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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.

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You should sell these, cause this requires waaay too much skill to build
<p>I'm thinking about it! Trying to figure out a way to make it so that I wouldn't have to sell it for $300 to make it worth my time.</p>
<p>That is very cool, agree with others use it as a routng table!</p>
<p>I made a smaller (9x11) and simpler version. Thanks for the inspiration!</p>
<p>I just gave you a free 3 month pro membership, enjoy!</p>
<p>Thanks again!</p>
<p>WOW! Great job man! I honestly didn't expect anyone to tackle this project. Yours is beautiful and so much simpler. Well done sir!</p>
<p>Thanks so much-- I appreciate it!</p>
Great project<br>If went to all this trouble would have to fit dremel or a router to it.<br>Have you considered mounting above a large clear water tank.<br>I bet you could more fun with magic sand.<br>Magic sand is dried out regular sand treated with scotch guard.<br>Magic sand does weird stuff with water.
<p>Yeah, Izzy Swan (do a youtube search) made and etch-a-sketch jig for a full sized router- such a cool project. </p><p>I hadn't thought of magic sand. Some other suggestions were magnetic powder (think wooly willie) and adding sand to a blank board like a sand mandala drawing.</p>
<p>I would buy that as a board game. I loved the etch-a-sketch but never had one as a child. I just floated away in the demo. I know your dad loves it!</p>
<p>Thank you! You should make one, it's fun.</p>
<p>So very cool. I am always looking for ways to make cool stuff. This could easily be used for a template for the xyz of a wooden framed 3d printer. Thanks</p>
<p>I love the idea of a wooden 3D printer- so counterintuitive!</p>
<p>OK So this is not something I would build for myself, however I was compelled to leave a comment (it involved me creating an account and wrestling with my web browser - apparently you don't remain logged in between pages when you use my default web browser, anyway I digress)</p><p>I just wanted to say thank you for producing a thing of such beauty.</p><p>Not you fantastic machine (which is also a thing of beauty and somthing you should be justly proud of) but for your instructions themselves.</p><p>Concise, clear, easy to follow. </p><p>(now if only I could get our production guys to write assembly documents this way instead of a few words along the lines of [1] get everything together [2] build it [3] take it to Fred to fix)</p><p>Thank you!</p><p>/Andy</p>
<p>Andy,</p><p>That's a compliment I take very seriously. Every time I write one of these I keep asking my self "could I build this with these instructions?" which helps a lot. The way I see it, there's really no point in posting an instructable without trying very hard to explain to a stranger how to build one. 5+ years working as an architect also gave me a lot of practice at this very thing.</p>
<p>Kickstarter this project! I'd pay $100 to get the pieces and build it myself... is that a fair amount? </p>
<p>It would have to be made much more cheaply to sell for that. The time alone comes to about $1200 on this as it is. But laser cutting everything, making it a bit smaller, a few other tweaks and it could probably get down to about $150. Maybe it's worth a try!</p>
<p>This is probably the most awesome thing I have ever laid eyes upon. </p><p>I had a zen garden before and while it was pleasing to design patterns in the sand, I got frustrated when my hand would waiver and cause an imperfection. Then my cat knocked it over, sand went everywhere, and I didn't have to worry about it anymore. That being said, I really enjoy the looks of the garden and the lines this machine makes!</p>
<p>What a compliment! For what it's worth, this thing's probably too heavy for a cat to knock over. I'm sure they could find other ways to defile it though ;)</p>
<p>you should put this on Kickstarter - sure lots of people would like to buy a completed one or a kit to make one?</p>
<p>I would totally get behind this if it happens!</p>
<p>something like a kit with all the wood pieces cut out already; I think all the woodworking can be somewhat of a burden for some people</p>
<p>I like that idea. I think if it was a kit it could be simplified quite a bit. I could use off-the-shelf pulleys and such, plywood instead of hardwood, etc.</p>
<p>Amazing. Fantastic. Awesome! Better of the bests!</p><p>Thanks! A lot!</p>
<p>Wow, this is amazing. I will try and make one myself. Very detailed instructions.</p>
<p>I had to favorite this! Beautiful work and great instructable! Might want to try some beeswax instead of axle grease... What would happen if you put a v groove in the center part of the pulley, would it give a better track for the cordage?</p>
<p>That's a great idea! That might even solve the problem I had with the driver pulleys (the one I solved by making wooden centers).</p>
<p>Truly amazing idea. Fantastic work.</p>
<p>Thanks for the compliment!</p>
<p>Just seen a Video of Izzy build one of these on youtube, except he used a router for woodwork. Really interesting. Keep up the good work!</p>
<p>Izzy is such a boss. Love that project-</p>
<p>respect!</p>
<p>Thank you!</p>
<p>Etch-a-sketch Zen... I don't think it could get any better.</p>
<p>Thank you! It could run a little smoother and I think a thicker cable would look better, but all in all it works really well.</p>
<p>For those who would like detailed drawings of this device, check out Izzy Swan's &quot;Think&quot; Woodworks program on YouTube.</p><p>This is a clever machine.</p>
<p>I love Izzy Swan! He made this incredible Etch-A-Sketch style router jig: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulblySFElo4&spfreload=10</p>
<p>By far the coolest way to get your zen on. </p>
<p>Thanks Paige! You should make one.</p>
<p>I am a Martial Artist also, and I was actually contemplating a mini zen garden yesterday. This is sooooooo amazing, I would spend hours playing with this. You should make a company and sell these because that is pure beauty. Beauty in a box</p>
<p>That's a high compliment! It takes a lot of work to build and it's hard to imagine a way to make it so that I wouldn't have to charge $3,000. Who knows, maybe someone would pay that!</p>
<p>Wow man, this is epic...like free-range shark.<em>(off the hook)</em> :)</p>
<p>Thanks man!</p>
I strive for badassery! Thanks Seamster.
<p>This is pure badassmanship! </p>

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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