Friday, December 12, 2008

Going Home

Ooooooh Yeeeahhhhh, this is what I want for Christmas!!!

I dunno....if you got going really, really fast inside this tube (especially at the beginning) you'd be beat up pretty bad, if not dead. I'd still try it.

Making nylon bearings

I wanted to share with you how I make my nylon bearings. I have gone through several different kinds of "pivots" for elements on my sculptures and these have proven to be the best. I start with a rod of 1" acetyl plastic. I get 4ft lengths. First I cut the rod into sections 1.125" long. This will allow me to take face off side of the bearing without making it less than 1" wide. "Facing" makes the end (face) smooth and flat.
(above) Here is some of the plastic pieces I am left with after cutting the rod into lengths.

(Above) Here's the part chucked into the lathe.

(above) This photo shows the first side of the part with the chamfer. Once I did all of the parts on one side, then I set my stop, and did the other side. With the tool shown I cut the chamfer, and faced the end so it was smooth.

(above) The center drill. The center drill just cuts a small hole to make sure the drill bit cuts true in the next step.

(above) Now I will drill the hole. It's drilled 1/64th under 3/8" (the OD of the bronze bearing)
(above) Now the final drilling step, the reamer. Since plastic "closes" on you after you've cut it, the reamer gets the plastic closest to the size you want without going over, or being too small.

Finally, here is the bronze bearing inserted into the plastic. The bearing on the left is to show you the bearing halfway in, and the bearing on the right is all the way in. I've still got more than a hundred to go. My son, who is 10, has drilled more than 20. I think he could do them all.... Who says child labor is wrong?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Desktop #32 and #33

I posted quite a while ago about the 5 frames and accessories that I made up in advance for desktops. #29, #30 and #31 can be seen below in an older posting. These desktops just seem to keep getting better and better. It's all about practice. The more I make, the easier it is to build and the easier it is to add new things. Now these two desktops don't have anything new, per say, but both have some very nice track. I like track. Track is the fun space between elements.
What is noteworthy of these two desktops is why they were made. Desktop #32 was ordered by a woman for her mom's birthday. Great! I love to think of people opening their gift and receiving one of my sculptures! And just to make things interesting, desktop #33 was ordered by and man for his dad's birthday. Two in a row for b-days! Cool!
So to make these special I added a heart shape to the spinner for the mom, and the initial "S" (stands for the last name) for the dad.
Happy Birthday Everyone!
Desktop #32 (a gift for someone's Mom)

Desktop #33 (a gift for someone's Dad)

#78 Finished

Well, I need to start posting more than once a month. : ) The best time to start is now!
This is the finished sculpture #78. It measures 30" square and 36" tall. There are 3 different tracks. Almost finished...It still needs the acrylic case that will cover this piece so it will be safe while unattended in the law firm's waiting area.
Track 1 is the loop d' loop track, track 2 has a marble collector which tips when the 3rd marble rolls on (then the three roll off together), and track 3 has several cool elements that it activates. The picture below shows the first section of the loop d' loop.

Here (below) is the second section to the loop d' loop. The marble, after exiting the loops, turns to the left and joins with track 3 before heading back to the lift.

This picture (below) shows the chain lift - lifting a yellow marble. The chain lift picks up and releases about 3 marbles per minute.

Here is a photo showing a couple marbles in motion.
In this picture (below) you can see the "Scales of Justice". The scales are really cool to watch. The scales will tip when the third marble rolls into the side closest in this photo. The other side has several smaller marbles to provide the counter weight so it will reset itself when the other marbles roll out. It tips with 3 marbles but is inconsistent with how many marbles are dumped out. Sometimes only one marble goes, mostly two marbles will dump out, and then sometimes all of them dump.
See the marble collector at the top of the photo.
And as you can see, (below) this sculpture will be going to the law offices of Kam, Ebersbach and Lewis. They are trial lawyers.

All pictures clickable. See this sculpture in motion here:

Friday, October 17, 2008

Getting Personal

There's nothing like having your own RBS. Better than that, there's nothing like having it personalized so it says, "Look at Me! I belong to (you)". My next project will be located in the office (lobby?) of a lawyer, located in Georgia. As you can see from the photo below, the law firms name is Kam, Ebersbach & Lewis - Trial lawyers.
To make the letters I welded wire into a square, 3.125" high X 2" wide. I then cut the wires for the letters and fit them into the wire square to make sure they were all the same height and width. The B's S's and R's are the hardest because they all have curves.

