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The S1V2

Kinetic art, fidget, sculpture, pocket art.

And now for some color.

As promised, a return to some smaller work with a new edition of "Slider" style pocket sculptures. Although similar in composition to the original S1, this is a complete redesign with a lot of carefully considered changes. I am going to call this the "S1V2".

I was originally going to go with S3 for simplicity, but I have a concept that is still incubating that reflects a more proper evolution, and so is more deserving of that moniker. I will get to it one day I promise.

There are a number of reasons I wanted to return to this form from last fall. For starters, over the many weeks I worked on S1, I kept coming up with small but meaningful changes I would have liked to try. Eventually, this list of changes became long enough that I started drafting some of them just to see how they would have looked.

These sketches became a complete redesign of the work. But having too many commitments at the time, I shelved the drawings, not knowing if I would ever get back to them. 

Chris Bathgate, functional art experiment

Another reason I decided to pull the trigger on this edition was that even though I have released a number of other small works in the last few months, I still get near daily emails from people who are primarily interested in my original slider design.

This is of course, very flattering, and as focused as I might be on "new" new work, eventually the steady drum beat of people wanting works of this nature must have had an effect. Not usually one to cave to peer pressure, I suspect I was already looking for an excuse to dust off my V2 design and see where it might lead. Given how great they turned out, and how excited I am to start this project has helped to confirm that suspicion. 

Besides. I think I was able to cover enough new ground with this refinement to justify the indulgence.

Aside form the new profiles and insert details, there are quite a few noteworthy changes in this new design. For starters, these are about 30% bigger than my original slider (but not heavier), I always thought that the originals might be a bit small for some hands so I went for something a little meatier. 

This larger size was just enough to allow me to do some internal profiling on the bore that receives the insert. The radius on the tail end of the insert is an elongated profile, which requires a very small boring bar to turn the inside dimensions. The original S1 was simply drilled out using a 5/8" ball mill, which was limiting.

EDC art, CNC sculpture, anodized art

I had very briefly experimented with anodized aluminum inserts on the S1. What I initially found was that the friction inside the bore was too much for the exposed sharp edges of the inserts, which caused some chipping of the colored coating.

But on reflection, I realized I had it backwards all along. I started to wonder, what if I swapped the anodizing to the body? I reasoned that doing so would mean that the smooth and reasonably protected inner bore of the body would be the only portion of the coating that would be exposed to sliding friction. I wondered if that would be enough to prevent any chipping? A test was going to be the only way to find out.

So I made a prototype (the orange one) and have been putting it through it's paces all weekend. I am happy to report that it is holding up beautifully, even to some brutal accelerated aging. so I am now reasonably confident that this combination is going to work perfectly fine.

The reason for all of this trouble was so that I could produce the gorgeous array of colors you see above. Anodized aluminum is really the only way to produce such colors on a metallic finish, and it was something I thought was lacking in my other works. Plus it is quite fitting for a spring edition.

The aluminum is noticeably lighter, but the larger insert makes the total weight close to the S1. The sound of the sliding action is different from the S1 as well, which is a rare look at the acoustic properties of different metals. (there is always something new to be learned in with this craft).


So, as I have done with other small editions, If you are interested in adding one of these works to your collection, I will be opening these to pre-order only.

I expect demand will likely outstrip my ability to produce enough of these, so I have come up with a system that is as fare as possible, if not a little clunky and complicated. (all of this will be detailed on the pre-order form once I settle on the number of works I think I can make)

Pre-order will open this coming Thursday (April 20th) at 11AM (EST). I will send out a follow up to this newsletter at exactly that time with a link to a google form. This form is how you will reserve your place in line to purchase one of these sculptures. The form will also detail the pricing, shipping, and how payments will be processed.

If you are not on my mailing list, please sign up here before Thursday morning and white list the following email address in your mail client "chris@chrisbathgate.com"

This will likely be the only run of these I will make, as I have lots of other exciting things in the works.

So keep an eye out for the Thursday pre-order email.  And if you are reading this at some distant point in the future, I am sorry, but the moment has passed.

As always, comments and questions are welcome.


Over 1000 individually machined parts later, a new sculpture emerges. (Sculpture BM 792314)

CNC art, Industrial design, Sculpture, Machinist sculptor

Last year, I spent the fall making a small army of pocket sized sculptures. They were very popular and a blast to make, but they were relatively simple as far as designs go. So as winter set in, I felt that I was ready to turn my attention to something bigger and more technically complex. Now it is spring and I have emerged from my studio hibernation with something I think is really special.

For the last 14 weeks I have been undertaking one of my most ambitious works to date. Not ambitious in terms of size (although it is a largish piece), but more of a personal record in terms of the substantial number of parts I was required to make to execute this idea. It is a design with well over a thousand individually machined parts. If you count spare parts (I always make extras), almost 1100.

Digital Fabrication, industrial design

While still a healthy size as far a machined metal sculptures go, it is by far the largest parts count I have ever attempted. I had to make hundreds upon hundreds of custom bolts, pins, and spacers in addition to the dozens of other more intricate parts that make up the assembly.

