home > art shanty projects

(collaboration with Bruce Shapiro)
gas weed eater, router bit, stepper motors, electronics, gears, belts and hardware

Ice fishing holes are an often over looked part of ice shanties (pun fully intended).  I will be carving custom shaped ice fishing holes (with the help of a custom built robot).  Why settle for a circle.  Why not a rhombus?  Or a fractal.  Or your favorite football team's logo.  Beer seems to be an integral part of ice fishing so why not pull a fish out of a Pabst Blue Ribbon shaped hole in the ice.  If you can draw it we can carve it.

On a more serious note, I will also be spending time getting to know our neighbors, the local ice fishermen on Medicine Lake, and in exchange for carving them a custom fishing hole I will ask them if I can carve their portrait in the ice.  Portraits will be done as a bust silhouette much like the silhouettes of the 18th an 19th centuries, a tradition that continues to this day.  Originally painted and eventually cut from paper, silhouettes, or "shades" as they were know at the time, became particularly popular and cheap in the 19th century, and it was in this period that they truly became art for all people. Almost anybody, who would never dream of commissioning a portrait from an artist, could afford to have their shadow cut out.  I will create a gallery of portraits back at the art shanty town, not only bringing art to the fishermen also bringing the fisherman to the art, thereby drawing a connection between us artists and the longtime patrons of the lake.

In addition I will be carving portraits of all of the people who have supported me in this project, both financially and with their time. If you would like to support me please contact me at 612.807.2663 or

Come watch me carve, weekends, Jan 14 thru Feb 18. I WILL ONLY BE OUT THERE 2 MORE DAYS: Sunday Feb 12 and Saturday Feb 18. I will probably show up other days as well, but no guarantees.

More info at the Art Shanty Projects web site

Bruce Shapiro is more than a supporter, he is a collaborator and a mentor. He is a robotic artist like myself although he refers to himself as a motion control artist. I met him teaching art and robotics to kids at the Science Museum of Minnesota in the summers. His amazing artwork can be seen at where you can also learn how to do this stuff yourself.

Bruce built the entire x-y plotter and did all of the computer programming. What did I do you might ask? I came up with the idea and made it happen. I build the gas powered router and the fittings to attach it to the plotter. And I drew the pictures for the computer to carve.


  • Serley Manufacturing
  • Becky
  • Kris
  • Dave
  • Rob


JAN 14, 2006
SUCESS!! The custom gas powered router works like a charm. It cuts the ice like a hot knife through butter. After a little mishap in transporting the x-y plotter, Bruce came through with an emergency repair. The x-y plotter is powerful enough to move the router through the ice. We are able to cut a square in the ice using the manual joystick controls.

Then we carve George Washington's portrait. It is amazing. The movement of the robot is hypnotizing Everyone instantly recognizes who it is. Now we drop the router down a half inch and start carving the same shape again. We make it half way around but it gets stuck. The ice shavings are clogging up and making it get stuck. We will have to figure out how to keep the shavings from clogging things up. Compressed air would be the best, but we will have to find a gas powered air compressor. We will have to borrow one because they are to expensive to buy. If you have one please give me a call, 612.807.2663.

Oh well. That is enough carving for today. We'll be back next Saturday. We pack things up and enjoy the rest of the Art Shanty Projects.

JAN 21, 2006
FAILURE!! This weekend was much less successful. I had several mechanical failures that prevented me from doing any carving. The short axis wasn't moving smoothly and sometimes not at all. I thought it was because the linear bearings were binding so I tightened some loose screws but that didn't help so I thought it might be electrical. I checked all the connections and there were no loose wires. After a half an hour of scratching my head I finally noticed that the motor was turning just fine but the pulley wasn't. One of the set screws had fallen out. Luckily there was a second set screw but it was loose, so I tightened it up and away we went.

Then I started up the gas powered router and tried a test run. I hadn't even moved an inch when the router bit stopped spinning. The gas motor was still running so I knew the problem was in the drive shaft. I removed the drive shaft from the motor and my suspicions were confirmed. The coupling failed between the flex cable and the bit extender at the tip of the drive shaft.

I called it quits for the day and went ice skating. I met a couple of really cool ice fisherman Dustin and Darren. I told them about the robot and they want me to carve a fishing hole in the shape of a star or a viking. I told them I would and I headed back to the Art Shanty Projects village to watch some shadow puppet performances.


