Drawing Machine




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

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.

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Step 1: 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

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

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

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.

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    50 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

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


    6 years ago

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


    9 years ago on Step 4

    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.


    10 years ago on Step 4

    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

    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.


    11 years ago on Step 4

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


    11 years ago on Introduction

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


    12 years ago

    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: http://animalsart.ru/chimpanzee1.htm Yes, they can.

    1 reply

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    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?


    11 years ago on Introduction

    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?

    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...