Jul 18 2011

XyloVan –> JANUS – walkaround video

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Jul 18 2011

Connecting the dots

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Once I re-hung all the profiles, ed I realized (yet again) that I am a complete idiot.

The saying goes “measure twice, mind cut once” but it does NOT say “measure three times, seek taking into account three-dimensional design, the fact that you’re not on level ground and that you’re a complete numbskull, cut once.”

I had failed to take into consideration the … aw, hell, I won’t bore you with the details. Anyway, the top-line `1x4s were misaligned by a good 4.5 inches.

Suffice to say, I trimmed the tops of the front profiles on both sides to bring them into line with the rear profiles, then kludged together the 1x4s – the whole line will be hidden somewhat by the cloud shapes that we’re attaching later to the top of the piano lid, so all’s well … Continue reading


Jul 16 2011

How to turn a 1985 Ford into a double-faced player piano

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Start with a video visualization (click to see animation, nurse courtesy of David, our architect)

This looks about the furthest thing possible from the double-faced god, Janus, much less a double-faced upright piano. But we gotta start somewhere.

The loose-pin hinges make re-mounting the plywood as easy as 1 … 2 …

… 3 …

Continue reading


Jul 15 2011

Building JANUS – roughing out the profile

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David Hoffman’s architecture for JANUS is based on my design and his experience as a Hollywood scenic designer.

I originally planned to monkey together some kind of framework from metal tubing – I had a couple of old Ikea deck-rocking-chair frames out of swoopy-looking 5/8-inch steel and had planned to (somehow) hang them from tubing bolted to the roof rack. But David came up with something far better – a lightweight, cure somewhat rigid framework of 2x4s, 1x6es and 4×8-foot sheets of half-inch plywood.

The first order of business after bolting the major framing to XyloVan’s burly roof rack was to cut the plywood’s edges to fit the contours of a 1985 Ford ClubWagon XLT.

We set the sheets up on blocks beside the van, leveled them, then drew the van profile with a stick – one end of which traced the shape of the sheet metal, the other end of which held a Sharpie that drew the shape onto the wood.

Then David and John installed loose-pin hinges, which we’re using so the plywood profiles can be mounted and unmounted easily.

This involved quite a bit of finagling with the jigsaw, as we shifted the panels up/down/left/right to bring them into line with the vehicle and the ground.

This is the right-rear corner, where we’ve cut and installed two plywood sheets. They’re on hinges so, they swing a bit, but we’ll get that sorted out.

The mounting point for Right 2 gave David and me pause ,,,

We had to mount it to the doorjamb – which is about 1.5 inches wide – so that both the passenger front door and the big sliding door (with xylophone keyboard #3 mounted on it – open and shut smoothly. Once we cut down the hinges a bit, removed one of the circular door gongs and trimmed the profile about six times, that panel fits perfectly, and both doors operate smoothly.

Here’s the finished product.

Next – cutting out the profiles’ outer shapes.


Jul 12 2011

We’re going to Burning Man. Again!

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Now all we have to do is finish building Janus, buy the Celestial Player Piano around XyloVan in time!

Here’s what XyloVan looked like on the playa last year.

And here’s the official Department of Mutant Vehicles acceptance letter, which just came in last night:

DMV Registration Acceptance Letter 2011

PRINT AND BRING THIS LETTER WITH YOU!!

Mutant Vehicle: Janus, the Celestial Player Piano
Registration #: M11-0924
Owner: Mack Reed

This is an invitation to bring your Mutant Vehicle to Burning Man 2011 for on-playa inspection. THIS IS NOT YOUR LICENSE, NOR DOES IT GRANT YOU ONE. Actual licenses are granted in Black Rock City when, and if, you pass the on-playa inspection.

This letter confirms that you passed the first level of inspection; read on for important information about what is next …

Continue reading


Jul 11 2011

Roughing out the framework – the right way

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We roughed out the major framing today that will turn XyloVan into JANUS, stuff the Celestial Player Piano.

My excellent son, search Biomass worked tirelessly with me all day, viagra regaling me with jokes and generally kicking ass on every little task.

Here, he’s disassembling the 1×6 framework that Alan and Dave roughed out yesterday, to make way for the same structure made of 2x4s … Continue reading


Jul 9 2011

Building JANUS – roughing out the frame

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We started today with the framing for what will eventually look something like this.

Dave and Alan generously toiled in the sun with me at Big Art Labs, visit and we began roughing out the side rails that will be bolted to the roof rack.

David Hoffman’s design called for 2x4s, story but after finding the 8-footers that I bought to be too short for the job, we tried 1x6es. These proved to be too flimsy for the job but they were good enough to stand in until I can get back to Home Depot for the right size lumber.

Then we marked sheets of 1/2-inch plywood against the profile of the van’s body, taking into account little oddities like marker lights, xylophone mounts and the right rear crushed bumper.

Here, Dave shows off the fine 4×8 sheet of 1/2-inch ply he caught from the stern of the van, using light tackle and bloodworms for bait.

A skillsaw made short work of the wavy lines.

We installed a couple of the plywood profiles using loose-pin hinges.

And hey, presto – they fit! It only took six hours to get all this figured out. My deepest heartfelt thanks to both Alan and Dave for helping get this solved.

Next – we’ll replace the frame rails with 2×4 versions, and cut out the other profiles.


Jul 5 2011

JANUS frame design – Building an art car around an art car

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The Department of Mutant Vehicles is very particular about this: In order to receive a new mutant vehicle permit (of which only a limited few hundred will be issued to 50, sale 000+ Burners), physician your vehicle must no longer resemble a street vehicle in any way.

We toyed with a bunch of designs before settling on JANUS, store the Celestial Player Piano. And now we have to figure out how to conceal XyloVan, covering a perfectly good art car with another perfectly good art car that allows people to still play the instruments and climb up to the roof.

I was going to build a framework out of steel conduit lashed to the rooftop railing (which will itself be bolted to the cargo rack) but my good friend David Hoffman, a playa veteran (and a scenic designer by trade) worked up a much more economical design.

Click at right to see the full array of sketches.

We’ll cut eight profile shapes out of plywood, attach them to two long 2x4s attached to the cargo rack, and then box them out and stiffen them with 1x3s and plywood. (Note – this isn’t the final shape, it might be a bit more Seussian – or baroque.) The whole array will also be fixed to XyloVan’s body panels with loose-pin hinges, to allow for swift setup and teardown.

With any luck, We’ll have our mitts on some recycled porch railing by Friday so we can build the rooftop cloud deck. (See full concept drawing. )

Construction starts Saturday!


Jun 29 2011

XyloVan to undergo full mutation

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(UPDATED)

Yep. Last year’s DMV rejection, medications was a reality check for us. The Department of Mutant Vehicles is serious.

So we’re getting serious. The XyloVan crew are working to return to the playa this year with a fully-mutated version of the vehicle that will let us bring the instruments and noise around to everyone – rather than waiting in one spot in the middle of nowhere hoping people will find us.

In other words, this site we’re going for a full playa driving permit.

Click the sketch to see the full, mad plan:

UPDATE: Application filed. Now we wait up to 10 days. Very patiently. Got any cards?