JAN 22, 2006
HAULLALUA!! I was able to drill a small whole in the casing of the drive shaft so I could loosen the set screws and remove the failed part. I went to the hobby shop and bought a replacement part. The failure was because the flex cable was actually to large to fit in the coupler and we forced it in anyway. This time I decided to file down the cable to fit. I rigged up a make shift lathe by clamping a drill to my workbench. It worked like a charm. I put everything back together and now I am looking forward to getting back on the ice and giving it another whirl.


JAN 23, 2006
People are talking about the robot. I just found a blog entry by Paul Schmelzer about our robot. How cool is that. Thanks Paul.

JAN 25, 2006
I spent the day on the ice. I was hoping to test everything out but I had to spend a my time rebuilding the cover for the robot because the last one got torn up in the heavy winds we had a couple of days ago. It is the third cover I have made for it, but this time I covered all the sharp corners on the robot and I used a "heavy duty" tarp with grommets instead of 3 mil plastic sheet, so I think it will last this time. And yes it was dark by the time I finished.

I did some hand carving with the weed eater/router to make sure my coupling repair job worked and it did work. Hey, there's nothing wrong with a little shameless self promotion. Last weekend I got the plotter working fine and now the router works again so this weekend should be good.

JAN 28, 2006
!@#$ robots. !@#$ them. yeah you heard me. !@#$ robots. what is it but a tool. and if a tool takes over and controls the art making process what has happened. where are you then? your stuck. your focus is in the wrong place. what good is a tool if you have a rigid idea about it. what good is a tool if you don't mess with it and use it for other than what it is intended for. !@#$ the robot ice carver. I'm carving by hand. itís graffiti on ice. ice graffiti. graffiti is much cooler than robots anyway.

seriously though, this project is really about mark making and I have gotten so caught up in the robot and the ice fishing holes that I almost missed how cool the free hand carving is. when I carved my web address into the ice that was awesome and I am going to do more of that. that is what this project is all about. mark making. exploring that. what kind of marks can I make? I just want to explore the medium.

donít take my expletives the wrong way. I had an awesome day on the ice. mostly because I started to let go. I felt proud of myself even though I didn'tít actually get an ice fishing hole carved in the ice. I felt like I am successful even if I donít get it to work the way I originally thought it would. just showing up is enough. I started to let got of the idea I had in my head about what I though this would be and open up to the possibilities of what it could be. I am an artist. I always have been and I always will be, no matter what.

I also had a really great time hanging out with Peter and the crew drinking High Life, eating brats, and playing dominos. I think tonight I really got a taste of what the Art Shanty Projects is really about. Thanks Peter.

JAN 29, 2006

JAN 30, 2006

FEB 4, 2006

FEB 5, 2006
Well, well, well. It finally happened. After 3 weeks of struggling with the ice I finally made a fishing hole. In the epic battle between man and nature, today this man has won. As the sun was setting I pulled the block of ice out of the hole and lifted it above my head in triumph, then I dropped the 80 lbs block on my toe. Just kidding, but that thing was heavy, I couldn't actually get it above my head.

After months of work and spending $1000 on the robot I ended up just melting a hole in the ice with $35 worth of plumbing supplies from the hardware store. I pumped hot water through 1/4" copper tubing that was bent into the shape of a portrait and melted through all 14" of ice. I used a camp stove to heat the water in a pan and pumped the water with a little ďWaterscapes™Ē pump for landscaping fountains.

Truth be told, I actually combined digital and analog techniques to make the hole today. I carved the outline of the portrait with the robot, and then I put copper tubing in the groove and melted the rest of the way through. By combining both digital and analog methods I was able to get both precision and depth. Fancy words.

I guess that is what digerati means, fluency in both digital and analog mediums. It is the ability to see both the possibilities and the limitations of technology, and then seamlessly and effortlessly integrate it with everything else.

Speaking of digerati I will be a part of the Emerging Digerati lecture series at the Weisman Art Museum (map) tomorrow night at 6 (Monday, Feb 6). It is put on by the University of Minnesota Institute for New Media Studies and there will be free pizza.

FEB 6, 2006
Hell yeah. Let me tell you, I rocked tonight at the Emerging Digerati. It was awesome. I love it. I had so much fun. I was in costume and everything.

Keep checking here for video of the presentation. I've got to get some sleep now.


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