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Goings on at the Because We Cannery

The Serpent Twins

A couple months ago we signed on to help with Form & Reform's project for the Burning Man festival: The Serpent Twins project. After a very busy few months (and one very dusty adventure!) they came together wonderfully. DSC_2494

The final two fully-drivable serpent sculptures not only look amazing, they are filled with color-changing LEDs. Color and video routines can play down their entire length, creating stunning effects. With a full sound system and accelerometer built into each head, the lights can also change and react depending on the movement and sound as they drive along.


One of the main parts we helped out with were the tails.


While the heads were largely handmade, the tails were fully digitally fabricated. It took a combination of software tools to make this happen. The graceful original form was modeled in Revit, bulkheads and bolts then rationalized in Inventor, and the skin unfolded in Rhino. The digital files for the entire thing were sent out for high-definition CNC plasma cutting. The internal frame slotted together, welded, and then the skins were bolted on. The 'carvel' style skinning lends the tails a very viking ship look and construction, while the fasteners and finishing fit into the overall aviation-theme.

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The sheet metal skins of the tails are bolted around a bulkhead frame...


And then attached to their own trailer, where we hide the batteries and generator.

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We also designed and milled the thick acrylic decorative glowing medallions to adorn the sides of the serpents.

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The white Serpent's body is made up of white plastic barrels that glow from within with LEDs. And the black Serpent has black metal barrels with scale designs plasma-cut cut into them, allowing the same LED light-show to glow ominously. We made many templates, jigs, and fixtures via our CNC machine to help support the largely hand-made processes Form & Reform's traditional blacksmithing demands.


Each head is built on small electric car that is super fun and easy to drive, and all the barrels track so perfectly that you can weave in and around people and things in a most snake-like way. But of course, you must be wearing a winged aviator cap to operate these vehicles! As Kyrsten Mate so fashionably displays...


Check out more photos on Flickr!

UPDATE: Now with video! Here's a nice movie showing how wonderfully they move.

Jillian Northrup