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Our big day arrived and the group from Failsworth Q arrived in good time on Saturday afternoon to get set up but we still worked right up to the start time of 7.30 getting the sculptures ready to show.

We’d installed them on the lock and become the focal point for the start of the trail. A huge crowd gathered and the traditional 10…9…8 countdown added to the pressure on us and our creations. The crowd reached zero and after a seconds pause for pedaling in the wrong direction the fish started to swim through the air and the bird started to flap. The crowd cheered – SUCCESS!!!

The next two hours flew by as the group dashed around operating, tweaking and replacing slipped chains. They were kept busy talking to the audience and explaining how they’d make the sculptures, how they worked and showing off their fantastic creations to friends and family.

All the hard work was definitely worthwhile. Seeing the pride, enjoyment and sense of achievement shining in the group’s faces as they dashed about coupled with the smiles and amazement of our audience proved what the project is all about

The local news even took our picture.

So until we start the next stage – Manchester Day Parade – it just remains for me to thank all our amazing, hard working and talented participants:

From Failsworth Q: Ste, Steve, Dan, Martin, Levi, Peter, Sam, Dale and Sam,

From Chadderton House: Andy, Dennis, Scott and Maxine

From Grassroots: The amazing Darren, Anthony and Chris.

From Manchester Uni: Hebe Phillips.

And of course a big thank you to everyone who support us in other ways and without whom it wouldn’t have happened: Sara, Natalie, Maggie, Ann, Bulky Bob and everyone else.

See you at Manchester Day Parade!

Salvage! At Illuminate a video by arbarus on Flickr.

The group reconvened for our last full working day before the grand unveiling at Illuminate – our mission “Decorate!”

Decoration consisted of scales and feathers created using from cable ties, Mylar film from an old slash curtain and double sided tape. A painstaking process…

Other work included adding a tail with flapping mechanism to the bird, improving the fish’s moveable jaw and adding fins and more tail detail to the fish along with a gangsta style grill (or bike chain teeth!)…

How To Decorate Your Fish a video by arbarus on Flickr.

As the deadline of the Illuminate event approached it was time to test and tweak the sculptures.

We added the drive bike to the bird using some ‘dropouts’ made from scrap steel plate and old angle iron shelving. Time to test the bird and it proved too big for the poly tunnel so we moved it outside to continue work– the weather was changeable so we worked under a slightly too small gazebo for some of the day.


The bird wings proved too heavy and kept throwing the chain from the gear as they ‘pushed’ the chain forward ahead of the pedal. This was remedied by the addition of a number of ‘muscles’ made from old inner tubes, strategically placed these ‘muscles’ countered the downwards force of the wings and allowed an even resistance to the pedals allowing control of the speed of the rotation and flapping more easily.

Everyone was thrilled that the bird worked. The flapping motion had a real bird like quality and everyone enjoyed pedaling and making amusing ‘caw-cow’ noises…

The Bird Moves a video by arbarus on Flickr.

We were please to have our young team return on the second day of their Easter holidays and continue work on the bird.

The tricky process of setting up and aligning the drive mechanism proved a challenge as four bike chains were needed to create the required length. These were salvaged from our junk box and Dan and Ste set to work making sure they were of the same pitch, cleaning and freeing any stuck links and joining them into one long, unwieldy and unusual looking chain.

Once this was connected correctly around the wing crank gear and the freewheel of the drive bike, Sam Ste and Dale mounted a tensioner and chain guide made from two old derailleur cogs onto the struts of the bird support frame.

Meanwhilst Andy and Dennis got the fish moving with the addition of a drive bike.

The fish frame had been lifted 5″ using bed frame ends to enable fixing of the drive mechanism. (The fish was now truly above the river bed!)

The perpendicular drive for the fish was connected using a cunning contrivance of parts from our toolkit: a 3/4 socket and universal joint adapter, Andy and Dennis made sure everything was aligned correctly to the fish drive crank and fixed it in place.

Another great sunny day means everyone wears sun tan lotion whilst working on getting the crank completed and moving.

The crank test (see video below) proves the movement will work so construction of the fish body, head and tail begins.

Grassroots 290312 fish moves a video by arbarus on Flickr.

The body section are made from twisted bike wheels of varying sizes, cut and reformed into ellipses. The upper head is formed from two more wheel and we hatch a cunning plan to create an animated jaw using a brake mechanism but leave this job for the next session as we’re expecting more young artists to join us.

The elegantly shaped front frame of a mountain bike marked X Trail – Special Bike seems an obvious choice for the fishes tail – joining it using front forks from another bike allowing it to pivot proves tricky but worth the extra effort.

Another amazing spring day with the weather feeling like summer combined with some new assistant artists meant that our creation moved on apace.

