Simon Moore | Products | Kobe wooden automaton |
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About Simon Moore

Conservator of all natural sciences specimens

Further Info

Specialised in
Natural History specimen conservation - taxidermy, specimens preserved in fluids, entomology repair, herbarium specimen damage.

Kobe wooden automaton

In quieter moments, I also engage my conservatorial skills with other challenging projects. When our parents had passed on, my Brother acquired from their estate a rather ugly-looking little ebony man eating a watermelon, mounted on a box; by rocking a small side knob, he lofted the melon to his mouth which opened and closed. A little research revealed it to be a Japanese wooden toy, made in Kobe dock area during the late 19th century when Japan opened to foreign visitors following the end of the Shogunate period. Craftsmen and off-work sailors used to make these apparently to supplement meagre income.
I recently acquired this drinker via eBay, that was in need of some TLC. His drinking cup was missing and although (by turning the side knob) the bottle tilted over to pour the drink, he then raised his drinking arm onto his head. Hmm! I removed the base and found three out of six, black cotton threads pegged onto a rotator, that had snapped! Which operated which body part…?
Long story short(er), I eventually found which thread operated the back of the head, extended the thread and re-pegged it so that the cup co-ordinates with is mouth – phew! Now I have to get his mouth operating too!!
If anyone knows of any reference to these and how to repair them, I’d be most glad to hear from them. At the moment I’m making it up as I go along!