Mechanical Magic: Intro to Engine Turning - Atlas Obscura
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Seattle, Washington

Mechanical Magic: Intro to Engine Turning

Join certified Antiquarian Horologist Nico Cox at her workshop in South Seattle for a tour and introduction to engine-turning machines, and an opportunity to use optical illusion and automata devices.

Join Nico Cox at her Memoria Technica workshop in South Seattle. This event includes a tour of her workshop and a 30-minute introduction to a Rose Engine and Straightline machine, one of which you will have an opportunity to use. Guests will have a chance make a guilloché medallion to take home. Participants will also have a chance to play with a drawing machine, drawing tops, mechanical optical illusion slides, and a gear loop toy. Before and after your 30-minute session, you can mingle with other guests and use the devices.

Rose engines are hand-operated machines that were developed in the 16th  century and used during the Victorian era for the decorative turning of wood, ivory, metal, and ceramics. Engine turning is an engraving technique that creates geometric patterns, that are mechanically machined into metal with very precise finish and intricate detail.  The geometry of the patterns is determined by mathematical sequences often associated with sacred geometry and the golden mean.

Engine turning originated in the 1500s and was particularly popular with European aristocracy. As a pasttime, it thrived throughout the early 1900s, while also turning a profit. Victorian Era engravers produced a range of personal items, including pocket watches, pens, lighters, cigarette cases, jewelry, jewelry boxes, snuffboxes, hair and money clips, combs, wine goblets, furniture details, molding, mosaic tiles, and molded parts.

Nico Cox has a decade of study in Swiss, American, and British horology programs and is a certified Antiquarian Horologist.  More specifically, she is a clock and watchmaker who specializes in the conservation and restoration of antique automata and mechanical music objects. She owns and operates Memoria Technica, a small magical workshop in Seattle where she makes mechanical automata, toys, optical illusions, mechanical magic, and teaches heritage crafts. Her workshop includes a collection of machines from the original Bulova watchmaking factory.

Adventure Notes:


Address will be sent to registered attendees.

Age 16+.

Wear clothes you don’t mind getting dirty or bring a labcoat to wear over normal clothes.

No loose or baggy clothing permitted.

Please wear closed-toe shoes.

No loose hair - hair must be securely tied back if long when around machinery.

Questions? Email Shin Yu Pai at

Advance ticket sales only. All ticket sales are final.