Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Gnomius Grantious

Here is the grant application that Team Gnome turned into the Burning Man Org. Plus, of course, the amazing bios that can be seen in the previous post. Let's hope that The Man realizes just how important this project is to the future. The future of the fire-shooting gnome world.

Like what you see? Give us money! Hopefully BM will give us some money, but if you've ever worked on a project like this (well, not quite like this) you'll know that it's always more expensive than you think it will be. And look forward to Team Gnome fundraisers!


“Good things come in gnome packages.” Old Gnomish Saying

Gee-Gnome! is a sculptural representation of a garden gnome, surrounded and protected by a flamboyance of pink plastic flamingos, the gnome’s “long time companion”. The gnome itself is 5’ tall and 2’ wide, cast in aluminum to create a realistic depiction of General Gnomius the Great, who won the Battle of Sparkly Forest Land against the mighty Dwarven Army in 762 GE (Gnomish Era). The entire installation is surround by a white-picket fence, 20’ X 20’, to protect the gnome from both over-eager followers and hostile heretics.

During the day, lacking any gnome stools under which to hide from the hot mid-day sun, Gee-Gnome! will primarily rest, silent and still. Occasionally, when Burning Man participants get too close, disturbing him from his slumber, Gee-Gnome! will shake with displeasure. However, heat lethargy (gnomes are particularly prone to heat stroke) prevents further escalation.

Once the sun goes down and the heat dissipates across the playa, Gee-Gnome! slowly awakens. At first he appears docile, burning with an inviting ambient flame. But gnomes are quick to anger (it is well gnown that Gnomius the Great had a terrible temper). Suddenly, Gee-Gnome! shakes and jumps up and down with fury, unable or unwilling to control his pent-up rage. No longer oppressed by the daytime sun, his anger quickly escalates, with steam shooting out of his ears. At the pinnacle of his tantrum, his hat breaks open, releasing a jet of multi-colored methanol fury 70’ into the star filled sky. Once the cycle of anger is vented, the gnome returns to his deceivingly docile form. Until next time….

The Truth

“The truth, the gnome truth and nothing but the gnome.” Judge Wapner

This is the gnomtic gnknowlegde. The human genome (or more correctly gee-gnome) is a product of gnomic design. Revealed to us through deep study, brain trauma, and the ingestion of certain esoteric vapors, the constant and unwavering power of the garden gnome to influence natural selection through unnatural means is now clear. The garden gnome is an ancient and proud race, a trans-dimensional anything but garden-variety critter. The cat in Schrödinger’s box was a gnome. And that gnome fixed the game. Throughout evolution, or more properly gnevolution, gnomes have been the invisible hand that is on the invisible rudder that drives the invisible double-helix paddleboat wheel upon which all gnomes dance their merry gnomey jigs. And dance they do. Gnomes, everywhere present due to the ever presences of toadstools (which are gknown to gnomes as gnome stools), have pushed and pulled the fates to create the life they choose for reasons only they gknow.

It has been proven by previous travelers that the garden gnomes are not pleased. A gnomic dalliance with flamingos, going down a dead end pink plastic path with a non-human species, has left the gnomes behind the proverbial concrete wheelbarrow. The happy (and dumb) human race, left to its own devices for a measly four decades, has undone hundreds of thousands of years of careful guided gnevolution. The gnomes are not pleased, even if they feel a bit guilty about the whole thing. If we can make the gnomes happy with us again, the de-gnevoltuion can be arrested, booked, and made to serve hard time.

We must make our peace with the gnomes, who are sorely disappointed in us, and our choices. We can have change, for hope, Yes We Can. For the gnomes gnow gknow that we gknow that they gknow that we gknow. And that makes all the difference in the world. In order to make the gnomes feel better at Black Rock City, a city where most toadstools have been dried and ingested, the gnomes must have a totem gnome, a gnome of fire. The gnomes desire this, and with September being Gnomish-American History Month, the time is ripe. Yes the gnomes, neither master nor slave, but free agents working with humans for humans towards humans is probably a stupid and dead dream. And yet dream we must. The fate of the whole stupid human race depends on it! Please help us help you by helping Gnomes, at least a little. I mean come on, its 2009 and we don't even have a stinking jetpack yet; or an extra opposable thumb, or a brain chip implant, or nothing. We have to evolve, if not for us at least for the children. Think about the children.

