Leg Day

Progress at this stage of a project can sometimes be hard to see. Today’s major milestone was that now the bolts in all four legs line up correctly and fit. Some had to be pulled out and re-drilled to get here. Some hardware had stripped out and needed to be replaced, and we needed to re-engineer some parts of the back haunches to resist warping.

Several pieces got a first of two coats of paint, too, which is important progress but doesn’t photograph well. I think I want to make her ears soon, just to make the photos look better. 🙂

Tail, new plan…

After a lot of testing and experimentation, we’ve come to the conclusion that we either have to make the tail a lot shorter than we want to, or we need to add a support in the middle. We’re going with adding a support and then swapping springs out for door hinges on the portion of the tail before the support. The end segments of the tail should still be more fluid and floppy, like a cat’s twitching tail, and the part closer to the body will be more stable. Here we’ve added some thickness to the tail pieces to hold the hinges. These will get cut out to work visually with the cut-outs in the tail, but we wanted a successful test on it holding the weight first.

It’s so nice to have finally had the chance to make the cut-outs from the neck and chest. They’ve been drawn there in charcoal for a long time, and it felt great to do them. The cut-outs serve dual functions of making the overall piece lighter and easier to move and assemble, as well as also making the flat surfaces open to wind passing through, so she doesn’t become a sail or take on excessive side force. We also wanted the cut-outs to give her some “visual texture,” and to repeat a decorative shape in various ways across the body.

Dragon Head

She is starting to show her personality, as we start working on features of her face. The eye is a bicycle reflector, and the ears are just templated in cardboard for now, but look at that pun-dog smile!

Color Palette

Oh this is a very exciting moment! We’ve selected the paint colors that we’re going to use in the final painting. The swatch scraps on the left are re-purposed vinyl advertising banners that we will use to make the ears. The colors will be Benjamin Moore exterior latex paint, and the purple rope light will wrap the center wheel. We’re all beside ourselves with excitement about this palette. The others are trusting me that I can make this work.

Hinge Test

Testing an idea for the tail: The theory is that proper hinges seem like they might be too stiff and rigid for the tail motion, and they add a lot of weight. The hope here is that the set of springs will have enough stiffness to hold up the tail with more fluid motion. We’ll find out soon! It’s such a relief to be on to working on the tail.


The body is mostly built, and the front mechanicals are working. Now we shift focus to the legs. We’re also continuing work on the tail and rear mechanicals. As soon as we put the haunches and legs in place and gave her some width, she started to feel so much more real!

The Cutawl K-11

Today I got to pull the Cutawl K-11 down off the shelf and put it to use. I love this saw. In commercial applications the jobs it would have been used for have moved over to CNC routers and laser cutters. This is a vintage and blades for it are hard to find and very expensive. But it’s really just the right tool for this job, and I love using it. Plus, I’m really excited that we’re progressing onto the tail!

working scale sketches

Now that we have the bicycles around which we will be building this dragon, we’re able to make measured drawings of the frames and start sketching the dragon. Our process will be to make rough-draft versions of the final design at full scale in cardboard. This will be a new working method for me, in contrast to creating complete working drawings and quarter-scale models then moving to full scale and final materials. Working this way at full scale, we hope to work more collaboratively and more responsively, adapting the design as we go.

An earlier version of the dragon, below, based around different bicycle frames:

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