Sunday, June 20, 2010

Poetical Modesty, In Progress - Stage 3.

Welcome back!

Now that I've squared away the pulley system, it's time to dive into really uncharted waters.

A generous student from a workshop I taught in Sydney a little while back gifted me this little hand-made brass winding mechanism, which I have to assume is a fishing spool. The textural clack/purr of the ratchet mechanism feels and sounds so good that it sprang to mind as a model for my turn crank. It only turns in one direction, and the arched piece of spring steel at the bottom must be gently depressed to disengage it from the ratchet teeth and allow it to wind back the other way. Perfect for my glass panel, so it couldn't drop accidentally like a guillotine and destroy the piece.

The only trouble will be, um, to fabricate it.

I study the object to really understand it, then do some internet research to find out more about these devices, learning along the way that this is called a 'ratchet and pawl' system. The pawl is, in this case, the little rocking steel piece with a screw in the middle, held in tension by the steel tongue - this stops the ratchet from unwinding.

First to make the toothed gear.

As it's not going to be resting against a flat surface like in my antique reel, it needs a shelf halfway down the teeth. A British coin from 1806 has the perfect circumference so it gets soldered into place.

With all this sawing of thick brass, I'm getting lots of brass dust. Like the miser I am, nothing goes to waste - I'm collecting it to use inside future pieces. It looks like gold dust.

I design the pawl (the release arm for the reel). Searching for a suitable thickness of steel, I spy the wrench that came with my Ikea kids' chest of drawers that we got today and anneal it so I can saw it.



Forgot to photograph this object before I started working on it, but this nut came off of a 1950's clock pendulum, which I grooved, stepped and embellished to make it more elaborate.

The axle with the gear consists of brass tubing. One of the things I'm being mindful of is that like any good machine, it needs to be able to be disassembled.

A second British coin, this one from 1740. Now I've got two divided reels for each chain to wrap onto.

The fancy nut with the brass rod screwed in. This is what will pass through the gear/tubing to attach it to the structure.

Decorating the other nut to go in back of the piece. I need to make it adjustable and stable, so I decide to drill and tap it so I can make a tiny set screw to hold it in place.

This is already more 'machining' than I've ever done. Little do I know what's left to do.

Now I can assemble these elements and see how they fit. Though I'm still a long way off from being able to test this thing out - I still have no idea whether it's going to work at all. It helps to be an optimist.

Looks good at this stage. Now to adapt the candelabra to hold this crank. I'll begin by running a tube through the base and riveting it front and back.


The chains get soldered onto the shaft, then wrapped and taped up to keep them out of the way for the time being.

As it was made up until now, there is nothing to make the tubing turn with the crank, so tiny tabs are soldered onto the back of the crank wheel where it meets the tubing. I will then slot the end of the tubing to catch the tabs, as shown.

On now to attaching the pawl to the base. Because I don't know how far out the toothed gear will sit from the candelabra (it has that deep decoration, plus it's not straight up and down), I need to make an adjustable post that will hold the spring in place that tugs on the pawl, keeping its tension. So on to that. Here the wire has been twisted to harden and is drilled in the end.

Using a threading die.

Adjusting the rod.

Etching a date/signature into the back of the base.

Now all of my quiet excuses have run out to dodge the thing that has been making me most nervous during the whole project: dismantling the beautiful box. I'm a bit petrified it will get decimated and then won't be right for whatever reason. Well, I'm in this deep, there ain't no going back. Call in the demolition squad.

Note - I'm leaving at week's end to teach up in Rockhampton, Queensland for a week. I think internet is a bit sketchy at the venue, so I can't promise the fourth and final stage next week - it might have to be the following week. Either way, we're almost there!




  1. HA! That Ikea wrench transformation is brilliant! Like I've said before Keith, you are a mad genius! And a master craftsman stuff-smith of the very highest order :)

  2. OMG Cant believe the ikea wrench you totally amaze me.Cant wait to see the rest,Im really speechless Keith you blow me away.

  3. terribly clever. love seeing the bones of your work.

  4. Ok, ok, I'm out of words. I did gasp out loud, however, at the gorgeous pulley system. Will this be for sale? I might just sell my car. Or my dog. No, never my dog. But the car, definitely. Bravo!!

  5. It just keeps getting better, nice work Keith, I'm amazed with it all, thanks for sharing.

  6. What the cuss? Thats unbelievable!

  7. Keith--Documenting, describing, AND posting this fascinating project is a true gift to us all! Thank you for your continued generosity!

  8. It's really fun to follow your project like this :) Thanks for sharing it and showing all the details. Amazing :)

  9. Hey, thank you all so much for your comments. It really means so much that the progress is being charted and shared all over the world as it's happening. As making artwork for me is very solitary, this has proven to be an addictive and maybe even necessary way for me to keep in the wider community.

    So again, thanks for leaving your comments, whatever they may be. It keeps me wanting to share.

    PS: I've just taken beauty shots of the finished piece. Woo hoo!

  10. Keith, you are amazing!! And so generous to share your doing and thinking about this piece with us....maybe you will let us Rockhampton folks have a sneak peak of the finished piece - at least in photos - when you are here!
    Looking forward to a week learning and laughing with you, see you on Friday!

  11. Peta, You will indeed be the one of the first people to see finished images of the piece, I'm doing a slideshow featuring it in Rocky. Unfortunately, you won't see the real thing - it and all my other work went out the door not 10 minutes ago to travel to Hervey Bay for the July exhibition! See you Friday.

  12. You are an amazing creator, fabricator, stuff-smith, collector genius. I only wish you needed an apprentice.