Wednesday, January 23, 2008


I have been working on a new project. This new project will be a wall hanging sculpture 6' X 6'. The customer wants to have a wooden ring lift. This means I have to make a ring 6' in diameter. Well, I do not work in wood, so I am having Gene build that part of the sculpture for me. He will be using all walnut, in 3 layers, 1-1/2" thick total.

I am working on the drive wheel and idler wheels. There will be one drive wheel at the center bottom, and besides driving the ring so it rotates, the drive wheel will also bear all of the weight. The two idler wheels will be made from black plastic, and will be located at about "9pm and 3pm". I am having to construct everything from scratch. Thankfully, I have the use of machinery, and Bill who helps me use it. Bill is 80, and has a lifetime of experience with machining. He can get gruff, but it's well worth it.

I have been using the mill for the last two days, making the mount for the motor, and the mount for the shaft, bearings, and drive roller. Everything is being made from aluminum. It has been very educational to do everything myself...

It's pretty cool to see a chunk or plate of aluminum be machined into something that is not only functional, but very pretty. My goal is to have my own lathe and mill soon. Now, when I get one, I will know what the heck I am doing. At least the basics. Some of the tools we use in Bill's shop are very expensive and I would never purchase them for just one job. But they are quite handy and can save a lot of time.

Layout, layout, layout. That's the name of the game. Once you get your piece of aluminum cut to size, squared and finished, then you have to decide where all of the holes are going to go. There is the motor to mount, the coupling between the motor and drive wheel, and the drive wheel assembly. The drive wheel will be made from 1" rubber with aluminum end caps that will match the 1/4" chamfer on the rings edge, on a 3/8" shaft. A spacer block had to be made to lift the motor to match the height of the shaft on the drive wheel. Lots and lots to think about and make.

It sounded terribly complicated before we started, but once you get going, it's not very hard at all. When it's on paper it looks pretty simple. It gets complicated when everything has to be just right, and you don't want to do it twice. : )

Friday, January 18, 2008


Shipping is a necessary evil. I like to weld because I like to work with metal. I didn't choose to be a woodworker. On the bright side at least a shipping crate doesn't have to be perfectly square, so any circular saw will work. I had to ship more than 5 separate shipments to Korea. Korea only allows wood from other countries that is either hardwood, or manufactured wood. It taught me to only use sheets of OSB to make the entire box. This saves me money, and reduces the tools I need to use. Take one sheet, and cut it into thirds (32"), clamp those three pieces together and cut out 2" strips of wood, getting 3 at a time. These strips can be screwed together for framing, or broken into pieces for stabilizing your artwork so it cannot move - at all. That's the trick. If your item cannot move, then you do not need to fill it with packing. I use saran wrap to make sure the important moving parts cannot move, securing with a bit of tape.

With a sculpture that sits on the table, I make the base first, with plywood. Then set the sculpture on the plywood, and secure each leg, and necessary framing, so it cannot move in any direction. Then make the rest of the wooden frame. Before adding the sheets to the rest of the sides, add more supports wherever necessary to the top of the piece so it cannot move either. Once secured, add the outside sheets to cover, adding sheer strength to your box, and your done. Don't worry that the strips you are using for to make the box are not connected very well. Once the sheets are added to the sides, they hold everything together. I use 1-1/4" drywall screws, and when needed 2-1/2" bright deck screws. Used liberally, you should have no troubles with shipping your piece of art.

If you plan to ship often, then make up these two simple items. A "fragile" template so you can add it as many times as you like, easily : )

Painting around the arrow will leave it's profile, pointing wherever you like. This one is easy. Take a small triangle and a short narrow piece and screw them together with a third piece on top. If you use a screw that is longer than needed, the top of the screw will provide a convenient hand hold.

The sculpture in this box is #72 - Now In: Kentucky

Sunday, January 6, 2008

A couple of desktops

This week I made up a couple of desktop marble runs. See video of the sculpture shown above, below. The first tabletop I built was for my dad. I started with the triangle frame using 1/4" stainless steel so that it would be very solid. The advantage of building the frame and then adding track is that you can attach the track to the frame as you go. I like using just three legs because it is much easier to set it onto any surface, especially and uneven one, and not have to worry about it rocking/swaying around when the marbles are rolling. I really liked how the "talking heads" looked and worked on the large wall hanging sculpture #64. So I recreated it for these desktops. This arm lowers the marble down to the track below it, and holds any other marbles back. One by one they are dropped. The advantage of this is that you can roll several marbles in a row and they will not fly off at the tipping arm because the arm was not yet fully back in the upright position when the next marble gets there. This means you don't have to worry about spacing the marbles out. It also serves to slow down the rolling marbles so you can watch them better, and it lengthens the time the marbles are actually rolling.

The one shown below is: 14" wide X 14" deep and 19.5" tall.

60ft of wire was used to make this desktop sculpture. Most for track, some for supports. There is 18ft of track with 1 tipping arm, 1 horizontal gate that flips around when the marbles roll into/under it, and marbles on track. The marbles on track add a nice visual as well, with a nice *click* each time a marble rolls into the stationary row of marbles. Really like it? Buy this one for yourself or someone you really, really like : ) $250 includes shipping in US.

See more info here at my website: Tabletop #08

These are great, fun little sculptures that don't take electric power, and are portable so you can show it off to everyone! I gave a smaller version of one to my mother-in-law and she took it work. She said people would come down on their break to play with it. She works at the contractors desk at a lumber store so she needed something to keep the guys quiet while she worked up their quote. She says it works fabulously.