Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Soma Cube

I got an email last month about making a soma cube, a very interesting quantum mechanics reference which for some reason has been a reoccurring subject recently. Fascinating stuff, often merging great science fiction with what is leaning more and more toward science fact. Which begs the question, was Carlos Castendado's early work just a product of this really? Alas, i digress.

Back to the soma cube. This one was to be based on a 60cm cube, of which each piece that makes up the puzzle has three or more of. There are 240 possible ways to put the puzzle together and i've found at least half that many ways to make a giant one! If i thought this was complex when i first received the assignment, i have now been rudely awakened to it's reality.

With 71 three way joins, 25 four ways, 1 five way, and one six way along with 348 connectors not to mention the very complex skins i have to build to fit this frame within, i've wildly underestimated how much time this will take to build!
Naturally, with the making of all props, figuring out the estimate is actually one of the hardest parts of the job. You practically have to build the whole thing mentally, making very detailed drawings and or models to even be able to grasp what you are getting into. As a rule of thumb, i try to charge a certain percentage of the cost according to the materials, though that can get you into trouble as well.

On this job, the client wanted the piece to be portable and easy to assemble, robust and colorful. Was there a way i could make this, like a kite?

Well the answer of course is always yes. Naturally we treat all requests seriously, although only about a third are real. There is never any way of knowing which ones will actually go through with the deal, and many folks are just shopping i suppose, and that's part of my job really, to help figure this thing out. I realized years ago that you can only do your best and whatever comes of it is up to the other party.

Fortunatly these fine folks were up to the task and i got the job. Meanwhile how to do it!

First up was creating the frame. After a long talk with one of my suppliers we rekoned using p200 and joining them into a custom corner joint system would be the strongest. For some odd reason you can't buy these corner joints anywhere so i was going to have to make them. I have an old friend that has a machine shop outside of town, and i went out there to hire him to make the things, but he told me, 'no way! We're way to busy, but you can make them.'

Oh boy!~

So here's what i have made, and they look great! Or at least i think they do!
of course, they are so way labor intensive i can't even begin to think of what i'm being paid an hour to make them at, but no matter, it's fun and they are going to work!
Here's some shots of them being made. I'll be deep into it for the next few days making the skins, which should be pretty nice as the frame looks tight, strong and easy to assemble. All the joins are made but the two most complex, which i can't make as they are going to require some metal magic to work. A five way and a six way, up against a compound corner in what may be one of the most complex shapes i've ever sewn. No problem. More after it occurs.

This is going together nicely. Parts fit well and it looks like there are only going to be two sizes of rods, and very few of the second size.

The problem with projects like this is you are essentially prototyping how to make them, which of course is the hardest part of the whole job. Making the next set would be child's play, but rarely do you get to do that! Never the less it is a challenge and delight to get to do these new things!
Here is the next step, the first cube assembled with out cover, next the cloth enclosure and agonizing over the method of closure and assembly.
like i finally got the corners right! The phase 'sleep on it' sure has new meaning, as every morning i've awakened to new ideas of how to make this work. After countless attempts to make it all fit correctly and without using the cloth intended to make the thing, i've finally got what i think i can live with and will make the whole thing really pop!

It's all in the corners baby! Now for some lunch, and a whole lot of get down to it! Measure three times, cut once! Okay, i wish i could format this a bit better, but what do you want for nothing!? Anyway, here is the first one, precision sewing 101, and not fun to put together, took almost 30 minutes the first time, but i think with practice you could cut that in half. The problem is it all fits perfect, which means there is no room to pull the rods apart to put them together(that makes sense if you build kites). In other words, you need a little room and there just isn't any. I figured out a way to make it worth with not much pain, and without resorting to the Peter Lynn method of massive elbow grease!

I'm right pleased with the look, fit and feel. Once together it is tight and light, although i should have bought black velcro* rats *! Just means you have to put it together correctly, and i just wanted to sit down! The rest should go pretty fast, i'm going to try and knock out the next two tomorrow, so we'll see! The rule on the floor is six feet long.

I don't know what's going on with blogger, as i have the rest of the pictures of this amazing project, and far more of the story to tell.

If there is a limit, i wish the program would let you know before you spend a half hour loading pictures only to have them disappear!
I have no idea if any of this text will line up with any of these pictures, so here goes!

The fellow in the suit is Glen Witney one of the chief master minds behind the Math Midway a traveling carnival of Math made fun. How do i come to have a picture of Mr. Witney you ask, well, i met the gentleman this past weekend after trying to ship the Some Cube to him.

You see, this project went so far out of bounds i'm now calling it the most difficult project i've worked on. No kidding. How a seemingly straight forward build job turned into this is still a puzzle, but after meeting some of the other puzzle builders for the Math Midway i feel a lot better, as it seems these things are far from simple.

At any rate, falling further and further behind, the last two weeks saw me putting in an amazing amount of hours, with the realization on or around June 5th that i was out of my mind, and with the deadline looming large i went into high gear and never slept more than 4.5 hours at a time, with some power naps thrown in for good measure! Still, by friday June 12th i was not quite done and could see early on that i was going to miss UPS. I got on the internet to see if there were any shipping options, and there were, Southwest ships, and flys within 16 miles of the shipping address i was given by the client. Having done counter to counter airline shipping in the past, i knew i could make this happen.

Another all nighter, and off i go Saturday morning to Jacksonville to the Southwest shipping office.

