Introduction: "The Unsettling Machine": a Quick Junk-Art Sculpture for Beginners

About: I'm Mario Caicedo Langer (M.C. for short), a Colombian STEAM educator living in Azerbaijan, BSc in Naval Sciences, Master in Toy Design, and former Navy officer. I am a CAD and 3D Printing enthusiast and an ar…

(If you like this instructable, please vote for it in the "Trash to Treasure" contest. But if you are looking for a less disturbing project, check my last one: How to create a Lambada Walking Robot! Thanks!)

Let's suppose you have a school/college project, or you are an artist invited to an art exhibition where you are required to create an art piece that reflects a social issue. Or, you just saw a piece of kinetic art in a gallery and you want to create your very own one. What will you do? WHAT WILL YOU DO?

Luckily, everybody can create art! So, if you don't know how to start, you can practice with this little kinetic sculpture that I call "The Unsettling Machine".

Basically, it's a baby doll's arm hitting a baby doll's head. It's disturbing, because baby dolls are creepy, especially when they are abandoned. Publicists often use this object as a perfect symbol of "innocence lost" when they want to create awareness about some social issue or tragedy. This sculpture can represent anything you want: how human decisions always affect our children, how technology always affects our children, how (insert reason here) always affects our children, and so on; how we are freaked out by a sculpture with an arm hitting a baby's head, but also how we happily live in a world where thousands of real kids are in situation of vulnerability and very few persons do something about that. I showed this creation to two persons before creating this instructable, and their first suggestion was "can you put some hair on the head, so it looks like the hand is combing and not hitting?"

Do you have more ideas about what this kinetic sculpture could symbolize? Write them in the comments!

So, let's make art!

Step 1: Materials

The best thing about this sculpture is that it doesn't require expensive or rare components to be built, at least in his basic version. If you already have broken toys and some basic tools, you will only need to buy the batteries.

What do you need?

  • 1 Baby doll's head
  • 1 Baby doll's arm
  • 1 gear box from a toy (I got mine from an electric train for little kids)
  • 1 spring
  • 1 battery holder for 2 AA batteries (I got this one from another electrical toy)
  • 1 switch
  • 1 metal angle
  • 1 plastic cap from a coffee flask
  • 1 FDD drive cover from an old computer(or a similar long flat piece, like a ruler or a piece of wood)
  • wires
  • some screws, nuts, bolts and washers
  • 1 small plastic cap from a small bottle
  • 1 spray cap from a deodorant
  • soldering tin
  • hot glue
  • super glue

TOOLS: Dremel rotary tool, screwdrivers, hot glue gun, soldering iron.

Step 2: Baby Doll's Head

Take the spring and place it in the neck of the baby doll's head. Carefully apply some glue if it is necessary.

Step 3: Creating the Base

Take the coffee flask cap and drill a hole in the center. Then grab the small bottle cap and drill two holes: one in the center (so you can attach it to the coffee flask cap) and one through the diameter to keep the spring in position using a screw.

Fix the caps using a bolt, a nut and a washer, and then insert the sprint into the smaller camp. Pass a screw through the holes you drilled at the side of the smaller cap.

Step 4: The Arm

Usually this kind or arms come with a big hole in the shoulder's joint. To reduce it, insert the spray cap and fix it with hot glue. Remember: a good junk artist is always careful of not leaving visible traces of any glue, unless you are using it to create some effect relevant to the piece.

To attach the arm to the reduction box, take the top axis (or the one with the biggest torque) and insert it into the spray cap. This part may vary according to the gear box you are using, so it's a good moment to test your creativity and problem-solving skills.

Step 5: Extending the Base

Grab the FDD drive cover and attach it to the head's base using the metal angle and some screws. Before drilling, use a pencil to mark the exact point where you will place the angle and insert the screws.

Step 6: Attaching the Arm

Place the base of the gearbox over the FDD cover. The perfect distance from the base of the gearbox to the base of the head is at arm's length (of the doll, not yours), where the hand can hit the forehead. Mark the exact point over the FDD cover and proceed to stick the gearbox to the FDD cover. Be careful of not jamming the gearbox with glue excess.

Step 7: Circuitry

This sculpture uses a basic electrical circuit. Connect one wire to each terminal of the motor. Pass the wires under the FDD cover and bring them to the base, where the battery holder will be placed. Also, drill a hole to keep the switch in place.

One of the wires from the motor must be connected to one of the pins of the switch. A new wire must be connected to the center pin of the switch. So at the end, you must have two available wires to connect to the battery holder: one coming directly from the motor, and the other coming from the switch.

Step 8: Final Steps and More Ideas!

Bring the battery holder and connect the wires to the terminals of the battery holder. Check the polarity before soldering the wires. Then, glue the battery holder to the bottom of the base.

Now, this is a simple model, but you can add your own touch and improvements:

  • Stick some extra pieces, relevant to your theme of choice.
  • Add a push-botton switch, leaving to your audience the choice of activating the gearbox. Will they? How many times? How will they react?
  • If you are going to a serious gallery, better change the batteries for a power converter, so your work doesn't run out of batteries.

Happy exploration, fellow artists!

Trash to Treasure

Participated in the
Trash to Treasure