Charcoal is made by burning (cooking?) wood in an oxygen-starved environment.
I took a tea-leaf tin (bought in Tokyo many years ago, sad to see it go), and punched a small hole in the lid. For my first test I used cuttings from a blackcurrant bush that has been left to dry outside for a few seasons. I looked for fairly straight pieces, cut them with garden shears to fit in the thin, and put the lid on. In the evening, I made a fire in the wood stove, and placed the tin in the flames. I just left it there until the next morning.
The result turned out really great, and I especially liked that all the fine delicate details of the twigs stayed intact, even most of the bark stayed in place. I was also surprised that none of the twigs snapped. Even the thinnest came out perfect!
What’s next? You can see my first test drawing towards the bottom of this page, and I’ll update this page with other drawings later. I’m especially looking forward to testing charcoal made from different trees and shrubs, to see if there are differences.
Update: If you are an artist and want to test my charcoals I’d be happy to send you some. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to get your feedback on how they work compared to commercial drawing charcoals.
This has been on the todolist for a few years, but today I finally got around to building my first drawbot using Arduino. I wanted to make something that was light, minimal and portable, that can be added to any flat surface with a gluegun. I use small steppermotors with bobbins (from eBay) and thread from a sewing machine to lift a coin with a sharpened charcoal-stick though the center, and a solid metal picture frame as a base.
Version 1.0: Running Polargraph Controller software
The machine is now running the Polargraph firmware, controlled via serial from a Processing app on my laptop. It took a bit of tinkering to get the firmware to run with my steppers and drivers, but once it was up and running it worked pretty well.
Next steps Run the machine on grbl firmware and test other controllers. Testing a variations of pens and paper. Build more machines! Some of the motives I’m working on takes up to 12 hours to draw, so to increase the learning curve I would love to have at least a few more up and running.
I had a small soft, fluffy pink bathrope that my daughter had outgrown, and some stuffing from a cheap ikea pillow that got torn apart during washing.
I cut off the seams, and tried to get the most I could out of the material, and and ended up with two cute Japan-inspired teddybears and a little pillow.
I chose the shape, and my daughter the buttons for the face.
All hand stiched, using only left over materials. The fluffy material is very forgiving, so even if your sewing skills are pretty bad, you can’t really notice.
I made the second one for the daughter of a friend. She is younger, so instead of buttons the eyes are made with cloth from a pair of pants, sewn on, to make safer for a toddler. It also has a tiny picket for hiding candy from mom and dad :)
The tail and ears are made from the bathrobe belt.
This is a good project to do with kids. Just start gathering bits and pieces of junk in a box, or clean out a few drawers, and you soon have enough raw material to create your own little eco warrior tribe!
Any material can be used. On the creature above we have a wine cork body, milk bottle cap feet, Elton John glasses made from a piece of balsa from a broken 3d puzzle, some feathers, a thumbtack nose, and eyes made from nuts. Oh, and the mouth was cut from a newspaper.