Wood, Steel, Color, Fire - a Kinetic Sculpture for PlayThink 2017 (Image Heavy, also some lasers, I promise)

David, one of our board members for the makerspace (Kre8now in Lexington, KY) likes to work on outreach and group projects. We’ve done Red Bull stuff and art shows and plenty of community outreach in the past 2 years.

A few months ago, he had mentioned he was working on a marble machine structure for PlayThink, a hippy dippy kinda event in the middle of nowhere with an emphasis on the Flow Arts (dance, poi, yoga, juggling, etc etc). He cranked out a basic spiral on the cnc router a while back, and I didn’t think much of it. 2 or so weeks prior to the event, suddenly we had something much larger.

Week before, mostly welding a million pieces of square tube around the main shaft. We’d later also add on an entire second set of round tubing the morning of.

(Early Prototype)

The plan was to have wooden balls feed into the bottom of the shaft. We had schlepped together some bicycle parts that would lift the balls on some tines welded every so often on the chain. when they reached the top, they would fall down a spiral of pallet wood, and hopefully (somehow) return back to the base to get fed into the contraption again. We hadn’t worked those details out. That was my job in the last 3 days. Turns out I’m alright at gathering all the materials to do this, but not actually working out all the design details. My plan got turned into something far easier to assemble a day or two before we took this to the event.

MakerMike doing a fit test with David’s sons

On thursday, I realized I had done pretty much all I could do to directly help the structure, but still wanted to contribute. I figured a placard commemorating this event and our collaboration made a lot of sense, and solicited a few choice quotes from our slack channel. I threw this together from scrap in an hour or two (I had to rush to do the engraving at our local library’s Epilog Mini the morning of, so my engraving settings were a little strong for the plywood I used. It ended up getting some very positive feedback from my team members and the creative folk at the event, so I might end up making some more of these (with a proper jig for the steel framing - I have like another 55 feet of 1/8 x 1inch hot strip)

We got it to the location in Berea last Friday (event started on Wed, but the big day was Saturday.) I helped set it up slightly, then headed home. I stick out like a sore thumb at these kinds of things and forgot to bring cash (no cell signal = no Square at the food vendors).

On saturday, we got the paints out and everyone helped decorate the wooden planks. Hopes, fears, memes, etc.

Later in the afternoon we shifted it to the ash pile

I forgot to mention - this was also the effigy for the saturday night event. Shortly following the wonderous performances by Poi dancers and fire breathers, they assisted in setting the structure alight.

(I loved this dude, he had a turtle for a hand puppet and started a circle around the blaze)

I had to leave before cleanup (my head was splitting, probably from dehydration). But it was a great event all around. Thanks to Mike, David, and the dozen others who touched this project before it headed out. I think the metal structure is on Davids lawn at the moment. Definitely lots to improve on for next year.


this is awesome! really glad to see operations like this in kentucky.


Too late to matter this year, but next one, if you mask the ply first (use blue painters tape) and then hit the engrave before weeding with Minwax Polyshades in Mission Oak. It’ll give you a nice rich darker engrave without needing to make it deeper/higher power/LPI. After it dries, weed like normal.