhren aus dem Schwarzwald” by Herbert Juttmann (168 pg). This text covers many of the animated clocks made in the Black Forest. Juttmann not only has color photos on each piece, but has taken the time to break down the clocks into simple drawings, showing how each piece works. This book although published only in German, because of the drawings and simple, charts, it is still a usable asset for all. This book is available from amazon.de as well as the NAWCC lending library (http://www.nawcc.org/).



Anonymous said...

Wow, really amazing. You have done a great job! -C

Anonymous said...

Justin you have some great clocks!