Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Re-presenting the work

I've been working on some drawing / models ('drawdels') that get at the qualities and essence of the ice cuts, ie: looking at reflection, the two-and-a-half dimensional space between horizontal and vertical, etc. as well as some essays.

ICE CUTS: an index of abstraction

Cutting out a large shape of ice and suspending the positive not only signifies the ice as object, it also enters into an indexical dialogue between two oppositional conditions, that which is above and below. The slab protrudes into three dimensional space, referencing the negative as if to say that came from this, but this is bigger than that, so that other part must have gone somewhere below this. The trace only lasts for several weeks until the dark negative, which is merely a thinness of the surface, normalizes to the rest of the frozen thickness surrounding it. But until that point the ice object narrates a cause and effect; cut, shift, and freeze. The inextricably linked relationship between solid and void, or positive and negative, and even light and dark, engages in a spatial exchange that goes beyond the surface into a space that is obscured otherwise. The space it references operates as an abstraction within abstractions. The ice object is an abstraction of water, manipulated in such a way that it obfuscates itself and creates a third abstraction of an inaccessible space. And through this abstraction of a subterranean space, an other space is created in the mind of the subject.

It can be deduced that if the shape of the negative is twice as large as what reads as the positive, then we see only half of the positive above the surface, and can assume the other half is below the surface. And knowing that what we see is a chunk of ice bearing the same properties as the shape of negative (ie: continuous, uninterrupted, and coplanar), the chunk must do the same thing where we cannot see it. We can assume the ice object interrupts the space of the water below in the same manner as it does the air above. However the image of the ice as it appears to our eyes does not follow our systematic logic, and instead defies what we know of coplanar surfaces, and creates the effect of gently intersecting planes, which is an effect of reflectance through one medium to another or air to water. This is one read of what appears to be vs. what is.

The second read I would offer is the condition of the ice cut after several weeks –when the negative equalizes with the rest ice. No longer is there any trace of the positive intersecting with the negative, as the negative returns to an opaque gray, blending with the larger body of ice. What we might recall from science class is that the density of water is constantly oscillating as it narrows down to the point of freezing. Warm water rises to the surface (because it is less dense), cools from the air, and then falls back down to the lower depths where it is re-warmed. This process continues until the entire body of water reaches 4C, at which point the density of water reverses, or in other word the colder it gets the less dense it gets, and therefore stays on the surface, ultimately becoming ice. As the cold temperatures persist the ice freezes more, thickening the hardened surface.

But the water below is still 4C and so then it must be assumed that the negative protrusion of the ice object from above is submerged in water that is actually higher than the freezing point, and subsequently melts away. The condition that had previously been imagined below the surface is merely a spatial abstraction that does not exist. Yet the precision in which it describes space through an indexical relationship, and the image the subject can construct mentally is vivid enough to argue that it actually does exist, insofar as it elicits the same response from each subject. The fact that the subterranean ice object is merely made up is irrelevant as it carries with it a spatial experience as vivid as the real thing.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sugar Season

Since I stopped working on the ice cuts I've taken up a small maple syrup operation in my front yard. I have two decent sized red maples and few sugar maples, three of which I've tapped. I purchased the taps for $3 at the Dexter mill and cut holes in milk jugs as collection buckets. Tapping the trees was pretty straight forward, drill a 2 inch deep hole at a slight upward angle into the trunk of the tree about 3 feet from the ground. Next, pound the tap into the hole and attach the collection jug, and the sap literally starts flowing (or dripping) at the rate of leaky faucet.

The most peculiar thing about this process is that the temperature must get down to freezing at night and go above freezing in the day. If only one happens without the other, ie: all freezing, or all thawing, nothing happens.

The first week I started it was pretty good, and I collected about 2 gallons, then it got cold, and nothing flowed for a few days. The weather snapped again, getting very warm during the day, and I was flowing about a gallon and half at its peak. So far I think I've collected 8 + gallons. Last weekend I boiled down a batch on a makeshift fire pit in my yard. Apparently an open fire imbues a smoky flavor in the syrup that is said to be the best. Okay, wood fire it is.

This took a very a long time, and required constant maintenance -lots of little pieces of wood were added to keep the flame hot. Luckily my roommate Erik chopped lots of wood throughout the day keeping a steady supply on hand. If the fire got down to just coals, the sap would only simmer. The sugar content in sap is about 2-6 % depending on who you ask. Boiling down 4 gallons took almost 12 hours, which is hideous compared to the rate at which small syrup operations evaporate their sap (hundreds of gallons per hour). By 10:30p the sap was getting darker colored and was quickly reducing down into syrup. I brought it inside to 'finish' it on the stove, which requires monitoring the temperature with a candy thermometer until it reaches 104 C, which is above the boiling point of water. This number tells you that your sugar content is correct and the syrup is done. One could continue boiling it, and would end up with maple sugar.