 (Sculpture is 20.5" tall, 17" wide, and 11" deep. It weighs 88 pounds)

engineering art

This work is also unique in that it has a rather complex interior space, something that I find difficult to work into many of my designs.

 The opening into the interior is approximately 5" at its smallest, so you can easily stick your whole arm through the center of this piece. 

Digital Fabrication arts

As far as my design motivations for this work?...Well lately...rather than thinking about these sculptures in terms of representing one big idea or one specific meaning, I am finding it more useful and accurate to say that these works speak to a collection of smaller ideas, some overlapping, and even conflicting at times. 

I bet many artist feel pressure to impose meaning in places were maybe there is none, and are reluctant to reveal other meanings in service to creating a tidy narrative around their works. There is a belief that a concise narrative makes the work more accessible to others, but this is not always true with my type of work. I find a fixed narrative or interpretation betrays the complexity of the creative process, and can even be alienating if it does not fit with a persons own perceptions of the work.

So I have started to say that I collect lots of small concepts, bits of technical information, personal meanings, and compositional elements as I work. Then I take these simpler elements and smash them together and recombine them until something more complex and refined emerges. 

I think comparing disparate pieces of information is how most new ideas are created, it is certainly the case with this work, I could speak to over a dozen loosely connected points of interest that went into this composition. But as you already know, I am only willing to share a few of them.

design art, metal fabrication, cncart

One example of an influence that I am willing to share, comes in part from planning my most recent exhibition at the Baltimore Museum of Industry.
(see link and show details here)

The BMI was originally an old cannery that now houses an array of machines, products, and tools from across Baltimore's industrial past.

I paid many visits to the BMI over the last 18 months while planning my exhibition there. I took a lot of extra time during those visits to appreciate the BMI's collection to see how I might make some connections to my own work. 

My time amongst the various industrial artifacts got me thinking about how artists have always appropriated antiquated industrial processes and given them a new lease on life within the arts (glass blowing, type setting, wood turning are all examples). Likewise, artists have also been some of the first to adopt new technologies to see what novel uses they may have (photography and video). I realized that this contrast between the old and the new is something that machine work, my sculptural process, encapsulates beautifully. 

There are processes that I use in my shop that have not changed for hundreds of years, there are also processes in my shop that represent the cutting edge of digital fabrication technologies. I think committing to exploring both ends of this spectrum has led me to some of my most interesting work. 

Walking around the BMI, I intentionally pulled a number of references from their collection for this particular piece, far more than I would ever admit to for any other design. I wanted some part of this sculpture to embody my experience there. 

metal sculpture, abstract, machine, art

As I said, there are many other influences present in this work, as the beginning sketches of this design go back almost 2 years. 

Ok ok, one more. Look up "John Ernst Worrell Keely", really interesting story in its own right. Was he a con man? inventor? or was he the first machinist sculptor?..

I'll just leave that one hanging out there.

CAD, technical Drawing, schematic art

The Drawing for this work is just as ambitious as the sculpture, but a bit too big for a blog image. 

It is actually too big for the printer as well, 60x60 inches is as big as my printing company can accommodate, but even this is not properly to scale. 

Sadly, it is very compressed above which compromises it a great deal.

But rest assured, each part is faithfully included in there somewhere. I took a bit more liberty with the use of a bold color (singular) and composition on this one.

 I can't wait to get this monster printed and on a wall somewhere, as it is like an engineers version of a mandala.

The exploded diagram and assembly breakdown is unfortunately another drawing that just doesn't scale well for the screen. 

The exploded assembly is just an organized mess until you spend some time wrapping your head around it.

Machinist sculptor Chris Bathgate, works

Additional process notes: Even after all the parts were completed, It took two entire days to assemble everything. Threading and torquing down each of the hundreds of bolts with custom made wrenches while taking great care not to scratch or ding the finish was quite the meditative exercise. I have never held my breath so much in my entire life. 

Machine work as sculpture

This project saw me spending many weeks with repetitive operations, so I made it a point to enjoy taking the time to refine and discover efficiencies for each step and part-program as the days went on. 

There is a lot to be learned from making 440 small spacers, even when you are on part 423, something new might still occur to you.

milling machine art, lathe art

I also had to expand my Anodizing lab to accommodate some of the larger diameter ring shaped parts. They simply would not fit in my existing tanks, but I knew they had to be orange, so I ended up refurbishing much of my anodizing line and installing new tanks just for the few parts in this work.

 I will be sure to put them to good use again in the future. 

Many people have commented that I do a bad job of illustrating the scale of my works in these posts. 

To remedy this, here is the hand spinner collaboration I did sitting atop a 1.5"diameter steel rod for scale reference.

 the stainless bolt heads on the work are each half an inch in diameter, and the large orange bolt caps on the legs are three quarters. 

(there are also a couple good desk shots in the montage below)

 Lots of other great process images for inspiration as well. 

So in conclusion, this is what 14 weeks of my life looks like...I hope you like the result.

 The pendulum will likely be swinging back to some small works for a little while, I have some things I want to try and some other collaboration announcements coming, so stay tuned. 

Also, in case you missed it, the newest version of my art book is now up for sale on the website and on Blurb, links below. 

as always, comments and questions are welcome.