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1/4/19

Incorporated knife tech into the world of Machined Metal Sculpture.


Over the last few years, I have undertaken a much more serious examination of how my process fits into a wider conversation about art, craft, and design. I have been looking more and more for potential connections between other industrial craft heritages and my approach to machine work as a medium for sculpture. I have been looking to see how other previously industrial processes, such as glass work and ceramics, have transitioned into the fine and decorative arts in order to better understand the arc of my own journey. 

As part of my research, I have found myself looking more and more at the knife community, both for inspiration in my own work, and also as an example of how machining can influence and be transformed when it is appropriated by an existing craft or decorative arts community. 

I have come to find that knife making is that rare craft that continues to embody both medieval and modern practices. Where it was once dominated by forges and blacksmiths, it is now as high tech as you want it to be. Knife makers use every modern machine tool you can imagine, but you can also find practitioners still putting hammer to anvil and engaged in processes from every stage of its long and storied history. Knife making is a craft that precedes the invention of machine tools by millennia, however it has been utterly revolutionized by them and it has created a foothold for the decorative arts within the machining community. 

If you look around the knife world, you will see that most knives are not the utilitarian work-a day objects you first think of, but instead are some of the most intricately detailed and aesthetically thought provoking machined objects you will find anywhere. Even if knives are not your thing, any serious examination of machining as it pertains to the arts warrants a close look at what is happening in this field. I myself have been itching to find ways to build bridges between what I do, and what of the knife makers I have come to admire do. I humbly submit this work as my first attempt.


So, lets get started then. 

First off, as you can see, this work does not very much resemble a knife (sorry to disappoint). However, it does in fact share many aspects, including its guts, (or rather mechanics) with an object familiar to any knife enthusiast. 


This work is loosely based on a very common type of automatic knife called an "OTF" or "Out The Front" knife. Sort of like the much more popular switchblade, it is characterized by a spring loaded assembly that extends and retracts the blade through the top of the knife by means of actuating a small lever. 

In the case of my work, the center object moves both "Out the Front" and "Out the Back". Surely some crazy knife designer has made a knife like this somewhere at some time, but in any case, I am calling this work the "OTFB". The B stands for more than one thing, but I have given you the most obvious one.

Zulu Spear OTF by D Rocket Designs
In all honesty, an OTF knife is more for fun than it is useful as a practical tool, and that is exactly the sort of extravagance that made it an easy target for something a bit more sculptural. 

Before I started this project, I didn't have a good conception of how this type of assembly worked. Luckily a collector friend kindly lent me one of his prized OTF knives to take apart and play with (I can't believe he let me take it apart!!!). Upon doing so, I found the mechanism simple enough to modify, elegant, and irresistibly fascinating. 

First oversized prototype.

After digesting what I had learned for a few weeks, I set about designing my own version of the assembly . I redesigned the mechanism into something much more tubular, so that rather than a flat blade, it could move an object that was decidedly larger and more complex. It also needed to be something that could be incorporated into a range of possible sculptural objects. I had my work cut out for me, but after building three prototypes, I had come up with something quite functional.


From there it was a very long and tedious process of arriving at a composition that complimented the functionality while also concealing it as much as possible. As with all of these kinetic endeavors, I am very careful to ensure that what I create presents as a sculpture first. In this case it meant limiting obvious visual indicators like the tell tale switch that accompanies most OTF knives. 


To solve this issue, I ended up translating the simple sliding thumb switch into a rotating action. This allowed the body itself to become the actuator rather than relying on any knobs or buttons. It was a clever solution that made it easier to concentrate on the overall look of the object.

For those technically savvy,  it also has the added benefit of creating a small amount of mechanical advantage, lessening the effort on the part of the user needed to load the spring in the assembly.


So where does this project go from here? 

Well, I consider this first piece to be just the working prototype. There is still much more refinement ahead of me in terms of tightening up the mechanics and tweaking the looks. I think the best way to facilitate this is to do a series.

