VCR Rollers revisited [Sept 2011]

VCR tape rollers, stainless steel wire, hematite beads, clock and watch gears, small springs, brass rod

I've been playing with the tape rollers again, but have been getting a bit more creative with them.  Ive been slicing up the roller itself, and inserting drilled out clock and watch gears, slices of brass rod turned down to the same size, hematite beads and other things.

I like these earrings, and will be doing more of them (as soon as I can get my hands on some more junked Videocassette Recorders.) - they are nice little mini projects, that can be completed in a single session.

Nick's Piece (aka 'Infinite Patience') [remade May 2011]

Computer Hard Drive Spindle Parts, Hematite Beads, Small Camera Lens, Thrust Bearing, Watch Glass, Steel Watch Gear, Marcasite, Syntheric Ruby Watch Jewel.

This piece was originally made for my friend Nick some time around 2005, but possibly even earlier. It originally looked like this:

Computer Hard Drive Spindle Parts, Hematite Beads, Brass Watch Gear.

The greying of the alloy parts is due the natural corrosion caused by body oils and sweat. Some alloys are more susceptible to it than others. He wore it almost continuously until the brass gear in the centre detatched and was lost, and he gave it back to me for repair. This was around 6 years ago. For some reason I just never got around to fixing it up. Nick has been abroad for many years, so I havent seen much of him - until last week, when he visited Australia briefly to renew a visa and visit family.

He stayed with me and spent a day in my studio while in transit in Sydney, and with a smile and infinite patience asked me about his old piece. I dug out the bits, and decided that it (and Nick) deserved more than just a basic repair, and so the piece was made over.

The original spindle with its 8 inset hematite beads was retained, but I replaced the outer, finned part with a new, unmachined version of the same part that I had. The simple brass gear that had been lost was replaced with a more intricate arrangement of parts, but one that still referenced the original design.

A tiny brass and steel thust bearing was inserted into a slightly machined out centre, with a small steel watch gear of similar design to the original brass gear set in its centre. A piece of faceted marcasite was set in the centre of the gear on the front, and a synthetic ruby watch jewel was set in the same place on the back. A small camera lens was recessed into the front, and the back is protected by a watch glass that is sandwiched between the finned outer part and the inner part of the spindle. I spent a while crushing tiny hematite beads in a vice in order to obtain the six halves that are inset into six holes on the rear of the piece. Like most of my more recent pieces, it can now be worn either way around.

It has been a long time coming, but I finished the transformation while Nick was here with me watching the whole process, which made it quite special, and he had it on when he boarded the plane for New Delhi last night. :)

Rollers [Apr 2011]

VCR Tape Rollers, Stainless Steel Wire, Hematite Bead

Made a bunch of earrings from tape rollers from salvaged videocassette recorders.  For icons of 1980's technology, they have a surprisingly art deco feel to me.  Each VCR has a pair of these rollers, and I'm yet to find two pairs that are the same.  The steel shaft is extremely tough steel - I broke a number of solid carbide drill bits before getting the technique for drilling them down.  As you can see in the photo below, I started off using off-the-shelf earring hangers because i had run out of stainless steel wire.  I thought these let the earrings down though, so ordered some 0.5mm SS wire and made my own hangers, complete with a little cylindrical bicone hematite bead.

There are a few pairs of these left - if anyone is interested, email me know.  I'm asking $60 a pair.

A blast from the past - The Beginning [1996/97?]

Cut section of Steel gear and splined shaft from car gearbox, brass pin.

This is where it all began.  The first piece I ever made, some time back in the mid 90's.  I found these images as black and white photo negatives in a pile of old darkroom junk I had in a box under the house.

I remember I had been pulling apart an old car gearbox, and something about the way the gears looked on the splined shaft stirred something in me that has been growing and evolving ever since.

I used an angle grinder to slice off a section of the gear and shaft (took a long time - gears are tough!) and smoothed the back, somehow (I can't even remember how) fixed the shaft end into the middle of the gear, polished the whole lot and found a small brass cone shaped pin that fit into the centre hole in the shaft.

It was a heavy piece, being solid steel. It was given as a present to an ex-girlfriend, who may even still have it. I hope it hasnt rusted...