Thanking you in advance for the grant,

-Team Gnome


“Never work with children or animals. Or gnomes. Or gnome children. Definitely not gnome children, cause they’re animals.” W.C. Fields

Phase 1- Right and Ready:

Once the sun goes down on the playa, an ambient propane fire will be lit inside Gee-Gnome!, flickering out of his red pointy hat. This ambient flame will burn invitingly all night. The gate within the 20’ X 20’ white picket fence will be open, allowing participants to enter and warm themselves with the heat of the fire. Several members on Team Gnome will be present all night: two within the fuel depot (a 20’ X 20’ red picket fence), and at least one within the white picket fence to explain the historical significance of Gnomius the Great (to the ignorant) and to ensure the safety of all participants.

Phase 2 - Shake and Bake:

Frequently throughout the night Gee-Gnome! will become angry and begin to jump up and down and shake side to side. This display of fury is controlled via a picnic control basket, within Gnome Central. Members of Team Gnome, and deserving participants, will be able to activate this display throughout the night by pressing the gnome stool button labeled “Shake and Bake”. Participants are in no danger from Gee-Gnome! at this time, and will be able to remain within the white picket fence.

Sometimes Gee-Gnome! will be able to control his anger, calm down, and return to his docile state.

Phase 3 – Tea Time:

Occasionally Gee-Gnome! will be unable to control his anger, and after his “shaking and baking” fit, vaporized water will shoot out of his gnomey ears. This show of rage is also controlled via the picnic control basket, within Gnome Central. Members of Team Gnome, and lucky participants, will be able to activate this display throughout the night by pressing the gnome stool button labeled “Tea Time”. Participants are still in no danger from Gee-Gnome!, and will be able to remain within the white picket fence.

Even after this extended fit of rage, Gee-Gnome! will often be able to calm down, and return to his docile state.

Phase 4 - It goes to eleven:

Randomly (exactly 3X per night), Gee-Gnome! will loose all control and his anger will fully escalate. All members of Team Gnome are Gnomic Ambassadors (trained gnome handlers) and are able to recognize the warning signs of an imminent full-blown gnome-rager. At this time, the gate will be closed and all participants and members of Team Gnome will exit the white picket-fenced area and distance themselves.

After an extended period of “Shaking, Baking and Tea Time”, the red pointy hat will split open (Phase 3 ¾ - “Ten”) and methanol fire, colored with Gnomish Alchemy, will shoot upwards of 70’ into the night sky. This climactic show of fury is also controlled via the picnic control basket, within Gnome Central. Only members of Team Gnome will be able to activate this display by pressing the gnome stool button labeled “Eleven”.

Phase 5 – Puff the Magic Gnome:

Once Gee-Gnome! has blown his lid, and seemingly calmed down a bit, members of Team Gnome will re-open the gate and participants will once again be allowed to enter the white picket-fenced area.

Don’t be fooled! Gee-Gnome! is still angry and, while his hat remains split open, propane “puffs” (solenoid-controlled accumulator flame effect) will shoot 10’ into the air. This display of anger is also controlled via the picnic control basket, within Gnome Central. Members of Team Gnome, and sufficiently worshipful participants, will be able to activate this display by pressing the gnome stool button labeled “Puff”.

After an extended period of time, Gee-Gnome! will calm down fully, his hat will close and he will return to his fully docile state. Until he is angered once again.

