Thursday, March 21, 2013

Workhorse drone (also known as target drone)

   Four wheel drive, 500lb lifting capacity, 4 hour run time, magnetic pickup tool attachment and trailer towing robot. I plan on adding more functions as they come up such as armor plating, shovel attachment, mower attachment, recovery and much much more.
                                      So here is the "workhorse drone"  aka the "target drone"


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I will not be updating this blog anymore.  Please visit my website for all the latest and greatest:

Justin on Discovery canada

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Boris the robot (Boreus Hymalis)

The summer of 2010 was a VERY interesting summer for me, specifically because I was able to create my latest,largest and the most complicated kinetic robotic fire sculpture I  have sought to build, so today I present to my blog readers:
Boris the chain bar robot (Boreus Hymalis)
I was in Barcelona Spain when I got a funny email from my good friend Jonathan who asked me to see about bringing some robots to an event called "Smukfest" in denmark, the email subject read: "robots for drunken dains". I could not resist responding but I was at a loss as my robots were all booked for the dates surrounding that event. So I proposed to build a new robot that I had bonking around in the back of my mind ever since I acquired a mid 70's Case/Davis track force 700 tracked trenching machine off of craigslist for $500 bucks. So began a two month build of the coolest robot ever.
Starting with 30 year old machinery always presents a pile of extremely challenging problems. I had to start with the first problem of replacing the original clutching track control differential. The Davis machines use a fairly traditional system of two clutches one for each track and a reversible hydraulic pump, I knew of course that this was inherently flawed and hard to fix if it broke and really hard to control via RC systems. So the plan was to use two large hydraulic wheel hub motors from dead scissor lift I salvaged years ago and use the torque tube they mounted to. Unfortunately my seemingly convenient motors were too long to use as the track drive and I had to buy a set of 500ftlb 2000psi rated hydraulic hub motors from surplus center. I then had to design the hub adapters for the spline shafts that the track sprockets keyed into and thanks entirely to Dave Andres who made the large steel adapters for me I was able to complete the hydraulic differential conversion with a high measure of success: damn thing worked like a charm!
It was a relief to finish the differential conversion, but my confident attitude was smashed when I began the long processes of designing the complete hydraulic system. My challenge was simple on paper but seemingly impossible in practice: design a four signal hydraulic electric radio control system based around a 48vdc 500amp Raymond hydraulic pump using spool valves for the tracks and electric valves for the chain bar motor and the chain bar actuator. NOPE!! After dead heading the pump thus stalling the DC motor using electric valves and completely fragging my hydraulic pump I went for manual servo controlled valves on the chain bar and a double stage hydraulic pump I was able to at the very last minute cobble together a functioning robot that could drive and dig ditches at the control of my Futaba 14mz transmitter.
Making its debut on youtube Boris howled to life naked but functioning, his DC hydraulic pump cranking out a comfy 150 amps at 48volts DC (7.2kw) not bad for 2500lb beast of steel lead and iron. Boris was alive!!
Once the movement was established it was time to start thinking about what Boris would look like as a sculpture, that lead me to use Steve Valdez's pipe rolling machine at American Steel. I decided to keep it simple, I came up with a radius that I liked and just rolled about 10 20' steel pipes figuring that the shape and feel of the robot would come into its own once I started placing the rolled pipes around the robots core. And enter Lex. Lex showed up just in time to help me place the pipes and get them tacked into place so I could step back and observe the piece in totality. And the shape continued to form in front of me. Once I had established the over all shape and feel of Boris sheeting and decorating his outside skin with some help from Evan and Jordana soon he was a tracked art piece and not just a naked metal robot bent on destruction but a fully dressed robot bent on destruction!
So Boris was born into world scared of its own shadow and numbed by TV, a world about to have its reality rocked by a robot so unusual and unique only to be shoved into a 20' container and sent off to Denmark.

Boreus Hyemalis by Justin Gray from Mike North on Vimeo.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Kraken death 2002 By Justin Gray

It was a night to remember, it was a night to forget, a night I only look upon with pure passion, an intensity only fire can light.

A haze of memory, blurred by fire and dust.

