Drawing Robot made out of Turntables

Posted filed underDrawing, Technology.

“Two ordinary turntables are hacked to make drawings in the compelling art project “Drawing Apparatus.” The drawings produced by the contraption resemble old Spirograph images, and the simple DIY design of the device has an appealing vintage look and feel.”

From Wired: “Robert Howsare, a printmaking MFA student at Ohio University, explained how he built the device for under $50 in a phone interview with Wired. “The turntables were just the ones I had in my house,” Howsare said. The turntable on the left, as portrayed in the video above, is an old Technics direct drive turntable — not the popular SL-1200 series favored by DJs, but a low-end model Howsare found at a yard sale. The turntable on the right is a German-made Dual from the 1970s, which Howsare purchased at a yard sale for $15.

The brand or model number of the turntables doesn’t really matter, but a turntable that has a variable pitch control is useful for controlling the size and shape of the drawings. In the video above, the turntable on the left moves at 33 rpm, while the turntable on the right moves at close to 45 rpm.

As for the other components? A few slats of wood, binding screws, machine screws, old records, and a Sharpie mounted on a clothespin. Howsare, a former DJ, uses the vinyl records to adjust the height of the wooden arms as they move. “I think they’re sound effects records,” he says of the records in the video, though what’s on the vinyl records doesn’t really matter. The marker gliding around the paper produces its own subtle sound. “I really like the sound of the movement of the pen…there’s something kind of hypnotic and sensual about it, just going back and forth,” Howsare said.

Turntables have been hacked in the past to make drawing robots, zoetropes, and other fanciful devices. The artist Christian Marclay has worked with custom-modded turntables and vinyl records for years, generating unique sonic and visual results. Tauba Auerbach’s popular Drawing in Circles (2010), currently on view at San Francisco’s Exploratorium, allows visitors to create Spirograph-like drawings. Recently, a modified turntable was used to play discs cut from tree trunks. The appeal of Howsare’s project is in its complete, total simplicity. “That’s where the beauty lies — that it’s just household things,” Howsare said. “My work is really about systems and how things operate and function — tweaking them, and intervening with how they normally operate.”

A color drawing created with Howsare’s drawing device. Image: Courtesy of Robert Howsare