Chris Schaie's mechanical irises for sale in Makers Market / Boing Boing Bazaar

 Archive 2010 06 11 Iris-600X600

Sean Michael Ragan says:

When I first saw Chris's gorgeous brass-and-wood irising door peephole mechanism in the ShopBot booth at Maker Faire, I knew it was something special: A beautiful piece of machinery, designed and built solely for the pleasure of operating and observing its operation. When Chris contacted us wanting to sell them in Makers Market, naturally I was excited, but I was also a bit skeptical. I couldn't imagine that such a large, relatively complex machine of solid brass and wood could be manufactured and sold at anything like a reasonable price point. But the $285 Chris is now asking, while certainly not cheap, is about 35% of what I was expecting to see when I clicked on his listing. I will be surprised if he can afford to continue selling them at that price. Which is why I already bought mine.
Chris Schaie's mechanical irises for sale in BB Bazaar


  1. Does Sean know something that I don’t?

    I’m pretty sure the only brass in there is the nails.. The gears are made of wood that’s been painted golden.

    1. No, I’m pretty sure that there isn’t any gold-painted wood here. From the description: “.090 brass and 3/4” birch”.

  2. This is an intriguing piece of art, but as an engineer I find it violates Checkhov’s gun: all those lovely gear teeth that never get to do anything!

    Samsam von Virginia

  3. I just noticed the asking price.
    He might as well just give them away for free.

    WAY too inexpensive for this concept, materials and thought put into it.

  4. LOL, there is a vuvuzela button in the YouTUBE video for this product (soccer ball button).

    The Iris is beautiful and I agree with Art above, the asking price is a lot lower than I expected.

    If the price stay that way, you will have a sale from me next week.

  5. Very cool, but he needs to gear down his mechanism (multiple turns to operate), or change that knob to a lever. Just a suggestion…

  6. While this is beautiful, hand made, desirable and artistic, the pedantic side of me says it is not an iris. Isn’t an optical iris (or diaphragm) circular or polygonal?

  7. Looks like a pretty useful peephole for when you’re sure that someone trustworthy is at the door. The opening is big enough for someone to reach in and grab you by the throat, but then again clamping the mechanism down on someone’s arm might hurt enough to make them want to let go.

    1. I think the original has a transparent dome on the exterior side which prevents someone from reaching in.

  8. As a working craftsperson, I think that his price is completely reasonable. I did a quick check of material costs in Canada — where things are often more expensive — and, if he is making multiples, cost for design time can be spread over the multiple copies.

    I am assuming that he is using some computer-controlled equipment for the production of at least some of the parts.

    Lovely bit of absolutely unjustifiable enjoyment of a mechanism. Hope he sells lots!

  9. @Mitch. Agreed. Also I think he should replace the iris with sharp blades. Then it would also make a fun but dangerous kitchen utensil.

  10. this is awesome, i will be getting one in the unlikely event i can convince my wife to allow it.

  11. Woodworkers note. That birch ply for the background is pretty bad at taking stain and reminds me of bad 60’s plywood walls. Imagine the same made with cherry and a clear stain, or any number of nifty woods. Mahogany would be great to give it a ship/nautical + brass look.

  12. I love it. It would look great in a steampunk diorama with the SG-1 crew dressed in Victorian military garb and General Hammond with a huge white mustache.

  13. Hi all, Chris Schaie the creator here.

    to answer some of the questions:

    All of the working parts are milled out of .090 brass sheet. And good spot, the backer board for the prototype was indeed AC thermply. The production model is 3/4 birch. I use a shopbot CNC router to cut out the parts.

    some of the design decisions are aesthetic, i.e. having gear teeth all the way around as opposed to just where needed. I felt it added to the symmetry, and well, just looked cooler. And no, it is not technically either an iris or a shutter in an optical sense. I created a different project with a more traditional iris but the leaves need to be so thin they would not stand up to architectural use like I had in mind. This is a compromise design solution. To keep the general aesthetic but make it out of sturdier materials and have it be able to completely shut (something a camera iris does not do.) This is really a decorative object anyway so it is built accordingly.

    some of the design decisions are based on production limitations. The birch ply is relatively inexpensive and machines easily but still lends a decent look. The final piece (not shown) for my studio was created in wenge but required re-sawing, glue-up, and planing before final machining. Machining had be done in several passes to accommodate grain and tear-out. The brass also has all sorts of extra engraving and several other spur gears. But it would be in the $1500-$2000 range to make for sale. Even so I have had to raise the price on the simpler version $100 to keep in production.

    I also sell on makers market a porthole inspired window for those who want to use this in an exterior application. It seals the opening so it becomes a window rather than a hole someone can reach through. (though if someone reaching in through your peephole is really a concern this is probably the last thing you want on your door ;-) go for a steel door and a CCTV camera)

    finally, David Roy’s work has long been an inspiration to me.

    Anyway, thanks for the interest and feel free to contact me through BBBazzar/Maker’s Market with any specific questions.


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