Physical Description and Specs

“A gnome is a gnome is a gnome.” Gertrude Stein


Gee-Gnome! is a realistic reproduction of General Gnomius the Great, standing on top of a steel rectangular platform, 1’ high. He will be 5’ tall and 2’ wide and made of ½” thick cast aluminum. Gee-Gnome! will be cast in 6 pieces total: the hat will be cast in 2 pieces (right and left sides), the head and torso will be cast in 2 pieces (front and back sides), and the legs and feet will be cast in 2 pieces (front and back sides). The hat will remain in 2 pieces, as it will open and close during the performance. The 2 pieces of head and torso will be welded together, as will the 2 pieces of legs and feet. The 3 sections (legs and feet, head and torso, and hat) will then stack on top of each other (and over the plumbing infrastructure described below) and be mechanically attached.

To cast Gee-Gnome! we will set up a small foundry at one of our workshops (Shipyard Labs in Berkeley or NIMBY in Oakland). The foundry will have a tilting crucible furnace that will pour into sand molds of the various Gee-Gnome! parts.


Picnic Control Basket:

All the mechanical and plumbing systems described below will be controlled by gnome stool buttons within a control box that greatly resembles a traditional picnic basket, primarily because it is a traditional picnic basket. ON/OFF buttons will be used to control the vaporized water and propane puffer systems. A three-way toggle switch will control the hat opening system. A joystick will control the kinetic system, and a fire button on the joystick, along with a potentiometer, will control the timing of the fuel and purge modes for the liquid methanol flame effect, with the aid of a small microcontroller in the picnic control basket. We will have multi conductor wire running the 50’ between Gee-Gnome! and the picnic control basket where a car battery will supply 12v power to the system.

Mechanical Systems:

“Shake and Bake” Kinetic System:

The sculpture will be attached to the steel platform via two linear actuators, one attached to each of his feet. When the linear actuators move one at a time, Gee-Gnome! will shake side to side, when the linear actuators move together Gee-Gnome! will jump up and down. The linear actuators will be controlled via the picnic control basket, using the buttons labeled “Shake and Bake”. The plumbing for the propane puffer and methanol shooter will be attached to a stand-alone tripod support and the sculpture will be placed over the entire plumbing system. Note: the sculpture and plumbing systems will not be attached directly to each other, to help avoid any damage to the plumbing system.

“Tea Time” Vaporized Water System:

Interior to each ear is a modified paint spray gun rig. The reservoir for the spray gun is filled with water each day for the coming night’s performance. The “Tea Time” button in the picnic control basket triggers a solenoid valve, which allows pressurized gas to flow to the spray rigs and vaporized water is ported through the gnome ears. This flow can be enhanced with a “steam whistle” to give the classic kettle’s ready sound.

“Ten” Hat Opening System:

The 2 pieces of the hat will be attached to the head via two linear actuators, one attached to each of side. When the linear actuators move, the two halves of the gnome’s pointy hat splits open and fall to their sides. The linear actuators will be controlled by the picnic control basket using the button labeled “Ten”. A safety interlock in the control system will keep the button “Puff” or “Eleven” from being triggered while the hat is closed.

Plumbing Systems:

“Right and Ready” Ambient Flame:

Gee-Gnome! will have an ambient propane flame inside his hat that will burn from dusk until early morning. It will invite participants into the white picket fence area, to warm themselves from the cold playa night. This ambient propane flame will also act as the pilot for the methanol shooter and propane puffer effects described below.

“It Goes to Eleven” Liquid Methanol Flame Effect System:

Hidden inside the body of Gee-Gnome! will be a liquid methanol flame effect. A metal tripod will support the plumbing infrastructure. The tripod will be attached at its top to the ¾” cross within the flame effect, and to the metal platform at its bottom.

Inside the fuel depot, methanol will be mixed with various metal salt colorants and poured into a 10-gallon ASME-rated pressure vessel, under ambient pressure. The pressure vessel will then be closed and the methanol pressurized to 250 psi with nitrogen gas. The pressure vessel’s ¾” ball valve will then be opened, filling the ¾” ID high-pressure, chemical-resistant underground hose with the pressurized methanol. Shooting of the liquid methanol flame effect will then be controlled by the button labeled “Eleven” inside the picnic control basket, within the fuel depot. Pressing down “Eleven” opens the ¾” normally closed methanol pneumatically actuated ball valve, releasing a stream of methanol which is then instantly and fantastically ignited by the ambient propane pilot. Once “Eleven” is released, the ¾” methanol actuated ball valve closes again and the ¼” normally closed nitrogen purge solenoid opens, automatically, releasing high-pressure nitrogen to blow out any methanol remaining in the line. This will repeated, at every show, until the 10-gallon pressure vessel is empty of methanol. We will have 3 shows per night, at approximately 9PM, 11PM and 1AM. We will burn kerosene, instead of methanol, at one of the 3 shows each night.

