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View Full Version : Building a snow machine, have questions.



Jay R
11-07-2012, 02:18 PM
Hello all,
My first post so if this is in the wrong spot, or if another location might get me more answers please let me know.

Last year we purchased a house on one of those streets. The whole street goes over the top and has for 20+ years. We knew what we were getting into for the most part and most of the decorations came with the house, but I want to step it up a little and put my own stamp on things. We are in the back of the court and have a very small wedge shaped front yard. Most of it is driveway. Basically I can put lights on the house, roof etc, a few things here and there in the yard (only about 6-8 feet wide at the top going down to 2 feet at the bottom.) and I can light up my big tree.

No one on my street has made it snow yet so I started looking at foam snow machines. I saw a few of the lower priced production units, which is all I can afford right now and wasn't really impressed so I've decided to build my own to put on the roof. I've searched the forums and got some good ideas.

I have a small adjustable fountain pump to get the fluid from a 3 gallon bucket to a short length of 1/2 inch PVC with a screen and little nylon sock on the end. The PVC is attached to a high volume colman air mattress pump to make the bubbles. From there I'll use either a leaf blower, preferable since I can hide it all in a box to protect from the weather and sound insulate some, but if that's not enough air, I'll use one of those round steel 18-20 inch high volume shop fans they sell at HD etc. to get the snow out to the people on the sidewalk but I'll have to figure out some way to weather proof it.

I have two questions. How large is the orifice that the fluid comes out of into the little sock thing on the production units? I have the pump plumbed to use regular drip line and I have it going to a barbed fitting that I drilled and siliconed into the PVC but I'm wondering if it's going to be too much fluid? Is the orifice drip barb size or more like basketball needle/mister size? I don't want a big soapy mess.

Second, I'm not planning on having this run constant for the 6-8 hours a night that we have our lights on. I'd like to set it up on a timer to turn on for a few minutes every 10-15 minutes. Is there something like that out there that I can use without going computer controlled?

kingofkya
11-07-2012, 03:35 PM
Well your basic WALL timer can do close to 15min intervals. The ones with the little pegs you can push down. Not sure how long it would last like that but it should work.


https://www.google.com/shopping/product/3147207181229748100?hl=en&sclient=psy-ab&q=plug%20in%20timer&oq=plug+in+timer&gs_l=serp.3...6401.9376.0.9545.13.11.2.0.0.7.209.2 020.0j3j7.10.0...0.0...1c.1.H2d5NHlqTWk&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.r_qf.&fp=6edb0874d270a75d&bpcl=37643589&biw=1442&bih=860&tch=1&ech=1&psi=w7eaUOTFHYmTiQfS2IDwAQ.1352316867546.3&sa=X&ei=zreaUKnxF-2aiAfek4Fw&ved=0CHoQ8gIwAA

Maybe use mister heads to spray water? But you would probably have to heat the tube to keep them from freezeing. (Look up nicron wire and use with a small wallwart) :)

Jay R
11-07-2012, 04:34 PM
I thought about one of those but wasn't sure if it would last outdoors.

Nothing should freeze. We don't get that cold of temps here most nights until very early am, which is why I'm going foam instead of HP water.

Greg in Canby
11-07-2012, 06:12 PM
Try this:

http://doityourselfchristmas.com/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=6348&d=1268939531

Thank you to Mike Mulvenna for that one.

My plan is to bleed off some of the compressed air (from the fan) to pressurize my fluid reservoir (this will eliminate the need for a pump). I will then regulate fluid delivery to the nozzle by elevating the nozzle higher from the reservoir for less, lower for more (fluid delivery).

The prototype test was successful. I'm pondering how to theme the assembly.

Good luck,
Greg

Jay R
11-07-2012, 07:12 PM
That is helpful, and it looks like the same size barb that I'm using as well. I guess I'll just have to give it a shot and if it's too much I'll put a valve on it to restrict it down some. I'd like to get this thing so I don't have to mess with it at all other than to fill with Juice since it will be on the roof.
What size fan are you using?

Greg in Canby
11-07-2012, 10:41 PM
I'm using an old Craftsman shop vac/blower I got off CL. I'll check it out and PM you next week.