'Did i make it in time?' i asked the counter person, who asked me where the package was going, i told her, and she said, 'May i see your TSA documentation please?' i was like' . . excuse me?' Well it turns out, you have to have some BS documents from the Thousands Standing Around agency headed by this idiot who couldn't secure Wal-Mart, Kip Hawley. I guess Mr. Hawley didn't know that the airplanes that crashed on 9/11 were not brought down by packages shipped, but by actual people who got on the plane, but hey, somebody must be shipping, how else do you explain our inability to take any luggage with us any more!?
So i ask the lady if i can go get on the airplane with the packages, and she tells me sure, if i buy a ticket! Brilliant! Rules and regulations that make sense, i love the new police state!

Nearing a breakdown of epic proportions, i call the client, Glen Witney, who asks me where i am. I tell him i'm in Jacksonville Florida, and he asks me if i can in fact get on the airplane and bring the package, which is in fact exactly what i did!

I had a lovely time in New York City at the Math Midway, where i met the whole team that put together a most amazing show, which was absolutely jammed packed with people all day Sunday in Washington Park. In fact, somehow, the kids mobbed the cubes and pretty much destroyed them, but that's a tale for another day! For now i'm just happy to be back home, cleaning up, starting the next project(i'll post as i go)and catching my breathe!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The making of Sippy Bird!

So this is a story of kite passion and how it manifests in this world of chaos and disaster to help put the perma-grin back on our faces.

All names are the same to protect the guilty.

So this friend of mine gets together with this guy in Malaysia named Ceewan. They design a kite.
Now Jon fly's this beautiful kite at a kite festival and Scott sees it there and is blown away! Scott thinks, 'how can i get this kite, i must build one of these kites' and has a minor brain fart and tells Jon, 'hey, you know wouldn't it be a great idea if all of us built one of those, and we could all swap each others kite and each end up with two really cool kites!?' .....and that's exactly what is happening.

I just finished my first one and wow, i can't say enough about it! What a fun project! I'd seen Scott's and Jon's out in the desert about a month ago, and have been working on my one since before that even. In fact i'm going to put some pictures up here that tell the story of the build. I've never done this before so this is also an exercise in blog building which Telverston says is good for me to do. So be it.

For some reason i had this idea to do a bird, maybe inspired by Scott Skinners awesome Ivanpah Owl kites, of which there are two known in the world. I knew i was going to be in some stiff competition for this and wanted something simple and doable since i was using basicly scrap icky from long ago and building the kite in between real work.

I started this in March! Drew a half dozen sketches, all in scale and put down on the floor a full size outline. Using pieces of cloth from back in the day of Jordan Air Sport kites, and old cloth from various projects i managed to piece together what Ruth now dubs, Sippy Bird!

This was sewn on my original garage sale singer, bought for $100 in 1989 that has sewn and been used to teach numerous people to sew, all sorts of kites big and small. Still kicking!

I initially tried to put it together inside, once it was all sewn, but that proved to be impossible, so i took some rods out and headed outside, there to be interrupted by passing motorist that wanted to know what it was. "Is that a wind surfing sail?" Then the phone started ringing, and next thing you know i have to leave to meet Chef Carl, and head Blade 2 Blade guru to get my check, go to the bank, get lunch, and man, am i ever gonna get to fly this kite???

By the time i made it to our secret kite field in the center of our town, Gainesville, Florida, it was the heat of the day. The clouds were mounting for the afternoon thunderstorm(remember when you could set your clock by these?)but i was determined to get this up. Assembly was pretty swift, following Jon's instructions, though some of my tolerances are a bit tight(looks good though!).

I actually took a picture of the kite as it left my hand with my iphone, though i don't include that here as i called Tim E. and he came by in what seemed like minutes with his very nice camera and took all of these outdoor pictures, thank you Tim!

The kite ascended nicely on the very swirly, squirrelly wind, found itself up in a low level and just planted itself there! I wanted to sit, and knew i had a chair with me, so looked for something to tie it off to, could only find the weeds, did that, went to the kite van, got chair, drink, and hat, and sat down for an afternoon of flying.
Tim and Ruth along with Tommy and a passing friend all seem to show up at the same time, and hung for about an hour. The kite was stable as all get out, sometimes flying straight over my head, but always behaving well.

Finally the storm from the east moved in behind me, the wind came up big, broke the top center spar, though the kite didn't seem to mind. I got it down as quickly as i could, had a bit of trouble taking it apart, as now the wind was gusting big and all over the place, but managed to take it apart without ripping it, get it in the van, and blast off to Tim's and get these photos.

Pure Aoxomoxoa! If you'd like to buy one of these kites, contact Jon or Marianne at SkyBurner kites! tell 'em i sent you!

Sippy Bird!

This just In!

I just found a number of super good photos of Scott Skinners entry: Scott actually completed his at NABX this year, with the help of Jon.

Here's Scott checking out the bridle and tension on the sail. You get a sense of how big the kite is with this. Also here with the new Dave Culp looking on.

So now how does it fly? It was amazing and the first time i'd seen one fly. Just glued itself to the sky. I can't wait to see some more of them. It's going to be interesting to see who comes up with what, and where they end up. I really think Scottie's got something going here.

Wonder if this kite has a name? I can see some butterfly's and
wonder if that's a bird i see in there? The work is incredible, and just makes you sort of take a deep breathe and wonder when Scott sleeps. Nice work Skinner-san.

Pura AoxomoxoA~!

I'll try to get more photos up from around the kite globe as they come in! Stay tuned.

and here is Jose Sainz stunning entry into this little party! Way to go Jose'!

I'm just sayin'!