Caged Pulse Jets is an interactive, kinetic sound sculpture. The caged birds are five spinning pulse jet engines of various sizes that create a range of percussive and droning tones. Through a completely interactive interface, the public can create sound compositions ranging from the symphonic to the cacophonous while they are held captive by the fiery jets spinning by their own thrust.

October 16, 2010

Another fabulous picture- this one thanks to Mathew Wanlin.

September 26, 2010

September 14, 2010

BM 2010

More to come soon, and video!!

September 03, 2010

Well, it's a mixed bag- I thought I was going to be relieved when the project left for the Playa, but found myself feeling a constellation of emotions instead. Mostly sad, as I really wanted to see the Jets up and running and to witness the reaction of the public. It's like rehearsing for a performance for months and months and then your understudy takes the role on opening night. Dave X, BM's fire safety Man, has been in touch with me (yes there is internet for some out there!) and let me know that the crew is doing a great job! He also was kind enough to send along these pictures for now. I am so proud of them, and I hope they are having a blast. In the meantime I will just keep dreaming about what it may be like out there, white-outs and all.

August 28, 2010

August 23, 2010

August 22, 2010

And off they go!!!

Well, after a grueling couple of weeks of testing, trouble shooting, some failure, re-testing, more fabrication, more safety precautions, we are finally done. As done as it will be for Burning Man! Like most projects, "done" is a misnomer, as I could spend another year perfecting this sculpture... but for now- it works, and it works well! A few things we learned during the first test- we needed to truss the arms that hold the jets to stabilize the cage, and the jets after they really start spinning(so fast!!) I called on an old friend who brought his portable welding rig out to the site and helped truss the arms in question over some beers and a sweet afternoon.
The consequent test was successful except for the hose clamps failing on the big jet, propelling it into the cage. This seeming disaster had an unexpected upside though, as I replaced every hose clamp with the heaviest duty aero/space clamp money can buy and welding on a safety bracket to hold every jet to it's respective arm securely. It happened to the largest jet, and it flew into the cage, which held up minus a dimple. The jet was repairable and will still work fine. Glad it happened during testing!

The console interface is still finicky, but works great if you have the touch. There is a delay in response of the jets, which will require some concentration on the players part. It truly is a very interactive sound sculpture- not for the weak at heart!!

So tomorrow it gets loaded, hopefully without too many hitches. It's a bit bulky for a trailer load, but, hey, what weird sculptures are not?
Tuesday early it's due to depart for its long journey to the Playa. I have been excited for this day for a while, though I will admit I wish I could now go, even if it was just for a little bit- to see it up and running, on the beautiful Black Rock Desert.
Then again, I get a firm kick from the little one inside, reminding me I have other things to tend giving birth in a few weeks. oh yeah.

The project will be well documented, by my good friend Wendy Shuey, and I am excited to see pictures & video and will post them post event!

To all of you who helped make it happen- Thank you!!! I am so grateful for having this opportunity especially pre baby. May the project fair well, may the team be safe, and wishing you all the best Burn ever!

August 12, 2010

First Test!

Well, we busted a move and finally got all the components together to have our first test of the jets inside the cage.
Four out of five worked well- the smallest one is a bit cranky but we will get it going for the second test tomorrow. Thank you to all volunteers that came out and helped last night!
The jet in the movie started vibrating too much and slammed into the supports holding it to the cage- luckily it did little damage to the jet. We will be cutting the jet arms a bit shorter and fine tuning the counterweights tomorrow to help with this problem. They sure spin fast, and together it's going to be a crazy ruckus in there.
enjoy the movie- more after test #2...

July 29, 2010

Commutators & Wiring & Forging!

We are in the final assembly stages with the components that are the most complicated. The commutators do deserve a standing ovation, as they are super fabulously built and designed by Christian Ristow- they are single port gas and single conductor electric and spin beautifully on two bearings. We are building the arms that hold the jets out into the cage and it's getting crowded within the cage. Meanwhile, Steve Storz has been applying his mad scientist wiring to the project and the console is almost all wired and ready to interface with the jets as well as the public. The console looks very inviting and gadgety! On the team recently is blacksmith Jim Stoner, who has been cranking out some amazing forged work, for embellishing the cage, which will get added in the next few days. I have a fantastic crew going here and am confident that we can start testing very very soon!


July 23, 2010

Working Days, Working Nights

Time does fly! I had some crazy ambition that the project would be DONE by now, but hey, we are close, but not quite there yet. We have had a good turnout of help and we are in the last stretch to get the cage done and the jets mounted. Most of the components had to be ordered so there has been plenty of time spent tracking missing or late packages. We have set a deadline to test the sculpture, and everyone on the crew is working hard to meet that. The fabulously made commutators are done, thanks to Christian, and are ready to get mounted on the jet arms. Steve is working hard to get the console wired for interfacing with the jets and the public- not an easy task! I finally found 300' of affordable propane hose with appropriate JIC fittings, which should arrive next week, and then we are ready to test!
Personally I am falling in and out of good use as my 30 LBS front pack is wearing me down in the shop- baby is heavy!
And on another note, there is now a kickstarter support page for the project to help us get over the budget crunch- Hopefully our goal of $1000 will get us there! Any donation is very appreciated, small as well as big!