Jay R
11-07-2012, 10:42 PM
Tested it with the leaf blower and it was blowing good, but the bubbles were a little bigger and wetter than what I'm looking for. I would get some big chunks dripping down that would only go about 8 feet or so and as soon as I turned off the leaf blower it was like a bubble machine with foam allover the place. I'm using one of the concoctions I found in a thread on here with about 2 gallons water 1 cup bubble bath and a cup of 70%. I upped the alcohol and water to no avail. Maybe it's the sock I'm using? I'm looking for small bubbles that will carry a long ways. More of a dusting than a blizzard.

Any suggestions?

CaptKirk
11-07-2012, 10:53 PM
Move to a mid-west state? But you would get more than a "dusting" with that suggestions... :biggrin2:

Jay R
11-08-2012, 01:08 PM
I could go up the hill to see you too. Looks like you guys might get a little tomorrow up in hangtown. My bike ride in was a little chilly this morning at least.

I tried another test before I left for work just using a short piece of 3/4 PVC attached to the nylon sock and held it in front of the leaf blower tube, no solution flowing and no air matteress pump, and it seemed to inflate the sock pretty good. I'll try that tonight with some solution see if I get smaller snow. If that works I'll have to devise a way to hold the PVC in the middle of the air stream.

Anyone know what the sock on the commercial machines made out of or have any suggestions on what to use? I've heard it described as a jean type material but synthetic. I'm just using a nylon spandex type material for the sock and I'm wondering if it stretchs too much and that is allowing the bubbles to get too big.

CaptKirk
11-08-2012, 04:52 PM
Well being at 2700 feet, rather than 2000 (as is Placerville), my chances of a dusting ARE a bit "higher" than in town.

Where "down the hill" are you located? Maybe I could help out on the snow machine, or lighting stuff?

Jay R
11-08-2012, 06:40 PM
Thanks for the offer, I'm in Orangevale.

komby
11-08-2012, 10:51 PM
Funny to see this thread. I'm further down the hill in west sac. Just this morning I was talking with my wife about trying to make snow. Wasn't sure if it was a "realistic" option :) given our location.

CaptKirk
11-09-2012, 02:20 PM
Well you two were effective this morning- it was (is?) snowing at my house! Jay, turn off your machine!! :razz:

Jay R
11-09-2012, 02:45 PM
Felt like it might snow down here this morning.

I'm headed over to the Depot today to pick up another leaf blower so I can return my current one to leaf duty and look at my timer choices. Hopefully I'll get some time to do some more testing and building on it this weekend. Wife already let all of FB know I was thinking about getting one so now I've got to keep it on the down low from her too so it will be a surprise on opening night. Damn Facebook. Got to get the lights up, wife wants to go pick up wine, got my Santa hotrod countdown timer to hack up and put into my big wreath. Gonna be a long 3 day weekend.

Jay R
11-12-2012, 01:35 AM
Got all stocked up on wine for the season, lights are up on the house, and I got the snow machine working good today. I bought a toro leaf blower/vac at HD rigged up some foam over the end of the blower so the large end of the vac part could attach so I could get a larger spread and taped it all together with Gorilla tape. For the soap dispenser I started with a short 4 inch piece of 3/4 PVC with a screen on the end and over the end of the screen I used a "sock" that I sewed up from one of those reusable trash bags and hosed clamped over the screen to the PVC. To get the soap to the PVC I used a small pond pump going to drip line with a small brass T valve to adjust the flow then to a normal drip line connector that drilled into the PVC near the end and JB welded in place. I attached the PVC soap dispenser part to the inside of the blower end with a small steel strap that is screwed to the blower and JB welded to the PVC. Got the soap sitting in a 5 gallon bucket so it should last a while at the 15 on, 15 off the timer is set for.
Now I just need to get inside some sort of case to protect from the weather and cut the sound down some and adjust the soap solution. It's a little wet.

Anyone have any suggestions for making "dryer snow"?

tmcteer
11-12-2012, 01:50 AM
Looks like a great project. How about some pics to help to follow your build....

