Introduction: Drawing Machine

Picture of Drawing Machine

How I made my drawing machine, and in the process made artists obsolete. When I first moved into my new studio, I had no important projects looming, and wasn't yet comfortable in the space. I built this "Drawing Machine" so that I could be productive, but not really. I would set it up, turn it on and then read Sculpture Magazine for a while as the machine did its jiggly business. This project was built using junk found around the studio for a cost of $0.00. It utilizes an old power drill with an offset cam in the chuck for motion.

Step 1: The Machine

Picture of The Machine

Essentially, it's a power drill with an offset cam in the chuck clamped to a box. The cams were made using a hole saw on 1/8 inch copper sheet, with a thick copper stem hard soldered off center. A good deal of flexibility is available in this detail, as a lot of cam configurations can be used. The pics make it pretty clear how the rest of the thing is made. It's not rocket science, it's art.

Step 2: The Stylus

Picture of The Stylus

I hot-glued a bunch of pencil leads onto various objects: a super ball, the guts of a baseball, a tennis ball, some rawhide, and to other pencil leads. This is one of the factors that will determine what the finished drawing will look like.

Step 3: The Fence

Picture of The Fence

In order to keep the stylus on the paper, a fence must be built on the face of the machine, I simply used some scrap cardboard and duct tape. Modifying this step will also greatly affect the end result. The fence probably shouldn't be too much bigger than the size of the paper, but can allow or restrict the motion of the stylus however you see fit.

Step 4: The Drawings

Picture of The Drawings

Once you have everything in place, plug in your drawing machine and marvel at the wonder of the artistic process. The machine can be clamped down to a table, which will restrict the motion of the machine, or it can be let to run free around your shop. Make sure you have adequate extension cord allowance if you opt for the latter, and it's a good idea to check on the little bugger every so often. Mine tended to wedge itself quite firmly under tables if I wasn't careful.

The possibilities are endless. I've since modified this machine to accomodate 20 by 30 inch paper, and I've also made teeny tiny drawings. Some other ideas include using a sharp, steel stylus on copper plate with an acid resist applied. The marks made by the machine would then be etched in an acid bath. Monoprints anyone? Or the machine itself could be used AS the stylus to make super huge drawings.

Here are but a few of the drawings I made using this machine.


bhanon815 (author)2015-04-26

I did something similar to this but with a blowdryer and crayons and let them melt then blow off great effect!

firesketch (author)2008-09-02

Any pics with the coloured pencils? Iz nize! : D

thundrepance (author)firesketch2015-01-16

i'm with firesketch .... well?? bet those are beautiful! <8^)

triceratops (author)2013-12-26

Awesome work!

coolsista9 (author)2013-07-09

Smart idea, I'd never be able to think of that, ever.

roboman2444 (author)2010-03-13

Cool, but it looks as thought the stylus hugs the wall, maybe making it so the paper is curved so its slightly lower in the center will help.

felixfatts (author)2009-04-13

you could easily make this concept more "artistic" by make the amount of vibration variable, and putting a good magnet in the stylus by which you can loosely direct the path of the stylus. or have the center of the stylus be paint and the tips be straws with flow control

natethegreat88 (author)2009-03-14

These look more like "How to make your own mace" out of household items or like just replace those pencils with some nails and you have a deadly weapon that could possibly be a shuriken type weapon. (author)2008-08-10

you should check out my website, . I started building similar drawing machines, but later found other great ways of visualizing stuff, like wind and so forth. Really nice works

kylemcdonald (author)2008-08-03

This is a really beautiful example of physical generative art. I'd like to see some larger scale and multi-colored drawings.

hay_jumper (author)2007-01-11

Thank you all for the great feedback and ideas. As I said, the potential for this idea is limitless, and you all have given me some great ideas.

The only problem I have found with this project is that with out the correct blend of elements, the drawings might come out looking very muddy. Not that there is anything wrong with muddy. I, however, lean heavily towards the minimalists and the abstract expressionists. Not so much the color-field types. But that is an issue of personal taste.

Screaminscott mentioned a bit about putting a raised design underneath which I liked. It is not really noticeable in the photo of the drawing (let's call it) "diagonal marks", but the texture if the wood underneath does show, so that idea yields positive results.

Kiteman, I'm not sure your ball-bearing idea would work so well, as the motion of the machine isn't so violent that a copper sheet would be marred. I could be wrong, and I would love to see images of you proving me wrong.

Mamofo: Yes, they can.

xxxafterglow (author)hay_jumper2008-04-10

Maybe the key to making it minimalist is to restrict either the movement of the stylus (e.g. bigger stylus), the number of markmakers (less pencils) or the amount of time spent. Or you know, sharpen the pencils a lot or use really hard 8Hs or 16Hs. Maybe if there were a way to rig the motion-maker way up high and have the stylus swinging from a string - similar idea but you are limited only by the size of your studio and maybe you'll have to get some friends to grab/release the stylus. Wow this was posted more than a year ago. How's the machine doing?

pachanka (author)2007-04-11

"art weapon", now thats a cool concept

Tobita (author)pachanka2008-03-20

for the art-attack tv series:P

heavy.metal.nguyen (author)2008-02-06

Hasn't this been posted already? It's nice though.

Yeah, I posted it over a year ago, it just got featured (again) by the editing staff. Thanks for your astute observation.

Yeah I was wondering why it was at the front of the list. Nice word: astute. Have to use that more often. Makes me sound smart.

