I’m making a double-size version of my very popular piece The Donor for Marvin’s Marvellous Mechanical Museum and I thought I’d show the process of making it in excruciating detail. Firstly, it’s interesting and a little alarming to see how, when linear measurements are doubled, the volume increases eightfold.
I recently made a x2 version of an old Anubis piece which illustrates the size jump;
I made the first, smaller, Donor mainly because I’ve been trying out simple pneumatic mechanisms, sending puffs of air from a bellows through holes drilled in the woodwork to a diaphragm somewhere else on the piece. It’s a mechanism I’ve used several times recently- to make birds rustle hungrily in their nest, mice vibrate fearfully in a cat’s dinner dish, and, in an as-yet unfinished piece, a woman and a devil have an argument in a theatre set in a cat’s bottom. It’s a good way of transmitting pulses of action to places which would be hard to reach by normal mechanical means.
I’d made the prototype before I thought of the title. When ‘The Donor’ presented itself to my mind I thought it was a piece worth making. I’m on the NHS list of potential donors for transplant surgery. Although I usually think of me as a husband, father, country craftsman, life and soul of parties and general all-round interesting dude, I must be something else to the Donor Database; a mobile shop of fresh spares ready and waiting for use in someone else’s upgrade. That title transformed the piece from a funny but grisly toy into something with reverberations of mind/body dualism and the ethical problems associated with definitions of life and death. In other words, a really solid joke.
I drew the double size figure on a plank of limewood, then sawed it out with a bandsaw, cutting out the trickier bits with a fretsaw (scrollsaw). In both versions the main action is the pulsing of a diaphragm on which the viscera are painted. The body cavity is sawn out and the waste piece used as a plug to form the leather diaphragm.
The small Donor featured only pulsing viscera but for the big one, two extra actions are provided. There’s a circular recess made in the table top over which is glued a piece of grey rubbercloth. When air is pumped into the recess this will inflate, lifting the wooden button and the steel pushrod attached to it. Screwed to the table on the right is a trimmed down piece of the sawn-out plug which seals the body cavity and holds the body in place. On the left is the head rest through which the push-rod will transmit movement to the eye-popping lever.
Ready for arms and what we will euphemistically call ‘The Towel Mechanism’.
To be continued…