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Christmas: The Pre-Reindeer Era

Christmas: The Pre-Reindeer Era was a piece commisioned as a holiday gift. The automaton depicts Santa making deliveries in that legendary time before he acquired his famous flying reindeer. Poor Father Christmas must do the flying himself -- arms flapping and eyes squinting in the cold wind -- with his bag of toys trailing behind him in tow.

The piece features a detailed house and landscape over which Santa Clause flies. The roof of the house was covered with individual miniature wooden shingles. The bag is made of balsa wood to reduce weight. The internal mechanism employs a scotch yoke. Santa is mounted upon a blacked brass piston assembly.

The scene is tinted with a light metalic blue to create the effect of a frosty, moonlit Christmas Eve. A pearlecent medium was added to the paint to enhance the effect. A faux-frost effect may also be found in the corners of the windows.

Stages of Development

The initial sketch was very small. To get a better feel for what the flapping Santa would look like, I converted the sketch into a simple animated GIF. The in-progress shot shows the piece before the clapboards were added to the house, or the walkway and steps carved into the snowly lawn. The store-bought turned wooden tree marks the location for what would eventually become a hand-carved tree.

Initial Sketch

In Progress


Now in a private collection

Flying Santa Automaton Details

  • 45 cm X 45 cm X 20 cm
  • Basswood, balsa, brass
  • Engraved metal title plaque
  • Detailed 3-dimensional wooden landscape
  • Mailbox features a miniature sign with the buyer's surname

  • Christmas: The Pre-Reindeer Era

    © 2003 Dug North

This piece was originally produced as a one-of-a-kind and now resides in a private collection. To enquire about obtaining one of your own, please use the contact form.

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Copyright 2002-2013, Dug North All rights reserved.
Dug North, Machini, and Machini the Marvel are Copyright 2004, Dug North
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Dug North