Below you can see the names after they were installed in the sculpture. I made sure that I added them first so I had plenty of room for them, and I didn't weld myself into a corner, so to speak. When somebody comes in to his office, they will have no doubt of who this sculpture belongs to, or where they are.

To also reinforce the idea of a lawyers office, I also constructed a "scales of justice". This element interacts with the marbles. The right side of the scales has a permanent number of marbles. The right side of the scale does not lose or gain any marbles (unless you change it by hand), it is the counter-weight side. The left side will have a track to feed it and when the left side has one more marble than the right it will tilt down to the left and drop the marbles onto the large receiving plate below. There are a couple things that made this tricky. One is that I had to come up with some way to make the left side tip the marbles out when it dropped down to dump the marbles. To do this I attached a 1/16" wire to the back of the left plate. When it gets full (one more marble than the right side) and drops, this wire catches after a couple inches of downward travel and provides the lift needed at the back to tip the marbles out the front. The ring that is around the chain is there to keep the left side from swinging around too much after the marbles have rolled out. It would be bad for it to swing around too much and catch one of the ball pick-ups on it's way down.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Next up: Motorized table sculpture 30x36 - #78

My next project, in progess now, is a table standing sculpture with a chain lift that stands 36" tall and is 30"w on each side. I only have the frame and lift built now...but I think it already looks great! This sculpture (will have) 3 tracks. These tracks will be my "standard" fare of: one track will be a loop d' loop, one track will have one marble rolling at one time, and the third track will have a marble collector so the marbles (probably 3) on that track roll together when the collector releases them.

This sculpture will have a couple items to personalize it for it's final location. The final location will be a lawyers office in Georgia. So to help visualize the lawyer theme I am going to make a "scales of justice" element. This element will be a ball collector, but not "the" ball collector which will be added near the top for maximum effect. The single marble will roll onto one side of the scales - tipping when it gets full. The other side of the scale will have marbles as the counter weight. The other personalization will be the Law Firms name spelled out in wire inside the sculpture. Under each name, I am going to add "marbles on track" as if the marbles are underlining the names on the shingle.
More pics later.....

Wall Mounted #79 - completed

I just finished a wall mounted RBS. (click picture to view larger image) This one measures 33"w X 22"h and has a spiral/helical lift to transport the marbles from the bottom to the top. Something new is the adjustable speed of the lift. I purchased a "universal" DC power supply which has switchable voltage. You can choose from 3v - 4.5v - 6v - 7.5v - 9v and 12v giving you 6 different speed settings. (I say 4 speeds in the video because there isn't much difference between 3v and 4.5v or 6v and 7.5v) It's as easy as switching the voltage up or down to see it go slower or faster. Interestingly enough, Low (3v) has 1 marble going, (4.5v) has just about 2 marbles, (6v) sports 3 marbles rolling at the same time, and (12v) gives you 4 marbles.

One long continuous track, this sculpture is very smooth and quiet. See the video below to see it in motion. Oh, and if you are interested, this one is for sale: $1250 includes shipping in custom wooden crate within US. : )

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A trio of new desktops: #29 - #30 - #31

I really like desktops. They are fun to make because they do not take a long time to build, I can see right away how new improvements work, and I can try new things without having to worry too much about changing it if needed. These three were made in a row. I started out making 5 frames with the marble queue built onto the top, 5 arms and 5 track splitters. Then I worked one by one finishing them. I still have two left, but not the time to complete them now. It will be a few weeks before I get any more of these built.

The finger operated marble release is a somewhat new thing. I have added it to other desktops - but not for quite some time. I decided that to be really cool, they definitely need one. All of the marbles can be kept at the top of the sculpture and can be released one by one, or all at once, whenever you like. This eliminates the pesky chore of reaching out and placing marbles at the top each and everytime you want to see it run. If it is just you around, your toe could operate this kinetic desk toy when your relaxin' on the couch.
These sculptures are made from 100% stainless steel. They are neatly and durably TIG welded. 1" colorful glass marbles.

Desktop #31

Desktop #30

Desktop #29

Monday, September 15, 2008

Desktop #28

Really, this desktop should be #27, because it was made before...But as these numbering things go...I mean shoot...who really cares anyway? It's only off one number. But enough of that. This desktop was "commissioned". I had someone in mind when I started on it. This desktop is different in that I made an effort to leave the track spacing a little wider than normal. I have track clamps that are spaced at 7/8" that I use for loop d' loops with my larger marbles (1-3/8"). I use these for my desktops and squeeze the spacers a little to make them usable for the smaller 1" marbles. Leaving the spacing wider than in the past helps make the marble go slower, and in turn, make the action last longer.

