Xyloexplosive Devices

Beyond domino toppling lies the next big thing in kinetic art: xyloexplosive devices. I met kinetic artist Tim Fort when he put on a workshop at the wonderful Leonardo's Basement in Minneapolis and taught me the basics of stick bomb building.

Fort apparently holds the world's record for building the largest such device, shown in this recently recorded video clip.



  1. Reminds me of the jenga catapults me and my friend used to design at camp. We would have little ground wars with the other campers. Even set off the smoke alarm once, nearly knocked it off the ceiling.

  2. I was expecting something like macgyverian pine cone landmines or someone with logs tied around his waist.

  3. I want to know how many hours of effort went into setting up this demonstration. It takes me over half a minute to build just one cell.

  4. OK, all that energy had to go into the system at some point.

    OK, from the instructibles link I see that the sticks are tensioned. Naruhodo.

  5. When I read “Xyloexplosive Devices” I was picturing one of those dynamite-rigged xylophones that were commonplace in old Warner Bros. cartoons. You know, the kind that would always backfire when the intended victim played off key and the bomber would finally get frustrated and step in to play the song correctly…

  6. Cool blog, William, and thanks for the compliments, everybody! BTW, I really enjoyed the gig at Leonardo’s Basement.

    Yes, this is a bona fide 2.250 kilostick Reticulated Xyloexplosive Ordinance Assemblage. Or you can just call it a stick bomb. They’re 2,250 tongue depressors (I buys ’em by the case) colored with watered-down acrylic paint and woven together in an over-and-under basket weave design.

    The tension is caused by the warping of the sticks caused by the weaving. When a single stick is pulled out, it makes the forces unbalanced, and a shock wave goes through causing the tension to suddenly be released, shooting the sticks in the air. The shock wave in this particular design is about 50′ or 15 m per second.

    I did most of the cells in this design in the Double Cross pattern where each cell is two Xs. The cells at the end were in the standard Orthogonal design based around the square-bomb cell. I’ve been experimenting lately with stick-bomb arrays or fields and my current project has a giant monster face made out of colored sticks.

    Anyhoo, keep up the great work on the blog!

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