"Puff the Magic Gnome” Propane “Puffer” System:

Incorporated into the plumbing infrastructure described above is a propane “puffer” (solenoid-controlled accumulator flame effect). Inside the fuel depot, a propane tank will be connected to ¼” LPG rated underground hose that is attached to an accumulator tank hidden inside Gee-Gnome!. Opening the propane regulator and ball valve will fill the underground hose and accumulator with pressurized propane gas. Puffing will then be controlled by the button labeled “Puff”, within the fuel depot. Pressing down “Puff” opens the ¾” normally closed propane pneumatically actuated ball valve, releasing a stream of propane gas which is then instantly ignited by the ambient propane pilot. This will be repeated many times, throughout the night, until we empty the 25-gallon liquid propane tank.

Site Layout and Fuel Plan:

All propane and nitrogen tanks, as well as methanol and kerosene drums, will be stored in our red picket fenced 20’ X 20’ fuel depot.

The propane fire effects of Gee-Gnome! feed from 2 X 25 gallon propane tanks within the fuel depot. The ambient fire will be fueled by one of these 25 gallon propane tanks via 50’ of ¼” diameter LPG rated underground hose. The propane “puffer” will be fueled by the other 25 gallon propane tank via another length of 50’ ¼” diameter LPG rated underground hose. The liquid methanol flame effect of Gee-Gnome! is fed from an ASME rated 10 gallon pressure vessel within the fuel depot via 50’ of ¾” diameter high pressure, chemical resistant underground hose. The fuel in the pressure vessel is pressurized using nitrogen gas from a liquid nitrogen tank, also in the fuel depot, via 20’ of ¼” diameter LPG rated hose. This same liquid nitrogen tank also feeds the nitrogen purge via 50’ of ¼” diameter LPG rated underground hose. Both of the ¾” normally closed pneumatically actuated ball valves (for the liquid methanol flame effect and the propane puffer effect) are piloted by nitrogen gas from a liquid nitrogen tank, also in the fuel depot, via 50’ of ¼” diameter LPG rated underground hose that splits into two once inside the sculpture. All the plumbing hoses and electrical lines will run through the same underground trench from the fuel depot to Gee-Gnome!, passing into the sculpture through a hole in the platform.

On-Site Plan

Transportation & Installation:

Due to its small physical scale, the transportation and installation of Gee-Gnome! will require very little heavy machinery support. The installation will require only one trench roughly fifty feet in length.

  • August 25th: Our survey and unload crew arrives at Black Rock City. We will survey the site to lay out the installation, trenching plan and fuel depot.

  • August 26th: At this time the fuel tanks are placed and fenced off with the 20’ X 20’ red picket fence. Next we mark the trenching plan for the underground plumbing and electrical lines. After trenching, the underground plumbing and electrical lines are laid in the trench and the trenches are closed.

    Trencher: 1 hour, Wednesday August 26th

  • August 27th and 28th: Install 20’ X 20’ white picket fence and erect the gnome, as well as place pink flamingos. Complete installation of plumbing and electrical systems. Re-test functionality of all solenoid valves.

  • August 29th: Perform a water test of the liquid effect.

  • August 30th: Do a walk-through of the installation with the Fire Safety Team in the afternoon. With their approval, test the liquid and propane effects in the evening.


On Monday, September 7th we excavate and remove our fuel and electrical lines, as well as removing the fencing. By the end of Tuesday, September 8th we will have finished loading the installation for shipping, and Wednesday, September 9th will be spent removing any remaining debris from the site, and restoring the playa to normal.