Anomalous Piece [Feb 2011]

beam splitter, stainless steel surgical bone pin, spring, titanium rod.

This piece is something of an anomaly for me, because it isn't round.  The glass beam splitter block is also something of a mystery, as I can't remember exactly where it came from.  Either a camera or a piece of old scientific equipment.  Camera most likely.

the pads glued to the sides of the block are machined from titanium rod - incredibly difficult given their size and thinness.  The bent rod that holds the block is cut from a stainless steel surgical bone pin, from the Vet where my partner Rachel works.  the ends were rounded to fit in the hemispherical cups machined into the pads.  The block is free to rotate, held in place by the spring tension of the steel rod. 

A Spring is used to attach the work to the fine coated steel cable, the spring being held between two stoppers machined from titanium.  small grooves were milled in the top of the stoppers, to hold the ends of the spring and also to prevent the wire from kinking where it comes out of the spring at the stopper.  Again, very fine and fiddly machine work required here.

It is extremely difficult to photograph this piece, as it dynamically changes with light and surroundings, and flashes gold or irridescent orange when it catches the light, and looks translucent blue or purple from other angles.  it also partially reflects its surroundings.

This piece is a gift for my partner, Rachel.

...and there is a secret circle in there too ;)

Amusement Value [Oct 2010]

amusement arcade token, camera iris mechanism part, two lenses, aluminium ring, text from a book, brass tubing, dot matrix printer part, marcasite, synthetic ruby watch jewel

Earlier this year, I travelled with a friend to Vietnam.  While over there, we met up with another friend, Robert Henke, who was in Hanoi for the debut of his latest sound work, Intersection. Before we left Vietnam, Robert gave me a coin he had found on the road there, and asked me if I could make something for him from it.  It had been run over by half a million scooters, but close inspection revealed it to be an amusement arcade token.  We decided to do an artist's trade - I would make him a piece from the coin, and he would make me a piece of music.

At first, I really had no idea what to do with it.  It took quite a while staring at it before I decided to lightly sand the surfaces, which brought out some of the brass base metal and a nice pattern.  I still didnt have much idea, but after a few months of it floating around my desk I came across the guide mechanism for a camera lens iris and things started coming together.

I machined out the inside of the mechanism, to give me as much room as possible, and found a lens that could be made to fit.  the coin went in behind that, and a very thin aluminium ring was machined to hold the coin centred. I also sanded the front lightly to expose a bit of the brass of the case through the black oxide coating.

Robert is a musician and sound artist, but with a scientific/engineering mind
also, so I found some text in the back of an old engineering textbook that gave the speed of sound in air. It is invisible when you look at the piece front on, but if you look from an angle, it becomes visible.

This was set into a channel I machined into the inside of the case.

Around this time, I found an old dot matrix printer and the print head had some wonderful pieces in it. One of these looked fantastic in front of the coin, but didnt quite look right when I cut it down to fit inside the case. A dilemma. scrap the case idea and start again? No. So instead I decided to make the piece double sided, with the printer part and the back side of the coin visible through another lens on the back.

At this point, I was pretty happy with it. Unfortunately, I couldnt find the right part to use as a hanger. I had shown Robert, and he decided he would find a nice antique chain for it in Berlin. I needed a hanging point that would accomodate a chain. Months passed and I spent ages sifting through all my small parts looking for something. Nothing turned up. I tried modifiying some parts that might have worked, but wasn't 100% happy with the results. In the end, the answer came while i was staring at a short length of brass tube that came out of a camera lens.

I cut a section from the tube, ground a reverse curve into one side that matched the curve of the iris mechanism, drilled a small hole and machined a flat section into the inside of the tube to act as a land for the tiny stainless steel bolt I would use to hold it to the piece. I drilled a larger hole in the top to allow me to tighten the bolt. I decided to add a couple of extra large holes to lighten the look a little. The section of tube then got roughened up a little, then left in an ammonium bath to age it to match the look of the rest of the piece.

Finally, a few extra details were added. first, six pyramid-cut marcasite pieces left over from another work, fit nicely with the dot matrix print head part. This part also had a very small hole in it, and I found a tiny synthetic ruby watch jewel that fit perfectly in it.

I think this has turned out to be one of my favourite pieces yet.

