Animated Pieces

Gumball Machine


Some projects are simply more fun than others.  This gumball machine, designed by Steve Hoefer, was such a project for me.   

Click HERE to see the gumball machine in action

If you would like to learn more about this project, check out the links below.

Every project has a “back story”.  Learn more about the “back story” regarding this project.

Completing this project involved building the cabinet and developing the electronics.  Learn more about building the cabinet; learn more about developing the electronics.

Visible Works


This odyssey starts with an Exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art featuring the work of 18th century furniture makers Abraham and David Roentgen,. Their work is visually stunning but it was the “automata” that they incorporated into their work that seduced me.  There are drawers, secret compartments, and game boards that fly open with the push of a button or the twist of a nob. 

The work of the Roentgens was elegant, elaborate and complex.   I decided to go for elegant but simple. The Roentgens hid their mechanisms.  I decided to make a piece in which the mechanics would be the featured element of the piece 

The motive power for the Roentgens was springs and weights I decided on a small electric motor controlled by a microprocessor.  Power from the motor is transmitted to the wooden gears by a visible leather belt; the belt tension is adjusted via a visible wooden screw.   A ship’s old fashioned Engine Order Telegraph (chadburn) serves as the inspiration for the user control and a small potentiometer is hidden therein. Everything is powered by a 9 volt battery.  

The cabinet sits on curved legs (bent laminations).   To further enhance visibility I used contrasting woods:  The cabinet and legs are dark (walnut) and the mechanical components are light (olive ash burl veneer).  The piece that emerged has a kind of “Hugo Cabret” sensibility.  It is  a far cry from the work of the Roentgens.  It is not nearly as grand in scale, as sophisticated in workmanship and design or as opulent.  Perhaps, however, it has some visual grace.  And, if you like to know how things work, you may even find a bit of charm in this whimsical display.


Visible works in Action