I’m between projects right now and have been wondering what to create next. I’ve been looking at different artists whom I like or find inspiring to check out what they’re creating these days. I realized this morning I have been looking to them as a reference point to decide what to create next.
I realized from watching a Christian Ristow video, I shouldn’t look to others anymore for ideas. I should look inward to what I personally find interesting and inspiring. Build what I want to build! Then my talents will make the project shine.
Somewhat related, I watched Waste Land last night and was blown away by Vik Muniz’s vision. His idea to create a portrait out of garbage and to give back to the pickers was amazing and very inspirational. Way to go Vik! What can I give back?
Wow what a weekend in Vegas. I received a call from Nikki Doran and Merritt Pelkey last Sunday regarding bringing the Mantis down to Vegas for a party the upcoming weekend. Shit, I haven’t even cleaned the truck or made any repairs since Burning Man and I only have four days to get ready!
I busted ass all week getting the Mantis cleaned up and ready for the party. I had to rebuild the front arms, remove and replace the carpet in the back, clean up the interior of the truck, wash the exterior of the truck, fix some broken welds, chase down a problem with the remote control on the fire system and pack. Also, the head was still on the neck so I had to find a fork lift to remove it and load it into the back. Finding a fork lift to install or remove the head is always a junk show everywhere I go for some reason.
Luckily Jeremy Smith was available and was able to do his wiring magic on the fire system. We added a key to the fire system to ensure that some crazy wasn’t able to come turn on the fire system, added igniters to the antenna and replaced the remote control and the remote control relay.
This fall we replaced the engine in the truck after it blew up on the way back from the Burn. Since the replacement I had only driven the truck a few miles for a short test drive. On the test drive I found a small leak on the oil pan gasket. For the past couple of months I had been trying to get the Mechanic over to my shop to get this taken care of, but he kept blowing me off. I called him again to make the repair before I left but he never made it over before I had to take off. Shit! The leak didn’t look too bad so I decided that it would be ok to drive with it anyway.
My last stop on the way out of town was to pick up propane and try to convince the propane people to help me remove the head. I was able to talk one of the guys at Wasatch Propane to help me out. They have been great the past couple of years with supplying me propane and helping me out with any questions that I have. We hooked a chain up to the head and started to remove it from the neck. We were having some problems with the last couple of inches so I starting pushing on the head with my feet while sitting on the neck. As soon as the head was free it went careening to the ground 8 ft below. What the Fuck! Somehow the chain became unhooked while I was jostling the head around. Good start to the trip…
The day didn’t get any better. While driving the leak turned to a gusher and used four gallons of oil between Salt Lake and Las Vegas. A repair shop wouldn’t be able to fix it right away and I had to start setup at 10 the next morning. I stopped every 50 miles to keep the engine full of oil. After what Kristen and I went through last fall, there was no way I was going to let the engine run out of oil! 9.5 hours later I was in Vegas.
Nikki had arranged for some volunteers to help assemble the Mantis at 10 am. A fork lift was also coordinated to help me install the head back on the neck. I showed up at the fork lift address at 9:05. This would give me ample time to install the head and drive back to the event before the volunteers showed up right? Wrong. The guy who was supposed to help me was passed out in bed and wasn’t answering the door or his phone. Now what? On the drive back to the event site I noticed an Oil distribution company that had two or three fork lifts in the parking lot. I figured what the hell, who wouldn’t want to help assemble a 40ft praying mantis? The manager Eddie was a champ and helped me install the head, with no head slams to the pavement this time!
The rest of the weekend was amazing. The Mantis fire system passed inspection from the Clark County Fire Inspector, which is a big deal; they are notorious for being very strict. I met tons of great people and actually left the Mantis in Vegas for a few weeks. It looks like we’re going to be at the First Friday event in Vegas the first Friday of April.
The Mantis at Pastel Project Las Vegas
Burning man is over… and I’m already looking forward to the next years burn. It’s been a while since I have written, so this is going to be a long but good one… I’m going to tell a story of what it’s like to take a major art car to the burn and live, well sort of.
