I was inspired to create a machine shop by my first exposure to
Once the shop was set up, I then used the equipment to make other things:
While visiting a small local boat show with my aunt and uncle, I saw a canoe and
a sail boat that contained car batteries. When I asked why they had car
batteries, I was told "to make sure that they do not blow away". The
skin-on-frame construction techniques used produced structures that were so
light that this was a serious possibility. I purchased a kit and built this 12
foot canoe that only weighs 12 pounds: you can pick it up with a single finger.
The skin is dacron empregnated with spar varnish: it is translucent, so you can
see the water through the side of the canoe, or watch lily pads as the canoe
moves over them.
Ball Chain Sculptures
I visited the Hood Museum at Dartmouth and saw the amazing machines built by
Arthur Ganson. His work inspired me to design and build a variation on his Ball
Chain Sculpture. While his creation is entirely made of metal, mine uses a lot
of wood and slate.
The idea is to build a small water fountain, substituting ball chain for the
water. The ball chain is "pumped" from a "pool" in the basin up and out a
spout. Here is the gear that I fabricated to pump the chain:
The wood is routed out to allow the chain to travel, and to accept the gear:
Here is the wood with the gear in place
A variety of chain paths and spout geometries were tried. At first, I routed square "races" in which the chain traveled, and trapped the chain in place with plexiglass, but eventually I started to route out channels with a circular cross-section to eliminate the glare of the plexiglass.
The result is fascinating for a number of reasons. With the chain driven at
about one ball per second, the mechanism makes a gentle clicking sound,
reminiscent of a grandfather clock. The "pool" of chain has to re-arrange itself
to allow each ball to descend to get to the drive gear, so the pool slowly
undulates in a somewhat mesmerizing fashion.
This movie shows one of the ball chain sculptures running, while
this movie shows the chain moving in the track, up close and
this movie shows the chain moving on the top of the slate.
I've played guitars since I was a teenager. I discovered the "headless"
Steinberger guitars, and was fascinated by them because of their stability and
because they are so easy to transport. I bought a few of them, and then wanted
to design and build my own. My main interest was to try different pickup
configurations, to reduce the visual impact of the pickups and emphasize the
exposed wood grain. I also wanted to use polyphonic outputs (hex pickups) to
allow more complex sound processing.
I chose a body style similar to the Steinberger "P" body, purchased a graphite
neck, a bridge, some lacewood, and came up with my first guitar. It incorporates
an off-the-shelf Roland internal pickup system (the black band above the
bridge). The bridge, a Trans-Trem, is unique in that one can increase the string
tension in such a way that the notes transpose up or down while the instrument
stays in tune.
For my second guitar, I decided to use a "Ghost" hex piezo pickup system; the
picups mount in each bridge saddle. To do that, I had to build the bridge
itself in my shop.
I created a small magnetic levitation demonstration, which uses one magnet
(hidden inside the structure) to levitate the smaller magnet. The effect works
only because of the graphite which surrounds the smaller magnet. Interesting,
but not dramatic enough to manufacture.
I created these stamp boxes out of lacewood when I needed a stamp box. The top
attaches to the rest of the box with a magnetic closure
The moment I saw the Snelson Tower at one of the Smithsonian museums in
Washington, DC, I was fascinated. His tower uses the principle of "tensegrity"
to suspend aluminum poles in the air. A friend and I managed to create a
similar structure, although Snelson's work is much more dramatic and pleasing to
the eye than is our effort.