Often seen at Science Museums the harmonograph drawing machines are usually huge devices that fill a room. Some are 8 feet tall. We had four goals in designing our Drawing Machine:
• Easy to setup and take down--less than 5 minutes
• Works on any table or desk
• Lots of variations and able to be expanded by DIY into a full axis rotary harmonograph
• A reuse for plastic bottles
Design and materials
After months of work and dozens of prototypes we've finally been able to meet all four goals. Our GatorGraph Drawing Machine is carefully crafted using laser cutters and CNC machines. For the heavy parts we will be using Appleply plywood made here in Oregon. The rods will be made from Maple and Walnut hardwoods harvested and milled in Michigan. All the hardware will be brass. Our goal is to build a toy that will provide tons of fun and last for years.
This picture shows all the parts disassembled but we put a lot of these parts together before they ship. We just wanted to give you an idea of what goes into each one.
How does it work? Electricity? Magic?
Gravity! The power for the GatorGraph is provided by four 1-liter plastic bottles (not included) on a swinging pendulum. As they move back and forth the Gators produce what are called Lissajous curves. Where a Spirograph is bounded by a circle, the Lissajous curves are bounded by a rectangle. Changing the length of the pendulum alters the type of curve. The shape of the curve can be modified by using different hole positions on the rods.
An extensive instruction book will be provided but figuring it out for yourself is more than half the fun. Different colored pens can be used and multiple curves can be drawn on a single sheet for even more dramatic effects.
Harmonograph drawing machines were invented in the mid-1800s and were very popular in late Victorian times. Over the years there have been many toy versions. Since the 1950s most have been made of plastic and easily broken. Our wooden version is solid and built to last.
Setup is very easy but please be aware that there are lots of small parts--we provide extra screws and bolts--so this toy is not appropriate for children to play with on their own. It is best to work together and see what they'll come up with. After you are done playing, the harmonograph can be disassembled in minutes and put back into the box for storage. It all lives in a 19 x 12 x 3" box so unlike the Science Museum versions you don't have to give it a special room.
More information on Harmonographs is available on Wikipedia's page:
We expect to be able to ship these out by December 2 so domestic backers in the first batch should receive them by Christmas.
Lasercutting is a slow process but we have a laser in-house and can run it lots of hours so that work will be easily accomplished in time. The CNC milling will take approximately one week. The CNC parts will require hand sanding which will be the most time consuming part of the production run. I can get help if the sanding slows things down.
The mailing costs are really expensive--over $15--due to the use of quality hardwood and plywood so the packages will ship via Parcel post with tracking numbers provided to backers. Foreign backers of the first batch should not expect to see them until mid-January given the vagaries of mailing and customs. Overseas packages will be sent via Priority mail.
The funds from kickstarter will let us do a production run at the CNC shop, purchase hardwood and plywood for the edition, and get the brass hardware.
Super Secret Stretch Goal Bonus
Thanks for all your support! We've been quietly busy working on more design features. One idea was to include 10 paper cards (5-3/8 x 8 inches) and an assortment of corresponding envelopes so you can make your own beautiful holiday art cards. We've found a fantastic 100% cotton paper made by Reich that works really well. Reich SAVOY is tree free, acid free, recyclable, biodegradable, and elemental chlorine free. Its a heavy 118# cover weight with a caliper of 20pts. Intended for letterpress printing the cards feel luxurious. We'll be including these cards and envelopes with all GatorGraphs as a special thank you for helping this project happen.
Risks and challenges
The prototype is done and we've worked with a CNC provider here in Portland for the test pieces. The laser work will be done in-house. My biggest concern is sanding and finishing the CNC parts to get them into your hands by the Holidays. That's why I've capped the first level of rewards at 120 sets. If there is interest I will add another reward level for delivery in January 2014. I make everything myself so it is easy to get overwhelmed by production. I've completed two kickstarter projects and all the rewards have gone out on time or earlier. I expect the domestic orders from the first batch of GatorGraphs to be delivered by Christmas.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)