Tom :)

Jay R
11-12-2012, 08:31 PM
Added a few pics. on Flickr. Let me know if you can't see them.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/18711772@N03/with/8180538739/#photo_8180538739

CaptKirk
11-12-2012, 09:09 PM
Wow, that is really cool looking! Are you sure you were not inspired by something in Halo 4?? :cool2:

Are you going to be standing out in your display spraying "snow" over the crowd??

Jay R
11-12-2012, 09:44 PM
Thanks.
The plan for now is to mount the bucket and motor part of the blower in a big ice chest with a hole big enough to fit the business end through. I'll then pad and sound deaden everything as much as possible and mount the whole deal up on the roof shooting out into the driveway and street. Hopefully that will quite it down some. It's pretty loud as is. It will be on a 15 on 15 off timer, but I've also been looking at one of those wireless remote switches as well. Might be fun to just be able to hit it on and off at will while we're sitting out by the fire.

CaptKirk
11-13-2012, 07:57 PM
And some sort of slow swivel back and forth to spread out the fun....

Jay R
11-14-2012, 12:15 AM
I was thinking the same thing, but I don't really know how to execute it. It wouldn't need much more than about 10 degrees in each direction since my front yard is so small. I'm in the back of the court so at the side walk it's pretty much just driveway and mail box.

CaptKirk
11-14-2012, 03:01 PM
Something like they use on the animated wire frame deer that swivel their heads? Maybe use an old BBQ rotisserie motor? http://compare.ebay.com/like/110910845576?var=lv&ltyp=AllFixedPriceItemTypes&var=sbar

Jay R
11-15-2012, 01:34 AM
Great idea. My dad just picked me up a few of those deer at a garage sale. I'll have to see what I can do with them.

Jay R
11-21-2012, 02:31 PM
Since it's raining here today there won't be any outside decorating, so I'll update this thread. I got the blower and the inside of an ice chest covered in that tar window flashing stuff to try and quite it down some then I panted it all flat black. I manhandled it up on the roof and it was less than impressive. Turns out when I drilled the holes in the ice chest to get the business end out, and the three 2.5 inch holes in the back for ventilation, all the little bits of plastic went to the bottom of the ice chest. When I turned the blower on they all got sucked up and blown into the sock and screen and were clogging things up. I had my wife sew up another longer sock and stuck that on with no screen and it works really good. It almost reaches all the way to the end of the drive when there is no wind, but the snowflakes are still a little big so I think I'll try and put the little screen back on with the longer sock and see what that does. I also attached it to a wireless timer switch so I can turn it on and off whenever I want and it even works from way down the street. It was windy yesterday when I got it working and raining today so no action shots yet. It's also pretty noisy so I'm thinking about going and getting some foam to stuff all around the blower inside the ice chest.
It will all be hidden behind a inflatable Santa with reindeer. Hopefully after Thanksgiving I'll get the blow up, up on the roof and get some action shots. Not going to tackle a rotating mechanism this year. I don't have enough time before we open on the 1st since I have to decorate 2 houses this year. Next door is empty and we can't have a dark house on the street...

http://www.flickr.com/photos/18711772@N03/

CaptKirk
11-21-2012, 02:39 PM
Looking good!! The noise from the blow-ups will HELP mask the blower noise (I think). What about using a dryer vent hose and mounting the black box further down the backside of the roof to help with the noise? I'd bet for the 5-10', you would not lose much "blow" power!

Jay R
11-22-2012, 02:58 PM
I put the screen back on an the flakes are perfect now and carry all the way out to the street when the wind isn't blowing. I also stuffed the ice chest with some old life jackets and it helps the noise a little, but most of the racket comes out of the end of the blower. I don't think I'm going to be able to quiet that down with out restricting the flow. I might try aiming it up in the air a little more to see if I can get the noise to carry up instead of out.
Some action shots and video.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/18711772@N03/

Jay R
12-14-2012, 03:20 PM
Now that I've been using this for a while I can update on the fluid recipe for anyone interested. I found some on line recipes that started with 1 cup alcohol, 1 cup soap (Mr. bubble) 1 gallon of water. I found this to be way too much soap and not enough alcohol. The Alcohol is what gives the snow it's lightness and separation into smaller flakes. I've been using a 3 gallon bucket with 1.5-2 bottles of 32 oz 91% alcohol, about 1/3 cup soap to 2-2.5 gallons of water. The more alcohol the smaller and lighter the snow appears. I've gone up to 3 bottles and it looked wonderful but that was going to get too pricy. That bucket will last me all night and into the next day with how I've been using it with the remote on/off. Most I've run it constant has been about 10-15 minutes with at least 4-5 minutes off between. That gives enough time for the folks to disperse out of the drive way and get a new batch of kids that have yet to see it. I get maybe 2-2 1/2 hours of on time.

