Historical Sculptures

Aperture from 1993 • A Video at Last

David has been making kinetic sculptures for many, many years and although we have kept good records over the years, the method of recording the sculptures in motion has changed dramatically with technology. We have invested in all types of video equipment but it wasn't until recent years that we saw a great improvement in both equipment and software for recording the motion. As time permits, and as we again gain access to some of David's earlier work, we are trying to update the files with better (or in many case new) video. Last week we made a video of Aperture.

Aperture is from 1993 and was developed during the same time as Reflections and Duet. The motion of the upper assembly is a dance of variations depending on when and how strong a power kick it gets from either of its two lower mechanisms.

Aperture was one of the last pieces to use the descending weighted balls which cats every where loved! He first used them on Kaleidoscope in 1979. David stopped using them in designs not because of cats but because people kept yanking on them as well.

Spending time video taping this piece has again reminded David of how much he likes the motion of the three upper crescents. Not all of his earlier work inspires new ideas. This one does!








Journey Comes to an End • Sculpture Edition Done

This week David and I got to have a celebration dinner. We do every time he completes a sculpture edition. He put his signature on Journey #95 and that ends an edition that began back in 2008.  

Journey was the sculpture that almost wasn't. David had been trying to design a sculpture with his favorite bird motion, that was small for international shipping but still graceful. It took a lot of experimentation to achieve the best effect. Now, five years later, all but one has been sold. They have been shipped to Canada, England, Turkey, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Ireland.

As he made this last group he discovered some new production techniques that would have saved him bundles of time over the past five years. He never stops experimenting!

Read more about the design process of Journey and see other photos here. The last one can be ordered here.










Kinetic Flight • Searching the Portfolio Database

Over the years David has designed 16 different sculptures inspired by the flight of birds. It started with a his first flight design, Voyager in 1987. The variations have been many with the most recent piece being Frolic

A collection of flight designs by David C. Roy

We do know that collectors that like the flight pieces want to see all the flight pieces. This is now possible on the website.

This past fall, David and I spent months rebuilding the Wood That Works website from scratch. In so doing we have added new functionality in various areas, including search. David has been designing and building kinetic sculpture since 1975 and there are hundreds of different designs. All are listed in the Portfolio area but still, it is a lot of posts to search through. 

Here are some quick directions on searching in David's Portfolio.

First Click on the Portfolio link in the navigation bar.

Search by Name

If you know the name of a sculpture you are trying to get more information about, just enter it in the Search Portfolio by Sculpture Name field and click on the arrow to the right. (Yes, spelling counts! :-))

Search by Category

Scroll a little further down the window and in the right-hand column you will find a Category Index. In this area you can search for particular categories of sculptures by clicking on the different labels.  

The categories I have already identified and separated out include the following:

• Chimes
• Flight Theme
• Free-Standing Sculptures
• Large Scale Sculptures
• One-of-a-kind Sculptures
• Each Year

I just identified and added the tag to all the "Flight Theme" sculptures. Click on any of these links to see a sorted list of links to the appropriate sculpture pages.

Are there any other themes you want me to identify?

List of All Sculptures

Further down the right-hand column is an alphabetical listing of all sculptures. If you think you know the name of your sculpture but aren't sure, scrolling through this list might help you recognize it.


It is interesting to search through David's work and see the changes over the years. 

Kinetic Variations • Help Decide

Between the years of 2003 and 2008 I have designed nine different sculptures in the Variation series. I started with Variation - Wind and ended with Variation - Dream. 



Variation- Wind • 2003 

Every Variation in the series used the same mechanism. At the time of the last one, I decided I would not do another until I had ideas for a better mechanism. Advances in my mechanism designs over the past year have brought new ideas to the foreground and that has me thinking, sketching, planning.

Meanwhile, I have been designing new patterning wheels. I have always enjoyed tinkering with the kaleidoscopic possibilities in new wheel design and have even created some Adobe Illustrator/After Effects connected templates that make it easy for me to design, animate, view, tweak, modify, animate, etc. Once I get going, the possibilities just keep expanding. 

I wondered what type of design my followers liked best and decided to ask. I have narrowed down my favorites to two different styles and have created animations of each viewable on the survey page.


Voing has ended. You can read about the results and suggestions here.

While we were at it, we also thought it might be helpful to inquire about name ideas. I have often mentioned that the naming of a sculpture is difficult. We are not word smiths and would love input from those of you that are. At the above link you can also choose to recommend possible names for the new Variations. If you include your email address (optional) I will send you advance notice of the release of the new Variations scultpure, but also notify you if we use your name.  

Understand that this Variation design is in the concept phase now. There is a lot of work, both in designing and actually creating, before a new sculpture will emerge. It chould easily take at least six months. Because this includes a new mechanism concept it could take longer to refine.

Below is a parade of the nine different Variations. You can link thorough to their individual websites to see animations of the kaleidoscopic patterns created by their rotating wheels.

Variation Wind





Variation-Stars - 2003



Variation-Fractal - 2004

Variation-Surf - 2004


Variation-Water - 2004


Variation-Jazz - 2006


Variation-Zen - 2007


Variation-Dream - 2008

Inventor Released • A Simple Kinetic Sculpture


Inventor Released is the second wall-mounted kinetic sculpture designed by David.  He created it immediately following B.W. Cornwallis in the spring of 1976 (Link to post about B.W.) He recognized the inefficiencies in B. W. and was trying to improve upon them.


This sculpture, like its predecessor, is an escapement mechanism. Escapements have been used for centuries in clock making and can be used to measure regulated increments of time. David has always modified escapements, not worrying about their time keeping characteristics but instead working to maximize motion.  It has allowed for a creative freedom that has always impacted his work. Compare the very visual motion in Inventor Release to the amount of motion you see in a clock.


In Inventor Released, David added an arm connected to the rotating wheel with a string. This allowed for some degree of adjustment by varying the string length. This is a great sculpture to study because it is one of the simplest and most revealing of David's designs. Basically, the weight is attached but can't descend because it is being held in place by the wooden ratchet. The pendulum wheel spins in one direction shortening the string and lifting the arm which causes the ratchet to release allowing the weight to drop just one notch before re- engaging. 


The power from the release is transferred back through the arm giving it a needed push.

It now has enough energy to cause the main wheel to wind in the opposite direction, again shortening the string and again releasing the ratchet to repeat the process.  

David's early pieces were all powered by descending weights. This is also similar to many early clocks. Inventor Released had the one descending weight and the higher you mounted the piece, the longer it would run. The limited factor was always that you needed to be able to reach the sculpture to wind it up again!

In the early years the inevitable question was, "Is it perpetual motion?" Clearly not. It requires the viewer to keep winding it up.

As you listen to the video you will hear the very loud and rhythmic click.  David knew that a loud noise is the result of an inefficient mechanism. (It was also truly annoying to live with!). It was an effort to try and reduce the noise that kept David designing. A trend in David's work has always been that new designs evolved as he tried to solve things he didn't like about previous ones.  Much inspiration came from his own work.