Aero Bubblophone build

Part of the original brief for this project was to make the mechanism of the Bubblophone as discreet as possible, but by necessity some of it actually had to be fairly big. It looked nice though, so no-one worried about it in the end.

"Better a chunky rail system than a wobbly horn", as the old saying goes.

I drew some sketches for the early discussions, but what really made things take off was Sean's Fusion 360 modelling. Sean skilfully combined Chris' Cinema 4D animations and my 2D CAD into a coherent dimensioned model that everyone could work from.

This helped with the prototype building, information from which then fed back into more accurate revisions of the model. It also meant that informative animations could be sent to the client.

My only concern was that everyone would get used to the super-slick visuals, and be shocked by the dangling cables of the final machine, and its tendency to occasionally jam catastrophically and hurl 12" records across the workshop.

The obvious choice for the music was probably "A Handful of Automation" by Robin Fox, or maybe "Orgie De Gobelins Sous Champignons Hallucinogènes" by La Femme, but in the end Aero chose a spoken word piece by Bob Cobbing.

Only joking - that last bit not true. These captions may potentially be alienating commercial clients.

To get started a couple of very cheap gramophones were purchased, which became the Turntables of Theseus as parts were replaced and upgraded.

Sections of brass handrail were acquired, also some powerful geared DC motors, and a beautiful double universal joint to transmit rotary motion around the elbow.

Components were initially prototyped in plywood, but later transformed into brass by the application of an elixir purchased from an alchemist.

The horn descend / lift mechanism was controlled by a cam with two flexible steel cables. Not from bicycle brakes, but super-flexible 133 strand steel cables. This is a great way of remotely transferring large amounts of mechanical force to specific areas.

The photo below was taken before the second cable was added.

The control box had to take care of 10 motors, including various DC, steppers, servos and speed control.

This was a brass cover to hide the chrome on the original sourced soundbox

As well as the gramophone, made the choco-tank and supporting frame. The tank was made of welded 6mm polypropylene.


Amazing. I was nervous watching it fill for the first time, slightly expecting the weight of the liquid to cause a The Shining / elevator / blood situation, only in brown.

The photo below shows a prototype tank. The final one had 172 valves.

The frame could unbolt into halves for transportation

The central deeper trough was to accommodate some larger pumps for the finale

My favourite part of the project was definitely the guys coming to stay for a week on valve-connecting duties. It's great working with such wonderful people on something constructive like this - I prefer it to going on holiday and sitting around.

During construction a previously unknown cat turned up and sat in inconvenient places

Over to Printworks, London, a huge former newspaper printing factory

Thanks again to the fantastic team! Credits on main Bubblophone page

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