It was a cold and windy Friday night on the Black Rock desert, the Burning Man event had come and just about gone in its usual fiery way, burning itself intentionally, lit buy the crew who built it. I had spent the entire night running around in our rocket car seeing all that there was to be seen. Saving only the best  for last: the Kraken. I arrived just in time to see Dave's dusty boots departing the scene, elated by fire, soothed by the glow of her heart, he sped off into the night with a “ see ya later Justin!” Skeeter, Davis and I began the start up sequence that would change our lives forever, impress our souls with a melt down only believable by those who were actually there.

The ThermoKraken usually takes four people to run her, but for the week we were at burning man we had all enjoyed solo running our behemoth fire sculpture. I had decided that I needed some solo time with her and began the start up sequence, turning valves, opening regulators, charging methanol tanks… She popped to life beautifully, emitting colors only god could have come up with, she gargled and grumbled as she always did, turbine happily running along as we had instructed and constructed it to do. A whine so sharp and deep, it could be felt and heard for miles across the open playa. We loved every minute of it. We felt every vibration. Hot and throaty, she whined in fiery lust for life.

Then, as if to break her fragile state, shatter a state of mind taken for granted, she gave up inside.... No, not literally… not a sudden shut down, but a sort of new fire emanating from her insides, from places she should NOT burn, (the salts in her fuel doing its job) the fire was green and intense, but worse coming from the wrong place. From Inside her breast: inside her protective shell !!! The fire bounced first off the interior panels then gushed like a burning waterfall into her most sensitive core. A critical fuel line had been damaged by the 2000 degree blast furnace adjacent to it. A thermodynamic oversight gone very wrong. My heart stopped, Skeeter standing next to me couldn't comprehend what exactly was going on. Neither could I, for half a second I was paralyzed, heart, breathing, stopped....

Blow off valves, quarter turn ball valves, regulators, fail safe electric solenoid valves.... we moved as fast as we could turning stuff off, but like Apollo 13, a series of  events led to one final conclusion: fire! … green fire at that.

Shut down and still bleeding fire, lines purged, valves and tanks shut down, I ran to her, fire extinguisher in one hand, my heart bleeding in another. I dumped the contents into her core, the fire seemed to be out at first but it kept coming. Another extinguisher…. down then another, and another, then an argon tank, a nitrogen tank then we got desperate: playa dirt! … all in an effort to keep her alive, no one's personal safety was threatened, just the life our largest group endeavor, our passion's lined up all burning in front of me.

Then it stopped, minutes after her initial failure, a life time of emotions on fire were out, smothered by my will and the will of those around me. She smoldered for a bit. I smoldered for a bit. From the outside you could see charred internals. I could not believe what had just happened, I had been making fire art for about 3 years by then, and had never imagined anything like could happen.

I have no memory of the following 12 hours, I made it back to camp,.. somehow… i found my bed…somehow…and slept,…somehow. The following morning, sitting in front of Camp Carp, i broke the news to Vance. An emotional break down ensued for a few minutes. Until Dave arrived, Orion in tow, all smiles. I broke the news to him. Dave, took it like a true leader with positivity, optimism and strangely enough Orion followed suit. I had a hard time believing that the two of them were so easy about it. Then off they went, tools in hand to fix our dear Lady.

Later that night those boys had her running. They cobbled her back together with what few systems still left and made her core howl again. That very night, the night right after her seeming death, she howled and gurgled for one night. Our friends, our camp, our Burning man cried that night, not with sorrow, but with triumph: our passion had lit her fire once again!

She is our phoenix. It was one of the most pivotal points in my life forever changed, forever scared with a passion for the art form we had created. To be able to create a sculpture so magnificent, so overpoweringly beautiful, created a bond of honor amongst her builders, a permanent respect among peers…. a brotherhood.

I believe it was our resolve that night that impressed the Burning Man event producers enough to invite us back for a second year grant. We were truly honored, and in turn, completely re-built the Kraken. So in 2003 we brought her back and ran for a full 7 nights plus a couple nights before and after the event. Since then Therm has shown Kraken at least once a year, sometimes twice at events all over the country until recently when we decided to permanently install her in the woods of Occidental California.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New gate for our house:

Yep, bronze,steel,stainless steel, and of course aged redwood.
More pictures on Flikr:

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Charlie the Turbine robot.