Fire Safety:

Our Fire Performance Safety Team Liasons are Caroline Miller and Rosa Anna DeFilippis. They will meet with the Fire Performance Safety Team for a walk through of all effects and fire tests before allowing participants into the Gee-Gnome! installation.

All our gas supplies have ball valves at the source, for quick shut-off, and are located at least 50’ from any open flames at the installation, within the red picket fenced off fuel depot. All propane systems use LPG regulators, LPG rated hose and crimped hose fittings. Our liquid supply has a ball valve at the pressure vessel, for quick shut off and control. The pressure vessel also has a pressure relief valve and will be ASME rated for safety. The liquid effect will use only fuel rated components and lines.

Fuel will be stored at the DPW fuel depot and will be delivered to the site each day in preparation for the evening’s performance. All of the fuel on site will be stored within the red picket fenced off fuel depot and will be monitored by members of Team Gnome during the performance. Four ABC fire extinguishers will be on site for the entire night, 2 within the red picket fenced fuel depot and 2 within the white picket fenced area. Both fenced off areas will also contain coolers with wet towels and a burn kit will be on site.

Gee-Gnome! will run on several levels of fire safety awareness:

Level 1: This will occur during the day on the playa. “Shake and Bake is the only active effect, and therefore requires no supervision from members of Team Gnome.

Level 2: This level of fire safety will be active for Phase 1 – “Right and Ready” thru Phase 3 – “Tea Time” and for Phase 5 – “Puff the Magic Dragon”, will require at least 3 members of Team Gnome to be present (2 within the red picket fence of the fuel depot and one within the white picket fence), and will occur throughout the night on the playa.

Level 3: This level of fire safety will only be active for Phase 4 – “Eleven”, will require 5 members of Team Gnome to be present (3 within the red picket fence of the fuel depot and two outside the white picket fence ensuring people keep a safe distance), and will occur 3 X every night.

Artery Support:

  • In and out passes

  • 8 early arrival passes

  • 1 vehicle-driving pass

  • Usage of heavy machinery trencher

DPW Support:

  • Refilling propane tanks throughout the week.

  • Storage of liquid fuel at depot

  • Trenching.

Leave No Trace:

Gee-Gnome’s! central structure is entirely composed of steel and other metals. The white picket safety fence is made of wood, but is sufficiently far from any flame effects that there is no chance of ignition. The gas and liquid flame effects are emitted from orifices sufficiently far from the ground so as to eliminate any chance of burn scars. During the event the site will be MOOPed each morning.

At the end of the festival, we will remove all machinery and art: pull out ground stakes, refilling our trench, and scouring the entire installation and surrounding area for debris and MOOP to ensure that we Leave No Trace. As Team Gnome is composed of veteran Black Rock Citizens, leaving no trace is important to each of us.

Project Management Schedule

“Gnome wasn’t built in a day.” Old Gnomish Proverb

March – Planning & Purchasing:

  • Make scale model of the gnome

  • Order and purchase materials

  • Finalize and locate fuels and minerals required

April – Initial Production:

  • Begin production of mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems

  • Set up for casting

May – Continuation Of Production:

  • Begin fabrication of sculptural elements.

  • Continue production of mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems

  • Plan night safety lighting, purchase and test units

June – Completion Of Initial Revision:

  • Complete working version of mechanical, electrical, ignition, and fuel systems

  • Test plumbing and electrical systems using water in place of fuel

  • Complete initial revision of sculptural shell

July – Initial Testing & Final Revision:

  • Complete test of plumbing, electrical and mechanical systems in the Black Rock Desert

  • Finalize all systems after testing

  • Finish sculptural elements

  • Coordinate installation, de-installation, and performance schedule

August – Preparation For Burning Man:

  • Pack and load project for transportation

1 comment:

  1. Have you seen the firetrap gnomes?
    truly inspirational/looking fwd.

    p.s. I'm certified to do pyro and burnt ellis island last year and did the fwx. (trained with the grucci's) let me know if you need/want help


    j gavin heck