A calming moment. A few hours cutting gears in the shop for the Bipolar Brain! Put some tunes on, relax, but stay focused!
We were at the OWCA carving competition and show called "Magic in Wood". We had a fairly meagre display this year only taking pieces that had not been shown there before with the exception of one piece that was there 4 years ago. One recent piece went directly to a client and was not available for the show. Good to see a lot of old friends again.
Next Sunday we are off to the the Hamilton Wood Show at the Ancaster Fair Grounds where Conquergood Creative will be giving a "Making Automata" presentation at 1:15 pm. Hope to see some of you there! I will also be at the OWCA display in the carving area for a bit before and after the seminar.
Here are Misery and Manic sitting in the brain cavity cockpit. There has been some colour added to the interior but more will be added in the coming days. You can also see the LCD panels they use to survey the world along with a couple of cup holders. (Who's brain doesn't have room for cup holders!) All the active link connections for the hands. feet, head, eyelids and eyes have been installed. Most remain hidden in this photograph. More bits need to be added yet. Keep following!
In order to make the joysticks work I need to shorten the actuator movement down into the mechanism. If I extended the lever arm straight down into the mechanism the movement length would be too long. So I fabricated a lever arm to change the direction into a vertical movement which would be easier to configure. To do this I built the lever into the arm of the chair to hide it. Because of the tight space it was necessary to hollow out space for the linkages.
The link to the polar bear's hands also had to be installed during assembly. The following photos show the assembly process.
I think I have mentioned a couple of times that when you build eyes into a head it often becomes a necessary step to install them part way through the assembly. In this case the eyelids have to be installed from the back of the eye block which interferes with the construction of the control console inside the brain. So here is our head with eyes installed. Some finishing needed where the upper and lower block join yet to come though. When I thinking about eye colour Frank Sinatra came on the radio so he became "Old Blue Eyes.
Had a few distractions keeping me from the shop the past little while. Some reno work, family Thanksgiving and a cold, to relate a few. However there been a few escapes to the workshop to work on the bipolar brain. I've been working on the basswood head consisting of the ring attached to the eyeblack and the two top lobes of the brain that open. There will be more finishing yet but here is what is done so far.
As I sat in front of the TV painting an automata chair I got an email last evening that said water was pouring out from under my garage door in Toronto, almost two hours away. Forty minutes later I expedited someone to enter our house and shut off the water and jumped in the car to drive home. I thought to myself this will cut into my shop time for sure!
Ruined Laminate flooring, wet carpets, sagging drywall ceilings - what could be more fun! All over a SS braided hose on the kitchen sink tap that split after more than twenty five years of service while no one was home. So I'll be doing computer work at home this week while the house dries out and dehumidifies. It wasn't part of the plan. These are lifes little moments!
The bear named Misery in "The Bipolar Brain" suffers from depression. It an attempt to visually impart that in an automata scene I had to find a posture, or a look, that suggested depression. It was a bit of a challenge to say the least for something you can't see. My depiction would be one of withdrawal. Misery has lifted her feet from the control pedals, removed her hands from the joysticks, and drawn her legs up into a partial fetal position. She lays her right arm on her stomach in a lethargic way and drapes her left arm over her head to hide closed eyes from the light.
I decided the arms should be made separately rather than shaped as part of the body block. It would allow me to impart more detail on the head under the arm and finish it similar to her partners head. Automata characters are allowed to be cartoonish so any "detached" appearance is acceptable me here.
The challenge is shaping the arm starting from the flats left on the shoulders of the body, to where you want the hands to be positioned. You can sketch this all you want but for me the reality is starting with a rough oversized shape with the matching shoulder flat and cutting it down between multiple test fittings.
The photos below show the bear's right arm completed and the starting shape of the the left arm. We will follow the fabrication of the left arm in this blog. You can see the arm block as it was started on the left photo. The flat for the shoulder has been sanded. The block is thick at the hand end to allow me to make adjustments as I go. On the right you can see some shaping completed. I am trying to maintain clearance under the arm to allow the hand to sit flat on the face as I go. The bottom of the hand is shaped to match the profile of the top of the head. As I work I remove material from the bottom of the arm. When satisfied I remove material from the back of the shoulder to match the bear's back.
After more shaping, sanding, and cutting fur into the arm, on the left below you can see both arms and the body block coated in a white sand-able sealer. On the left is is a photo with the pieces lying in their final position after a first coat of white paint. At this point you have to start painting the details on the head that will be hidden under the left arm. Once assembled this area will be inaccessible to paint easily.
So here is Misery assembled, sitting in one of the early prototype chairs. Hopefully she suggests depression to you.
Back in the shop and I finished the eye setup as intended. Two photos for you, one shows the the back, flush sanding completed and you may notice a little relief on the lower block that lets the eyelids open just a little bit further. The eyeballs are in. The other photo is a front view. This chunk is done now until top works assembly so it is going to bed for a while.
The other chore for today was to checkout if I could make the head opening action work as I had imagined. The photo below shows a prototype mockup using two scraps of pine. I decided to use SOSS hinges as they are completely hidden when closed and very compact. They can be a little stiff to operate so I wanted to try them out. The upper piece represents one half of the top of the part of the head that opens. I figured it would be about the same weight as the piece of basswood I would use when it is all hollowed out. In the front right you can see what will be the operating cable. This one is actually a heavy aileron control cable used by model airplane builders made by DU-BRO. To work effectively it relies on being constrained in a tube so that the cable will not bend when being used in the push position. You cannot see the cable as it is embedded in the blocks on the front. The cable end shown is not contained, as it needs to bend to follow the attachment link as the head piece opens. The more of the cable that is in a sheath, the better it will operate, so this will need to be carried down into the actuation point in the mechanism. For straight sections, adding solder to make it rigid also helps.
Anyway, it is a little stiff, but workable. I'll see if there is something I can do to lessen up the hinge.
Along with a few other distracting tasks today, I got back into the shop and worked on the eyblock sculpting. Things have progressed along. I added a thicker base block as I mentioned in the last blog. It is still not permentantly attached and will not be until the eyeballs and eyelids are painted and installed. For the shaping I put a small screw and a couple of pins to hold the pieces together. The line at the nose is not blended and sanded smooth yet and it will also have to wait until things are being assembled.
Yesterday I promised a photo of the lever arms on the back of the eyelids. Here it is! you can see that I will need to sand the back surface so all the pieces are flush when glued to the rest of the head. This is another assembly critical tasks as this has to be done before the eyelids are permanently installed. I will do this and set the eyes to the right depth tomorrow and then set things aside while I work on another part of the project. Might be the head ring or doing a test setup of the hinges. I will see how the spirit moves me.
Automata is a creative blend of my life interests , engineering, art and woodworking.