Here is what the scorpion looks like packed up and on the road. I hired some homeless guys from the shelter to help load the monster along with Garrett Booher and Jeremy Smith, who are not homeless. It took a couple different tries to get the 8 legs and massive arm segments packed and organized inside the truck bed but we finally figured it out. I didn’t leave SLC until 2 in the morning and drove until about 4 – all of this is after working 16 hrs, uhh. But at least I didn’t get stopped for never having driven a big rig before and not having a commercial drivers license.
The rest of the drive to the Burn I got a ton of attention from the truckers mostly- which made me laugh. The burners who passed didn’t even notice. I pulled into the gates Friday evening pre-burn around 8 pm. The Mantis was pretty much completely assembled by the time I pulled in thanks to; Coulson Rich, Spencer Barton, Mike Muldoon, Chris Marcinkowski and my wife Kristen Ulmer who had arrived a day earlier.
We unloaded everything from the Scorp that evening, here is a video of unloading the scorpion. This one is the only long one I’ve posted.
scorpion unload video
Every time we unload from the trailer we have clearance issues with the air dryer. For some reason we go all retarded and can’t remember to remove it BEFORE we unload and the results are almost devastating every time I guess this is what happens when you work over 400 hrs in one month. This time the ramps sunk into the playa and reduced our clearance even more. We did eventually get it off with minimal damage.
The next day, Saturday, we spent the entire day attaching legs, stereo and installing bench seats. We thought we were home free, boy was that premature.
It’s now Saturday night and we’re ready to lift the tail. We already raised the tail and tested it out in SLC so this shouldn’t be too difficult… riiiight?
Burning Man’s Department of Public Works has a team of Heavy Machinery equipment and operators. DPW Heavy Machinery has fork lifts, man lifts and cranes, everything you can imagine that is needed to put together large structures at BM.
The best tool for the job is a crane, but these have to be scheduled and there wasn’t one available so we used the next best tool for the job, a Vertical Reach (VR) Fork Lift, which is what was used in SLC when we first deployed the tail.
We setup the scorp in front of the VR and raised the tail with no real problems. As you can see in the video we weren’t doing a very good job of keeping the straps straight above the tail, this would come back to spank us in a few minutes. Scorpion Tail Being Raised
The tail was within two inches of being all the way raised when Spencer noticed that a propane hose was being severely pinched. Somehow in all the confusion of leaving camp somebody rerouted the hose in a place it wasn’t supposed to be and as a result the tail was about to sever the hose. We would have lost our flame effects if Spencer hadn’t caught it in time. What happened next still makes me cringe though.
As we were lowing the tail to reroute the hose, the VR was pulling instead of only lifting and Coulson opened one of the tail hydraulic ram valves at the same time to straighten the tail. The two simultaneous actions led to the tail being dynamically loaded, “bounced”, which drove a hydraulic ram through the truss.
When the tail bounced, it bounced pretty hard, but it didn’t look like anything radical happened so we rerouted the propane hose and prepared to start lifting the tail back up. Before we started lifting we activated the tail rams again to make sure everything was ok. What we didn’t know was that the truss was shredded and that moving the ram was peeling the truss apart like a fat kid tearing open a snicker bar.
Talk about getting groin kicked! We headed home to cry and shout, we were already so tired from the past month, and decided to assess the damage in the morning. Here’s a video of what we found… Damaged Scorpion Tail Truss
Coulson and I spent 12 – 14 hrs a day for the next two days repairing the broken truss. The biggest challenge we had was finding a generator available and powerful enough to get some welding done, it’s BM and everybody is using their generators. We had to keep using other people’s generators when they weren’t using them so Coulsen ended up welding at night with poor lighting, what a pain in the ass.
Luckily we stumbled upon our first playa angel Arlen Bodily who was part of the clock project. Arlen had a 5000W generator that allowed us to get the welding done during the day. One of the beautiful things about BM is that everybody is so open and willing to help.
Time ticked on. While we continued to work our sacs off, it’s now Wednesday of BM, the event is almost half over and the Scorp still isn’t up and running. The client has been very understanding during all this craziness and I just so happen to have brought along my 40 ft Praying Mantis to keep him and his friends entertained while we’re fixing the Scorp. Somehow they got away with playing dub on the Mantis which is strictly forbidden. Meanwhile I’m still stressing out like crazy trying to get this project done and finally hand it over so I can relax for the first time in 7 months since we started building her.