Mask [Oct 2010]

Another work in progress, something a little different for me because it isn't round! and will probably be a brooch, not a pendant.  The main part might be part of a lock mechanism - I can only guess, as I found it on the road.  It was very rusty, and I wire brushed it, then heated it and dipped it in an oil bath to give it the lovely dark finish.  Underneath are a CCD chip from a digital camera in the mouth, with glass and mother of pearl, with a filter from a mobile phone lcd sandwiched in between, for the eyes/nose.

The filter is quite interesting, as it appears a semi-transparent green mostly, so the mother of pearl is visible

but from certain angles, it flashes the most brilliant irridescent blue...

the photos don't do it justice.

Hon Shirabe [2002]

Hard drive platter spacer, roller bearings, spring, hematite

This was the first piece I made after moving to Sydney in 2002.  Its always been a favourite, and has aged nicely through wear.  The hematite bead has some lovely pitting, providing a bit texture.  The roller bearings - from an old car gearbox - have gone from a shiny chrome-like finish to something more like a dull grey, especially on the reverse side.  This is something ive noticed in other pieces that use steel bearings as parts.  It must be some property of the kinds of alloys that they use in bearings that means they corrode like this when exposed to the skin's natural acids.

The platter spacer was shaped by hand on a bench grinder, rather than using a lathe - a technique I used to use a lot, but not so much any more - you tend to end up with mild burns on your fingers from the metal as it heats up...

I've been drawn back to the simplicity of this piece again recently, and might make a few in a similar style in the coming year.

Amorous Soul [Sept 2009]

camera lens, camera lens barrel, brass plate, brass rod, text on paper

This piece was commissioned by a friend, Justin, as an engagement present for his partner Colleen.  Having not yet met Colleen, I started by asking him about her. He responded, including some photos of some jewellery she already had.  From this, it seemed to me that she wouldn't be afraid of a larger piece, which allowed me a bit more scope in what parts I could use.  He also mentioned that she has a passion for literature, and I asked if she had any favourite works or quotes.  It's been a while since ive done a text based piece, and the idea of this appealed.

The quote I ended up using is from Jack Kerouac's famous book "On the Road", and Colleen was including part of it in her email signature. I did some experimenting, and made a study to show Justin to see if I was on the right track. Initially the piece was quite starkly black and white.

While I think this could still have worked well, I decided to remove the black coating from the edge of the lens, and polish the blackened brass bezel up a little. This looked good, but left the stark white paper looking out of place. The solution (literally) was found by dunking the printed text into my cup of tea. The tea stained paper worked much better with the brass bezel and added some nice texture. Below is a more advanced study.

I spent a lot of time playing with the text in photoshop, not only cropping it, but playing with fonts and highlighting.  I wanted something old-typewriterish, and found a couple of free fonts online that suited.  The finished result uses a combination of these different typefaces (though this might not be immediately obvious) with some words having every single letter either from different typefaces, or altered in colour, size, spacing, baseline, or a combination of all of these.  Certain words are also subtly emphasised.  I experimented with lots of different ways of printing it, and different papers.

The above photo shows some of the different papers (photocopy, blank pages torn from old books, photo paper) and different print styles.  The final version is photo quality inkjet on matte photo paper, pre-stained with tea - Wagh-Bakri "Tiger-Goat" tea (so called because it is reputedly so good that a tiger and a goat would rather sit and enjoy a cup of it together, rather than the more usual outcome of their meeting...).  This tea was brought back from India for me by a friend of the friend who introduced me to it (thanks AB & C!).  The final text is the one visible bottom right of the above photo - not yet cut out.

The bezel is cut from a section of the zoom tube of a zoom lens. Machining it was extremely difficult, owing to the thinness required (between 0.5 and 1mm), and relatively large diameter (about 40mm).  The back is a piece of old brass plate I inherited.  Justin had his own ideas for a chain, so I machined a small brass pin and loop that he could attach to.  Normally I would include a chain of some sort - I often use plastic coated stainless steel wire and a custom made clasp - so instead of this, I made up a small presentation box for it out of a round metal tin I got while in Japan, padded with black felt.

I really enjoyed making this piece.  And congratulations - Justin and Colleen!