I have in mind a very small edition of these, maybe 6-12 total objects. For a project as mechanically complicated as this, I think it is the right way to go. I want to be able to take my time improving and experimenting with each one, but I also want to be able to move on to something new in a reasonable amount of time (you know me, always moving forward).

 I made this first one in raw unfinished aluminum to keep it as kind of a blank slate, as I envision doing each consecutive one in a different finish and color scheme in addition to making many compositional modifications and changes along the way. 

While I will keep the overall format similar, I expect each one to have a look and character all its own. 


So in the short term, I wanted to share this first iteration with all of you. I imagine some of you might be interested in adding one of these to your collections.

I will open my books to orders for only a few of these, but it will be a one time event like all the other editions, and it will be extremely limited. 

 I will make an announcement as soon as I figure out the right way forward on this. I suspect the number of people who might want to collect one of these may far outstrip the supply, so I need to figure out a fair system, as well as get a better handle on the total costs. 



In the mean time,  I hope you find this all as interesting as I do and, as always, questions and comments are welcome. 

11/12/18

BL 551433342


Hello everyone, I am back once again, this time with a diptych to show all of you. 

For this work, I felt I should finally spend some more of the creative capital I was building up with the small kinetic editions I have been doing over the last year or so. 
(has it really been years already?)


So this project pulls quite a bit of inspiration from my kinetic experiments in order to make a decidedly non kinetic, stand-alone, pair of sculptures. Some of the input for these works might be obvious to those who have been following along, however many elements from this work are also drawn from a collaboration project that is still in development, and so wont be revealed until a little later.

So there is still an air of mystery to this work as well.   


Because so much of the seed material for this work comes from a project that is still under wraps, I am going to refrain from talking about this piece too much and instead let the images do more of the work this time around. I am sure you wont mind a little less babble for once, and when I get the companion work out, I can fill in some more of the blanks then.

I certainly didn't want to wait any longer to release these images so please enjoy.




Just kidding, process wise there is still a good bit to comment on so how can I refrain. 


The color work on these was incredibly complicated. Achieving the two tone color pallet on each of these works was done using a powder coat masking process I have used only a few times before. Mostly because of the high difficulty associated with it.


Essentially the first color is applied as a powder coat resin, and then the parts are all re-machined to expose bare aluminum where the second color is desired. Then the parts are carefully (very carefully...) anodized so that only the exposed areas can be colored with the second color. 


Getting this process correct without damaging the powder coating took weeks of experimentation. So while the works are modest in size (7.5"x8"x6") they required an amount of time to produce comparable with some much larger and complicated works. 


 So ok, still a short and sweet post this time, but as usual, comments and questions are always welcome.


Meet and greet opportunity!

If You live in the North Carolina Area, I will be hangin out at the Okuma winter showcase as a special guest. I will be giving a few talks and hanging out with some of my sculpture work amongst the displays of machine tools that are far far beyond my budget as an artist, but inspiring none the less. 

Should be a lot of fun so stop by. A more official announcement will be coming shortly. 

8/31/18

It Slides, But Is It A Slider? The MG-1

(Update!) I added a copper one to the mix.


OK OK, lets jump right to it with this new pocket sized kinetic sculpture work.

 I know I said in my previous post that we were at the end of the "Slider" series (and we are... I mean... it was) but bare with me because while this new work runs the slight risk of making me look like a liar, I am going to argue my case as to why this work is a bit different.

So let me first admit that this new kinetic work does have a sliding action reminiscent of some of my other small sculptures, but this piece is actually quite different mechanically speaking. In terms of the engineering, it is much more of a tangent to my earlier works than first meets the eye.


Aside from the motion, mostly everything else about this piece is different from what is indicative of one of my other slider sculptures. 

For starters, in place of the mechanical spring loaded "detent" that is the hallmark of my earlier sliders, this work uses magnets to create a positional locking action. Also, rather than having an insert that slides within a bore on the body like a Slider, this work only has two identical halves that glide smoothly on a series of ball bearings in tracks that serve as guides for the direction and limits of the motion.


As far as the sliding action goes, think of the difference between an old wooden drawer that runs on wooden rails verses a modern drawer slide that has ball bearings to guide the drawer. From a mechanical perspective, it could not be more different. So yes, it still slides, but in the name of differentiation, lets go with the term "glide".

