ARE YOU AN INVENTOR?
If you love being creative, solving problems, and coming up with new ideas and solutions, you're an inventor.
Do you have an invention, creation, or even an idea you would like to showcase to the world? Well, you are at the right place!
What was created?
A concept exerciser (aka: homemade workout machine) made mostly out of wood components, that was a contraption full of hinges, pulleys, weights, and grips (see figure 1). With my system, a person could perform both the butterfly and lat pull down exercises and transition between them with minimal effort.
The unit stood about 8 feet tall and was about 6 ft wide when the butterfly arms were connected to it.
Why was it created?
I have always been fascinated with weight training machine design. I had a bench press weight set at home that did not come with a butterfly attachment, so I decided to make one of my own. I was able to get a steady supply of material (scrap wood) from a local source and constructed a workout routine by stacking columns of weight (instead of accumulating weight plates) in a moving grid generating even or uneven resistance (see figure 3).
I also consider what I made could be a benefit to others since it does: (1) represent an extension of DIY culture (i.e. advancing individual knowledge, learning new skills, and the feeling of satisfaction that comes from building from your own ideas), (2) how to apply simple machine principles (i.e. pulleys, leverage, changing the direction or amount of force, etc.) in making a project and, (3) promote woodworking (which allows a person to be creative and is a wonderful medium for artistic expression).
What makes it special?
What makes my work distinctive concerns the butterfly arms and the weight container.
The butterfly attachment arms can be quick disconnected and re-mounted easily. The jackknife motion that the butterfly arms travel in as they flex forward and return to their starting position is an original conception.
Weight Grid (see figure 3)
Unlike traditional stacked weight plate machines, a person is allowed to make a variety of pattern configurations on the grid (X,□, /,\, —, etc.) by using cup shaped ballast inserts (up to 24) that changes the amount of force a user exerts for each repetition (see figure 2). An individual can position the weights in organized horizontal/vertical patterns or treat them more as random objects in the load basket.
In their current form my system’s weight supplements are ½ pound each (about 2 ¾ inches long and 1 14/16 inches in diameter): making them easy to manage. If solid roll stock were used in their construction, they would be estimated to weigh 2 ½ to 2 ¾ pounds (see figure 2).
When not in use, weights can be placed in the grid case for compact storage.
As a point of fact, the sight holes cut into the drop tubes were drilled by hand with a fixture and not with the use of a drill press.
At one point, I contemplated that one could focus on certain muscle groups in the upper body by placing inserts on the weight grid in particular patterns (X,□, /,\, —, etc.). This may have been beneficial for those in need of rehabilitation (through segregation of muscle areas that needed treatment) in such disciplines as Kinesiology or Physical Therapy.
What was learned creating it?
I learned how much ideas on paper can change drastically when fabricated physically.
I learned how challenging it was to develop removable butterfly arms that hang and pivot in mid air.
The exerciser’s weight box glides up and down on a vertical guide. I researched various ways of how to make that move while keeping the friction between the connectors on the weight box and the track
surface it to a minimum. This was in order to make the climb and drop motion as fluid and controlled as possible.
I considered using various sprays, waxes, greases, lacquers, covers, wheels, and even ball bearings to accomplish that. I ended up sanding the inside of the track extensively and then mounted small furniture mover inserts to the weight box on its four corners for a successful connection. Therefore, I learned here how important considering a variety of ideas provides solution to a problem.
If I were to start over and do things again?
I probably would have done some more background research in the areas of Fluid Dynamics or Biomechanics. I figure, if I had consulted with people in those areas, the time it took to design and redesign the overall unit as well as the weight box might not have taken about 3 years to fully complete.
In the back the machine was a counterweight of tube sand (60 lbs.). Without that, the whole thing would have toppled forward when trying to use it.
I had a thought about bringing the exerciser down to the Maker Faire in Milwaukee however, moving it out of my basement to be re-assembled there proved to be not very feasible.
Barrel stave podium
I had some left over barrel staves from the chandelier project. It took me nearly two years to come up with an idea to do with them. Once I had the idea for a podium I just kept making hand sketches until I found one that I thought would work. I needed to make sure the dimensions would work and not my disproportionate banana-shaped pieces so I sketched it in Sketchup (share link to software page). I like how I can spin the 3D design around to get my mind full around the design before cutting and wasting materials.
It took 2 years and probably a week to have this designed, but then the design was so vivid in my mind that I build the whole podium in about 3 hours. There was still a little art involved as all the barrel staves do not bend at the same rate and I needed to find and sort the right ones for the right podium pieces. I used a lot of clamps and was able to assemble it by myself. There were a few steps that a 2nd person would have come in handy, but I found creative solutions to assemble this. I finished it on a Saturday morning and that afternoon it was debuted at the Cheese and Beer pairing featuring Jerry "Big Bear" Janiszewski as MC.
Gear and bike chain tables
One person's junk is another person's treasure. ~Yotam Ottolenghi
For those of you who haven't donated to St. Vinnies (add link to St. Vincent du Paul) in Port or been there to shop, you are missing out. I picked up lots of desks, chairs, shelves, couches, tables and more at this store. I went back at least once a week searching for solid top tables (not the laminate kind). These were harder to come by and usually sold for higher prices too. I can't remember how much I got them for but picked up the sprocket table and bike chain coffee table within a month of each other. Over the last month or two I was checking in with Zuzu Pedals (add hyperlink) to collect their garbage sprocket assemblies and bike chains. Then I would soak them in cleaners and get them all polished up. It didn't matter than I used double nitrile gloves for this task, I always seemed to get full of grease and dirt. Many of the sprocket assemblies couldn't be used and I had to pick the pieces that I could still salvage. Almost all the chains were saved though.
The sprocket table used to be all blonde in color. I had saw a different table at St Vinnies that already had a "sold" sign on it that was dark topped with blue legs, so modeled mine after that. I sanded the whole thing down and used enamel paint (john deer green) on the legs. Then layed out and traced all the sprockets in the pattern that looked nice. I took a quick pic so I'd remember where each one went. Then re-traced them with a sharpie so they would be easier to see and set my plunge router to a standard depth. Wow, this made a ton of saw dust! I should have had a helper use a shop vac while I was doing it. Hindsight. Then I stained the table dark and added the sprockets. It took 3 coats of two-part epoxy to fill all the voids and get the top smooth. It was a bit humid and there were lots of gnats around. I remember after heating and pulling out all the bubbles that an hour later a few gnats got stuck. I picked them out and waited another day and did another coat. What a pain! The chain table was thicker and so it could hold the bike chains better without fear of routing too deep and poking through. Same process although, I brought this one inside my air conditioned basement to epoxy instead. Everything went well except the edges are SO round, that gravity kept pulling drips around and down and I was helpless to stop it. I guess I should have ran a planer around the bottom edge to smooth it out, but unless somebody is trying to put gum under that table, most nobody notices.