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In our hectic modern lives, there's no escape from constant connectivity and goal pursuit. The X-Y-Zen Garden demands concentration, giving you no choice but to focus on the here and now.

It consists of a wooden base, a custom wooden pulley system, brass tubing, and some brass hardware that all come together to make a manual machine that works like a classic Etch-A-Sketch using sand as the drawing medium.

This project was made mostly with hand tools, but I used a laser cutter to make the pulleys and some of the fussier parts because it's easier, but you could make this entire project in any basic wood shop. It took about 24 hours of total work to complete.

Step 1: Concept

When I was a kid, I asked my dad what he wanted for Christmas when he was little. He told me he wanted an Etch-A-Sketch, but he never got one because they didn't have any money. So for Christmas last year, I decided to make him one, sort of. My dad's also a martial artist and is generally fascinated by Japanese culture, so I knew he would like it.

This instructable details the build for draft 2 of this design (the one I made for my dad is on his desk in Louisiana).

The concept of a zen garden where a simple mechanism is the mediator between the person and the sand drawing fascinates me for a number of reasons. Zen priests use the act of raking sand (or gravel) as a form of meditation through concentration, connecting them to nature through creating an abstract representation of it (waves and currents around rocks).

Anyone who's ever used an Etch-A-Sketch knows that it takes a lot of concentration, even a "flow" state to make a picture, and the mechanical translation from human movement to lines and curves on the screen brings technology into the equation. Like that protagonist in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, I believe that an authentic experience of the world must include an intimate understanding and appreciation of technology.

About This Instructable

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Bio: I'm a full-time Designer at the Instructables Design Studio (best job ever). My background is in residential architecture, film set design, film animatronics, media ... More »
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