The syrup tasted very good, and you could definitely pick up a smoky flavor, which was actually quite nice. To be methodical, the next day I boiled down the other half of my sap on the stove, just to be sure there was a difference between open fired syrup. This was way easier because you could forget about monitoring the flame, although it took nearly the same amount of time. This batch came out a little lighter amber color and didn't have a smoky flavor, but nonetheless was very good.

For now, I'm using calder's dairy half&half bottles, but I have some real syrup bottles coming in the mail. I actually don't like the shape of a traditional syrup bottle, but they only cost about $1 each. Shipping was more expensive than the bottles. I'm going to design some labels for the bottles, and begin speculating on this project at the scale of a neighborhood, and then the city of ann arbor, which by the way maps every single tree on every street, and all the trees in the parks thanks to the forestry department. Of these trees, 37% are maples. Ann Arbor could create a multi-million dollar sugar industry without planting anything!

Report from the Meltdown

I had not been out to the gravel pit since my last post in February when I disassembled the gantry crane and hauled it onto dry land, but I made a trip down there this morning. For the past two weeks the temperature has been going above freezing in the day and below freezing at night, and the last few days have been well into the fifties.

The ice on the pond is still walkable, but a little slushy. The snow has completely melted away, and the surface of the ice is now pocked with hotspots where a warm current of water has melted an open hole. The last remaining cut is still projecting out of the ice, but has melted in a weird way. The ice became very fractured under the sun as internal bubbles pressurized and escaped. Now the ice is melting along the fractures and has taken on a lumpy, jagged look. I imagined that the protruding ice slabs would melt down like a stick butter or a popsicle, smoothly and almost plastic-like, but this is much more degenerative and abrupt.

We're supposed to get three days of rain next, and I think that will be the last the remaining ice slab. Although the weather isn't ideal for this project anymore, I'm running it through a class I'm taking called the F-word for an assignment to theorize objects through the lens of different thinkers, like Adorno, Eisenmann, Krauss, etc.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Fate of #6 and Warm Weather

The day after cut #6 was a sunny day in the mid 40's, not very good for ice, but great for maple syrup. (I tapped three of the trees in my front yard and collected over a gallon of sap that day). Then the next day it dumped about 10 inches of snow. The combination of these two days basically ended the ice season for me.

I went back to the nudie pond to check on the cut #6 after the snow, which was so deep the justy literally plowed through it, leaving a nice wake. The piece had fallen at some point during the past 48hrs, and there was a bout 3-4 inches of slush on top of the whole pond. I don't think it will get cold enough to freeze that mushy layer. The temperatures are hoovering around freezing in the day and only getting down to the 20's at night.

I took apart the big gantry crane, and hauled it on dry land. I'll leave it down there just in case, but with all the snow that has fallen I don't think the odds are in my favor.

But not all is lost. I still have plenty of work to do on the ice saw design, and I just tried waterJET cutting a couple slabs of ice I cut from some of the older ice-cuts that are still standing.

The waterJET cut through the ice effortlessly, but overall the process didn't work very well. When the waterJET would begin to cut by piercing the material the ice would usually fracture from the force of the jet. I tried adjusting the pressure from 60,000 psi to 15,000 psi, but the results were basically the same. All in all, it does work, however melting is of course a huge factor. The water coming out of the jet nozzle is very hot from the intense pressure. That and the room temperature quickly works against you. Routing the ice would probably be a better option, but I wouldn't be allowed to put a big, melting block of ice on the router table.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ice Cut #6

A video to meditate on....

Lock Mechanism 2.0

This is the new lock mechanism I made using 1/2" thick steel, cut on the waterJET, and TIG-welded together. It's about 3 times as thick as my last lock, which failed under heavy load (see image below). This set up also is external to the winch, so that the moving parts aren't subjected to the same stresses as the winch (which caused lots of problems on the last setup.)

Below is the old set up...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Cut #5

I made another cut yesterday using a new shape-strategy: instead of a rectangle, I made a key-shape with the hope that I could get the ice to sit on top of the surface and have part of submerged into the water. Nothing very impressive happened, for the following reasons:

-the lock mechanism is mangled from the last cut
-the piece of ice broke....almost the same way one would snap a key off in a lock

However I did take some interesting photos of the effects that occur with the water and ice as it toggles between 2D and 3D. And for whatever reason there was lots of pressure under the ice this time, which spewed about 2-1/2 inches of water on the surface once I drilled through to connect the chain. This made a nice glassy surface between the the top of the ice, the hole, and the floating pieces.