 I am calling this work the MG-1, I am sure you can parse that out if you think about.

The magnets in the work keep the steel ball bearings in place, eliminating the need for a keep or cage.

Since I began working on these smaller editions, I have been bouncing between the challenge of making simpler pieces (like the original worry-stone) and indulging in much more complex designs (like the S3). Within that dynamic, I have often wondered if I could make a kinetic work that only involved machining one part (I do not count all the purchased bits like springs bearings and magnets).


It was a tougher problem than I thought, but after lots of experimenting I finally arrived at this design. There are clearly two halves to the composition, but the halves are perfectly identical, so process wise, we are only talking about machining one distinct part.


Aesthetically, I think there are some familiar themes from my other pocket works, but there is also plenty here to distinguish it from my ever growing body of small kinetic works. The challenge of crafting something simple yet unique is really something that appeals to me lately.

I made so many iterations of this work that I could probably make half a dozen different versions of this design. I will try to resist the urge to create a whole family of these, but they are fun.  


Functionally, the work has two types of motion. It can be actuated between your fingers sort of like rubbing two coins together. The magnets provide an interesting haptic feedback as they jump from position to position. It is a difficult sensation to describe, but very satisfying. 


Additionally, I left enough extra motion in the bearing track to allow one to extend the work past its magnetic stopping point, so that if you release it quickly, it will have enough kinetic energy to spring back to its center position. This is also quite satisfying.


So yeah, I hadn't planned to do another small work so soon, but lightning strikes when it does and I am committed to following my muse where ever it takes me. One never knows where this small kinetic sculpture journey will take me next.


 I remain humbled how popular this series has become and I am pleased to hear the range of reasons these works resonate with people. Some are really into the fidget factor of these works, others the aesthetics, I personally like that the former leads to the latter in interesting ways that I cannot predict.  

Hopefully it makes some of you stop and consider just how blurry the lines between fine art, craft, and commercial design really are. 


So, down to brass tacks and "How do I get one of these?"

For those of you interested in adding this work to your collection, I will do the usual pre-order style sign up sale this coming Wednesday September 5th at 11AM EST

You will have to wait for the sign up link to go live to learn the exact price as I do not post pricing on publicly facing media. This work will be on the more affordable end of the scale (relatively speaking). But as with all of my small batch one time only limited runs, the development of the work still required tons of design time, some goofy custom setups, and multiple operations to machine, so the price will be what it will be. I know most of you understand the work that goes into each of these designs.

  Once all the sign ups are in, I will give everyone my best guess on shipping once I have the production schedule sorted. I will be double tracking this work alongside another project so this may go a little slower than usual, but only slightly.

Again, I will post the link for this sign up sale on Wednesday September 5th at 11AM EST. 

I will post it here on this blog, and on my Instagram account.

I will leave the sign up list open for as long as I can, but I will shut it down as soon as I feel I have too many orders to handle. This sometimes happens quite fast. 

This will very likely be your only opportunity to get one of these, so I encourage you not to miss out if you are inclined to add one to your collection.

Good luck, and as always, comments and questions are welcome. 



Also, for extra credit, above is a video walk through with a complete tear down to show everything in more detail. 

5/14/18

S3, Bringing a thought experiment to a close (maybe?)


Announcing the S3, my latest pint sized sculptural object. It is a piece that brings a curious chapter in my art practice to a very satisfying conclusion.

One of the purposes of my kinetic art project has been to discover forms I might otherwise never arrive at, by pursuing mechanical functionality within the framework of my normal sculpture practice. From that standpoint this is certainly a successful sculpture as it performs beautifully, both mechanically and visually.


As you can see in the video above, this work is a double acting slider that operates in a similar manner to the S2. From there the differences are many. 

Most notably, this work is an "offset turned" design using three indexes or axis of rotation. It also has three distinct detent slots, hence the "S3" designation.


With this work, I was also finally able to come up with an inconspicuous assembly mechanism that securely keeps the detents in their respective slots without overextending or twisting off track.