There are three tracks on this desktop. My previous desktop had 4 tracks; two loop d' loop tracks, 1 tall spiral and 1 long track with elements. The person requesting this current desktop didn't much care for the teeter totter, or the loop d' loops (he said they go too fast). So I made this one with extra track, since that was what they wanted. In fact I was so focused on the track I almost didn't have room to add the tipping arm and spiral that are connected on the same track. But, with a little "can do" attitude, I got it to work. : )

The last thing I have changed for the better is where I merge tracks. I have found that using a little bit of plate eliminates the need for lots of wire. When one track dumps into another, the ball has to get over the rail onto it's new track. Now, this is not a problem if I have some vertical room to use. If I don't, then I have to use several wires to keep the ball moving, and not make a spot where the marbles can settle before merging. With the plate, that problem is eliminated completely and easily.

I don't have a snapshot handy, but here's the video on youtube:

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Wall hanging RBS #77, in progress

I am currently working on a wall hanging sculpture that measures 36" high by 24" wide. It has a chain lift that lifts 1-3/8" marbles at the rate of about 5 1/2 per minute. There are three tracks in this RBS. The loop d' loop is split between two different tracks instead of being a single path from top to bottom. Both of the built tracks in the pictures have just one marble on each track. The last track, still to be built, has a ball collector which will tip when it has 4 marbles. That track will be fast and slow, zipping about the sculpture with the marbles in a row. The marbles in a row are fun to watch because sometimes the marbles stay together, sometimes they spread out. It depends on the size of the marbles whether they stay together or not. Check out the pictures to see this sculpture as it comes together.

Desktop #27

So here's my latest desktop. #27. It's 22" high by 18" deep/wide and has two tracks. This desktop has all the usual fun stuff such as; track splitter, 3 loop - loop d' loop, tipping arm, ring spinner, spiral and over 25ft of two rail track. On this desktop I decided to add a finger release. The finger release is a great way to play with your sculpture without having to reach out and place marbles at the top every time. Instead, place all the marbles at the top where they stay until your press the lever to release one, or all. Place the sculpture out of reach, and you could use your toe to release them during commercials. : )

So here's a couple pics, and the video I have uploaded to YouTube.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Completed sculpture #76

This is my latest project. It stands 5ft high and is 3.5ft wide on each side. A chain lift brings the balls back to the top and releases them into the 4 tracks on this sculpture. This sculpture has several fun elements. First is the Plinko Track Scrambler. 3 of the 4 tracks go into this element and the marbles mix up, taking one of the 3 tracks exiting. The fun part is watching the balls bounce around randomly before dropping off and continuing on the stainless steel paths. The loop d' loop has 7 inversions, and jumps into a basket. See the video of the sculpture here:

One of the paths goes into the Ferris Wheel Lift. The 1-3/8" marble is directed around the outside of a large 12" ring. The ring has tines that catch the marble, and allow the marble to spin the wheel. When the wheel spins there is a smaller ring on the inside that lifts 1" marbles, about 4 inches, onto their own small path. They race out and around before returning to the lift. I have only made two of these elements, this being the second one. I spent a lot of time turning this one over in my head to make sure it was built correctly. I think it came out just right. The most complicated part to making this element was getting the bearing exactly in the center of the large ring. Once that was accomplished, the rest was easier, but no less important. Building slow, is the key to building something like this. Below is a video of the Ferris Wheel Lift.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Honey Creek Radio

My Dad has started an online radio station with Live 365. He has a website: that you should visit and you'll be able to access his station from the site.

While the station is not unique -- there are hundreds of online stations broadcasting the same stuff as Honey Creek Radio -- I believe you'll experience a good musical vibe when listening to Honey Creek Radio. Music is changed every 2 to 3 days. Since January 2008 Honey Creek Radio has been listened to in over 40 countries. Some days no one listens while on other days, many tune in to listen to a great mix of Classical, Celtic, Folk, and Native American music. While we here in the USA sleep, there are people tuning into Honey Creek Radio to hear a wonderful mix of artists and albums of quiet -- and not so quiet -- Gospel Hymns.