My plan now is to spend some time making a new lock that will work consistently.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A little success...

These are images of cut #4 on the next day, still standing, which proves the through-bolt method works well. I was incorrect in thinking that the locking mechanism failed. It did work, but is quite mangled as a result. Going forward my strategy will be cutting irregular shaped pieces (think L-shape) and letting part of the ice rest on the top surface in addition to a chunk still in the water. Another option is a "lasso-method", which would require someone to connect a chain (looped over the header of the gantry) to the slab of ice as it reaches the top of the gantry crane. I think this would actually be doable since the winch is moving very slow as the slab is pulled up high.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Fourth Cut

The locking mechanism sucks. I think the problem is that I integrated it within the winch itself, so when I load the winch with 2000 lbs of ice the internal stresses are so great it binds the moving parts. My plan is to add an external 'clicker' that will bolt to the gantry crane, and be independent of the winch, but still lock the spindle.

Cut #4 was pretty successful. In addition to the typical lag bolts I use, I put two through bolts in the slab with butterfly clips on the end, which keeps it from pulling back out. Although the winch lock failed, I think the slab was cut long enough to bottom out, stopping the free-fall.

I'll check on things in the morning and see if it held up. I'm now trying to time my cuts towards late afternoon, so the evening drop in temperature works to my advantage. The sunshine causes the bolts to pull out more easily.

This is a photo I took of my last failed attempt. Notice the shadow of the slab creating a third space within the ice, rendering 2D space into an (almost) 3D space. This is part of what I'm after.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Cut #4 'the long and narrow'

After leaving the slab from Cut #3 suspended in the air, I came back the next morning to find that it had fallen back in the water at some point. The lag bolts had come loose, which is now another wrinkle to iron out.

I decided to approach cut #4 with a different strategy, cutting a long and narrow chunk of ice hoping that it would sink into the bottom of the pond, relieving the load put on the lag bolts while waiting for everything to re-freeze. I don't have video of this because I filmed from the beginning and this piece took twice as long to cut, so my memory card filled up at some point during the process. I was able to get the piece of ice almost 9 feet out of the water, but the locking mechanism had failed after Cut #3, and the winch free-wheeled back down, ultimately breaking the slab. But a small chunk remained, so I left the rig hooked up to see what happens over night.

The slab broke into several pieces, and I took some interesting photos of the various chunks interacting with each other. I slid one piece under the remaining slab still attached to the line, and got some strange 2D and 3D effects happening under the water, which really gets at an 'other' space.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Cut #3

-11 foot gantry crane, big and beefy.
-roof rack for the justy
-locking mechanism in full force

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Ice Cut Test #2

I spent the whole weekend working on the lock mechanism for the winch. I finished it with only a few hiccups, and was eager to test it out. I also decided to make a big purchase and buy a stihl chainsaw after the problems I had with the one from lowe's (which they took back, no questions asked).

The ice on the pond is doing strange things. Large cracks (as in up to 1/4") are forming throughout the surface, and it's happening in real time, like a glacier on fast forward. At first it's alarming and it sounds like you're going to fall through, but considering how thick the ice is there is no danger. The noises range from typical crrracks, to odd rubber band sounds, and as Jason pointed out on the site visit last friday, like someone getting punched in the stomach.

The new chainsaw worked pretty well, although it did bog down here and there. Mireille put me in touch with a friend of hers who works on the ice hotel in Sweden, and in the photos it shows him using a huge Stihl chainsaws, the ones that go for over $1000. I settled for the $339 "farm boss", as the salesman assured me it was the most popular all around Stihl. He also showed me a 30 inch diameter tree trunk that he cut through. Okay, sold.

Test #2 didn't work out so well, as I'll let the video explain:

The failure of the mini-gantry crane was due to a poor connection I made using brad nails. I watched the movie in slow motion the way we did in structures class, and I saw the exact piece that went...and thought about it and remembered 'hey, I never screwed that in'. In part, because I didn't think it was going to be a significant factor in carrying the forces, but once that weak link went, it was all over.

One upside to this failed attempt was that I learned just how thick the ice was (I measured 10 inches) so I felt confident about driving my car out on the ice to load up my stuff....confident enough to drive very slowly with the rear hatch and the drivers door open in case I had to jump out, but after five minutes I was very sure about the laws of physics and drove all over the pond, and onto the different washouts from the edge of the gravel pit. And I'm sure my car was the first one to ever do this on the nudie pond, thanks in large part to a small road my Dad put in at the mouth of the pond.

