Kinetic Sculpture: "Sine Machine"




I know I don't have time to build my machine in the real world just yet, but I put it together in the CAD world first. The idea is to have a lot of simple moving parts that create an overall, fluid look. I have designed it to be operated by hand but you could just as easily run it with a motor, miniature wind mill (for the greenies) or better yet a hamster wheel.
Practically speaking, you could also use the machine for student demonstration to illustrate the basic sine wave or the difference between wave and particle movement. Mostly it is just meant to look interesting.
Thanks for checking out my first Instructable.

Material: (Use whatever you want, this is just what I would use)
-One sheet of foam board for the base
-1/4 in balsa wood sheet for the Cams
-1/8 in base or ply wood for the Levers and uprights
- 1/4 in dowel
- Straw just big enough to slide over the dowel
- Light weight thread
- 25 heavy glass beads or fishing sinkers
- Glue
- Drill x (Drill Press) & Assorted bits
- Small Triangle File
- Hobby Knife and Sand Paper
- Band or Scroll Saw (CNC Router or Laser if you’re lucky)
- In the absence of the CNC machine, lots of patience

Step 1: The Easy Part...

...if you have the CNC machine. If not put on some good music and get comfortable in front of your band saw. Attached is a PDF of the main parts and the quantities needed. You can measure them out on your material or just print the PDF off at a 1 to 1 scale, then use it as a template. Also attached is the Sketchup file. Well... start cutting. When I make mine I think I might try to find a hole saw that is the right size to create the cams. This will give a nice consistent circle with a definite center hole to measure off of.
Time lapse to several days later......
Now get up, stretch, blow the sawdust out of your nose, shake it out of your hair and go create an Instructable to win the CNC Laser machine.


Step 2: Axels

Now that all the repetitive parts are finished, just a few pieces of round stock to cut to length.
You will need to cut:
-1 piece of 1/4 in dowel @ 1 in long
-3 pieces of 1/4 in dowel @ 9 5/8 in long
-1 piece of 1/4 in dowel @ 10 in long
Now secure 2 of the 9 5/8 in dowels together with the ends flush, use tape or some thing else temporary. Starting 5/16 in from either end make a small notch in both axels using a file; continue making notches every 3/8 in until you have 25 notches. Check to make sure the thread you are going to use will slide freely in the notches.
Now take the 10 in dowel and make a mark 3/16 in from one end. Continue making a mark every 3/8 in until you have 25 total marks. These marks will be used to locate the cams. A pencil would work too.

Step 3: Lay Out the Base

Now cut out the base. You could skip this step and move on with the assembly then glue the uprights to a flat base. However, to help align the parts I would suggest cutting out the locations were the uprights will go. You can then press the uprights into place to assemble and trial fit the other parts. Once everything else is in place then you can glue the uprights in place and it should be a more rigid assembly.
The attached PDF can be printed 1 to 1 scale and used as a template. I left about an inch on either side for a stable base.

Step 4: Pylon Assembly

Glue the Pylons together as shown. Remember not to glue them to the base just yet.
Cam Pylons, P1 glued to G1
Lever Pylons, P2 glued to G2
String Pylons, P3 glued to G3
Test fit them in the Base and set aside.

Step 5: The Cam Worm

Now take the 10 in dowel that you previously marked. Slide the first cam into place as shown to the first mark made in the previous step. Use quick set glue like CA to secure it in place.
Slide the next cam down to its position as shown. Use the drill bit that made the alignment holes or another small dowel to properly index this cam relative to the first.
Yep, now do it again and again until you have all 25 cams in place on the dowel. This is now the Cam Worm. (It looks like a worm from the side)

Step 6: Levers, Strings & Beads

Now tie a string to the lever at the small notch shown. A small dot of glue to secure the knot is a good idea. On the other end of the string, slide on the bead. To make the sine wave effect look right all the beads will have to be on strings of the same length. So rather than messing with knots I would measure the length of string and then glue the bead in place. 5 in of string between the lever and bead should work. Repeat, repeat, repeat......

Step 7: String Pylon & Guides

Now place the P3G3 pylons into the base and slide the 9 5/8 in dowels with the string guides into the pylons as shown with the notches facing up. Glue the pylons and guides into place.

Step 8: Placing the Cam Worm

Now slip the P1G1 pylons on each end of the Worm. You may want to put a layer of clear tape on each end of the Worm axel to act as a bushing and reduce friction. Then place the pylons into the base. Glue the pylons to the base. DO NOT Glue the Cam Worm to the pylons.

Step 9: Levers

Now take the large straw and cut 24 sections about 3/16 in.
Take the last 9 5/8 in axel and Glue it into ONE of the P2G2 pylons as shown. Then press the Pylon into the base but do not glue it yet.
Starting with one of the levers, alternate sliding on the levers and straw sections. You may want to brace the unsupported end of the axel so you can place the strings on their guides to keep them from tangling. Repeat until all the levers are in place separated by the straws for proper spacing.
Now fit the last P2G2 pylon onto the end of the axel and press into its location on the base. Do a free spin check to make sure everything is working properly. If all is well, glue the axel to the pylon and both pylons to the base.

Step 10: Start Cranking

Last thing to do is determine how you want to drive your machine. Here I show a crank but you could use a motor, pin wheel, water wheel, geothermal sterling engine…. Whatever you like!!

Participated in the
Kinetic Sculpture Design Contest

Participated in the
Epilog Challenge



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    12 Discussions


    2 years ago

    These are the plans converted to approximate metric measurements for anyone who wants to use them


    4 years ago on Introduction

    i can't understand how you made the cam worm since the hole of the cams through which the axel passes is in the same place! :/

    1 reply

    If you look closely, you'll notice there are three holes. Two smaller ones, and a larger one. The larger one is the one through which the axle passes. The two smaller ones are used to line the gears up in a worm formation. When you assemble the wheels, make sure only one of the holes lines up. This will offset every wheel by 30 degrees.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I made one of these for my science class, it only had 6 (maybe 5?) levers and was very rudimentary, but it did the job and got me an A. Nice writeup, the 3d really captures the process well.

    1 reply

    8 years ago on Introduction

    Very detailed, well made instructable. I actually just programmed a simulation similar to this; I'm positively fascinated by this simple contraption!

    1 reply

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    If you have Google Sketchup or are willing to download it for free from google , I just added the full 3-D file to the first step. Feel free to play with it.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I used Google Sketchup. It is a great program considering it is free. A quick google search can show you were to down load the program.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    for the autodesk contest, you actually have to make it