Sunday, March 30, 2008

Ugggh. I'm turning into a computer zombie. Sketchup is a bit addictive. I've been sitting in front of this little screen for 5 or 6 hours. Ugggh.I've modeled the forearm skin (I'm not really super committed to this geometry or anything, just wanted to see what it would look like with some "meat") and thickened the palm "bones" (or metacarpals). And, this image is shown with "x-ray" faces, so you can see inside. Neato!

Also, Justin did get the Perkins diesel. Cool. I'll be picking it up at Maker Faire in May.

Time to rest the eyes.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I've been working on nothing other than this hand for most of this week. I usually do one or two hours of design in Vellum and Sketchup in the morning, and then crank all day in the shop. The main reason I'm going so hard is that I am trying to get some momentum going on this thing before things get crazy for me this spring. I just learned that I'll be attending the Maker Faire in San Mateo in May, and I have a possible TV show brewing too which might take me away from Taos for lots of time if it ends up happening.... so you can see why I am cramming in the welding hours now, while I have them.

The Sketchup model is progressing. I try to stay a few steps ahead of actual fabrication with the digital model, so I can be sure of what I am doing before I start butchering steel. One thing you may notice in this image (besides the obvious fact that I've drawn most of the Hand) is that I reversed the arcs in the forward outriggers, so they now look like the rear ones. I did that because I felt that the outriggers, in their first design, took too much visual attention away from the Hand itself. The ability to view the whole sculpture in 3D digitally before building, which alerted me to this issue, has proved to be an outstanding advantage to working with Sketchup.

I spent all day today making the forward outriggers. Here you can see the arced top-member, which I arced by making lots of cuts ALMOST all the way through, and then pulling the material together, closing all the cuts, and then welding them closed.

I finished one forward outrigger. Well, almost finished... there's more stuff that will happen in the future, but it's finished for now.

I'm beat, so now I'm gonna watch LOST and fall asleep.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Things are starting to happen......

This first picture illustrates a few things.... First, I've rearranged the shop somewhat to make a big open space in which to build the hand. I've laid tape measures down on the floor to show the approximate placement of the core of the base (illustrated in the first Google Sketchup drawing posted earlier), the forward outriggers, and the arm (extending into the distance). Also, near the top center of the picture you can see a manual chain-fall type hoist, which I installed on a 40-foot i-beam running down the spine of the shop. This will be very handy for picking up and moving the incredibly heavy pieces of the hand. So basically, I've made some significant changes to the shop to accommodate the exciting work to come!

I should also mention that there are two ways in which this image is a meaningful continuation of the last blog, Robots in the Dust. First off, this is really the first good image I;ve posted of the inside of the shop, which was never seen in Robots. And second, I've reverted to my old favorite habit of stitching images together to get a bigger image, only this time I'm experimenting with a pretty cool, free image stitching software called Hugin. I think it worked pretty damn well.

Now this photo is from a few days later.... Here you can see I've actually begun meaningful fabrication!!! This is the beginning of the base core. Even with all my calculating and drawing, this element turned out to be somehow significantly bigger than I imagined it would! Believe it or not, I think that what this means is that the Hand is going to be even bigger than previously intended... probably 28 or 30 feet from elbow to fingertips, instead of 25 feet as previously designed.

The round stock that I need for the main pivot elements should arrive by truck Wednesday or Thursday of this week.

Stay tuned....

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Google Sketchup shenanigans continue unabated! The model has come a long way since the last post. I will hopefully be modeling the actual hand soon.

I finally got the first steel delivery! That's a bundle of 20-foot material on the forklift, and a stack of 40-foot material in the foreground.... (yes, 40 feet! Twice as long as what's on the lift!)

I must say that although life in rural New Mexico really does kick ass over life in LA in most ways... getting one's hands on materials is definitely NOT one of those ways. This material was delivered a day late, and some other things I'm still waiting for are going to be several days late!!

Oh well, at least I don't have any neighbors to complain about noise!

Actual fabrication to begin this afternoon!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I've been playing around in Google SketchUp (a very cool, free, program) and beginning to model the Hand.

So far I have only modeled the central core of the base section, as this is the part that I am going to start working on first.

Although SketchUp is an inherently 3D program (which means the models are all in 3D - you can zoom around and view them from whatever side you like) the best I can do on this here blog is to post a snapshot..... so here:

Also, my good friend and co-conspirator Justin Gray may very well have found the engine that will run the Power Unit. It is a Perkins 1104C-44T four cylinder Turbo Diesel, with somewhere around 80-90 HP.

Here's a pic:Keen observers will notice that this already has a hydraulic pump attached, so.... if everything checks out on this unit (and we are able to find a starter motor for the engine to replace the one that is mysteriously absent...) this could be a very sweet find.

It's Sunday afternoon, and I am going to make some lists of the steel I will be ordering tomorrow so I can start building later this week (!!!!)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Hand of Man to begin soon!!!

I guess I just can't keep away from blogging....

The last blog, the epic and engrossing Robots In The Dust, has pretty much served its purpose, and now it's time for something new.

Every year the Burning Man festival funds a relatively small number of art installations for display out on the playa for that year's event. Sometime in February I assembled a proposal called "The Hand Of Man" to be considered for this funding.

To my surprise and great joy, even amid stiff competition, my proposal was selected as one of 40 funded projects!

This will be a colossal undertaking, and I think I will be spending pretty much every minute between now and approximately August 18th designing, building, or thinking about this project.

In short, The Hand Of Man will be an enormous (25 feet long) human right hand and forearm, hydraulically actuated, and made of steel. It will be controllable from an ergonomically accurate "glove" controller which ANYONE can stick their right hand into. Anything this lucky person does with their flesh-and-blood hand will be accurately and quickly reproduced (but with thousands of times the amount of force) by the giant hand. (If this quick description was not enough for your hungry mind, click here for the text of the full proposal.)

I will begin materials acquisition the week of March 17th, and should actually be beginning to cut and weld this monstrosity together late that week (that's NEXT week!!!! I'm so EXCITED!!!) If you're reading this, and you have a burning desire to cut, grind, and weld gigantic pieces of steel together... in other words if you want to help on this epic art journey, well, don't be shy. Email me ( or just come on over!!!

At this point there are obviously no pictures to show, but I can show the latest drawings, which I've been working on feverishly.

I think that just like Robots In The Dust, this blog will probably incorporate other exciting happenings that don't strictly fit into the stated topic, so if you are just dying to know what is going on with Christina and me (and I know you are!) you might just find out here!

Next blog entry: The TV piece that will be done about the Hand, (sorry, I just can't tell you any more right now!) and the beginnings of the Hand, including the custom-built Hydraulic Power Unit!! (Oooh, don't Hydraulic Power Units just get you all excited?!?!?)