Brain PhffArt - Kinetic Trophy




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Art should be questionable. Kiteman kinetic art even more so.  Maybe The Queen will facebook this as it depicts a loyal subject, not waiting on it though.

Here is a high concept art piece entitled Brain phffArt.  Symbolic of the representation of one of the greatest thinking minds of mankind and Instructablesdom, second to kelseymh of course, an iconic lightbulb that burns brightly or dimly over one's head symbolizing that pure spark of genius or the ephemeral fleeting of an idea for the elusive greatness of a million view instructable. 

This piece was fabricated from cardboard.  It's really to convey the message that anyone can delve into great engineering and aesthetic design by using simple tools and materials.  Prototype, experiment, refine your design, and pawn it off on the unsuspecting public.

So go make a caricature of your favorite avatar, hands gesturing wildly, eyes moving back and forth in random jerky movements, every once in a while illuminating the figurative light bulb above one's head, signaling the consequences of deep thought or none at all, balanced by the often barrier to such enlightenment, the dreaded brain phffart - yeah, I know it's not spelled that way, silent or obtrusive, often deadly, waved off inconspicuously till the next thought.

Hmmm, that Tungsten burns out so fast.

Step 1: It's Papier Mache for Crying Out Loud...

You'll need the usual stuff for our fun cardboard projects:


Whatever you use to mark and cut it - be careful with sharp instruments

Light up part:
LED (not sure of its rating since it was out of a multi-random pack from the Shack)
appropriate resistor to use (look up LED calculator to find values)
battery or battery pack
soldering equipment and minimal soldering skillz
aluminum duct sealing tape

Paint - can be any kind, I used regular tempera poster paint

There are no plans for this thing. Sketch and go.  Improvise along the way.

Step 2: Create Main Body and Feet

Cardboard that you harvest from used boxes gets quite strong when you laminate several layers.  When you glue them up, just turn the direction that its internal corrugation or grain runs from the previous layer.  Three or four layers of laminated cardboard will give you plenty of stiffness.  Seal the edges with papier mache and it will end up quite rigid.

Sketch out your main body, arms up to the elbows, and feet.

Rough out by cutting the outline.

Cut out a heart shaped or is that appendix-shaped piece(does it really look like that?) as the base platform.  You need to test it's size so that your attached column does not tip over.

Laminate the rest of the main body until desired stiffness is obtained.  Add an extra layer since he is a Brit.  Note that you can piece together the layers with scraps of cardboard.  Just match up, mark with a pencil where to cut and piece together.  Any seams can be covered with papier mache.

Start adding pieces that follow the contour of a shoe that will act as reinforcing ribs to the structure and provide support for the papier mache shell for the shooz.

Stuff between the shoe ribs with wads of scrap paper and cover over with paper scraps soaked in glue and water or just glue.

Step 3: Figure Out What You Are Going to Do

If you planned this out from the start, this is what you want to build. 

I knew I wanted to have rotating arms so I knew I had to create some pivot points.

I was going to have some kind of drive mechanism to move the arms, gears or a motor.

Work out the drive details later.

Cut out pieces for the arms.

I started to mock it up and saw I needed some spacing for the arms to move freely.

I added spacer disks or washers built up with cardboard.  It would add to the strength of the pivot point.

I then thought I would make it some kind of belt-driven thing.  I would need to make some spool-like cams to hold the drive belt and have a central drive wheel.

I made those from cardboard.  I used short pencils as the shaft pins.  I guess this would qualify as some kind of IKEA hack since I did use their complimentary pencils.  Really, I don't know why so many end up in my pockets everytime I leave there.  I did think about using their paper tape measure as a drive belt but I probably would have had to laminate the tape with a layer of rubber for grip and wear.  

One arm was placed on the front and the other placed on the back to keep them from bumping into each other as they turned.  I did have to shorten the back arm as I tested it with the drive spool in place.

Step 4: Hypothetical Design

After all the parts are dry, lay out your prototype in position.

Just draw on the model how the drivetrain was going to work.

As you can see, I was trying to figure out if I could get the arms to rotate in the same direction or get it to go in opposing directions at the same time.  

I thought about animating the eyes and if that woud need another drive shaft.

Step 5: Paint the Old Wagon

Define the details with small strips of cardboard.

Fillet or smooth out with glue.

Prime the bare cardboard.

Mix colors as appropriate and paint.

Brown is a mix of orange(yellow plus a bit of red) and a spot of blue or purple, and maybe a touch of black or white to tone it down.

Notice the eyes were painted in but I later found a bag of googly eyes to add to the project.

Make a tie from some craft foam and glue on.

Step 6: I Think I've Got It

Create the LED light bulb - incandescent model

Wire up your LED with the resistor to the battery pack.

Make your cardboard lightbulb form.

I took the handle of the foam brush I had used to prime the figure and attached the "bulb" to the top.

Wrap a strip of cardboard on the bottom to build up the light bulb base.  Glue on a thin strip of cardboard that winds around the base to simulate the screw thread.

Cover with white papier mache so you do not have to paint it.

I cut a piece of plastic from some plastic packaging to act as the glass of the lightbulb.

Insert the LED in a hold punched in the base of the lightbulb.

Add a little aluminum tape to act as a reflector.  Draw on the filament wires.

Cover with the plastic and secure at the bottom and top with aluminum tape.

Cover the base with aluminum tape.

Create a socket type base from cardboard for the stick end of the light bulb assembly.

Glue that in postion in back of the head.

Step 7: Light It Up

Now what is the name of the device that allows a wheel to get power from stationary contacts? The answer is in a recent instructables forum topic somewhere.

Anyway, I wanted the light to automatically light up when the arm was raised or in a certain position.  I guess I could have added in some kind of magnetic reed switch to the circuit or some other position sensing mechanism.

I went with the put some aluminum tape on one of the drive wheels, extend some wire "pads" or "brushes" from the circuit that ride along on the wheel and make contact only when they both touch the aluminum tape.

The light bulb assembly, wiring, battery pack, and switch contacts were taped in place.

I found that bending the wire contacts did not reliably put enough pressure on the rotating wheel.  Maybe a little weight or real spring wire would make positive contact with the aluminum tape.

By Jove, I think he's got, wait...

Step 8: Does It Work?

Well, I tried a few things around the house to rig this up.

The drive spools were kinda slippery so I just wrapped some rubber bands around it.

I found a bit of clothesline to use as the drive belt.   I pulled it to correct tension and sewed the ends together to form a single drive belt.  Taping it made a big inflexible joint that got caught up on the drive wheel.

I did not glue on end caps to the shafts to keep them removeable so I could experiment with the configuration of the drive belt.  Looping it in different ways over one or more of the drive wheels makes them spin in different directions.

The belt got stretched and lost its tension by the time I did the video.  I am pulling the drive belt directly in the video and not turning the drive spool as it did not have enough grip.

So there you go, some technical art for the masses.  Make one yourself.

Participated in the
Kinetic Sculpture Design Contest

Participated in the
Epilog Challenge

Halloween Decorations Challenge

Participated in the
Halloween Decorations Challenge



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    18 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    It's fun to stay at the YMCA it's fun to stay at the YMCA


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Is that your hands or your your daughters hands?
    Oh now i have the YMCA song In my head


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Is that your hands or your your daughters hands?


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Da, but Kiteman's day job is an ordinary mild-mannered science teacher charged with harassing educating hooligans the uneducated masses.