As a miniature modeler and painter, I am obsessed with any type of tiny world-building: model train boards, dioramas, dollhouses, and the like. So, naturally, I adore the work of "micro-mechanician" Bill Robertson.
You can learn more about Bill and his amazing work in this piece on the TED Ideas blog and in his TED talk.
When you look at a miniature, you can see so much more," he says. "You can see the whole thing with one eye. When you look at a little desk in your hand, it's all right there in front of your eyes. There's a fascination with seeing it all at once.
To give you a sense of the extremes to which Robertson goes, consider his reproduction of a microscope that had been made for King Louis XV. Robertson's version consists of 125 infinitesimally small parts of metal, wood and glass. To match the microscope's bronze shade, he melted Canadian gold coins and applied the metal to the frame. The original's barrel was wrapped in shagreen, or sharkskin, and Robertson knew that he needed baby-shark skin for it to be more to scale, so the nodules and grain would be the correct size. He found the sharkskin at a shop outside Paris that had been serving cabinet makers for five generations. In the original text about the microscope, the builder said to polish the metal with the tooth of a wolf; Robertson got creative and used a puppy tooth instead.
Oh, and this microscope is fully functional, something that is very important to Robertson. "To me that is part of the magic," he says. "The miniatures are amazing, but they're even more amazing when they work." Constructing one miniature piece can take him anywhere between 10 hours and 1,000 hours.