Thursday, March 27, 2008

Rolling Ball Sculpture - Kinetic Art

The first time in recent memory when I was presented with a large scale piece of rolling ball kinetic art was at the Indianapolis Children's Museum. They have a pretty killer setup in there (really need to find out who the artist is) that I first saw when I went with my nieces three or so years ago. I could have watched it all day.

I don't know what has tripped my brain lately, but this sort of artwork has been on my mind. I have some parts from the Chevelle that we're not using and won't need, plus the other automotive gack that gearheads accumulate like the crap magnets that we are. A few weeks ago I finally cut up the old ten bolt rear end out of the Chevelle after letting it sit out on the back stoop for a couple of years. For a very long time I had planned on using those tubes for a sculpture like the one I'd seen at the Children's Museum.

Thing is, I didn't know what I was talking about. I mean, I had no name for it, no frame of reference. I kept telling people, "I'm going to use this stuff to make one of those ball things like I saw at the Children's Museum." Fortunately for me, I have some cool friends, and my buddy Jay kept talking to me about it. A couple of nights ago out of nowhere he sends me some Youtube links like this:

Is this stuff incredible or WHAT??!!! The guy's name is Eddie Boes, and he does incredible work. He's an engineer, and he brings together his engineering skills and some pretty fantastic creative abilities to make these outstanding moving sculptures utilizing rolling balls.

After viewing this and following up on his web site info, I was off and running. I looked through his entire web site, sent him some geeky fanatical-sounding email, and then whipped through a bunch of other sites on the net looking for more info. I found out that what I'd been talking about is called "kinetic art," and that the style I was specifically interested in is called "rolling ball sculpture," or RBS. I found a bunch of other sites with creations made from a number of different materials including wood, plastic, metal, and even Legos!

After work I had dinner with Jay and I ended up talking about my idea some more. He offered some other thoughts, and with all that in mind I decided to do some real world research and see what I had and what I was going to need.

I need: a set of billiard balls. I can get some used off of Ebay for between fifteen and thirty bucks. I may try and score some used ones near to home, or even new ones, as half the price of a cheap set of billiards is the shipping charges. There's no getting around that they're plain heavy.

What I have: good junk! I wandered out to the garage with a tape measure, note pad, and pen. Check out what I found.

GM axle tubes

My Chevelle ten bolt axle tubes. These were a given for the project, and the pieces that really, um, started the ball rolling? (Sorry.)

Motorcycle fender

A cheesy old front motorcycle fender off of my Triumph chopper (oh, I miss her sometimes...sniff) that would make a pretty good turn for the sculpture. I'll have to remove some bracketry, same as with the axle tubes.

GM brake drums

These are brake drums off of the same rear end. I may use them. I'm not decided on these at all yet. They do make a wonderful noise when they're hit, though, and that's a good thing!

Dart drive shaft

The coup de grace! I forgot all about having this thing! It's the drive shaft out of a '71 Dart Swinger four door that my buddy got from his grandpa when we were in high school. After he wore it out he turned it over to my younger brother, who pulled the motor. This thing has nearly four feet of tubing to it - that's eight feet if cut in two pieces lengthwise. Plenty of material!

Regulation billiards measure 2 1/4" inches. The axle tubes are 2 1/2", the driveshaft 3", and the fender a generous 4 1/2". I'll have no problem using any of these.

Currently I guess some immediate problems are that I don't know how to weld for crap. The tubes are cast iron, which I guess requires brazing, but I want to use them anyway somehow. The rest of the stuff is mild steel (well, not the drums - cast iron again), so those pieces should be okay for general welding purposes...although that fender is chromed. Hmmm...

I need more spare parts. I need welding knowledge and practice. Uh...I need a welder (a real one, as my buzzbox is crap). I need a few more tools. I need some space. I need to start planning a specific design (all I know now is that it will have a chain lift). I want it to have sound elements to it, too. It's going to make noise in some way or other, probably in more way than one.

Stay tuned. I think it's going to be an interesting summer...

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