Velkess Update #5
There are lots of great things happening with the Velkess Project!
The first round magnets have come in!!! Not only was I excited to get them, I was also interested in how such strong magnets would be shipped? They came in a box that was surprisingly small and had absolutely no warning labels of any kind. I guess the manufactures figure if you order this kind of thing you ought to know they are dangerous. The box is lined on all 6 sides with a pretty heavy layer of iron shielding presumably so that the box won't stick fast to any steel truck it might ride in. Opening the shielding layer was interesting in itself. The shield is made in 3 pieces and is held together only by the magnets inside. Still getting the shield apart required a little leverage. I had to fight the temptation to go at it with a pair of pliers, which being made of steel would likely just snap down and become one with the shield. Instead, I was able to get the top off using a piece of aluminum stock as a wedge/lever.
Clearly unpacking the box safely was a bit of a challenge. There are a number of different shaped magnets in the box. According to my computer model the largest ones can each pull on a steel plate with a force of approximately 250lbs! I got 10.
I had expected these magnets to be individually packaged, in little styrofoam cubbies in a way that would make them easy/safe to remove, but no. They came in 2 stacks of 5 packed back to back. A reasonable guestimate has each stack able to pull with about 1000lbs. The way these stacks were arranged in the box, they were pretty likely to snap around on each other if one got moved in the wrong way. I figured that if they did, they would have about 2000lbs of force between them. Literally bone crushing!
So the first step in getting the magnets out of the box was to construct a set of clamps and braces out of aluminum and brass that I could use to grab, hold, and separate the magnets without using my hands directly for any thing. In fact, unloading the box was not all that complicated, but it was careful and surprisingly time consuming work.
But even before I started to unpack the box, I realized I had another issue on my hands. As expected, the space at the steel fabrication company that I have been using for my shop is covered with millions of little steel filings! Even before the UPS driver dropped the sealed box on the shop floor it started building up a fine dark gray layer of fuzzy tenacious metallic dirt. I needed to find a place where I could work with these magnets and keep them clean from day to day. As luck would have it, the building I live in had an abandoned basement area. I was able to remove a bunch of the derelict stuff that had been stashed there (including a mummified cat carcass!) and paint it to make a clean (or at least iron filing free) mini shop space.
A lot of that work was done before the magnets even arrived, but once I started actually working with them, little details of what it means to be working with such powerful and non-intuitive materials became apparent. With each of these details, some refinement must be made to a rig design or assembly procedure to take into account a new dynamic that the last improvement has suddenly shone light on for the first time.
It is a bit like assembling a jig saw puzzle. You know what you are shooting for, and you know that you will get there in the end. To complete the puzzle is simply a matter of focused concentration and stick-to-itiveness. Along the way it is alternately fun, frustrating, exhilarating, and satisfying. For better or for worse I find myself so completely engaged in the project that I am constantly distracted from virtually all other activities… sometimes including even eating and sleeping. Here I must thank my lovely wife Sharon and son Asa who somehow manage to moderate my obsessive tendencies and keep me reasonably balanced and healthy for the next day/week of work.
As some of you have rightly pointed out in comments, one of the tasks that I have been neglectng in my engrossed distraction has been getting you all your tee-shirts, hoodies, magnets, and desktop demos. My sincere apologies for running late on this. I will send out a survey for sizes and shipping addresses asap. If any of you in the Bay Area might like to help me organize tee-shirt printing, mailings, etc. I would be very glad for the help and the opportunity to spend more of my time with the technical work of developing the prototype.
Thank you again for your generous support.