banana cut in pieces

The photograph of floating banana slices published today on DIY Photography presents the kernel of a great idea for makers. While craftily creating the illusion of levitating sliced fruit may not be your thing, this technique translates almost directly to the creation of “exploded parts diagrams” of your creations.

DIY Photography shows how to create the exploded illusion with fruit as the medium. Working with toothpicks and the Photoshop “cloning” tool, fruit slices can be photographed levitating in mid air.

But there’s no reason to limit this technique to just fruit; if you’re working with fairly soft and light materials, you could easily modify the technique to “explode” just about anything. The technical writing community has used exploded parts diagrams for years to demonstrate spatial relationships in assemblies. And as anyone who has ever used a Haynes workshop manual can tell you, an exploded parts diagram is worth at least a thousand words. Possibly more.

For things heavier than fruit slices, a Third Hand type of work holder is a good solution. There will be more to Photoshop out of the drawing, but they also afford a good range of positioning freedom and can grasp most small objects. For light objects, modeling clay, or anything else maleable and relatively tacky, can provide hidden attachment points for toothpicks. For larger projects, the component parts can be suspended from above with the narrowest string or fishing line appropriate for the weight (and probably some rigging to keep everything in the proper alignment for the picture). With metal projects, consider tack welding small diameter tubes to hold the components in their exploded spatial relationships for the picture.

Consult the wikipedia entry for more information on exploded parts diagrams, including their historical origins.

Exploded Parts Diagram

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Update: It appears that the artist Damian Ortega has made a series of stunning installations in this vein. You’ll be in good company when you document your next build thusly.

Exploded Parts Truck

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Exploded Parts Bug

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DIY Photography