Leaf blower works good but it's really loud and the spread and distance is limited. For next year I'm planning version 2 with some sort of big air moving fan like a shop fan, a floor dryer, or one of those fans for the dancing sock guys they use outside of tire and furniture stores. Something that will be quieter, move much more air and be a lower amp draw. The leaf blower is 12 amps for 325 cfm those big fans are only 4-5.5 for 3500-5200 cfm.

If your wondering if it's something to consider for your display, the kids absolutely love it. I've never seen so many smiles. They come running up the driveway and start dancing around, tongues out (until they get a taste of soap), laughing and screaming. It's the second biggest hit on our street and we have a lot of really cool stuff on our street. The local weather guy even did a bit under it earlier this week where did the weather then as he walked over under the snow he said "And like a real weather man, I can make the snow stop" and hit the button to turn it off.

Greg in Canby
12-26-2012, 12:37 AM
My distance was limited as well. I only ran it Christmas Eve, for 20 seconds or so on one song. Worked great until the wind changed and picked up. I may use a bigger fan to boost the range a bit . . . More testing required.

Jay R
12-31-2012, 03:30 PM
I've been in restaurants that have those big mister fans in the summer that seem to blow the water mist out pretty far and the sound volume is minimal for outside use. I might look at some of those as well.

MikelMD
12-09-2014, 08:09 AM
Jay,

Have you built version 2? I am researching for my snow machine project for 2016 and some concerns are distance and noise.

Jay R
12-09-2014, 06:29 PM
Jay,

Have you built version 2? I am researching for my snow machine project for 2016 and some concerns are distance and noise.

I have.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/187117...7649025450417/

I've got a couple more videos of it in action with kids in the drive that I'm going to add today as soon as they make it from my phone to e-mail. Seems to be taking forever...

Check out this thread for more info:
http://doityourselfchristmas.com/forums/showthread.php?10360-DIY-Snow-Machine/page8

There is a lot of good info. in there from some other folks too.

MikelMD
12-11-2014, 10:36 AM
I have.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/187117...7649025450417/

I've got a couple more videos of it in action with kids in the drive that I'm going to add today as soon as they make it from my phone to e-mail. Seems to be taking forever...

Check out this thread for more info:
http://doityourselfchristmas.com/forums/showthread.php?10360-DIY-Snow-Machine/page8

There is a lot of good info. in there from some other folks too.

Jay,

The link points to a dead page.

Jay R
12-12-2014, 05:10 PM
Lets see if this one works...
https://www.flickr.com/photos/18711772@N03/sets/72157649025450417/

MikelMD
12-14-2014, 08:02 AM
Lets see if this one works...
https://www.flickr.com/photos/18711772@N03/sets/72157649025450417/

Jay,

That worked. She looks powerful. Did you do anything to reduce the noise level?

Jay R
12-15-2014, 01:34 PM
It is powerful indeed.
The big squirrel cage blowers aren't really all that loud to start with (relative to a leaf blower anyway). Just putting it into the foam and fiberglass box up on the roof got it so you can't hear the motor. All you can hear is the air being pushed out through the holes and over the sock, which is a bit loud. When people walk by and I turn it on they stop and look to see what it is, so it's loud enough to get your attention over the crowd noise but it's not really loud enough to be offensive. You can't hear it at all inside the house and we sit out on the patio with it and can hold regular conversations. I'm sure an engineer could figure out some sort of vortex system to get the air moving out quieter and more efficient but it's a little beyond my capabilities.

Some action shots added.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/18711772@N03/sets/72157649025450417/