Monthly Archives: May 2016

Sands Of Time

Introducing my latest work-in-progress: The Sands of Time

This is a project inspired by a piece of articulated artwork by Bruce Shapiro, called “Sisyphus Machine“, described as… “an elaborate kinetic drawing machine that uses magnets to drag rolling steel marbles through a thin layer of sand to create complicated mandala-like patterns”. I found the the patterns to be mesmerizing. I felt I could create something along the same lines to experiment with dynamically changing patterns, and – in keeping with my clock making and fascination with time- that would allow the ephemeral praxis of writing time in the sand….

UPDATE: 9 June 2016: My first sand pattern with “Sands of Time

The software traces a simple helical pattern that traverses the centre of the drawing surface so the final design shows two spirals… Neat huh!

Sands Of Time

Sands Of Time: my first sand drawing.. Here, the ball is making a pair of intersecting spirals.

A new top lip – made of 6 identical sections of alder that I shaped on my CNC machine – captures an acrylic drawing surface that is covered in a thin layer of finely ground sand. The magnetic coupling between the carriage’s magnets and the 12mm steel ball bearing is lower than expected so that the friction of the sand is sometimes too great and the ball loses connection. The gap that separates the magnet from the ball is slightly over 3/8″ – 1/4″ ply (as the top support) and 1/8″ acrylic – and this appears too great to ensure a really strong magnetic coupling. So, rather than redesigning the top to reduce this thickness, I shall try out a spherical rare-earth magnet, rather than the current steel ball bearing.

Here, a small thrust bearing is magnetically coupled to the carriage of the carousel, which is rotating underneath a temporary sheet of acrylic. In the completed design, a thin layer of fine sand will sit atop the acrylic and a ball bearing will be moved through it. Articulation of the carriage and carousel will allow for the tracing of “mandala-like” patterns.

In this clip, the carriage and carousel can be seen operating together under the control of separate stepper motors. The unique design (all mine!) places the carriage servo at the absolute centre of the carousel’s rotation. This geometry allows completely independent motion of the carriage and carousel. In other words, the carousel can rotate freely in any direction while the carriage can traverse the carousel’s diameter, and both can operate completely independently.

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CNC – Project Enclosures

With the help of the founders of the Make613 Group (Doug, Dave, Darcy and Justin), I have been learning a couple of simple CAD (Computer-Aided Design) and CAM (Computer-Aided Manufacturing) tools to design and fabricate enclosures and other pieces for my most recent projects. The latest CNC’ed enclosure – seen below – does double duty as a 2-part case for my  Weatherman and LifeTime Clock projects.




LifeTime Clock

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Time Flows: time at its most fluid

“Time passed. But time flows in many streams. Like a river, an inner stream of time will flow rapidly at some places and sluggishly at others, or perhaps even stand hopelessly stagnant. Cosmic time is the same for everyone, but human time differs with each person. Time flows in the same way for all human beings; every human being flows through time in a different way.”

….. Yasunari Kawabata, from the novel Beauty and Sadness (Utsukushisa to kanashimi to), 1964

Inspired by these beautiful and profound words, comes my prototype of “Time Flows“, a clock that displays the current time through the controlled movement of water.

Time Flows: showing fluid digit transitions starting from “1” to “2”, “2” to “3”, “3” to “4” and finally “4” to “5”. Turn off your sound so that you do not hear the whine of the air-pump… a problem yet to solve.


Time Flows

Time Flows: liquid 7-segment display showing the number 0

Indeed, the water in Time Flows does move both slowly and rapidly, and remains at rest – stagnant even – between updates. The quotation is quite apropos!

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The MORSE CODE Clock is a simple side project inspired by a casual comment from Trevor, my brother-in-law, after the initial posting of the Time On Your Hands Clock. He asked that now I am working on a clock for the deaf, what about something to assist the blind?

Well, I have already built the Speaking Clock, so how about something else…

So here it is… The MORSE CODE Clock.

So at what time did I take the video?

The clock, built on a WeMos D1 board, tells the time, on demand, and every minute, by beeping out the Morse Code for each of the digits of the hours and minutes.  In operation, the clock powers up, connects to the local WiFi and sends out a request to a time server for an NTP (Network Time Protocol) packet (similar to the Life Time Clock). The received packet contains an accurate timestamp which is converted to local time – with daylight savings time correction – and used to set an internal soft real-time clock. On each minute, the real-time clock is read and the time is “morsed” out. A button can be pressed at any time to have the clock sign out the time prefaced by the code “IT IS”.

The Morse Code complies with the following rules found here:

  1. All timings are defined as multiples of one dot length
  2. A dash is three times the length of a dot
  3. Each dot or dash has a short gap of silence after it (usually 1 dot length)
  4. Letters in a word have a slightly longer gap of silence between them (usually 3 dot lengths)
  5. Words have an even longer gap of silence between them (usually 7 dot lengths)

So, I hope you have a great      –   ..   —   .    with it!