Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pot of Gold

I thought to save myself some money and make my own homemade flaming cauldrons, you know, the ones the blow air out the top making a flame-shaped piece of silk "flicker" like flames.

I had two computer power supply fans gathering dust on the shelf, so I went out and gathered up everything I needed. For less than $8 I got two small cauldrons and a yard of silk fabric. I figured the challenge would be powering them up.

Actually it was, but Internet searches are awesome for finding answers to everything you want to know and soon enough I had them running.  What's proving to be the real challenge is getting the fabric to flicker. My guess is the fans aren't strong enough so they can't make the silk stand up. Oh well. I'll have to wait till after Halloween to tackle this project in earnest, but at least I have two nice cauldrons.

I figure, though, if anyone is interested in learning how to power up a computer fan, I'd show you below how to do it. May as well make this two-day exercise worthwhile for something.

Start with a computer fan and a power supply
This fan is 12 volts DC and about 0.5 amps. Match up your power supply with those numbers so that you don't burn out one or the other. My power supply was a 12v 1 amp phone charger (I think). I have a few laying around and sifted through them till I found one that fairly matched. Having more amperage is fine since the fan will only draw what it needs.

Cut connector off plug and adapter off fan
The fan had what I think is called a Molex connector on it, one of those small white squares that you use to connect it to the computer. Cut that off and unravel the wires. Do the same for the power supply, cutting off the plug end, which often times is a silver, barrel-shaped plug that you insert into a hole to connect it.

Now there is another way to do it by inserting the "hot" wire from the fan into the hole in the end of the barrel connector and attaching the ground to the silver part. I think joining them the way I did it however is more permanent.

Bare the ends of all four wires and join black to black and red to red. Oh wait! Your wires are like mine and there's no red on anything! In fact, the fan has four wires -- black, green, blue, and yellow! Sweet. Now what?

I'm sure electricians know the answer right off the bat, but for me it took trial and error. Black was easy as it always connects to black, and as it turns out it was the yellow wire that made the circuit. The other two may be for data and stuff, or so said one video I saw on YouTube. Join them together and that's it! Really very simply.

Join spliced wires together, hot to hot, ground to ground
In the photo below, I wanted to see if I could run two fans off of one power supply. The second fan was also 12v, but was like 0.56 amps. I spliced them and connected the black and yellow to their corresponding wires and it had no problem starting up or running.

Two for one!
What the heck, I'll also show you how I aged the cauldrons, using an oatmeal-and-sand method I saw Dave the Dead use on the discussion boards.

I started off using two small black plastic cauldrons that I got from a local Halloween store for $2.25 each. I then mixed together a bit of Elmer's white glue and water and added some oatmeal to it. I think Dave used instant; mine was regular steel-cut (does anyone know why that's a feature on oatmeal? I mean, if it was cut with plastic, would we know the difference?).

I then mixed in a few handfuls of sand. I have no proportions on any of this as Dave didn't provide any in his tutorial, but I can tell you you don't need a whole heckuva lot of oatmeal. I made enough to feed a whole coven of witches. I imagine one of those instant oatmeal packages would have been more than sufficient to cover these two small cauldrons.

You then smear the oatmeal onto the sides of the cauldrons. It is the oatmeal and sand that will give you your rusted texture later on. As I mention often, I have no patience, so I used my heat gun to help dry the oatmeal mix. I think the heat made the oatmeal swell giving it almost a cauliflower look when dried, which I thought was great.

I then sprayed them with black spray paint. Dave says to spend the extra two bucks and get real spray paint since it has extra paint in it unlike the quick color stuff. I'm cheap though and I had the cheap stuff on hand so I used that.

I then used my rust painting technique I showed on my vlog when I rusted two lanterns for my cemetery entrance pillars. I started off using a dark tan wash and pressing the sponge brush under the lip of the cauldron, let the color run down and did this all the way around. Then using a piece of sponge, I dipped it in orange paint and went over the surface making sure I hit the oatmeal. Over that I went with a brownish red color (more red than brown) to tone down the orange. And then over that I hit it with a light olive green to give it a patina.

Below is a close up of the oatmeal mix, dried and painted over. It also shows the access hole I burned through the side of the pot with an old soldering iron through which I was going to pass the fan motor wires through. I also have a string of 50 orange lights that I was going to put in the bottom of the cauldron around the fan, but now they'll just be in there by themselves.

So as I said, I have a nicely detailed cauldron and we'll have to see if the orange lights glow bright enough when they're situated on top of the fluted columns I have on either side of the front stairs.


  1. Very nice aging job on the cauldrons.

  2. Great paint job! Thanks for the mention on the oatmeal are right that a little bit goes a long way.

  3. Nice! I borrowed the same technique for my big cauldron. What a nice way to make a store bought look better quickly.

  4. Thanks wicKED. And you're right GfinID, it's such an improvement over what you bring home from the store. Dave, great idea that I'll be using on more projects in the future when I want to age/rust them.

    Next year I'll be making a PVC cemetery fence (he says!) and I think that will be a great way to really rough them up beyond just standard black paint. Maybe for that project I can mix up as much oatmeal as I did for these two pots!


  5. Very nice technique. Oatmeal huh? I might have to try that.

    I've gotten kind of a similar texture by adding dry paper clay to my mache mix.

    Oh, and I think they call them "steel cut" to distinguish them from "rolled oats".


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