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I love the simplicity and beauty of Robert Howsare‘s record player-based drawing apparatus. Be sure to watch the video of it in action; you’ll find it quite mesmerizing to see the device generate its Spirograph-like patterns. According to Wired, Robert made the device out of second-hand turntables, a few slats of wood, screws, and a sharpie held in place with a clothes pin. I’m curious to see how varying the RPM while it draws affects the pattern. [via DudeCraft]

Play the Rings of a Tree Trunk Like a Record

Matt Richardson

Matt Richardson

Matt Richardson is a Brooklyn-based creative technologist, Contributing Editor at MAKE, and Resident Research Fellow at New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP). He’s the co-author of Getting Started with Raspberry Pi and the author of Getting Started with BeagleBone.



  1. Dave Bell says:

    Clever, and a compelling art project!
    I’m curious, though: How does he get the “third axis” into play?
    The two turntables, running at different speeds, with different pantograph lengths make nice Lissajous figures, but if you watch the right-hand turntable in the video, you can see that the pivot point changes over time.
    This introduces a richness to the figures that makes them even more interesting.
    But is that done manually, with the video edited together, or … how?

    1. I’m not sure the pivot point is changing. I think it may just be the angle you’re looking at it. I thought it was changing at first, too, but if you watch it very closely, it appears to be in the same spot from the 9 o’clock to 3 o’clock position. I think it’s hard to see because it’s on the vinyl and not the label like the other one.

  2. Mena Eid says:

    Nice, complexity came from simple things that is all

  3. Dr_Ew says:

    It’s called a pintograph :

    We made one last year using an arduino and stepper motors – a fun weekend hack :)

    We were inspired to make one after seeing that Charlie Visnic made a pintograph as part of his creative 365 which is documented on his blog the B-Roll (be creative every day! that’s real dedication, his 365 archives are worth a look, there were some great projects).

    I think that Charlie was inspired by Fran McConville, who’s page about harmonographs and Pintographs is a great resource. Fran has some seventh dan blackbelt skills with Excel, and the spreadsheet he made which simulates a pintograph is super useful. (It was his daughter who named it a pintograph.)

    Fran in turn was inspired by the Kunstmachine – Drawing machines ofAlfred Hoehn, an artist in Switzerland here’s a good video of one of his machines.

    After that, my story drys up…anyone know of any prior art before Alfred Hoehn, or is he the innovator here?

    That’s all?

  4. Place that paper on a *third* turntable, and do it again!

    1. Dr_Ew says:

      Fran McCornville already did, you can see the results here:

      1. Dr. EW, thanks for the kind words on the blog. It’s awesome to know you found some inspiration. Funnily enough, I happened to revisit Fran McConville’s site earlier this afternoon because I’d seen this record player project on the internets and was surprised to see that Rotary Pintograph idea. Such a cool and simple modification!

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  6. That’s pretty sweet. We had to build something similar to this in my Engineering Mechanics class back in college.

  7. Piotr says:

    Machine like this one seems to be a good exercise in perfecting the craft in Engineering Mechanics…

  8. Very, very interesting! A very clever idea!

  9. [...] A Pair of Turntables That Generates Art [...]

  10. They are called Lissajous figures…a closed pattern results when one frequency is a multiple (harmonic) of the second frequency… made them in engineering school thirty years ago with two strings and a pencil…

  11. [...] A Pair of Turntables that Generates Art [...]