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Giant Spin Art

How to build a device that allows you to make giant spin art.

Giant Spin Art

Spin art is a children’s activity, often found at school fairs. Kids drop paint onto a spinning square of paper, making beautiful, colorful patterns. As adults, we imagined it would be fun to scale this up, and up, and up. Our friends envisioned injuries, or worse — an elaborate, spinning contraption flying high into the sky and disappearing.

So we tried it, and after burning out the motor from a box fan, we realized that a corded power drill would work better. Corded power drills are cheaper than battery-operated drills, and they typically have greater torque. Many even have a speed knob on the trigger, offering more control.

WARNING

caution-warning-danger-graphic

  • Adult supervision required for younger children.
  • Watch your knees! And don’t lean over the device so far that you fall onto it.
  • Stop the device immediately if it ever tips over. We stake ours to the ground.
  • Keep electrical plugs out of the area where the paint is; don’t mix electricity and liquids.
  • To minimize risk of electrocution, plug the device into a ground-fault circuit interrupter outlet. These are often labeled GFI or GFCI, with test and reset buttons on them.
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Steps

Step #1: Building the Frame

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  • We mounted our drill pointing straight up, by sandwiching it between two 2' planks and then screwing 2 more 2' planks onto the ends, to make a stable H-shaped frame. To keep the drill from sliding, we also screwed a small wood block against its handle at the bottom. The drill sits snug in the frame, and it can be lifted out easily.
  • CAUTION: Make sure the drill is tight in the H-shaped frame (in the side-to-side dimension). If not, it''ll be really hard to stop it rocking. You can try using thin wedge-shaped wooden shims to tighten it up, but it's far better to have a snug fit from the beginning.
  • Then if the drill is still rocking in the end-to-end dimension, you can screw a small wood block in place to pin the handle down and prevent it from rocking upward.
  • We locked the drill’s trigger in the On position, and then plugged the drill into a switched extension cord so we could turn it on and off remotely.

Step #2: Attaching the Canvas

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  • To make an adapter for attaching the drill chuck to the canvas, we drilled a pilot hole through the center of a 30" plank and hammered in a 5/16" spike T-nut. We ran a 5/16" bolt through the nut and added a drop of Loctite to make it hold. To strengthen the drill’s grip on the bolt, we used a Dremel to shape it like a hexagonal drill bit.
  • Then we drilled a wood screw through each end of the plank, to point up when the bolt points down. We screw the screws farther to attach them to a canvas frame and then flip the assembly over and clamp the bolt in the drill chuck.
  • NOTE: Make sure the spinning board and canvas are exactly centered and level. Balancing the spinning mass is critical for safe operation.

Step #3: Spinning the Canvas

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We’ve found that any canvas spins pretty smoothly as long as it’s centered on the adapter. For canvases more than 2'–3' across, just make sure not to spin for more than a few minutes at a time, to avoid burning out the drill’s motor. We put a ring of cardboard around the setup and some paper on the ground so that high-speed paint wouldn’t cover the neighborhood.

Step #4: The Results

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  • Giant spin art has been fun to do with friends. We usually spin 20" round canvases, but sometimes try larger ones. Our record size so far is 4'×3'. Surprisingly, just about every canvas comes out great.
  • Bob and Pete Goldstein are brothers who rarely build anything based on their half-baked ideas.

Conclusion

This project first appeared in MAKE Volume 25.


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