Charlie the Turbine robot.
Built in july of 2008 by Justin Gray

As an extension of humans arm and hand, robots have peaked humanity’s imagination since Tesla first radio controlled a small boat in the late 1800s’. It has possessed me to attempt at following the lead of my elders and create works unrestricted by technology or creativity and once again set forth to create my latest work: “Charlie the turbine robot”.
The goal with this fire sculpture robot was to bring a new level of fine art sculpture in a robotic performance, elevating the audience to a level of discomfort and awe in the form of moving fire sculpture. I attempt as others have before to keep the viewers of my work on edge at all times yet fascinated. When I walk through a gallery, it takes a constant effort to be interested in the work hung on the walls or placed carefully on the ground, when I see this I want a reaction. But I don’t get it from sources like galleries and art shows. Art to me is self evident. Art to me is alive and breathing down your neck, weeping from your pores like sweat on your brow……………………………….. There is no boredom in fear, there is no room for languishing or apathy, you MUST keep on your toes or the machines will get you. The sleek curves in stainless, the simple forms technology forced into a junction of fire, color and heat.

The technology behind this robot holds a deep fascination for me, my work has attempted to merge fine art and metal sculpture with the absolute latest technology available to me. My work as a EV/robot designer and builder gives me first hand access to this cutting edge technology such as advanced motor controllers and the latest RC technology. As usual, this robot is totally wireless and even self charging via the jet engines drive motor. Utilizing as a resource I was able to implement a turbine engine starter system that allows the operator to electrically throttle the jet engine through its full rpm range and once a 15% rpm is established the operator can then activate the jet engine and charge the battery’s using the drive motor and the sevcon milipac 4qd regenerative speed control. This gives the robot operator the ability to charge the drive battery’s at any given point with out any off board charging and of course should it be required, a 20 amp Zivan Ng1 charger is built in for off board charging if needed.
Drive Control systems and Fire controls:
Futaba T12za 12 channel transmitter using PCM G3 technology.
Running of the shelf RC relays switching solid state AC relays that trigger 150 psi 120VAC solenoid valves. System includes custom servo valves.

Turbine drive/gen. systems:Jet engine: Solar T62, 1: Etek Rt 7/8” shaft coupled via chain coupler to the out put shaft of the jet engines 7:1 transmission, Controller: currently AX72450 running 36vdc, soon to be a Sevcon Millipak 4QD regenerative speed controller.
Track drive systems: Two Roboteq ax2550HE’s running two Etek Rt motors (one per track) driving a 2:1 into a 7:1 gear train.
Track base: 1960s’ Agracat crawler base.


Suppliers: >>>>Etek-rt motors,Sevcon Milipack 4QD,heavy wire,lugs and other misc. drive equipment. >>>>>>>>>>>> ax2550HE 240amp speed control for the tracks

Friday, March 7, 2008


News: The R84 is officially NOT for sale any more and is being prepared for a re-configuration of the entire system. It is however a fine example of my shops capability's to build custom electric vehicles for all my clients needs. I will NOT however answer any advanced questions unless you have approved and made payment on a bid for a custom conversion from my shop. The battery range and speed capability's are NOT fully tested. What I can tell you is that the bike has decent zero to 60 acceleration and an approximate range of 40 miles on balancing controller coupled to the zivan charger. Here are some basic facts about the bike in the pictures:
R84:As pictured:
28cell lithium (LiFePo) 50ah 3.3v(nominal), AC induction drive, Curtis AC drive controller, Zivan charger and of course all aluminum battery frames. All this packed into a 2000 Yamaha R1. Custom built by me at my shop Graywrx Fabrication in West Oakland for Todd Kollin of Electric motor sport (also in West Oakland). For sales and custom vehicles email Justin Gray at: You can check out Todds web site at:

R144 the DC super bike

144vdc,48cell Lithium, with a Curtis 144vdc 550amp controller, running a 60kw series motor. This bike was custom built by myself for Todd Kollin of Electric Motorsport in Oakland, Ca. Unfortunately, this bike is not for sale. It is however, an example of the custom work that I produce out of my shop, Graywrx Fabrications. For more information please contact me at

rob has a great job at CASS

Friday, February 29, 2008

Boyd Coddington 1944-2008

In Memoriam: Boyd Coddington 1944-2008

Much Respect.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Finally some burning pictures of robot libby

I had some time with my robot when i got home from Holland decided to get some shots, I was operating the robot while taking the pictures so you can expect me to post some better ones later.