June 27, 2010


Suddenly there are five volunteers in the shop on a Saturday busting ass on the cage! The cage is almost done, the pulse jets have arrived (thank you Eric!) and we are about to put everything together. The control station is mostly built, and now needs the plumbing and the various cool switches and dials, to be doctored by Steve Storz- our team electric artist.
Once the skeleton of the cage is finished, all the plumbing goes in, as the propane will feed through the middle rib of each quadrant for four of the jets and the fifth will lay on the floor. Christian is machining the commutators, which will enable the jets to spin freely. The cage is big, but light, and the only hic-up so far is how to fit it on a trailer... Hopefully a 22 ft. trailer will do the job- but first I have to find one...

May 28, 2010

It's Up for the first time!

Scraping together a crew is not always the easiest thing out here in Taos, but I have to say today's crew was awesome and we got plenty done! After gusseting some of the angled corners we schlepped the four pieces outside and bolted them together. Now normally at the bolting stage there should be some tweaking, but, for some stroke of great luck (or just decent measuring) it came together perfectly. We bolted the top ring together, then made angle brackets for the bottom to hold the structure together. All this before the weather decided to go to hell and we called it a day. It's a great looking cage! Next up we will be welding bracing on to the ribs and infilling with rod to add structure and strength.

May 07, 2010

The Build Commences...

Finally! I always pay attention to the very first cut in the shop that signifies the actual fabrication starting point of a project, and this cut happened on April 29th 2010. Living out in beautiful Taos New Mexico has a variety of challenges, including the extreme difficulty of getting specific materials delivered here. Steel comes once a week from Albuquerque, if you forgot or missed something, or worse they forgot or missed something, you are running at idle for another week. The round trip drive to Albuquerque is six hours, making the idea of running down there and getting it yourself a small road trip(without the perks) and with gas prices as high they are and a large truck to haul the stuff back on to boot, a non option.
So after weeks of waiting for checks to clear, for materials to be delivered, for a few volunteers, the project is slowly creeping along. This would not be such a big deal if the reality of my situation was not as it is- which is that I am also currently fabricating a baby(!) which takes a bit of energy and ultimately is much more exciting than any steel sculpture I am building in the shop! Due to that, I am currently in the so called honeymoon phase of pregnancy, the middle phase, aka the second trimester. Energy is good, health is great, mobility is compromised but OK. Looking for a pair of shop pants that actually fit is not easy- welding maternity, anyone?
Come July I will be in my third trimester, and I am guessing based on how much room this new addition is taking in my body all ready, that I will not be too excited to be working in the shop at that point.
So, now that I have set the scene- I will start the documentation of the build, epic on some levels, straight forward on others. First- building the Cage. It's a fairly large structure- a 16 sided 17 FT tall and 18FT across elliptical Cage. I guess the angles from the Heron Project did not satisfy my masochistic desire to build something so geometrically elaborate, so I am now working with ROUND stock and complex angles! It will break down into quadrants, and hopefully squeeze onto trailer for transport. My dedicated shop hand and 2nd Project Lead, Gregory, is in full swing helping me roll the ellipses out to form the main structure. And Yes, the roller we are using is from the 1940's. Johnny helped out with rolling and drilling the collars that are going to hold the cage together. Then there is the infill, between each rib with forged filigree and expanded metal. Some ribs will contain propane fittings, as the gas will run within the rib. The five arms that hold the jets will be rolled and built, with two-port commutators, and bolted on.
In the meantime, Eric Beck, pulse Jet maestro is fabricating five pulse jets of varying sizes, and will be coming out here in June for the mounting and final acoustic testing of the jets inside the cage. After the cage is done there is the interfacing station- the control station that has to be built and wired to work with the jets. Not a piece of cake.
But, let's take one thing at a time... so first shots of cage fabrication! Note that that is not a beer belly but a baby belly I am sporting, in case you skimmed over the first part!

January 31, 2010

The concept-

The cage containing the jets stands 17' tall, including the top lifting ring, and is 18' wide at its widest. The jet cage has an octagonal footprint and is decorated ornately with forged elements to look like a giant bird cage. Inside, hidden within the structure, run propane, air and electric- the three ingredients for the valveless pulse jet engines to work. Five arms run out from the cage structure and hold the pulse jets and their fuel. Each jet has its own axis that it will spin freely around powered by its engine thrust. This will also add a stereo sound component to each jet.
I am hoping to get frequencies ranging from 60 Hertz to 600 Hertz, and that will depend on the actual size of the jet. There is a user interface control panel outside of the cage that enables the public to "play" the jets as they will have the ability to modify the amount of fuel, and air. I would like it to be a control panel that can be played by one or several people-a moon shaped panel with sets of three buttons/knobs/switches for each jet. The control panel is attached and tethered to the cage. The incredible sounds that these jets can make will create a thunderous symphony like no other. While running, the jets will radiate their bright orange and yellow glow, resembling dynamic and awe-inspiring birds flying around in their bird cage.

Sketches and Pictures

Here are some pictures-

The first one is of my first Pulse Jet- I built a Lockwood-Hiller style jet for a show called Propulsion in Taos, NM in 2008. It ran when it felt like it, but it sounded great! I was inspired by the huge pulse jets at a SRL show at Robodock, which I had the great pleasure of operating during the show.