About this project
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The Humble Velocipede is a small-scale evolution of Theo Jansen's Strandbeest kinetic sculpture. This meditative toy is designed to scuttle over countertops and coffee tables. Its stride is human powered, but the Velocipede really holds its own on shallow inclines.
This project started when we built a life-size plywood Strandbeest. The big machine was gorgeous, but bulky and inconvenient to transport. Curious about what it would look like as a toy, we built one just for fun. It turned out better than any of us expected, so we refined our design for production. Instead of shrinking down Jansen's original, we recast that organic appeal for a domestic space. We think we've made a playful desktop sprite that is as captivating around the house as Jansen's are on the beach.
The walking mechanism behind the toy is inherently complex. With production in mind, we made our design as simple as possible. At the heart of the machine is the crankshaft, which is responsible for coordinating the leg movement. The crankshaft is made from a single steel rod bent into a resilient spine around which the whole toy is built.
The bamboo legs are composed exclusively of triangles and rectangles in order to minimize material waste and maximize production speed. This allows us to tile them efficiently by overlapping cutting paths and eliminating dead space. Once the legs are made, the centrality of the crankshaft allows us to quickly thread the toy together.
What's the money for?
Bamboo is beautiful, but expensive. We need to buy it in bulk, and if successful we'll use the majority of our funding to make our first minimum order. The remainder will go towards additional materials such as dowel pins, washers, sandpaper, woodfinish, and packaging.
For all donations of $1 or more we will add your name to a list of supporters and bury it in a secret location, deep in the earth.
If you give between $10 - $14, we'll send you a bundle of 5 high quality postcards. Our friend and photographer Mercy McNab took these lovely photographs of the Humble Velocipede hitting the town.
For those interested in something more pared down, for donations between $15 - $24 we're now offering a single crankshaft, taken from the heart of the machine. The crankshaft, which serves as the coordinator for the legs, is normally partially obscured by ligaments and tendons, but is a beautiful object on its own. Endless possibilities await.
If you give between $25 - $49, you'll receive one of our two t-shirts. One shows an icy cartoon of the toy, and the other is a wire-frame diagram of the walking mechanism in action. They're American Apparel men's cut shirts in heather black (we'll get your choice and size upon order). Check out the designs below.
For donations between $50 - $99, you'll get a unique wall hanging cut from our "spoil board," inspired by a post we saw on MAKE. We'll cut these into wall hangings from finished 1/4" bamboo ply. To give you a sense of how toolpaths look, below is a closeup of the tracks left in our plywood spoil board from early prototyping.
A donation of $100+ will get you a Humble Velocipede of your own. If you're really eager to get your hands on a Velocipede, donate $150+ and we'll ship you one of the first 20 we make. Add $10 for shipping to Canada, for international shipping add $30.
If you'd like a significantly less humble walking machine, for $10,000 we'll make a six foot tall version applying what we learned from this project. Delivery restricted to the continental US.
Special thanks to
Ken and Joe at Grove
and Michael Zahler at Wells Fargo
Please add $10 for shipping to Canada, and $30 for international shipping everywhere else. We know it is expensive, and we apologize.
Sadly, no. At this time we are not prepared to ship out parts and instructions so that you can assemble the walking machine yourself. The main reason for this is that assembly is complicated, and often requires specific tools and creative problem solving. Complete instructional diagrams and videos would be necessary to fully guide people through the process, and we do not currently have the time to produce those. In addition, we are not prepared to support or advise people who have trouble putting it together - nor do we want to leave them hanging by creating a no refund/no support policy. Making a solid DIY kit would be a wonderful next project for us to pursue.
It's true. The word "velocipede" is an antiquated blanket term used to describe any human powered land vehicle (most notably the bicycle). We chose to repurpose the word in this project, giving it new life. Besides being a beautiful word, one can imagine it as a combination of many other words put together (velocity + velociraptor + centipede…). Many of these examples seemed somehow appropriate for our toy. For these reasons we decided to go for it and risk confusion. Also we love bikes.
1. Select the more expensive of the rewards you want.
2. Donate the correct amount for all the rewards you want* (two velocipedes = $200, postcards + shirt = $35, etc.).
3. Send us a message to tell us how much you gave and which rewards you want.
*You cannot order any "early bird" rewards
Pledge $1 or more
Donate a dollar or more and we'll put your name on parchment and bury it in the earth, to be discovered by future generations.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $10 or more
Keep the USPS alive and send a friend our postcard! For $10 you get a set of five with shots of the Velocipede doing some of its favorite things.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $15 or more
23 backers Limited (27 left of 50)
Here by popular demand, donate $15 and we'll send you your own crankshaft! Put it proudly on display, pretend that it's a magic wand, or use it for a DIY project. They are mesmerizing to play with, even on their own.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $25 or more
We've got two great shirts available! They will be printed on American Apparel heather black tees. Check out our design mock-ups below.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $50 or more
3 backers Limited (47 left of 50)
Spoil board art. Milling parts on a CNC machine leaves beautiful, complicated tracks and patterns in the base board. Rather than discard them, we're making them into art! Donate $50 or more and we'll cut and finish a unique wall hanging just for you.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $100 or more
480 backers All gone!
Your very own Velocipede! Never be lonely again.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $150 or more
20 backers All gone!
Early-Bird Special! Be the first on your block with one of these bad boys. We'll start shipping these as soon as they're made.Estimated delivery:
0 backers Limited (1 left of 1)
We're itching to apply what we've learned here to another six foot tall model. By donating $10,000, you'll soon be the proud owner of a rideable behemoth.Estimated delivery:
- (24 days)