The frame we constructed last week was reinforced with more bed frame parts and the laborious task of fitting eight pedals between the spindles of five bike wheel took a good part of the morning.

After lunch the wheels and pedals were fitted to the reinforcing bars on the frame and the central crank that will power the fish finally came together. Great to see our vision come together and everyone was thrilled to see that the creation might just work!

Upright bars were prepared and T-sections cut from the bed rails to provide pivots and support for the fishes body sections – a kit of parts ready to assemble next session.

Two small scooters were fixed by their handle bars to the front and back of the frame to provide pivots and supports for the fishes head and tail.

The day finished with a real sense of achievement and we’re all looking forward to thursday and getting the body, head and tail added to the sculpture.

Thursday 22nd March at Grassroots and construction of our first sculpture begins!

 Working from our maquette we chose materials for constructing our moving fish full size. Laying out the parts we calculated the fish will be about 12foot long – not a tiddler!

The materials used are two wheelbarrow frames for the upright supports, an old bedframe reinforced with parts from a second bed frame for the base, tube cut from the bed sides for the top frame.

At the same time we rebuilt an old school D.T. bench to work on and selected five bikes wheel of the same size that will become supports and provide bearings for the crank. The crank will be formed from eight pedals and we started the process of removing and preparing these as well.

 All in all a good days of hard work of drilling, sawing, bolting and fitting together and very exciting to see the sculpture start to take form.

 The timelapse below hopefully shows the process and work involved in more detail.

Grassroots 220312 a video by arbarus on Flickr.

The second session at Grassroots was on tuesday 20th march and unfortunately some participants were unable to make it.

Darren suggested that we start work on our fish sculpture and we spent the morning planning how it might work. We wanted to use some of the bike wheels we’d ‘rescued’ as the basis of our mechanism as they are easy to work with, are light weight and have strong and reliable bearings.

We imagined the fish would move like a ‘Chinese Dragon’ puppet with it’s body constructed from a series of rings supported on rods linked to a drive mechanism. We came up with 2 options for using the wheels to drive the movement: horizontal wheels driving from the rim or vertical wheels supporting a crankshaft.

The rest of the day was taken up with the delicate task of constructing working maquettes to test our ideas with valuable assistance from Antony.

We discovered that the horizontal wheels system was easier to make but the motion they imparted to the body was not ‘fishy’ enough, the vertical wheels and crank was harder to construct but the movement was perfect!

A plan of action for our sculpture was slowly taking shape and our next move would be to start actual construction.

On thursday 15th March Noah and myself did our first session at Grassroots in Failsworth. Grassroots is a fantastic community allotment with an orchard, chickens, bees and much more, they’ve kindly let Salvage! and Art Bikes take over one of their poly tunnels to use as a workshop and some of their volunteers are taking part in creating art.

For our first session we met some prospective participants, told them about ourselves and our art. After a chat about the project we explored the canal to look for ideal locations to exhibit whatever we created as part of the ILLUMINATE! event.

Our main achievement was to come up with some ideas for kinetic sculptures that would be relevant to the canal and to Grassroots. Inspired by the canada geese that flew over us as we explored the canal and the fishermen we passed our chosen ideas are to attempt to create a ‘flying bird’ and ‘swimming fish’. We did a few sketches of how these might work and planned to make maquettes of them at the next session.

The switch was thrown (on a power-pack/transformer reclaimed from a discarded PC) and the machine lurched into life. It worked!

The crank slowly rotated pulling the strings and the flagpoles lifted and fell; applause and cheers from participants and observers alike!

Sadly the three youngest artists had to leave but all agreed they’d had a fun, challenging and unusual afternoon and were excited to have created such an strange work of art.

Luckily a number of onlookers stepped forward to get involved so we decided to add decoration in the form of origami cranes and flowers that some very young artists had created to the machine. A group of teenagers were also keen to get involved and I suggested that as the machine was now decorated and looked great the next addition would be something to make noise.

Using string we attached the lids of three damaged ‘moka’ coffee pots to make a clapping sound as the flags waved, we borrowed some cutlery from the gallery cafe and tied this to the flag poles too. The machine was switched on again and rotated a few times clattering and clapping. Unfortunately we’d all got slightly carried away with these noise making additions and the cutlery proved too heavy for the long flag poles, the string became tangled and the machine stopped.

After a careful minutes work untangling and untying the machine was ready to go again, slightly lopsided and with a pronounced ‘limp’ the machine proceeded to slowly rotate and the coffee pots clapped again.

All in all the first ‘Salvage!’ workshop was a real success, great fun and we proved that interesting and unusual kinetic art can be created in a few hours by a team of collaborating artists of all ages.

It certainly left me inspired and looking forward to starting some more involved creations as the project continues…

Gallery Oldham Workshop Feb 12th 2012 a video by arbarus on Flickr.