I went back to the studio and started ripping the 2x10's down into more manageable sizes, and now I have a bigger, beefier gantry crane that towers 11' high and has stronger connections. I'm going to paint it white before I take it out to the pond. Transporting this thing will be crazy. It comes apart in three pieces, but it's still big and heavy. The justy will prevail....

Monday, February 1, 2010

Winch Lock

I took apart my winch to hybridize a locking mechanism into the spindle. I made some drawings of it in Rhino, and then cut out the pieces on the waterJET.

You can see a video of the water jet here. It's not too exciting, except when it 'pierces' the metal before it begins a cut path -that is the moment in the video when it starts spraying.

The next step was to tap the threads and weld everything together. This year the metal shop got a nice TIG welder, which does an extra clean job on regular steel.

Ice Saw

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Final Product (almost)

I didn't have my camera the last few days, so I'll have to rely more on the narrative. I made another saw on the waterjet, modifying one end slightly to look better with the handle I chose. This saw also has same mounting holes as the handle for mounting the hardware.

In thinking about saws, and the possibilities of what it means to obsess over the saw as an aestheticized object, I thought of paint. I wanted to experiment with paint as way to make the saw a saw, while simultaneously as an object that enters into another dialogue with other highly designed objects, and in doing so loses its saw-ness as a functional object, ie: the saw that never makes it off the wall. However it is embedded with a deep narrative behind its function, to which it can certainly perform to its expectations, but may never have to actually be tested as the design will be convincing enough. I thought that painting the saw would confuse the distinction between utility and art object. And certainly the handle enters into this game of oscillation. It sheds superfluous ornament, and unnecessary curves to be a simple handle, yet intentional. There is a single hole for the index finger, referencing a 'trigger', but also providing ergonomic comfort, as a hand gun should.

I was eager to test out the saw after I had finished it, however in my rush to complete it I forgot to make an attempt at tempering it. I had planned on using the oxy-acetelyne torch at school to get it red hot and let it cool again, which would be my best shot at hardening the metal. I called a bunch of metal shops that do heat treating and found one in Pontiac that will temper 4 saws for $28. Anyway, the saw cut like butter until I go about half way down the kiddie pool ice sculpture, when the teeth started to bend ever so slightly at the tips. I'll give a proper heat treating to the first saw I made and see how it performs as a result. That saw will get a t-shaped metal and wood handle, making it a more traditional 'ice saw'.

Next project is hacking the winch to make it lock, and building a bigger gantry crane. I loaded up the justy with 2x10s, which barely fit....I had to chop about 3 feet off the ends of the boards so they wouldn't drag on the ground.

Routing the handle

I've been working on a few different handle designs in Rhino, and wanted to make them out of a nice hardwood. I bought a 5' length of walnut from the re-use center. The wood comes from a group called urban hardwood, which is comprised of several small, local saw mills that reclaim trees the city takes down. All of the trees the city takes down are chipped into nothing, which I witnessed first hand when they took down a huge oak tree in my front yard that had died years ago.

The board I bought was pretty cheap at only $12. I used the CNC router to cut out the handles, and drill the holes for the hardware. I can use the same drill hole geometry on the next saw I cut on the waterjet, so the two pieces line up perfectly. I made 5 handles and still have half of the board left.

I made a few 'country' handles, and couple 'modern' versions. In the end I went with a modern looking handle, sanding it and finishing it with lacquer.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Setting the saw teeth

Here is the steel ice saw I made using the waterJET cutter (notice the variable tooth size and rake angle generated in Digital project) I also made a jig using the CNC router to set the saw teeth of my ice saw (which determines the amount of kerf in the saw blade). The jig allows the teeth to uniformly hang over the edge of a 12 degree ramp. Using a hammer, I tapped each tooth until it bends all the way to the mdf. And then flipped the saw over on the other side to repeat the process. It actually worked really well, but this is a long, drawn out method to perform a simple operation. There is a 'saw set' tool that accomplishes the same task. You can buy vintage saw sets on ebay for under $10. I have a bid on one that should win tonight. Then I can ramp up saw production for varying sizes.

Next, I filed each tooth, making it a 'cross cut' saw, which gets a different tip than a rip saw (flat teeth...like chisels). I think I took too much off the teeth, making the tips pointy and weak, but nonetheless I think I (roughly) figured out the technique. The real test will be trying it out on the ice, but since today's high is 43 degrees, that will have to wait to until later in the week when it gets cold again.