What am I making?

The design will be a Newton’s Cradle, made out of sticks, twine, and stones. I am going to search for the proper size, strength, and  shape sticks as well as rocks around and about, as well as thin twine or similar substitute. This falls under the Pioneer Primitive aesthetic, seen in the image below.

Wilderness Survival Shelter in the Pioneer Primitive Aesthetic

What is Pioneer Primitive?

Pioneer Primitive, although the name may be descriptive, is not a common or easily found aesthetic. Materials wise, the Pioneer Primitive aesthetic is defined by exposed, raw, frequently organic materials. Wood is a predominant material choice, even sometimes being unshaven (or debarked). There is a heavy emphasis on construction appearing hand build, with minimal processed materials. Concrete and metal (with the exception of nails and horseshoes) are effectively absent from this aesthetic. While designs are far from minimalistic, they are not ornate or exceedingly complex. Given the hand built nature, these designs frequently prioritize function over form. This is not to say there is no place for artistic creativity however, painting, wood carving, or bone decorations are frequently utilized to add flare. This aesthetic is a blend of Wild West (like the image below), Pioneer, Frontier, Wilderness, and Nature.

Wild West style shack

Why Pioneer Primitive?

I have chosen Pioneer Primitive for a few reasons:

1.  Material Availability

The materials required to make a design with this aesthetic are readily available to me. This is not to say that it will be effortless however; each material has criteria that samples must meet in order to be used. Sticks need to be large enough in diameter to not snap but small enough to be bound together with twine, stiff enough to not bend but not so brittle they snap, and long enough to be of use. Rocks (like shown below in my backyard) must be large enough to have cradles tied but small enough to be held by simple sticks, spherical enough to produce consistent collision dynamics but not so spherical that none qualify, and approximately the same density. Twine must be strong enough to hold connections but still be cut to size and able to be knotted around small sticks, and it must be able to hold knots.

Rocks in my backyard

2.  Material Experience

Another reason I chose this aesthetic is for my experience with the materials and construction it requires. I am experienced with tying knots of various types, and a variety of different activities I have done have increased my dexterity. I enjoy tying knots and making things in this way, so I believe it will both be doable and enjoyable. For example, lashing knots like shown below are especially useful.

Lashing Instructions

3.  Aesthetic Pleasure

One simple reason I chose this aesthetic is that I find this aesthetic personally pleasing. It reminds me of camping trips and time spent with friends out in the mountains. Additionally, I find the time period interesting and admirable; I believe it speaks to the human ability to persevere, survive, thrive, and bend reality to its will.

4.  Oxymoronical Design – Aesthetic Message

This point is multifaceted. The aesthetic, in a somewhat ironic sense, is actually quite similar to the industrial aesthetic in some of its defining characteristics. Both contain major aspects of raw, unfinished materials, exposed infrastructure, utility and purpose focused design, and darker color schemes. Additionally, I find the design I am making (Newton’s Cradle) to be somewhat opposing to the design aesthetic. Newtons’ Cradles are often seen as a physical, simple epitome of Science and technology. I like this ironic comparison and combination of nature and technology. Here is a fun comparison:

Industrial-style Newton’s Cradle
DIY Popsicle Cradle
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4 Comments. Leave new

  • Peter, as an Eagle Scout myselt, I not only love your choice of aesthetic, but the square lashing instructional image brings back so many good memories! I think you did an excellent job communicating your project idea, the aesthetic you’ve chosen, and why you made that choice. I am excited to see what your final upcycle project ends up looking like, and how well it will represent a sleek, modern, Newton’s cradle in terms of usability!
    Are you planning on using naturally occuring twine? I don’t have much experience with such a material and wonder how the strength and flexibility of a naturally thin material will affect your plan to tie knots and hold relatively heavy stones with it.

    • Thanks for the comment Michael, I appreciate your feedback. I plan on stripping some paracord to use the thin, non-stretchy strands inside. Although it may not be natural, I believe the color and texture of these strands will still fit the aesthetic. It will definitely be challenging to tie the knots at that scale, but I think I’ll be able to do it.

  • Peter, love to see the Eagle Scout in you coming out in this project. It’s clear that you have experience with this specific aesthetic and that you found some humor in making something that is typically very sleek and modern in this style, so I look forward to it coming to fruition. I hope that you can make this functional, which I think will be a challenge, especially in rock choice. Do you have plans on how to find the best rocks to use for proper collision physics? How do you plan to suspend these rocks? Tying knots around spherical shapes like this may be difficult, and the pioneer aesthetic kind of restricts you when it comes to drilling holes for twine to run through, unless you plan to use modern technology.

    • Hi Noah! Thanks for the comment. I plan on searching my yard for spherical rocks of a similar size, then selecting the best ones. My backyard is finished with rocks so there are plenty to choose from. However, the physics will likely be imperfect like you said, partially due to their varying shapes and weights, as well as ability to transmit ‘perfectly inelastic collisions’. I agree with you that the knots around the rocks will be extremely challenging, but I will attempt to effectively tie ‘cradles’ for the rocks that will not interfere with the collisions.


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