Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Nickel Box

"The Nickel Box" was made from copper, wood, bolts, screws, epoxy, scrap metal, skeleton key, paint, and nails. The tiny box was made from scratch, using scrap wood from another cigar box. All of the copper was hand cut to fit the box. I love this routine, because no electricity is required for it to work. The goal of this project was to create a magic effect that works like a crank toy.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Jedi Mind Trick

"The Jedi Mind Trick" started with a Star Wars "Return Of The Jedi" soundtrack cassette I found at a thrift store. Playing around with the case, I realized that playing cards fit almost perfectly inside, if you remove a few plastic stubs from the interior. The stand is a soap container from Walmart. A strong LED lights up in the center. The sound is from a musical greeting card. Everything, including the rise of the card, is perfectly synchronized to the music, with the help of a micro-controller.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

War, Love and Peace

"War, Love and Peace" was made using the shell of an old RCA radio. Using a web application (Processing) and an Arduino micro-controller, I was able to create a sort of online hit counter. The computer goes online to a specific website - I used - and counts how many times the words war, love, and peace appear. It returns the result to the web application. The application translates the data to the micro-controller. The micro-controller displays the value on the analog gauges and the red LED. The large gauge is for "war," the small gauge is for "peace," and the red LED is for "love." There is also an LCD screen that displays the words "war," "love," and "peace" every time it receives it. The program updates every ten seconds. If the New York Times blog posts something new, the machine will also update. Mechanically, what once controlled the tone of the radio now controls the contrast of the LCD screen. What controlled the volume now turns the hands of the clock backwards and brightens the large lightbulb. This project was inspired by the last chapter in Massimo Banzi's book, Getting started with Arduino. I chose to make this piece interact with the New York Times blog page, because it is one of the most current world news sources on the web. I tried the project with several major news sites, in fact, and concluded that war is consistenly the most common word in news out of "war," "love," and "peace."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Drawing Automaton

The "Drawing Automaton" is a drawing machine that is powered by magnets. Inside there is a plastic cylinder that spins as you turn the handle. Around the cylinder are small magnets placed in random spots. The wires holding the pen are held together by springs which are pulled by fishing line. The line also has magnets attached. As you turn the handle, the magnets from the line attach themselves to the cylinder, and the tension causes the springs to expand, making the pen move. I challenged myself to create a hand turning machine that can draw in every direction. Though the drawings are random, I still consider this project a great success.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Email Notifier

"The Email Notifier" was inspired by: and

This is something I have been trying to figure out for over three years!. To have physical objects like a bell, lights, and a gauge alert you when you get an email is a really complicated thing to figure out. There is a python script that checks for any new mail. There is also another script that prompts the python script to continuously check for new mail instead of just checking once, and there is a third script written out for a micro-controller to listen, wait, and take action when it receives news. The micro-controller has the bell, lights, and gauge attached to it. It is amazing to see it all in action. The links above only got me so far. I had to write a whole new code for my micro-controller. Once I did that, I was able to add the bell, gauge, and 2 vintage style light-bulbs. The best part about writing the code for the micro-controller was the freedom to make endless patterns. When I get an email now, one light-bulb blinks, then the gauge points to the other light-bulb and it blinks; this is repeated twice and ends with the bell ringing. The casing is from an old alarm clock, the gauge is from a multi-meter, and the electronics are held together by an Arduino and Arduino motor shield. This is by far one of my favorite projects. Any questions about making your own, write me at Or, even if you don't have any questions, email me anyway, just to activate The Email Notifier!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Talking Television

"The Talking Television" was inspired by "".
If you have an old television, it can be converted into an oscilloscope!. I decided that instead of having waves of lines, I wanted lines that were free and random. The dangerous thing about this, is a television has enough electricity to kill you. The voltage is dangerously BIG (tinker at your own risk). I learned my lesson, I blew out an itouch experimenting. I still consider the project a huge success because the visuals change by pitch and intensity, and the patterns are always new. There is a 1/4 inch out on the side of the T.V so you can plug all kinds of electronics (guitar amps, record players, other T.V's, etc...)

