Document Scroller and Optical Reader

Document Scroller

document scroller 72dpiKinetic forms have long been a staple of my sculpture. The stations in the KARF installation each will need a number of kinetic devices that indicate information in action like a computer screen munching data. I have built a box for Station 2 that has a motor driven loop of canvas with small documents stapled to it. When the motor runs it slowly drives the loop and draws the documents past an opening that is framed with an antique bronze frame. I made the documents from scraps of junk mail, old tax forms, defunct carbon copy receipts, all that I drew on with my crabby symbols, scratches of figures, smudged glyphs. Matching up distressed materials and quirky technology like this brings up this mood in me that I think other artists and inventors may have experienced. It’s a feeling of jubilation at overcoming crude materials to succeed at a sculpture that previously had only seeped around in my mind.  Here it is mounted to Station 2. Wiring still to be connected that will run the motor and a small light that illuminates the document inside the opening.

Optical Reader

The optical reader is a component of the document scroller that is added to the front.  I wanted a slightly random device that would mechanically move a small lens back and forth, at varying intervals in front of the document scroller window.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI recently got to working with servo motors-the kind that hobbyists use to operate parts of remote controlled toys- and developed a circuit that would make the servomotor move the way I wanted. I like most of the motorized devices I make for my sculptures to have a bit of their own personality. Certain kinds of motors, like servomotors or gear motors and the custom driver circuitry I develop for them gives them the personality I’m after.  It can be a consuming challenge involving lots of tests and adjustments to make the motor move in a special way.

The main challenges are the mechanisms that the motors move and the timing of the motor’s operation. I start with some mechanical elements that I hope will give me the movement I want such as a linear slide, in the case of the optical reader. I long ago found some really nicely OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAengineered slide parts in old computer disk drives.I scavenged one from a disk drive I’d stuffed away in a box, welded the chrome shaft to a small mounting plate, screwed that to a chunk of wood and mounted the servomotor to the opposite side. Then I joined a bit of stiff wire between the motor’s rotation linkage and the carriage that slides along the chrome shaft. Three circuit boards provide timings to the servomotor telling it to go left or right at various times and durations. Testing with various values of electronic resistors, knowing a basic range of what would give me the movements I wanted quickly gave me the results I wanted.

Optical Reader in left position

Optical Reader in left position

Optical Reader in right position

Optical Reader in right position


The carriage holds the antique lens and a little sculpture I named the ‘optical reader node’. Here’s a sketch I made as I was playing with the parts I thought might work on it.

sketch of opto reader node

sketch of opto reader node

You can see how the actual optical reader node evolved from the sketch.

Optical Reader Node

Optical Reader Node







More about the KARF installations:

2 thoughts on “Document Scroller and Optical Reader

  1. Randy

    Hi Steve, there’s so much to consume. But this is very impressive.
    I really relate to this paragraph about invention and your feeling of jubilation. I love this paragraph and the one previous about hidden things. I like it when you include the personnel feel and the poetic.

    1. stevestorz0 Post author

      Thanks for looking and commenting Randy. You and several others have encouraged me about sharing the more personal feelings that go into my work. I ‘m glad to read about your relation to it. The process of writing and documenting for this blog has re-trained my sensitivity of relating the studio work through words and has expanded my creative explorations. It’s an honor to have your input.


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