Giant chicken construction photos

Last year's sculptural project was built onto a dumper truck chassis, which worked well. This year I wanted the challenge of making something bigger, and so started by considering potential vehicles that could be used as a base. For a wider base / more stability, though, it seemed like a good idea just to buy four separate wheels and mount them on a frame.

I visited a company that sold used agricultural wheels, which was a great place with a big yard full of insanely huge tyres. The guy there was actually really helpful, and a few days later called by with the big wheels I had chosen. Maybe most of his customers are working on art projects.

Buying the wheels meant the project was now definitely going to happen - the exciting leap from sketchbook to reality. Time to order some big lengths of tubing, 8mm wall thickness, weighing about 240Kg each.

I'd recently bought a new saw, which dealt with the tubing splendidly

Custom hubs were made to fit the wheels

I'm sure there's a punchline here somewhere...

After careful alignment, the cuts ended up surprisingly accurate. Here you can see the centre punch marks cut in half, and they were like that all around the tube.

All of the tubing joins had to be chamfered, so that the weld could reach through the material

Triangular plates were included in the joints for additional strength

The thick metal is a delight to weld, as heat deformation is pretty much not an issue

These laser cut plates were for use as towing points and brackets for future mudguards

Completed legs. Working out the angles was tricky.

Rolled inserts to help the hubs rotate. Fairly crude, but the sculpture won't have to move very often.

Hub + grease

One issue with making a physically large project is just how unexpectedly long it can take to complete a simple task, as parts are heavy and awkward.

Moving components around sometimes took a bit of figuring out, but a lot can be achieved with ratchet straps, scaffolding and a winch. I need to buy a telehandler though at some point.

The body was made at the same time as the frame. 556 triangles were laser cut out of 2mm steel.

I started using an MDF jig to align each row of triangles, but it wasn't really necessary, as each row corrected the previous once tacked in place.

It's a great way of fabricating shapes. I've been meaning to have another go at this since making stands for the butterfly job years ago.

These magnets were useful

The vertices turned out pretty neat. Some more wobbly than others, but here's a good example.

An internal frame was made of 30mm square box section. I have a nice ring roller for fabricating hoops. I think I've told everyone about it now.

Homemade Soyuz capsule...

...after landing in a field somewhere in Kazakhstan.

This frame was the interface between the egg shaped body and the lower stand.

Frame welded into body, ready to lift onto stand

Device for moving things around the garden

When things started getting above a certain size, it was very useful to have a friend with a Land Rover! Massive thanks to Ozzy, who came over two evenings in a row to move some rather awkward objects.

The frame moves in a straight line easily enough, but turning it was a total mission, as it has no provision for steering. Our final technique was to wedge the bucket from a dumper truck under one tyre, then bounce the frame around with the Land Rover pulling a chain fixed to the opposite side.

During the project I met a guy called Zane who builds monster trucks, and we had a fascinating discussion about hydraulic steering. Keen to include this next time.

M30 eye bolts

A few coats of Caterpillar Highway Yellow, and now all ready for the crane

This guy was amazing - absolutely no fear of heights. He sailed down on the crane hook, whilst waving.

The most critical point of the whole project was dropping the body into place on the frame. Four tubes had to line up with corresponding larger tubes. I measured them at least 4000 times, but it was a relief when everything dropped into place.

The beak is about 2.3m long. The shape on the left is a plywood jig to check the fit against the top dome.

I used Fusion 360 (3D modeling software) to work out the jig, as it would be a bit of a mission to use 2D to calculate the angled join between an icositetragonal dome and a squashed pyramid.

The beak was winched up a scaffold tower, and then welded using an extra long 5m torch on the MIG. In the image below you can just about make out the welder tipped on its back to get that last 0.5m reach.

For MIG welding outdoors I used a fireproof blanket over my head to shield the gas from any breeze. It's okay with the gas turned up, although the fibreglass blanket is horribly itchy. Stick welder outdoors is better if it's windy.

The paint around the beak then had to be resprayed, where the join had been cleaned back for welding

Bottom hatch

This portable little stick welder is great for carrying up ladders to tack things

The Neighbour Confuser, Phase 1, finished for now...

Phase 2 will involve a set of mudguards, fitting the missing panel around the legs, and some more work on the interior.


The steel fabrication worked out really well.

Very keen to get stuck into some more sculptural fabrication like this, so get in touch if you need something similar. Not necessarily a chicken, but anything with big frames, interesting geometry, mechanical aspects, programmable lighting etc.

Motors, hydraulics, low poly steel, sensors, audio, lights. I have multiple sketchbooks full of ideas, which could leap out of the pages with your help.

The chicken was unveiled at a legendary 4-day long party, containing some very special moments, including a fantastic synth jam, with singing! I will upload the video soon.

Main chicken page

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