Zengineer1618 (author)2008-02-06

Interesting. What if you didn't use a drill ,but instead put the fence assembly on top of a big speaker and then played music /noise/vocals through the speaker? I wonder what kind of images the speaker vibes would create?

technoplastique (author)2007-10-16

I really love the idea of using something like this in a collage or as the base for a drawing. You could use colored pencils. Or exacto knives and film a horror film...

Lord Of Mystra (author)2007-09-14

very cool! *goes drillnapping*

malenamalena (author)2007-08-27

um, i take it you are an artist? i teach at a university and am guessing you know about the 'historical' drawing machines, no? if you want, i can refer you to artists who have done this in decades past...but if you read sculpture mag then you probably already know???

Canookian (author)2007-06-03

Heh. At first glance, I'd thought that you've come up with a contraption from Stephen King's 'The Tommyknockers'

Kiteman (author)2007-01-07

Another styus idea: use a hot pin to poke holes in a ping-pong ball, then use a sringe to fill it with pigment of some kind (paint, ink, etc). If it drainss out too quickly, add cornflower to thicken it. Or why not colour in the whole sheet of paper with pencil, then let a heavy eraser bounce around in there for a while? Or put a handful of iron filings in there for a while, then switch it off and mist with water. Lay another sheet of damp paper over the top, then leave the "sandwich" in a plastic bag for a day or two until the filings rust and stain the paper - you will have a pair of mirror images - then let the paper dry and brush the filings off.

StepsoftheSun (author)Kiteman2007-01-18

Various hues of thickened paint in several ping-pong balls sounds like a great idea! Have you tried building one of these, Kiteman? And as an aside to the author, "Dueling Styluses--a Battle of Wills" had me laughing so hard...

Kiteman (author)StepsoftheSun2007-01-19

No, my Making is usually limited to ideas by lack of space and excess of kack-handedness.

StepsoftheSun (author)Kiteman2007-05-24

Haha, sorry to hear that.

abbiegrrl (author)2007-05-08

Wow, that reminds me of a....plasma-something from an old sci-fi movie! ;o) cool idea.

T3h_Muffinator (author)2007-04-08

Hey! That's quite interesting! Nice job man! you should crush up some chalk and put it in between two pieces of paper, and let one of your styluses bounce around. The chalk would get compressed and smudge on the paper, resulting in a very original piece of art!

poulw (author)2007-03-19

As process documentation it does hold some interest. However the beat of the drill is a single note thing and therefore the picts don't hold reward prolonged attention. Find a way to make this polyrhythmic and you'll be on to something. ps- get a job (kidding) yur pal paul

royalestel (author)2007-01-22

hayjumper, I want to cultivate as much creativity as you've obviously got. Any hints?

royalestel (author)royalestel2007-02-27

No sarcasm. I really think this is very creative and I'd like to know if you have any hints on how to cultivate creativity in one's self.

Fenwick (author)2007-02-26

You could put coasters under the paper and get rings. That's be cool.

sinner_93 (author)2007-02-24

why dont u patent this wonderful machine? you can fill some paint in ping pong ball and attach a few straws.....

NumberX (author)2007-02-22

I assume that those cams are da bomb? (Get it? You named them Fat Man and Little Boy.)

hlumbard (author)2007-02-21

I want to see a youtube vid of this thing!

lemonie (author)2007-02-12

For another idea - heat-sensitive (e.g. facsimile) paper and a hot-lump (of e.g. charcoal). You would cover the paper in aluminium foil to prevent burning & ash/carbon deposits. Then again, regular unprotected paper would produce something interesting(?)

pfred1 (author)2007-01-13

It looks like toast!

frankenchicken (author)2007-01-11

nifty idea... One suggestion to possibly make it even better... You should try making your "pencil ball" thingy with different colors. So when it is running, you will get different "pixels" and it would possibly be able to be even more Rorschach like (you know the ink blot guy.. Rorschach's ink blot tests).

screaminscott (author)2007-01-09

Another idea might be to put a rasied design under the paper, and see how that affects the marks on top of the paper. It might come out something like a rubbing or something completely unexpected.

Kiteman (author)screaminscott2007-01-11

How about a compressible pad (like a piece of camping roll-mat), laid over with a sheet of copper? Replace the stylus with a ball-bearing, and hammer out your design.

crapflinger (author)2007-01-09

throw a couple (or more) charcoals (the art kind OR the BBQ kind) or pastels in there and let them rattle around paint your cat's feet then throw it in the box on top...turn the drill on (this has the added bonus of making nice designs on your floor/carpet/furniture/ceiling/face as well) it would also be nifty to keep the drill on the base the way it is to offer the up and down vibration...but then maybe use another drill with another offset cam pointing upwards (instead of horrizontal like you have the one in the base) that would cause the entire top of the contraption (you'd have to make a seperate top for the tray) to move around in a circle...adding a bit more randomness to the mix

timbudtwo (author)2007-01-08

Very creative, but why?

mabufo (author)2007-01-08

Chimps can paint.

mbolding (author)2007-01-08

very nice

brob (author)2007-01-08

I think the pencil balls are amazing. The project is cool too but the pencil balls look like some kinda art weapon. Great work.

crestind (author)2007-01-07

That's really cool. The drawing isn't shabby either.

PetervG (author)2007-01-07

Thats really creative.

Danny (author)2007-01-07

i like it rearly good job

mrmath (author)2007-01-07

I bet you could sell these for lots of money! Pretty cool idea. Here's an idea. Put in the big chuck, and let it go with one color. Then put in the litte guy and a different color stylus. Maybe work with one stylus style in one color, then switch to another. One of your pictures was a ring, another was a diagnal slash. The complement each other well.

About This Instructable




Bio: Cheating death for a living, since the day I was born.
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