Machine Drawing

I stumbled upon this project titled Machine Drawing Drawing Machines by Pablo Garcia a while ago, and then I found this great video of a talk he did at MIT about the history of drawing machines.

Pablo Garcia

Technology and art have always come together in some way…

It is a long video, and it was an hour into it before I realized Pablo was the guy behind the NeoLucida Kickstarter. I’m not as much a fan of drawing aids as I am machines, but there’s a ton of great info in the video.

There’s also a DrawingMachines twitter account worth checking out, as well as Pablo’s account, and his web site at

The video revealed a lot about machines and drawing that I’ll be thinking about for a while, especially in relation to my own work and views on these things. Good stuff!

I’ve been designing a new drawing machine that is inspired by turntables. You know, those old-fashioned devices that old people used to listen to music…

I’ve made some progress on the electronics so far, and the controls will most likely consist of two potentiometers to control two stepper motors, and there may or may not be a servo involved for the pen lifting. (And yes, two steppers and a servo are sort of the common elements of many drawing machines.)

While many of my drawing machines are cobbled together with bits of wood and hot glue, I’m going to attempt to actually design this one. I’ve been looking at a number of turntables for design ideas, and wow, some of those things are just beautiful! Some examples below…





Wood Turntable

Belt Drive

I’ve started to collect other images/links over on a Pinterest board. Some are just interesting machines or mechanisms, but a lot of them are turntables or drawing machine related.

Motor Mounts

I needed a few motor mounts for a project and since I was at Milwaukee Makerspace it seemed quicker/faster to just laser cut a few since I had files on my laptop. (I could have 3D printed them as well.)


I assembled a quick and dirty polargraph, and while I attempted to use an Adafruit Motor Shield I had on hand, it did not work. The steppers were not moving, just humming and stuttering.

I then grabbed the CNC Shield I’ve been testing and put that in place. The steppers worked fine with a test sketch, but the firmware I wanted to load (Dan’s Makelangelo code) expects either an Adafruit Motor Shield or a RUMBA board. I thought about trying to rewrite things to work with the Pololu motor drivers, but it was also after 11pm.

(I later realized that I should have looked at the RUMBA firmware, as that supposedly works with RAMPS. And yes, while I do have a spare RAMPS board, it’s across town at my studio. I decided to punt and see what I could do with what was in my workshop.)


I figured I’d throw Grbl on it and see what happened. I used Grbl Controller to connect to the board and loaded some G-code to run. I knew it would not work (as expected) but I tried anyway.


Grbl supports machines that use Cartesian coordinates, but not those that use polar coordinates, like a polargraph. Still, I was surprised at what I got. It basically worked, except for flipping the image and running it diagonally up to the left.

Grbl Controller

I then took my original vector file and flipped it, and skewed it up and to the left, to match (somewhat) how it was drawn by the machine.

Shapes skewed

It actually sort of worked! I think it was after midnight by now so I gave up on it. My lack of math skills prevent me from converting between coordinate systems, but I think there’s a few things to explore here, and if I get time (uhhh) it may be something I play with a bit in the future. Also, if anyone wants to add polar coordinate support to Grbl that would be lovely. :)

Being back in school means that I get something I didn’t get in the working world… SPRING BREAK!!!

Wikipedia defines Spring Break as “a vacational period in early spring at universities and schools in various countries in the northern hemisphere”.

Google’s image search shows us… uhh, never mind.

I thought I’d share some of the exciting highlights from my Spring Break. It got a little crazy!!!

Next week it’s back to school, which will basically be 8 weeks of total madness.

It has been __ days since the 3D printer had malfunctioned

I had a few responses to the new sign I made for the workshop. I cut some black vinyl to stick onto a piece of scrap white acrylic I had lying around.

It has been __ days since the 3D printer had malfunctioned

Of course more than one person joked that I could just permanently write a zero in place, or perhaps change the “days” to “hours” or even “minutes”.

If you want your own version, you can grab a file and have at it. Download an SVG, PDF, or DXF.

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