Final Project: Miniature Sculptural Representation of the Pearl of Africa

For my finals, I took on a project that is very important to me personally. 


Project Background:

I grew up in Kampala, Uganda, before immigrating to the U.S in 2015. My childhood dream was to be an Artist skilled in Fine Art, Sculpture and Architecture. For my undergrad I ended up studying Information Technology, believing it was a safer choice especially in these rapidly changing times. 

While at my University I often hang out at the FineArt faculty, hoping to learn what they were practicing.


Most of, if not all the work they did was by hand. Unfortunately for me, one teacher noticed that I was always there and threatened to report me to the Administrators. Of course, taking classes from a faculty/course you did not register for was prohibited. So I left, extremely heartbroken. 

After graduation, a close friend of mine sent me a dvd of SketchUp software, and it changed my life.


After I installed it on my computer, I started practicing, making different 3D models. Internet was very expensive, so I had to teach myself to use most of the tools. I spent many days and nights making models of fountains, sculptures of various shapes and designs. 


Sketches from 2012







                                                                            Living the Dream

One evening while walking near my home, I chanced upon a lone sculptor working on a project. I asked if he needed any help and if I could work with him and he agreed. There was a new shopping mall coming up in the area, and after speaking with the owner and showing him the models and sketches, he let us work on this project for him. 






This was work at another client’s home. 



Bigger Plans:

The Pearl of Africa:

Uganda is famously referred to as the “Pearl of Africa”. But there is no sculptural representation of this phrase. 


France has the Eiffel tower and NYC has the statue of Liberty, we don’t have much representation.



In Kampala city, there’s a lot of underused, underdeveloped land. Many open spaces and some weak attempts at art and design and poor use of materials. 




Sure, these ArtWorks stand for/represent something, but there is no official sculptural representation of the phrase that Uganda is famously known for, and greatly proud of. I decided to use my talent to make a contribution in this field. So I started thinking about who I would approach. I thought it would be a great idea to front this idea to the Ugandan government, through the Kampala City Council. 


They were very receptive, but had reservations about my experience and urged me to form a company, as well as get formal education in regard to fabrication and landscaping. 

The company was formed, with the aim of specifically city aesthetic development and created a portfolio with plans for roadside design, city park creation and general city redesign. I applied and was accepted to this prestigious institution, and was lucky to be taught and mentored by the Master Fabricator himself, Ben Light. 


                                   Final Project: Miniature “Pearl of Africa” artistic representation

Earlier Design:




                                                                            Design Process



CAD: Vectorworks

Tool: 4- Axis

Material Choice: Delrin and Acrylic



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The national bird of Uganda is the beautiful crested crane.



CAD: VectorWorks and Adobe Illustrator




Tool: The OtherMill

Materials: Acrylic





CAD: VectorWorks


Tools: CNC 

Material Choice: Acrylic



The Fountain space:

CAD and CAM: VectorWorks, MasterCam



Tool: CNC and Belt sander.(Broken bit forced me to the bandsaw and belt sander)

Material used: Acrylic


Getting there: 



The Pearl:

Connected an LED to a micro controller to simulate the pearl. The wires were passed through a hole drilled into the centre pillar. 




                                                                                Final Project:






Setting the crane securely, without its huge wings dropping it

Making custom shapes of the wings and crane was tough in VW.

Lessons learned:

With all these tools (Lathe, CNC, 4-Axis etc) I can pursue the plans I’ve always had.                                                                                      

4-Axis Mill

I thought I’d practice 3d design using vectorworks, and get a feel of the 4-axis mill. 

This is an abstract piece.




Setting up:




Roland Software:

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Nothing much happened aside spending 3 hours of my 4 hour time setting up the 4-axis. John tried his best. No one else on the floor at the time knew how to work it. Ben had a class so I had to wait, hoping he’d have a little time for me. Luckily he did, and in no time, milling begun.



I feel bad that I ‘wasted’ this beautiful piece of wood. Found it under the 4-axis mill(actually it was Ben’s, but he kindly let me have it). 

I have not sanded or oiled it yet but it looks so beautiful. I had a strong smell while milling though. 

Final thoughts:

I’m not comfortable using the Roland program yet, there’s a lot more stuff to do on it compared to the other tools we used. Hopefully in time it will get easier. 




Wood Lathe: Thee Mallet

We put in a little more effort with this skill builder. We had to cut up and glue pieces of wood together before turning them on the lathe. 


Looks like I used way too much glue. Not too bad for a first time glue job! Can’t wait for it to dry before I can begin turning!




The lathe is a wonderful machine. So far its my favorite. It was very scary turning the square block and having huge tips fall off. Very scary, my heart was actually racing. After a little while I stopped looking at the block as a square, but rather a round shape with very rough edges, immediately my fear faded and I felt a lot more comfortable turning. Soon enough, the bumps decreased to a smoother turn. 


The handle was less intimidating to turn.


Unfortunately it broke off while I tried to attach it to the mallet head. I did not clamp my wood, thinking clamping was optional!


I had to glue it back again, and finally had my beautiful Mallet.

Wood Lathe: First turn

Aside from getting absolutely caked in wood dust, this project went rather well. 



Tried out the different tools and the results were pretty awesome. Looking forward to what’s next. 




Subtraction Midterm- ITP fun Shield!

For my midterm, I plan to create a beautiful wooden shield with an ornate front. I decided on a Lion. I think it is a great show of strength and ups the quality of your design. Lions just make everything look cool. I purchased a few shutterstock images and edited them in illustrator.


I was torn between that bird design and the lion because I think the wings would look great against a wearer’s chest and the lion image is just cool. I decided to ‘borrow’ the wings and tweak them a bit.

Very pleased with this design. Going to transfer to Vectorworks to do measurements and stuff.




Not sure why my lion is uneditable. That was sorted and now I’m ready to export to MasterCam!




After many days of back and forth between Vectorworks and Mastercam, I think I’m good to go. 

All set:





I may have measured the wood thickness wrongly. The caliper reading was 0.711 and i set the contour breakthrough to 0.1 and the depth to -0.712. 

Ill have to do this all again, and also add joints to the armor. 



                                                                    Adding Joinery:

I thought it would be a good idea to have connecting parts to put the shield together and hold it in place. So i used my joinery files and added a few more connecting points. Couldn’t wait to get to the CNC! It looked really great in Vectorworks.




Ben, again, was a great help. I asked for his help countless times and he would immediately drop whatever he was doing to come and help. I learned to place my project right next to the origin point, something I was having great trouble with in vectorworks! My project had a number of parts, so I expected to spend some time waiting in the shop. 





                                                           CNC Troubles!

The processing time was 2 hours and about 30 minutes for the shield. 

I begun the process, waiting patiently. I could see the features forming beautifully, it was exciting. 

After the inner portion was finished, I moved towards the computer to check out how much time was left for the joins. I’m not sure what I could have stepped on but the CNC application went off the screen and the router went off! This was after 2 hours of waiting. I tried to retrieve the file but the app was asking to start from the beginning! I really was at a loss.

The CNC is a great life example of learning from experience! 

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