The ‘secrets of automata’ revealed in new book by Forres expert

A Forres man widely regarded as one of the country’s experts on automata, has released a book on the subject.

Michael Start, who together with his wife, Maria, and son Hector, runs The House of Automata at 32 High Street. He says there is very little published material on the details of what’s inside these little (and some not so little) mechanical contraptions… until now.

The House of Automata is a museum and shop, and many of the exhibits are pieces that have been restored by Michael and Maria.

Inside the beasties

Michael says: “You often don’t know what’s going on inside these things until you take them apart. I’ve learned from seeing what the original creator has done to create sometimes complex mechanical movements, and put it down on paper.”

The Secrets of Automata may be the only place a particular mechanism has ever been documented, with some of the pieces being unique in themselves.

The book will be a sure hit for enthusiasts who share his passion, and for those who admire his work and the popularity the family are bringing to the ‘dying art’.

“I would have loved some of the pictures and drawings to be larger,” he said. “But that would have meant many more pages!”

“For people who buy the book in the shop, I’ve slipped in a few extra full-size drawings,” he added with a grin.

Curiosity rewarded

The shop has all manner of curious toys for children and grown-ups, but the pure pleasure of being in the museum with exhibits ranging in size from a cigarette lighter to a full-size human being, a tour of the museum is a chance to share Michael’s enthusiasm as he talks you through the history of all the pieces on show.

Michael’s work has featured on film and television. He created the mechanism for the automaton that was featured in the Martin Scorsese screen adaptation of ‘’Hugo’’, and has featured many times on the Quest TV programme Salvage Hunters, and it’s offshoot The Restorers.

The House of Automata has amassed some 80,000 followers on Instagram, where much of his work can be seen.

The 176-page book is a £40 from the Forres shop, there’s a 10% discount if you buy direct from the publisher Crowood (use coupon code ‘CROWOOD10’), and it’s also available on Amazon.

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2 thoughts on “The ‘secrets of automata’ revealed in new book by Forres expert”

  1. love the work you do for the salvage hunters , brilliant can you save a copy of your book signed by everybody for our mosstodloch flower show which I am organizing after many years abscent from the show circuit, will drop in by in January for payment.


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