We spent all of Wednesday installing the truss back onto the tail, re-installing the skin and hooking up the fire system. It’s now Wednesday evening and we’re ready to deploy the tail again. By now I’ve become friends with the DPW and have a serious crane scheduled and top crane operator Gary Wilson, our second playa angel, we’re not messing around this time! If something happens this time we’re done for this burn… no pressure at all.
This time we didn’t have any reach challenges and really took our time and found success!
Here are a couple videos of the successful repaired tail deployment! Scorpion Tail Being Raised – with conversation
Scorpion Tail Being Raised – 3x playback
We did it, time to enjoy the burn. Oh wait, we still have to attach the front arms and add lights to front arms for the first time, it just doesn’t end. We finished up these final details and we’re off to an amazing burn. Yea! Here are a couple of pictures and videos of the scorp in action.
Scorp BM 1 Scorp BM 2 Scorp BM 3 Scorp BM 4
Oh my god, is the post ever going to end!
One more story. I made it home safely with the Scorp but the Mantis wasn’t so lucky. The Mantis is built on a 1983 GMC dump truck with a 8.2L Detroit Diesel motor that had only 56,000 miles. These motors are notorious for leaking oil which means that they frequently need oil added, just part of owning one of these things. Something went wrong with Coulson’s trip on the way home and long story short we got the call and the Mantis motor is blown up. Sad, sad (and %$#^ing angry), after an expensive 100 mile tow home looks like I already have my next very expensive and time consuming project lined up…
Good thing I’m a work-a-holic. Kind of a familiar feeling at this point.
Conclusion: When you’re putting on the show you don’t get to watch the show. These big project kick your ass up, down and every other direction, but they sure made me feel like a bad ass!
KSL did a great news piece last night on the Scorpion, see the link below. We’re getting closer, Garrett Booher and Spencer Barton painted the Scorp body last night. Today, we’ll finish painting the black, paint the gold highlights and start working on the lighting.
Still lots to do, but we’re getting closer!
I haven’t posted many updates lately, been too busy. There’s going to be a news piece about the scorpion on KSL tonight at 10, check it out.
We’re working seven days a week, 12 hours a day and boy are we getting a lot done. We completely finished up the arms today and are moving onto the body.
All 20 hydraulic cylinders are up and running and the fire system is coming together. Still lots to do and not much time… We’ll get there, but it’s going to be a lot of work.
still being worked on. Man these things are super complicated, for sure the most difficult and challenging parts we will be creating on this project. We should have the claws completely covered tomorrow by lunch time and then on to pinchers and the head.
Jeremy is making some good progress on the fire system. We’re still waiting for some more ASCO solenoid valves to show up.
Another big day at the Bug House. Garrett and I started framing out the claws and decided that the direction we were going wasn’t going to work so we had to chop it off and start over. We are rocking and rolling now and the claws are taking shape fast.
Coulson got our wheels attached to the front arms and also got our air horn up and running. Ken will be able to blast the hell out of any burners who are standing in the way! The wheels are there to protect the arms. When you hit a dip on the playa there’s a ton of force and we want those babies protected.
Jeremy started cranking on the fire system and already has most of the parts needed and laid some serious hose today.
First attempt at claw
- Second attempt is looking good.
On our way for sure this time.
Jeremy laying some pipe.
That's one dirty fabricator.
I ordered 8 strings of color changing LED ribbon for the scorpion, thanks for the recommendation Alice Toler. Each string is 5 meters long and somehow I needed to control all of the strings simultaneously. I called up the company who was selling them and they couldn’t tell me if I could do this or not. Well, I can! The video below shows two of the strings, two different receivers and one remote control.
This is HUGE. Now I can wire the scorpion and place all of the receivers in one location and change them all with one push of the button. Hallelujah, the lights just got a whole lot easier.
Garrett and I worked our asses off today and cranked out some serious work on the arms. We’ll finish up the last two sections tomorrow and then onto the claws on Monday.
We also went to Design Resources this morning and picked up some sick fabric for the bus seats and for the cab of the truck. The steam punk theme is definitely coming together.
No room for Joe anymore, we took his shop space.
Bus seat fabric
Truck cab fabric