Previous works either had bulky keeper mechanisms with visible hardware or required extra care to operate without accidentally ejecting the insert.

 Most earlier designs required me to sacrifice aesthetics in some small way to accommodate the mechanics. This new assembly freed me up to really add some great details and open up the internals to better appreciate the geometry I was working to create.


The only down side, if you can call it that, of this new assembly is that it requires a special tool to disassemble the work, should the need arise. This means that once the work is put together, it will likely stay that way once it leaves my possession. 

I know some of you enjoy taking your sculptures apart to appreciate the engineering that goes into them (I know I do). Disassembly will be a little more difficult now for the small group of you who like to tinker with your art pieces. However it is not impossible. I am happy to share how it all works and I will post a video sometime soon explaining everything going on inside the work. 

 For the rest of you, it hopefully means no more lost bearings and springs, either from intentional or unintentional disassembly.


The S3 is larger than previous sliders as well, which makes it a striking desktop piece. I had to scale the work larger to create the necessary room to fit all the mechanics without compromising on the design.  It has quite a bit of heft to it as well, owing to its all stainless and brass construction. So while I am still calling this a pocket sculpture, it may require some large-ish pockets to carry it around (no skinny jean carries on this one).

Dimension on this work are 4.05"x 1.8"x1.8 while closed, and 5.25" long when open. So a very substantial piece as far as pocket art goes. 


Similar to my last small edition ("The W3") this is a work that attempts to bring more of the focus to the sculptural aspects of the project. Allowing the work to grow in size and complexity, and letting the ergonomics slip in importance just a little, allowed me to do much more visually with the object.

 If you visit the link, you might notice that the W3 was actually an early experiment to test the workability of a triple offset turned composition, I never intended for the W3 to become its own work, but it happily turned out that way.

S3 inserts shown outside of the assembly to illustrate detail.

Also, as you can see in the image above, the inserts for this piece have a lot more detail as well. I even went so far as to use the powder coat coloring that I have previously reserved for one of a kind and special release pieces. While the powder coloring requires a fair amount of extra time and hand work, it looks amazing so I decided to go for it.

 I will be offering the five colors you see above when the pre-order opens.


 Lastly, there are two pairs of little brass details, one set on the insert ends, and one set inside the bore of the outer assembly. These bits only reveal themselves when the work is in the open position.


So like I mentioned in the title, this is very likely the piece that brings my Slider experiment to a close.  While it has definitely become one of the more interesting and popular tangents in my work, I feel like the idea has (maybe) run its course.  I am equivocating because I never say never. But I think it's best to end on a high note rather than run an idea into the ground simply because it is popular. So I do consider this my grand finale.

The good news is that this will free up some bandwidth and allow new and equally interesting small art projects to bubble up from the background and take shape. Either way, I promise to keep things interesting. 


So, down to brass tacks and "How do I get one of these?"

For those of you interested in adding this work to your collection, I will do the usual pre-order style sign up sale this coming Wednesday, May 16th at 11AM EST

The S3 is one of the more ambitious editions I have attempted to date, many of the machine operations are untraditional to say the least, and so it is quite a time consuming and complex operation to build one of these.  Because of this, the S3 is going to be a bit on the pricey side as far as small works go, but I wanted to make the work without compromise. 

 The fulfillment timeframe is also going to be longer than usual due to the long build time.  

You will have to wait for the sign up link to go live to learn the exact price as I do not post pricing on publicly facing media (think NHVB territory for those familiar).  Also, I will give everyone my best guess on shipping once I know how many sign ups I have received.  I anticipate this to be a solid 3 month process with the works shipping in batches in the order of sign up.

Again, I will post the link for this sign up sale on Wednesday May 16th at 11AM EST. 
I will post it here on this blog, and on my Instagram account.

I will leave the sign up list open for as long as I can, at least 24 hours so long as things don't go crazy, but I reserve the right to shut it down as soon as I feel I have too many orders to handle.  

