Monday, January 30, 2012

Fire at Will!

One of the things I really love about prop building is the new skills I develop, which I'm then able to transfer to other areas. Before I made me first set of LED spotlights I would never have thought about soldering. Before I built a flying crank ghost I would never have considered the mechanics of how things worked, always thinking it was "too complicated."

I've always been handy, just never mechanically inclined. Now I find myself taking apart computer boxes to strip out wiring, power supplies, speakers, etc. I disassembled washer machines looking for water valves (haven't used them yet!). I'm breaking down fans and salvaging motors for uses in my haunt. I bought a welder last year after seeing a demonstration of how they worked and will soon be using it to build props.

Two weekends ago I did a Talking Boris hack and now have a really cool greeter for my yard. This past Saturday I built my first pneumatic prop, and I can already tell it won't be my last. I built an air cannon, which was a heckuva lot fun to do and even more fun to play with.

I learned today, however, the two compressors I own may not be big enough to handle the needs of the cannon. I can shoot it off after first pressurizing the tank to 80 psi, but after a few shots I need to completely drain the tank and re-pressurize it again to get it to work. Seems the cannons operate at an optimal pressure of 120+ psi. My torpedo compressor and my pancake compressor, though both say 125 psi max on the side, were struggling to hit 90 psi today.

Maybe it was the cold weather, but I was told if I go for an oil compressor with around a 30 gallon tank, I'll not have such issues for operating any of the pneumatic props I build. While it's a $350 investment or so (thank you Harbor Freight Tools for saving me at least $100!) I'll still be able to use my other compressors as reserve tanks. And I won't run into the issues I had with my paint sprayer and impact wrench which never seemed to have the juice to handle the task at hand.

So Halloween and prop building continue to open up new and interesting avenues for me I never would have explored previously.


  1. I love the empowerment haunting has given me. I never thought I'd have a light show synced to music. I wish I had a local MnT group to work with.

    1. I'm lucky to be in a state where there are 3 (!) make & take groups, though the one in the southern part of the state I've yet to make it to. But meetings twice a month is good to keep me going!


  2. Replies
    1. Thanks. I tried to show in the video how all the parts are assembled, since that really is what it's all about. The tank was from Harbor Freight Tools, the pipe parts from Lowe's, the valve was from, and I'm not sure where the solenoid came from because one of the other haunters bought that.

      Total cost was about $100, though I have seen $20 ones online that don't use the tank or the valve. In their stead, a 2 ft. long pipe is used for the "tank" and a lawn sprinkler valve or a washer machine valve is substituted for the dump valve. That will save you about $50. The cheaper versions also don't have a solenoid (another $25 savings).

      To be honest, I have no idea really what these various components actually "do," only that I was told they were necessary. :>


    2. I mean like parts list that sort of thing.

    3. Okay, gotcha! Here's a list of the parts need and where I got them from. I grouped them based on where they went in the build.

      There are essentially three sections: solenoid to dump valve; dump valve to "horn;" tank to dump valve. Looking at the picture and video above, you can probably figure out where everything goes

      3-way solenoid w/1/4" ports - 3V210-1/4 (
      5 gallon air tank (Harbor Freight Tools)
      Deltrol EV35A2 3/4″ Dump Valve (
      1/4″ quick connect air fitting [air in to solenoid]
      1/4″ x 2″ long iron pipe (threads both ends) [solenoid to dump valve]
      1/4'' x 3/4'' adaptor [solenoid to dump valve]

      Following parts available at Lowe's or Home Depot:

      3/4″ x 2″ long iron pipe (threads both ends) [dump valve to air exit]
      3/4'' floor mount flange [mounts to 2" piece above]
      3″ ABS end cap [mounts to flange with 4 bolts & nuts]
      3″ x 24″ long ABS pipe [fits into end cap]

      1/2″ x 2″ long iron pipe (threads both ends) [tank to "T" fitting]
      1/2″ pipe “T” [tank to dump valve and safety pop-off valve]
      1/2″ x 2″ long iron pipe (threads both ends) ["T" fitting to adapter]
      1/2″ x 3/4″ iron pipe adapter [pipe to pipe]
      3/4" x 2" iron pipe [adapter to dump valve]

      12v wall adapter
      plumbers tape or pipe dope

      Hope that helps.



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