eyestilts: diary

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August 1, 2000: fourth (and final!) prototype

Here are some drawings of the full scale machine. Many of these features are likely to change, but this should give you a rough idea of what we're going for. The curved shape you see in the top view is an armrest/handle whose ends serve to anchor two of the stabilizing cables. The other two cables will attach to a post sticking straight out from the other side. Near the bottom of the device are a pair of circular plates, two and four feet across, which will serve as steps for viewers of various heights to stand on. The "legs" will be buried six inches beneath the playa surface. Not shown: The arms will be trussed for vertical strength, but we haven't worked out the exact details of that yet so it's not in the drawing.

Front elevation.
Top view.

August 4, 2000

Chris testing an early protoype bearing. (We would later abandon this bearing due to a bad internal seam.)
A little pre-burn burn

August 18, 2000: location established!

This just in: we have received our map placement in the Burning Man 2000 Promenade. We'll be located right in the middle of the head, in between Spin and the Train Board, with a view of the Ammonite and who knows what else. Should make for some very cool viewing, day and night! For details, here's a map of the promenade.

Also, if you're planning to be in Black Rock City and want to stop by and meet us, we'll be living at the Full Monty Carlo Casino, located at 6:30 and Throat.

Our assembly progresses apace. Stay tuned for more pix!

August 21, 2000

Over the past few weeks we've built most of the main parts. The base is fully assembled and solid as all get-out. Chris's friend Kevin, a machinist and sometime madman, made us a new bearing that's round and flat to some insanely small tolerance, and also provided us with a magical missing ingredient: a donut of delron, a self-lubricating plastic. It spins like a dream.

The "spine" is a complex shape made of two combs of rectangular bar fitted around the central tube, welded and finished until it looks and behaves like a single piece of metal. The arms now have a zigzag arrangement of gussets, courtesy of Chris's shopmate Billy.

Our frankenspine, before welding
...and after.
Press-fitting the bearing into the spine
Billy's gusset layout for the arms
Even partly assembled, it's an imposing sight!
Attachment points for the tension cables
Chris welding our tension rod into the spine.


Months ago we had a little contest to come up with a less technical-sounding name for this contraption. (I mean, really, "tele-what?") There were close to a hundred entries ranging from good to hilarious to flat-out incomprehensible (I promise I'll put up the whole list as soon as I can find the file!) The winning entry was dropped in our lap by none other than inventor and clamp afficionado Drew Olbrich: Eye Stilts!

The name immediately inspired a gruesome image of eyeballs stretched way out of sockets, their optic nerves strapped onto two-by-fours with plastic cable-ties. For the logo I chose a somewhat less visceral representation. Sonia Harris helped make it look nice and slick:

Coming soon to a T-shirt near you.

Well, our deadline is fast approaching, so I may not have time to put up any more pictures before the big event. See you on the playa!

September 14, 2000: decompression

Two weeks after the burn and we're all still recovering. The 'scope was a success at Burning Man. It worked! The mirrors didn't break. It didn't fall down in the over 70-mph winds Thursday and Friday afternoons. It did get very dusty, but before we could get out to it with our ladders, it was mysteriously cleaned by some thoughtful participant (perhaps someone wearing stilts?) And every time I brought friends out to look through it, we had to wait at the end of a pretty long line, so I guess it was pretty popular.

The full-scale 'scope on Sunday at Burning Man, right before we took it down.

And here are a few photos shot by other people:

San Francisco Chronicle photographer Carlos Avila Gonzalez
Patrick Roddie
Amacker Bullwinkle

(For lots more photos, check out the gallery pages.)

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