This will very likely be your only opportunity to get one of these very limited works, so I encourage you not to miss out if you are inclined to add one to your collection. I say this not because I want your money, but because I have enough experience now to know that the secondary market has not been kind to those who decide too late that they must have one my small works.

So check this space on Wednesday for the sign up link, and I will have the rest of the details available then. 

Good luck, and as always, comments and questions are welcome. 



4/24/18

Winter project complete! Sculpture BU 622411311751

Machinist, fine art, sculpture, CNC, contemporary art

Hello everyone.
 After toiling away for seemingly ages on what was to be my "winter project" I have finally come up for air to find that it is actually, finally, spring! Where has the time gone? Regardless, now that the project has finally concluded, I am pleased to share my newest creation with all of you. 

Machined, Metal sculpture, Abstract metal sculpture, Digital fabrication

The design for this work touches on a lot of themes I have visited over the years. It is a retrospective sculpture in a lot of ways as it is chock full of technically challenging elements from nearly every period in my artistic development.

Engineering, fine art, Digital Fabrication, Subtractive manufacturing,

 I have talked a lot about the offset turning methods I have been using lately and there are plenty of examples of that process in this composition. However if you look closely, you should be able to link many additional elements from this piece to dozens of works from the span of my 15 year exploration of machine work. 

CNC fine art, CNC design, Digital Fabrication, Metal Art, Metal Sculpture

There is a bit more of a creature feeling to this sculpture as well, something I commonly eschew because my primary focus is not to create illusion in my work, but to explore a medium wherever it may lead. For this piece, a certain amount of biomorphism was allowed to happen as it arose quite organically out of the complexity of the design. 

Abstract, Machined, metal, Sculpture

After all, life arises from the combined complexity of simpler processes, so why shouldn't life like characteristics emerge from geometric machine processes and sculpture.  It was a bottom up quality rather than top down one, so it made sense to me to push forward with it in a mindful way.

Scifi, Engineering, contemporary art, science fiction art, design art

I welcome the comparisons this biological quality will draw. I think there are some obvious ones, but I am always surprised at some of the connections people make so I look forward to hearing them. 

Industrial art, Interior design art, metal sculpture

At over three feet across and well over one hundred pounds, this is quite a substantial piece. It is designed to be either wall mounted or pedestal mounted. While the baseplates are designed for it, I have yet to fully work out the best way to safely support and position this thing to mount it on the wall. A custom brace, or perhaps a large panel, is in order for a site specific instal (I have some ideas to test). 

Engineering, schematic, blueprint, technical drawing, drawing, cad, CADCAM, autocad

On the drawing front, I took some new creative liberties with the technical print as well. Many of you know I originally started making my drawings as genuine blueprints on an old blueprint machine I had restored. From there I transitioned to a less constrained way of making drawings using modern digital drafting tools to make images that took on a greyscale style. I found there were interesting elements in both ways of producing technical drawings.

 I have also seen others attempt to make faux blueprints, using digital drawing techniques to make images that look like traditional blueprints. And while I can appreciated the homage in this kind of reproduction, I think there is a missed opportunity to build on a traditional style. 

So this is sort of my reaction to all that, a mash up of the two ways I have produced technical drawings. I am calling it "Black and Blueprint". 


There are a lot of great details in this work, but all of the compositional movement eventually brings your eye to, and then through, the center. 


The exact dimensions on this work are 37"x26"x14"


A context shot to try and illustrate the scale. Currently this work is a very imposing guest in my small office gallery.


On the Process front: There is just way too much to cover, so I think it is a good time to recommend to those of you who are most interested in the process aspect of my work, to start following my instagram account if you aren't already. 

My handle is c_bathgate 

As the complexity of these projects grow, I am starting to feel that I can't do justice to all of the interesting details in the build in such a short blog post. But luckily, my Instagram account has grown into a highly detailed technical account of my practice. There, a large portion of my audience is other machinists, and so I feel more comfortable talking to everyone in a tone and manner that is much more technical. There I can be more candid about process issues, ideas, and just generally go a little deeper without feeling like I am alienating anyone. So check it out if you are inclined.

And, as always, comments and questions are welcome.