For my main project, I intend to design and build an “electric hourglass”. The initial concept was to construct a custom wood stand and hourglass section in which a lighting display would imitate the movement of sand. However, this challenge seemed beyond the capability of the lighting options I found online. It was not until a brainstorming collaboration with a team member, Jason, that a solution was posed. I mentioned the possibility of moving away from the aesthetic impression of sand–and instead, creating a visible electric current effect with the likes of a mad scientist. Jason then suggested to incorporate plasma globes: the ones sold in toy stores which hold a current if you stick your finger to it. I really dug the idea and thought it resonated with the original vision–big thanks to Jason for the inspiration!
Beyond aesthetic, I hope for the design to express a deeper message, one that evokes a philosophical questioning of time…
In popular Western culture, time is a construct to organize our lives. This conception permits us to quantify the physical world around us. While effective, this system naturally distracts an individual from the present with thinking in the past or the future. The ideologies of some cultures, however, treat the nature of time as an illusion. For example: in the Buddhist tradition, liberation from time and space is considered the essence of living. In this state of being, time is only an ever-existent unfolding of the present. Even some science supports the idea of a “static” world; it is only our desire to interact with our physical environment that necessitates an incremental system of time.
My intention is to use woodwork aesthetics to evoke this atmosphere. The hourglass’ surrounding structure will be designed with enough area for various figure&symbol&image designs that represent the envisioned philosophy.
The focal point, though, will be the plasma-generated electric effect. I believe the character of plasma globes express my desired message given its substitution for the finite-behaving sand.
More than anything, though, I hope this piece evokes a fun and imaginative spirit–drawing one’s attention toward creative design!
Materials and Process
This project will require the following materials:
- Wood stain and finish
- Glass with hourglass form
- Two plasma globes
- Two 9V batteries + misc. electronic supplies
The woodworking process will require some challenging design efforts. I am hoping to learn about creating artistic design images via CNC machines, and will need to seek out advice in this area. Besides dimension and design, the wood structure must house the electric circuits and provide enough area for woodworking. Stain and finish will be applied as a finishing touch.
Another challenge for this design will be finding an hour(glass) with the appropriate form to enclose the plasma globes. I might have to re-purpose some glass material if the right hour(glass) cannot be found.
There are many online tutorials on disassembling plasma globes and applying an independent power source. However, plasma globes work because of its interaction with gasses in its vacuumed environment. My design must ensure that the hourglass provides the appropriate environment to produce the plasma effect.
In order to complete this project by the assigned deadline, I have created a tentative schedule to follow.
3/9 : Acquire all materials
3/16: Build critical component (hourglass with installed plasma globes)
4/6: Complete drill paths for CNC machine
4/13: Complete woodworking and test design
4/20: Prepare final design and presentation