From Sketch to Reality – Matilda


Hello everyone, thanks for reading. Today I’d like to share with you the making of my sculpture “Matilda” from a concept in my head into reality. Someone came up with a challenge for me: to create a sculpture that is able to project segments of light onto the wall/ceiling of a room to create an interesting atmosphere and so I set out on a journey to make that a reality. I did hit some bumps along the way and the end result (at least in the sense of cool shadows/beams of light) wasn’t quite what I had hoped but it did bring about the most complicated and detailed sculpture at the time.

Most of my ideas are born in a CAD Drawing Software. Sometimes I work in SolidWorks for more complex stuff but in this case I worked straight in Mastercam (the CAD software for working with machine tools). Since I wanted a pretty high level of light output, I decided to use some LED Rings (I’ve used them in other projects and they’re pretty nifty). This was probably not the best choice since as it turns out, each individual LED in the ring creates shadows so overall there were a lot of faint shadows (whereas if I used one light source there would be fewer of them but they would be more defined).  The LED Rings look something like this:

Below is the design I came up with. When I design them I keep in mind the specific tools that will create the cuts and where those tools will be used and what tool paths I will create later. This is perhaps the hardest portion of the process because it’s merging the world of Art and Engineering into one bit, and unfortunately at this stage the Engineering portion is more important so it takes a lot of focus, calculation and trial and error. The middle section is designed to bend around the LED ring so I kept the size in my mind while working on the design.

Here’s what I came up with:
MatildaDesignI can live with that! Although it meant not getting enough sleep and being late to just about everything the next day, it was well worth the effort. I was at this point ready to create the tool paths. This tells my machine how to make the cuts on the part and which tools to use and things like how fast/deep to go and whether to spray lubricant on the cutting tool.
Tool Paths

And here’s a machine simulation of most of the cuts:Machine Simulation
Now we’re ready for a good time. At first I made a shallow cut in acrylic so I could see where the piece will be and then I went at it for a while with an airbrush!

Air Brushed
Air Brushed!

Time to do some cuts!

The first cuts look great! I was having a jolly good time :).

And a few hours of sitting patiently, changing tools, and squirting soapy water on the part later, viola! By the way, I used soapy water on this one because the coolant I usually use would dissolve the paint and we want none of that after working all night. 0128162253a
The next step is sculpting the acrylic with heat. I usually use a heat gun (an over-glorified hair dryer) or a propane torch (sometimes a micro-torch for the finer details) and sculpt into the shape I like. In this case I had a very specific plan on what shape I wanted to have in the end because of where the LED parts would go and the piece that would go over this one. I’m using a light from a different sculpture for now, but you get the idea.
Time for the cover (the part that will actually cast the majority of the shadows:

I could’ve sworn that I started out with the original design and then modified but looking back at it it looks nothing like it! Whatever, let’s cut! Just as before I did an outline…
And then airbrushed it. (Sorry I somehow missed the photo with colors).

More cutting…

Viola! Fits very nicely. I had to do some more adjustment on the bigger flower so they almost interlock.0202162046

So off camera I had some torch time and created some glass accents for the piece. In the future I’ll make videos and photos of doing the Glass work so I apologize for leaving that out (this is my first time doing something like this although I’ve been wanting to for a while now).

I love it when I get a glimpse of my vision taking shape in reality!
Pew Pew! I think I made a spaceship. Or an alien flower. Don’t know, don’t care but I really like it. Oh yea, it has lights inside so I wanted to plug them in before calling it a night.
Let’s just say I slept good that night.
The last step in the process is making the base. After gluing some wood together and strategically laminating some black acrylic off camera I mounted it into the wood lathe and went at it uncontrollably spewing plastic chips all over my face and in every imaginable nook and cranny in my studio.

It probably doesn’t look like much but after some work I had the final sanding and finishing to do:

I touched the very tip and the very bottom with my propane torch to make it really dark. I also brought out the grain on the oak and pine pieces with a light touch of flame. The result: definitely my strangest wood project 🙂0204160136e

And that’s pretty much it. The only remaining task was to run some wires to the lights. I also decided to put a light inside the big glass “tip”. The very last step is attaching a lamp switch and a power supply.

Thank you for reading! Hopefully in the future I’ll capture videos and give you a more mesmerizing breakdown of one of my works.

But for now I present to you: Matilda!
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