Calrad: Found Object Sculpture


Calrad was my first modest attempt at creating a robot from found objects. I started by collecting lots of metal parts of all shapes and sizes. Over time a few parts seemed to naturally stand out to me as robot parts. One find in particular, a dual, articulated goose-neck lamp with metal shades, finally triggered an idea for an overall design and everything seemed to fall into place all at once.

The lamp’s goose-necks became the robot’s arms. The lamp’s two wooden rotary switches became hands. The metal shades became feet. I added some black iron pipe for legs. A stainless steel canister was turned into a body and a spherical strainer similar to a giant tea ball became the head. One difficulty was finding a way to connect the iron legs to the stainless steel body. Arc welding proved virtually impossible between the two metals. Drilling even tiny holes through the stainless steel proved quite difficult even with Mike Dodson’s big drill press. We broke a few bits trying to drill leg holes. Finally, I used a gas torch to cut leg holes in the stainless steel. I was then able to wedge the threaded portion of the iron pipes into the ragged holes. I made the connection more permanent with a large quantity of JB Weld epoxy.

Calrad posing on the floor of the DPRG lab where I created him

All humanoid robots need an ornate chest plate and a cast iron microphone stand from the 1960s turned out to be a perfect fit on this robot. The iron stand had the words “Calrad JAPAN” cast into it, giving the robot its name.

Calrad’s chest plate bearing his name

Calrad was first exhibited at the 2008 Austin Maker Faire. Someone placed a disused straw hat on Calrad and it actually looked pretty good aside from being way too big for the little robot’s head. So I began thinking the robot needed a properly sized hat. Also at the Austin Maker Faire was expert milliner Amberry Jam, who I learned had always wanted to design a hat for a robot. I gave her a quick dimensional sketch of Calrad’s head and she soon provided three excellent hat design options. We finally settled on an asymmetric design with an attached pocket watch, giving the robot a sort of eccentric, retro, almost steam-punk look.

Calrad’s cranial dimensions

With his new hat, Calrad went on to be exhibited at FenCon 2009, All-Con 2009, Art of the Future Day at Harry C. Withers Elementary School in 2010, several smaller exhibits and open house events at Dallas Makerspace, as well as some Dallas Personal Robotics Group events. Later, Dallas Makerspace asked to include Calrad in their front lobby display. During a visit in 2016, I noticed Calrad was no longer in the display case and, upon inquiring, Dallas Makerspace was unable to tell me what had become of Calrad. I presumable he was lost or destroyed but I hope he’s still out there somewhere.

Calrad at the All-Con 2009 art exhibit

You can find more photos of Calrad over in my Calrad Flickr gallery.