This part 1 of the final blog post, which unwinds the story behind my Sand Frame project from the inspiration to the final build. Even though building the sand frame might be simple and intuitive, roadblocks and challenges were discovered along the way of building the frame. This post will discuss the ups and downs of the build project and will educate the reader on how to make a sand picture frame with minimal tools.
A look back at what inspired me to start building Sand Frames:
I visited Denver’s Art museum last year and out of all the art pieces in the museum I was really inspired by a sand picture frame I saw in the museum shop. As you can see below a sand picture is a frame that houses a special fluid with air and fine sand particles. The frame is oriented so that the sand particles are held by the air and slowly falls between air gaps by gravity (same idea as a sand clock but in fluid on a 2D level).
Prototypes and final Design:
In the first week of the project I borrowed a purchased sand picture frame to experiment with it. I found out that these have issues when they age primarily due to leaking, drying out and sand sticks to the top or the bottom. I found that they add a hole on the side of the frame so you can add more air or release more air. (air bubbles control the flow)
I tested 8 different samples of sand. 4 Sand types, Alumina, Aluminum oxide, Glitter and small spheres as shown in the figure below. The sand I tried all ranged from 0.5microns to 2mm. I was looking for something with a fine grain and does not get muddy in the water.
The patent holders for these devices are very secretive about the liquid medium they are using so that they are not copied. It is important that the liquid does not get turbid easily by the sand. To find the suitable liquid medium I started with using distilled water and saw how sand reacted to it. It was fine but I needed to add sault and alcohol to the water to prevent algae or any form of bacteria being in the water.
At the end I decided to use 50% Isopropyl Alcohol and 50% Salt and water.
Glass vs Acrylic:
I started using glass and it worked fine but once I tried acrylic for the possibility of having an engraved frame things didn’t go very well. This is because acrylic frames usually warped and unsealed when filled with the fluid.
Sealant: hot glue vs silicone:
Silicone was a better option here because it reacted better to water and alchohol. Silicone was sealant and far more durable than hot glue.
Aluminum sheet vs wood:
Since my sand selection was white and brown I wanted to go with wood of the same color. I initially planned to have a 3D printed stand to the frame but after I finished building the frame I decided to have simple triangular stand.I wanted to add a nice aesthetic to the frame by making it wider than the ones sold. I hope you like it.
Materials and Tools:
Materials needed that go in the build of one Sand Frame:
- 2 equally sized glass panels. The size used in this demo is 12″ x 8″ x 0.25″
- 70% Isopropyl Alcohol
- Water and Salt
- A 4 foot long wooden bar for the frame. The size used in the demo: 0.7″x 0.7″x 0.25″
- A filler fabric pice
- A square wooden block
- Clear Weather Proof Silicone
Tools used (preferably) to build a Sand frame:
- Box Cutter
- Saw + Routing Saw
- Sand Paper
- Spacers: Any long piece of 2mm thickness that can be sandwiched between glass without scratching it while removing it from the glass.
- Cutting pad
- Caulk gun
- Wet wipes
- Tape prefereably double sided
- Measuring tape / ruler
- Vice grip
My main conclusion for this project is to be patient. Projects like these are more of an art type projects, they are not engineering projects with kowns and unknowns, it is just keep trying until it looks good enough. My design process was simple and straight forward: Keep trying everything and choose what works best. I have gone through 7 complete frames builds to get to this point. I am happy about it. I have tried changing a lot in this sand picture frame but learned that it is a little challenging and needed more time. That might be my summer personal project though.
I would like to thank Prof. Jean Hertzberg for helping me to collect various sand samples as well as lending me her purchased frame to play around with. I would also like to thank Mr. Josh Coyler in the idea forge maker space for helping me in designing, collecting material and building the frame.