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Chapter 4. Maple Mike: - Pg. 113

MAKE: PROJECTS Eccentric Cubicle 4 Maple Mike: The Desktop Driver Help me out here: what is it about whackin' a little ball around a park that has made golf such an enduring accoutrement of business? Freud would have a field day analyzing the mano-a- mano symbolism of grown men, clubs, bags, balls, and holes. There's definitely something afoot here that (as a sworn nonparticipant) I'm completely (and, frankly, gratefully) missing. I 've always thought that golf was a game that would be greatly improved by the presence of shotguns: once golfer A has the ball in the air, the other members of the foursome (golfers B, C, and D, respectively) quick-draw 20- gauges from their golf bags and do their skeet-shooting best to blast it out of the sky. Think of it as upgrading the game for the FPS demographic. Yeah, that's the ticket. Golfers are uniquely obsessive with perfecting what is essentially a slightly complicated pendulum motion, a.k.a. "the swing." Convincing the human body to repeatedly and accurately perform the geometry needed to get the club head striking the ball at exactly the right angle and force every time is essentially impossible: "Close enough and often enough" is about the best anyone can hope for. A guy named Byron Nelson was really close, really often. From an engineering standpoint, it's pretty simple to repli- cate the motion geometry of the Perfect Swing mechanically. Engineers (and golfers) being what they are, this was done in 1966 by a golf club manufacturer called True Temper. They called the result Iron Byron. Iron Byron has hit seven holes in one. We're working with wood, rather than iron. Let's call this one Maple Mike. 1 This is an elegant mechanism with ruthless efficiency -- and it scales well. There's a potentially lethal amount of energy even in desktop-sized models, so build quality is essential. This is not a device you want to see fly apart in use. Remember, it's all good clean fun until somebody loses an eye (see Chapter 3). Here's the motion we're going to produce. Siege engine aficionados among you will immediately recognize a variation on trebuchet sling geometry. Those with a background in rec- reational ice skating will more commonly suffer a traumatic flashback to "cracking the whip," and the winter you spent with a broken clavicle. [Figure 04.01] The rotational energy needed can come from a torsion skein, springs, or bungee elastic. You're only dealing with about 180 degrees of useful rotation before making con- tact with the ball, so you need to get a lot of energy into the system quickly. To do this, we're gonna have to bodge some mechanical advantage into the mechanism somewhere, either with a cam or a lever. We're gonna have to think about a club for the little bugger, and decide on a standardized spherical projectile. I'd love to use mouseballs. Accelerating that kind of mass would call for a "Strong Like Bull" mecha- nism, but the results would be . . . er . . . dangerously gratify- ing. This application we're gonna work around 3 / 4 " wooden craft balls because they're cheap, in the right ballpark mass- wise, and easy to find. Feel free to experiment with other pro- jectiles, bearing in mind the abuse that they'll be taking every time the club makes contact with 'em. 1 As noted previously, I am Canadian. The Federal Ministry of Trade, Beavers, and Northern Affairs requires me to cite notable Canadian cultural references at strictly monitored intervals or face penalties including fines, incarceration, and/or forced exposure to Nickleback's Greatest Hit. We tend to toe the line. So who's this Mike guy? Mike Weir, born in Sarnia, Ontario. A nice Canadian lad. Won the Masters in '03, which officially makes him a Damned Good Golfer. Cheers, Mike. 102