Monday, August 10, 2009


Rufio is made from walnut and pine. His arms and legs are jointed with pine dowel. The whole piece was hand carved and took about 20 hours to complete. This project dates back to the winter of 2003 when I was first introduced to carving. I was inspired after seeing a wooden monkey at Tinker Toys in Woodstock NY. I could not afford to buy it at the time so I set my mind to make one.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Music Box

Michael Schaffer, creator of software program Ardrumo (, was a great help and inspiration for this project, "The Music Box." Michael made an electronic drum kit using foam circles, some sensors, and an Arduino. Then he wrote a program to translate the sensors into Garageband. The result was a complete homemade drumkit DIY style with the option to change the sounds. I took his sensor idea and built it into a cigar box. All the sensors are hidden, so it makes it more of a mystery music box. It is all self-contained, and the options are endless. I have preset sounds like Mozart the Dove singing, my dog barking, and me whistling. So when I tap on a certain side of the box a different sound plays. Happy birthday Nikola Tesla! :)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Think Of A Card Box

"Think Of A Card Box" is made inside of a Griffin's cigar box. There are electronics built inside to make the magic part work properly. When you put a quarter in the slot, the lightbulb lights up and the switches begin to work. With a shuffled pack of cards, you have someone think of one as you pass the cards individually between your hands. At the end of the routine the thought-of card is revealed. I love this piece because it combines woodburning, electronics, and magic. The turning handle also reminds me of old-fashioned music boxes.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Digital Scratch Pad

"Digital Scratch Pad" was made using a 555 timer IC . The sound is controlled through a photo-cell which is sensitive to light. As you cover the photo-cell, the the sound gets deeper, and as the cell is exposed to more light, the pitch gets higher. Underneath the felt is a flex sensor. The more pressure you place on the felt, the more it distorts the sound. There is a 1/4 inch jack, so you can plug it into an external speaker to make it louder. I've used this plugged into a Marshall stack, and it sounds awesome. 

Monday, June 22, 2009

Coins Across

"Coins Across" is a classic of magic. The trick dates back to way before I was born. It's when someone makes a couple of coins travel from one hand to the other, using sleight of hand and charm. There are many magicians that have become well known because of this one effect. I think every full-time magician has a coins across effect that they regularly perform. This is my version using scrap wood, a mint tin, copper, felt, and some sneaky stuff you can't see. I really like this magic trick because it speaks for itself; you don't need to talk while you're performing it. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Recycled Etcha-Sketcha

The "Recycled Etcha-Sketcha" is mostly made from found or broken electronics. The motors, potentiometers, knobs, and switches came from a broken vintage radio. The wire is from wire hangers, and the light bulb also comes from the radio. The circuits were built using a 555 timer. My favorite part of this project is the last switch on the board. I call it the "crazy switch". When it's turned on, all the electricity flows into the light and the motor, which controls the paper, causing the paper to retract really fast and the light to flash. There is a solenoid motor that also pushes the pen which came from a thrown out printer. 

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Cocoa Card Rise

"The Cocoa Card Rise" is made inside of a vintage Walter Baker tin. The turning knob was found outside of my band's practice space, and I believe it comes from a banjo. The card wire frame is made from coat hangers and copper wire. This is a classic of magic. Usually, a selected card mysteriously rises from a pack without anyone touching the cards. I chose to use the banjo knob as part of the trick because it reminds me of old wind up toys. The best part is that any deck of cards can be used, and even after shuffling, the selected card rises! 


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Animal Cookie Hot Air Balloon

"The Animal Cookie Hot Air Balloon" is portable and can be performed anywhere. I can't explain what the machine is made of inside because the secret will be revealed. I can tell you that it took over twenty hours of work to get the machine to float. It was worth all the effort and I hope the video shows a glimpse of why I love this illusion so much. It holds everything that I find important in the world. 

Friday, May 15, 2009

Heart Box

"Heart Box" was made in a Tic-Tac container. I was inspired by a schematic schowing how to make an LED sensitive to light. There are four photocells that each control two LEDs. The darker it gets at night, the brighter the LEDs shine. Last year, my wife joined  the volunteer 
Emergancy Medical Service for the town we live in, so it was a gift to her. Go Katie!