Magic Designer : Gear Driven Mechanical Art Machine


jchismar Magic Designer Mechanical Art Toy

Saturday, May 6 2017 and the Greater Newark Mini Maker Faire will be here in the blink of an eye. My exhibit Art Through Motion, is coming along slow but sure. The Magic Designer is the first apparatus I’ve nearly completed for the exhibit. It is based on the Magic Designer toy which came on the scene in the 1950’s. It is a relative simple, yet complicated mechanism which creates Spirograph-like designs.

When I decided to make this machine I turned to Ebay to purchase one of these toys. There are several different varieties, likely made by different manufacturers. I opted to buy the cheapest one available. Probably not the best idea. The majority of these toys were made of metal. I was surprised when mine arrived and was made of mostly plastic.

jchismar Magic Designer

The image above is of the Magic Designer I purchased. The design on the paper arrived with the item. I give props to the person that drew it. I couldn’t get the darn thing to work much at all. However I was able to extract the required information to build my own. The mechanism is simple. The gear the artwork is attached to with little metal clips revolves six times for every one rotation of the three other gears. That’s basically all I needed to understand to get started.

I only made one major change to the original design. I changed the gear ratio on the drive gear with the handle so it revolves three times for every one turn of the canvas gear. The ratio of the upper and lower disc crank remain the same, rotating six times for every one rotation of the canvas gear.

jchismar Magic Designer Gear CuttingI created a template for the gears using Three gear templates were needed using 1:1, 2:1, 6:1 ratios. I laser printed the templates on label sticker paper with the stickers removed. The smooth surface of the paper makes it relatively easy to transfer the ink to plywood using a clothes iron. That is, once you have the knack for the process. Practice, patience and pressure are required.

With the templates transferred to 1/2″ plywood I went to work on the scroll saw and cut out the gears. My workshop helper did her thing in the behind the scenes. The crank pins are 1/8″ brass rods cut to length. My original crank pinks were perpendicular and straight up from the gear. Later, I decided to change the crank pins with a bent offset to exaggerate the sweep of the drawing arms.

jchismar Magic Designer Gear Mechanism The base of the unit is created from 3/4″ plywood. I used a router to remove the material under the canvas gear to allow the upper crank disk to travel without interfering with the canvas gear. The drawing arms are made from maple wood. The pivot, which doubles as the Sharpie holder, is 1/2″ brass tubing. The tubing is almost a perfect fit for holding a Sharpie. To reduce the wobbling of the Sharpie in the tube I glued a little piece of foam rubber with crazy glue inside.

Wobbling. Ugh, it’s my enemy. Every little bit of wobble is exaggerated as the Sharpie draws each pattern. There is a little wobble in the fit of the gears, wobble at the contact of the drawing arms on the crank pins and the Sharpie wobbles in the holder.  Some of this can be tightened up, but I’d rather have a smooth operating machine that’s easy to use because it’s for the Maker Faire and kids of all ages are encouraged to try all the machines I’ll bring.

And speaking of ease of use. I abandoned the idea of using metal clips to hold the paper on the canvas gear. Instead of using metal clips I embedded three rare earth magnets into the canvas gear. This allows metal washers (image at top) to hold the paper in place. No wobble there! I’ll hopefully add more colorful design flare to the device and most certainly tweak the mechanism until I run out of time.

jchismar Magic Designer Art Machine

Please come to the Greater Newark, NJ Mini Maker Faire on Saturday, May 6 to play with my art machines. There’s more on the way! And of course there will be many other talented makers at the event to inspire and keep you busy for a day of fun.

Wooden Pendulum Drawing Machine

jchismar Wooden Drawing Machine

I’ve received confirmation on my application for the 2017 Greater Newark, NJ Maker Faire Saturday May 6, 2017. This year my exhibit is titled Art Through Motion and I’ll be building various mechanisms to create Spirograph like drawings. The Wooden Pendulum Drawing Machine is the first prototype I’ve created.

This simple mechanism suspends a canvas from wires over a stationary Sharpie marker. The artist urges the canvas into a swinging motion then drops the marker into position. When the swinging of the canvas ceases the artist removes the marker and decides if more drawing is required. If so, the artist starts the process over again and may choose a different color marker.

The drawing above was created on this mechanism. I’ve titled it “Galaxies” and it’s available for $2000.00, only kidding, it’s not for sale. It’s priceless. I couldn’t make another one just like it if I tried.

But seriously, stay tuned for more news about my projects for the Greater Newark Maker Faire. I have many more cool drawing machines in the works.

How to Draw a Spiral and Make a Home-made Top

The Newark Maker-Faire is less than two weeks away and I’ve been hard at work finishing up my exhibit Home-made Toys for Girls and Boys. This past weekend I continued assembling toys for display at the show. One such toy is a spiral top described by A. Neely Hall in his book about home-made toys. I created this short video describing how to draw a spiral and build the top.  Get your craft supplies ready and I’ll see you at the Newark Museum Saturday April 30.