But the really cool part, for me, is that he's made me some rolling ball commercials! It was pretty surreal when I was listening to the station the first time, and then all of the sudden a commercial for my rolling ball sculptures played... I am not sure what I felt. It was a very odd experience as I had several emotions at once. It was very, very cool. So since that time Dad has made me several commercials. Here are the two most recent:

Rolling Ball Ad 01
Rolling Ball Ad 02

Right click and save the ad to your desktop to play it. They are in mp3 format. Are you looking to have a commercial recorded? Go to his site and drop him an email. Dad, (Ed) would love to work out an awesome sounding commercial. With google adwords you can set up ads to play on the FM radio. And you'll need a commercial to do that...

I'm sure there will be more rolling ball ads, and I will post them when I get them. : )

Thanks, DAD!

Poll results

I wanted to preserve my poll results, and comment on them a bit. I wanted to preserve my last poll, but I deleted it before I knew it would be gone forever... So I am not going to make that mistake again.

My current poll asked you, the reader, to pick what type of sculpture you would like to have. You were allowed to pick more than one thing. 29 people participated in this poll. Here are the results:

Large Floor Standing - 3 votes (10%)
Wall Hanging - 14 votes (48%)
Desktop - 7 votes (24%)
Tabletop - 8 votes (27%)
Enclosed in Glass - 4 votes (13%)
With bowling balls - 2 votes (6%)
Solar powered - 10 votes (34%)
Hand powered - 2 votes (6%)
Rolling Ball Clock - 3 votes (10%)
Ceiling mounted - 6 votes (20%)
Big enough to ride on - 5 votes (17%)
Wooden - 4 votes (13%)
'Only' Loop d' loops - 0 votes
Interactive - 6 votes (20%)

I thought it interesting, but not too surprising, that the wall hanging and solar powered took the top votes. A wall hanging sculpture is a good way to have a sculpture displayed without needing to make space to display it. As for solar powered, any of you who have purchased a sculpture from me with a DC motor could easily hook it to a solar panel, for a sun powered kinetic art rolling ball sculpture.

I am not sure what the defining difference between a desktop and a tabletop sculpture. If I had to differentiate between the two, I would say that the tabletop is a small motorized rbs, whereas the desktop would be non-motorized, it's all you.

Thank you everyone who voted and I look forward to the results of my next poll...

Monday, July 21, 2008

#76 - in progress

This is my current project; #76. It is 5ft tall X 3.5ft square. 4 different tracks with a chain lift.

This is the exit following the "plinko track scrambler" There are 3 possible paths the marbles can take, each one starting with a tipping arm.

Side view

Top view

Spaghetti "S" track

Spaghetti "S" track, top view

Marbles just getting ready to exit the plinko track scrambler into one of the three waiting tipping arms, randomly.

Top and bottom sections of the loop d' loop track. 6 inversions total with a nice jump into a basket at the bottom.

This is new. Several marbles are shot at high speed up into this section of stainless steel sheet metal. If the marbles are close enough they will change positions in the "L" section at the top. Then they reverse direction and roll back out the way they rolled in and go straight into the "plinko track scrambler". The marbles have a very pleasant "free" feeling to them as they wobble around on the hard surface before joining back up with the track.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Construction of a Desktop

Building a series of desktops has been fun and rewarding. I get to finish a sculpture very quickly - which means I get to play with it sooner - and they are good practice for weaving the track in and out of the frame because of the small space given. I use 1" marbles for these smaller sculptures because the larger marble demands more space, and these just shouldn't be very large. Without the motorized lift, they will not be viewed from a distance, so a larger marble is not needed. I like the fact that I can fit in some very nice track and ball elements into such a small package. You get a track switch (splitter), spinner, 'marbles on track', loop d' loop with 4 loops, tipping arm, teeter totter and a spiral. All connected with track that uses ZERO guardrail. All of the corners are banked. I do use some guardrail for the elements, but that is a little different.
Something I have noticed is that my wire comes in two lengths. 12ft and 10ft. The 12ft wire is very springy and hard to bend, I think it is 316 stainless. The 10ft pieces however are easy to bend, and not springy at tall, leading me to believe it's 304 stainless. It doesn't make any difference, except that the 12ft stuff is harder to bend. Make sure when you buy wire that it is 304. They may give you a higher grade but are not really doing you a favor. I bend most of my track by hand, and use a couple pairs of strong needle nose pliers to get what my fingers cannot. The easier to bend the better.

The teeter totter can be problematic on any sculpture because if the marbles are spaced too closely, then while one end of the teeter is down because of the marble rolling over it, the other end is up and will allow the marble that's following to drop out. I fix this problem by having the spiral below to catch any dropping marbles, or a detour around the teeter-totter and then back on to the track.

The tipping arm can be tricky as well. If I do not add a little piece of wire that holds back extra marbles while the arm is dropping a marble from the upper track to the lower track, then the extras will just fly off over the top of the arm.