Monday, July 16, 2007

"Robot Libby"

My dog libby died last year from a un-known brain disorder. I was inspired by the sadness of here death to find the resolve and courage to build my next sculpture:"Robot Libby"
With some financial help from the Crucible and a hard dead line of July 12th 2007 i set out to build the ultimate fire sculpture robot, and in exactly 35 days she was completed and delivered to the 2007 Fire Arts Festival.
My largest solo sculpture, Libby represents a leap into electro-hydraulic animation control systems with multi fuel forced air fire sculpture driven around on top. She is currently using a Futaba T12za transmitter with a custom Nathan Mariels control board driving the switches and blower control. The batterys are 4 12volt 100ah batterys salvaged from UPS which have issues, and are to be replaced by the latest battery technology.
Future work is to include finishing the stainless and bronze skin and adding a high powered ignition system for her "eye ball". So stay tune,ill post new progress and better images soon.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Ralphs car

Ralph's car, built by Orion Fredericks and Justin Gray (me) Orion did the fabrication and fuel system, and I did the manual and wireless control systems. Its 1991 Taylor Dunn Electric service car with two 10 gallon propane tanks running two remote controlled flame cannons.

Monday, May 7, 2007

ACR1 update (lithium)

So we finished the prototype lithium polymer R1, it is now the "lighting Lithium E1"
we had our first real show at the "Legend of the Motorcycle: Concours d'Elegance": with an amazing response!

Saturday, April 14, 2007


ACR1: Justin Gray, Todd Kollin
Owner : Richard Hatfield of Alliance Renewable energy inc

Electric Motorsport of Oakland Ca debut of the AC inductance Yamaha R1. This revolutionary electric motorcycle is powered by a 550amp 84v AC inductance electric drive system providing 54HP and 81 ftlbs of toque allowing the vehicle to attain speeds of over 100mph. Builders Justin Gray, Todd Kollin, and sponsor Richard Hatfield of Alliance Renewable Energy created the Electric motorcycle to provide a Zero Emissions alternative to sport bike riders and commuters. The final build will have a 8.1 kW lithium iron phosphate battery pack that will power the vehicle for a 100 mile range.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

46' chevy

its going to be a fabulous art car/truck. ill be putting it on 7.3 liter diesel

Monday, February 12, 2007

Ghetto dogs

Cupric oxide and Darwin. its just a neat picture.

Power wheels

converted to four wheel drive and radio control off road power wheels truck.
what can i say, its fn' fun.

Monday, January 29, 2007

A tribute to Darwin:

A tribute to Darwin:
Rarely do I go off one of my pets (robots) but Darwin really kicks some ass. Never mind the fact that his 4x4 drive systems have met and beat the toughest challenges (driving straight through a 1900 degree bon fire) but he also has 6 monumental scale tesla coil direct strikes and flame ignition (tesla coil ignites his fire) under his belt! He just gets soooo fired up when some one thinks they can kill him with a tesla coil. HAH! (knock on wood Darwin).
This past summer, he had his proud SRL debut, he ran , jumped, played, crashed and screamed , with the super big boys. A 40 minute show of blood , fire and sheer robotic terror was faced gallantly by my little Darwin. Thanks Christian Ristow for inviting me/us to be a part of his psycho off the hook robot shows In LA too. Its this experience that has allowed me and my robot to gain the confidence and agility smash through with SRL.

Newest robot

This is yet unnamed, although some nasty agro names do pop into mind when i look at it.
its completely hacked up mauldin asphalt paving machine that i bought on ebay for $300 bucks. Once the hacking was finished i installed a Mitsubishi L3E diesel engine, with a vickers hydraulic pump for hydraulic power and a big ol’ hydraulic reservoir the rest is still on the drawing board. the plan is to get it driving under its own power by July. (head to the grind stone).

also , keep in mind, it will look nothing like this when I am done, accept for the tracks. but even the tracks will look slightly different. i like to think that i am a sculptor and a robot builder, i want to gracefully merge the two, but in some case accentuate the prevalent seem between the two worlds.
Fabricated materials: stainless steel, bronze, and copper.
I always say “ if you cant hide it accentuate it”
The cruncher
The screech (based off a sound generated by Darwin)
Cant think of any more. Its hard to name these things. but what is in a name.

metra kit finished

I just finished building this little guy for Electric motorsports . its got a perm 132 running at 72v with an al-trax 72/450a controler, you twist the throttle 1/8th turn and the back tire starts to burn.
hot little bike.