2490 Drawings Inspired by Keaton Henson – To Your Health

This animation was inspired by the music of Keaton Henson and Elizabeth Harrod’s beautiful dance performance in the To Your Health video. The animation consists of 2490 4″ x 3″ Sharpie drawings on paper drafted over the course of six months. No drawing appears twice in the sequence.

This animation was a personal project to challenge my patience, technical know-how and artistic skills. I decided to tackle the project during December 2014. After a few test sequences I calculated the project to be complete in June 2015. That calculation was based on each frame taking fifteen seconds to draw; that calculation was not accurate. Many of the intricate drawings required upwards of four minutes to complete. Also, as can be expected, many drawings needed to be redrawn for various reasons.

Thanks to my friend Charlie England for simplifying the process of photographing the individual drawings. Charlie engineered an automated camera shutter and light controller specifically for the task. With one button press several photographs were taken of each drawing with various lighting configurations. These variations provided compositing versatility when assembling the animation on the computer.

I worked on this project on the train during my commute, on the couch in front of the TV, on my Hawaiian vacation and any other place I found to sit to work. The task was relaxing and, for the most part, induced a calm state of mind. My imagination was permitted to wander while my eyes and hands were focused on the task of drawing. While creating this project I learned more than I imagined about drawing, anatomy and motion.

Sketch any 3 dimensional object or scene using a laser pointer

I recently spent a night sleeplessly unable to erase an etching by Albrecht Durer from my mind. The etching illustrates two men working together around a table. The man on the right is drawing a picture of a lute in perspective on a vertical easel. The man on the left is holding a pointer at the end of a string; the opposite end of the string is weighted and threaded through a screw eye in the wall behind the artist.

I found this to be an inventive way to accurately render 3D objects in perspective. I’ve wished to experiment with this technique but was certain I would not find a helper to hold the pointer. I lay in bed imagining various ways to clamp the string to the subject to be drawn. After several iterations of an idea I realized I could mount a laser pointer to a tripod thus eliminating the string holding helper! What a revelation.

This time-lapse video is of my first attempt playing with this idea. I mounted the laser pointer to a tripod and created a hinged door easel which swings the picture in and out of the laser pointer’s beam. The process is relatively clear. Swing the door out of the way of the laser, point the laser at a feature of the object, close the easel in front of the laser beam, mark the point on the canvas, and repeat a zillion times. This experiment proved a feasible way to draw most anything visible in perspective.

Sketching a photograph tracing with a mirror

I found myself with time to experiment with some ideas I have been contemplating lately. Here is the result of one, tracing photographs with a mirror. I realize this has been done a million times before me. I understand certain people would suggest using a mirror is cheating. I am aware of other, similar ways to accomplish this type of assistance. All that aside, I simply wanted to personally experience the task to gain a clearer understanding of what is involved.

First, tracing is not as easy as it seems. I quickly learned the apparatus must be precisely and rigidly constructed. My first attempt had a misaligned reflection which varied depending on what edge of the mirror was used. Second, it’s easier to trace with one eye closed – especially if the mirror isn’t situated precisely. The video is of my second effort which is also the first complete drawing.

The first interesting thing I found to trace was a frozen pizza box in the recycling bin. After adjusting the rig I wanted to draw a portrait, but I couldn’t find a loose portrait of the appropriate size. I headed for my stickers and postcards drawer with hopes of finding something, anything, to trace. I swear I have some Salvador Dali postcards in there somewhere. I found an envelope with a bunch of Spice Girls pictures.

I wanted a portrait. The first portrait I found, Ginger followed by several group shots, then a another close-up of cruddy Ginger. Another Ginger. By the time I got to my girl Mel C I was like, “Good enough”. Tracing the photo required almost an hour. I could have eyeballed it freehand in much less time, but without the precision. I also feel the freehanded drawing would be more dynamic and interesting.

2014 Taste of Country Music Festival Hunter Mountain New York

2014 taste of country music festival hunter mountain new york

This past weekend Amy and I attended the 2014 Taste of Country Music Festival at Hunter Mountain New York. In my defense, and to stay on subject of my woodworking blog, I must say I did take a woodcarving project with me. Only a little woodcarving occurred. I would not have made it far into the venue with box of sharp tools. I chose instead to bring a pocket sized sketchbook and pencil and lounged back and practiced sketching.

The weekend was full of great music. Friday night was a raucous time with Brantley Gilbert, Dierks Bentley and finale of pouring rain. Saturday was a ton of fun with little sun and The Cadillac Three. Craig Morgan kept everyone’s mind off the cool evening temperatures. Randy Houser, abandoning his band and broke down bus in Pittsburgh earlier in the day, treated the crowd by crooning unplugged. Sunday was a sunny scorcher with great tunes provided by Tyler Farr and Thomas Rhett. Thompson Square rounded out the festival delightfully.

We will be returning next year ready to muddy up our tires and boots while camping riverside.