1/1/2017: Mini Strandbeest Kit

Spent my time leading up to the new year in the house working on a variety of projects.  Decided to take some time for myself and work on a kit that I bought ages ago and had been saving for the right moment to assemble.  I’ve been wanting to put it together ever since I had seen Adam Savage’s One Day Build on it via Tested.  That’s right…it’s the Gakken Otonano miniature version of Theo Jansen’s Strandbeest (kit seen on the right in the photo below).

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I ordered this kit over eBay and wanted to wait until I had a nice table all set to knoll everything so I could put it together properly.  While this isn’t a complicated kit, I wanted to make sure I did things the right way, and knolling gives me a perverted and surprising pleasure that I never would have predicted otherwise.  Considering how much I hate doing things in any way that is considered conventional (not deliberately, I just don’t think the way most people do), and get impatient with directions very quickly, you wouldn’t think knolling would be up my alley.  But in certain aspects, in particular cooking, putting together furniture, and apparently in assembling kits, I really want to make sure my ingredients are all lined up before the process begins.  Maybe it’s all those times that I’ve dived into a project and stalled halfway through because I’m missing an essential component that I thought I had?

Back on topic.  As the snow flew and my faithful canine companion snoozed unconcernedly on the couch, I carefully removed the variety of pieces from their plastic prisons and trimmed the excess plastic that remained from each one.  I knolled per the directions.  The pieces are of surprisingly high quality and I had no issues or concerns with breakages, which is nice.  There were extra pieces of a few, but overall I had no troubles discerning the pieces from each other.

004After knolling I followed the directions stepwise with very little issue.  I took a picture after each step.  Can you tell the difference?  Once the legs started going on, of course, vast swaths of my knolling disappeared.

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The last photo is of the Strandbeest nearly complete.  This kit has two options, the fan powered version (closer to Jansen’s original plans) and also a crank powered option (presumably if you don’t feel like huffing and puffing to show your creation off to your nerdy friends).

This is the only place where I ran into problems.  The gears on the front of the Strandbeest seem to rub together – or are too close to the original body – or perhaps are just not very well lubricated? – and do not work smoothly.  While it is possible to blow on the fan blades in order to move the beest, it walks more like John Wayne than Beyonce.

I disassembled the fan blades from the beest and used the crank to determine the cause of the herky-jerky movement.  It certainly walked smoother than the fan-powered attempts, though the beest loses some of its magic when you are operating it directly.  Unfortunately, the videos that I took of the operation of the beest are not available to upload at the moment.

Overall I couldn’t stop marveling at the precision mathematics and engineering that it must have taken to not only design a walking machine of such complexity, but to make them 8-10 feet tall, wind powered and stable.  Jansen deserves all the accolades he gets.  It would be incredible to assemble a large version of one of these.  And, true to the nature of science, Jansen has published all of his plans for free to whoever wants them.  So while the dream isn’t exactly beyond my reach, Adam Savage’s latest struggles with attempting to build his own Strandbeest with the best tools and support available make me less than enthusiastic to attempt to do so.

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