A random, geeky blog

Christmas

Stepper motor in antique color wheel

I’ve got an antique color wheel that has a frozen motor. If you aren’t familiar with what this is, it’s a rotating multicolor wheel with a lightbulb behind it to make an aluminum christmas tree change colors.

Here’s a picture:

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I took it apart, and found this:

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The original motor was geared to the correct speed, and was basically beyond repair. I started digging through my junk box and found the stepper motor from our old microwave. Perfect. All I had to do as far as wiring was solder two wires between the motor and the plug for the old motor. Instead of drilling lots of holes and putting bolts to mount the motor, I just glued it in place with some silicone.

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It looks off center, but the shaft of the motor is exactly where it should be. Next, I drilled a hole in the middle of the plastic shaft, then screwed the wheel back on.

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This whole project took about twenty minutes. Well worth it.


Snow-Regurgitating Christmas Tree

Last week, when I was on vacation in Hot Springs, I saw a model lamp post in a shop window that was spitting little styrofoam beads out of the top, and collecting them in an umbrella. It was about 3 feet tall, and used a regular sized umbrella. I immediately decided that I wanted one with a Christmas tree. My father, who was with me, challenged me to build one. I liked the idea, and agreed.

After thinking about it some, I decide that if I was going to invest the time, it would have to be full sized. I also didn’t want to spend any money on it, so the entire thing is built from crap I had laying around the house.

First, I extracted the blower from an inflatable Halloween cat I purchased from Walgreens for $5 a few years ago.

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Then I cut 7 feet of 1.5 inch PVC pipe (yes, I have PVC pipe laying around…) and duct taped the blower to it.

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After that, I took an old beach umbrella and cut the wires holding all the ribs in place.

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I then wired the ribs up around the pipe. and duct taped it in place. You can ignore the fitting on there, it ended up not being used at all.

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I cut a hole in the top of the umbrella and poked the pole through. After that, more duct tape.

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Now, the rib supports (no idea what the proper term is. They’re the wires that slide to open an umbrella.) needed to be attached. At first, I was going to build a special ring to slide, but I ended up just putting another wire, which ended up working fine.

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Next up, I cut a hole in the umbrella and fashioned a chute out of an old coke bottle. This leads the styrofoam out of the umbrella and into the pump. Sorry, no picture. I forgot to take one, and it isn’t visible anymore.

At this point, it was ready for testing. I ground up some styrofoam with a knife, poured it in, and powered it up. To my delight, it worked.

Now, all that was left was making it into a tree. I went in the attic and found one of those old Walley World trees that had like 98345769 different branches that would snap in one at a time. I took the branches and taped them onto the pipe with electrical tape, like so:

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Here‘s a link to a video of the finished product. There’s actually a lot more snow than you can see in the video. I had every light in the house on, and all the windows open, but it still was too dark for my phone’s camera. If only my DSLR took video…

Now all that’s left is to make lots more snow. I’ve tried everything I could possibly think of, but all that works is slowly scraping the block of foam with a knife. Even a food processor didn’t work. It just gave me big clumps.

Hope you enjoyed, and Merry Christmas!