These are the steps I use to make one:
1) make frame, 1/4" round rod
2) make loop d' loop, make sure it works
3) make track splitter
4) attach loop d' loop to frame, test a little
5) attach track splitter
6) make the track that people will drop the marbles into - the one that leads directly into the splitter.
6) make track that will lead from switch to loop d' loop. All track should be made "on" the sculpture.
7) make next section of track leading from other side of track splitter, about 5 ft of track here.
8) make, then attach tipping arm
9) make teeter totter.
10) make track leading from exit of tipping arm to entrance of teeter-totter. make sure the ball picks up enough speed. Just a little will do, but it won't roll over if it's too slow.
11) attach teeter totter
12) make spiral, then eyeball where it will be, and make the entrance and exit tracks leading into and out of the spiral, OFF the sculpture. this way you can easily get to the critical weld.
13) install spiral
14) make the track that leads from the teeter-totter to the spiral.
15) make the track that leads out of the loop, that will carry the marble that exits.
16) Now make track that starts from the end of the spiral and connect it directly into the track leaving the loop d' loop.
17) make and add spinner if desired
18) bend up a speed bump for the "marbles on track" element. Make sure the marble has good speed for this element.

Add the supports and whatever else is needed as you go. Then you can easily drop in marbles to test it as you build. Adding the track supports as you go also helps keep the track in place once you find where it needs to be. It is held in place by the support, and you can keep bending.

Now final testing. Drop in lots of marbles at once to see where things go wrong, and adjust it. Clean it, and your ready to show it off!

Here's three recent desktops; #25, #24 and #19 respectively.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Desktops #21 and #22

Finally, the last of the desktops.....for now...
These two I just finished.

#22 (below)

#21 (below)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Desktop #18 Completed July 1st.

One more hot off the welding bench...
These desktops use more wire that you would think. I use at least 60ft of 1/8" wire, 5ft of 1/4" rod and 3 pivot bearings. The wire adds up quickly as it's not just used for the track, but also for support wire and guardrail.

Desktop 17

Well, here is one of four. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

4 desktops

I got a request for a desktop with some specific elements built into it. Namely the loop d' loop and the teeter totter. Being able to do both, I said "no problem" and welded one up. And as it goes with these things sometimes, it turned out well, and I received an order for another one immediately after. I took another day, welded up another that looked just the same. But, since it was popular, I sold it to someone else. I know, my bad, but they are family of my machinist, Bill, who has helped me in more ways than I could put into words. So I still had one to make for the previous order I did not fill, and Bill, wanted one for himself. That makes two more. So I thought; why just stop with two? Lets make four! So the last day and a half I've spent making all of the components I will need to assemble 4 new desktops. Oh, and these desktops use 1" marbles. See a picture of the individual components below:

What is shown in the photo is everything I will need, except for the track that will lead the ball from one element to the next. There are the frames, (upper left and right), the loop d' loops, the track splitters (center), tipping arms (right of the splitters), teeter totters (bottom center), and spirals. 4 of each. The one element not shown is the "marbles on track" element. That particular element is added to the track where the ball has enough speed. Want to see what I'm talking about? See the video below of #16. (Thanks Ann!)

Friday, June 13, 2008

A desktop - #15

I found enough time this week to hammer out a quick desktop sculpture. This one has two tracks, and uses 1" glass marbles. There is a track splitter, a loop d' loop with 3 loops, a tipping arm, a teeter totter and spiral. All mounted on a very sturdy 1/4" stainless steel frame. All of the track is made from 1/8" stainless wire.

See this desktop sculpture in action below...

Saturday, May 31, 2008

#75 Final Video

32"w X 24"h X 18"d. This wall hanging sculpture has 3 different tracks and is made from all stainless steel. There are 1 3/8" marbles used on this sculpture. Watch the video to see all of the things that I don't have to describe!

For you who cannot view youtube videos, such as those of you in the military, I have also uploaded my recent videos to Google video. : )
Like this one:

Friday, May 30, 2008

#75 plus 2 more pictures

Three spinners, hot off (on) the welding bench. Literally.

Now those three spinners are welded on. Two on the single marble track; one before the tipping arm and the other just past the second section of wavy track. The third spinner is just after the loop d' loop where the marbles shoots out, giving the spinner quite a hard push. (Mostly hidden with this camera view.)'s construction in 10 pictures

I tried to take a photo after each major step was completed. Here's what I got...
If only it was as easy as it looks!