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But what happened to all the eels?

Yesterday, gfish and I built a hovercraft. It's a very versatile machine. It hovers! And floats! And drifts! And, um, hovers! :) Also, very easy to make, and a good way to spend a few hours.

Last Saturday, when the "let's build a hovercraft!" impulse hit, we went to a thrift store and bought a couple old vacuum cleaners, hoping to find an engine capable of enough pressure for a hovercraft.

Here's the engine, and here's the problem with it. The obvious "pipe" at the front is the air intake - that's where the vacuum cleaner hose is attached. But there isn't a single air output - the engine sucks air in through the pipe and then blows it out in all directions. Should we ever spontaneously decide to build a hunkercraft, that'd probably work great. :) For a hovercraft, you need to push all the air directly down at the ground to hold you up.

So the obvious solution is to put the engine inside a bucket, at least, if you're cheapskates randomly building a hovercraft for thrills. This way, air might come out of the engine in all directions, but it can only go down to get out. So yesterday we went and bought one with an airtight lid, and cut a hole in the bottom of the bucket for the air intake.

The is the engine bolted to the inside of the bucket with improvised clamps bent from sheet metal. Blacksmiths love an excuse to bend metal. :)

This is ordinary weatherstripping like you'd put around windows to keep snow and cold air out. Here, its an airtight seal from the bucket to the hovercraft platform so that none of the valuable air pressure is lost.

The lid of the bucket, bolted to the hovercraft platform.

We accidently left a nut caught between the plastic lid and the wooden platform and had to play 'marble maze' to get it out. Don't do that.

Hole in the lid.

I had previously trashed the exact size bit we needed drilling holes in a blade that was tempered a lot farther onto the tang than I thought for the knife I made triskadekaphile. Don't do that, either. :)

Looking up through the bottom of the hovercraft platform at the engine in its bucket.

Here's the hovercraft running - the red at the bottom is a drapey cloth skirt filled up by the pumped air. It floats around! You can stand on it for very short amounts of time, and float around! Except my balance isn't really quite good enough, and as soon as it tilts a bit, it falls over. (Perhaps I should kidnap one of lyonesse's crazygraceful aerial silks friends, who seem to come with their own fly-by-wire systems installed, to try it out.) Whee!


Except my balance isn't really quite good enough, and as soon as it tilts a bit, it falls over.
i'd think a few accelerometers, some thrust vectoring, and some code lifted from another of your little projects :) could easily solve that problem.

cool toy, btw. i'd say i gotta get me one of those, but i'd want something i could ride in.

Very nice, you do some very interesting projects!

Very cool! Next step is one not tethered by an electric cord?

I think next we'd like to try a different platform shape or size and see if we can get anything more stable. It's tipping point is only about ten degrees right now.

Have you seen the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion? They have these great big mechas... with extension cords. Several times the fact that one of them has pulled its cord out of its socket is a Major Plot Point. So at least we're in good company. :)

Never saw the anime, the genre in general does little for me. I mentioned your project to Gabriel, who said he once got to ride on a hovercraft built around a leaf blower.

Why not experiment with a plenum chamber underneath instead of just the vast open space?

Wicked awesome!

that is awesome!

and indeed, riding on it sounds very entertaining indeed. :)

I would give a rather large sum of money to watch you stand on the hovercraft and juggle. :)

so would i. maybe we should take up a collection.

the eels are here!!!

p.s. NICE KILT! :)

Hooray for utilikilts! That's the workman's kilt, which is full of pockets and tool loops and other wonderful things, being modeled by gfish.

*wants a utilikilt*

i've been kinda vaguely wanting a utilikilt for awhile, but only just now went and actually looked at the website. (it was a very vague sort of desire.)
and they're cool and all, but *expensive*. damn.
i think maybe i'll stick with my cutoff BDUs. :)

Bring it Burning Man! I might have enough battery-inverter power to run it without a cord, and we could stake down a tarp to glide it over. Perhaps I could dress up as an eel.

Actually, now that you mention it, I should admit gfish has started plans for a large ride-on steam-powered hovercraft to take to Burning Man sometime. (Does something as impractical and lovely and bizarre as a steam-powered hovercraft belongs anywhere else, really?)

I would say 'It probably won't ever happen', but I'm often proven wrong when I say that. :)

that's something i'd really like to see.

I'm not very graceful. In fact, I broke my arm in college falling off of a large ball which I had been trying to walk on.

Still, I want to try your hovercraft.

The point of this post is supposed to be how incredibly easy it is to build one. You could build your own. If you don't have the tools for it, I'm sure sunspiral does. Failing that, if you can free up a couple hours next time I'm in Boston, we can make one then. :)

Dayumn. I want to see it working sometime.

I'm sure you coudl look at it next time you come over to use the lathe.

Oh, cool!

Now what you need is three of them, connected in a triangle, with a seat or platform in the middle. And you could push yourself along with a big stick like a gondolier!

I like the idea of a hovergondola!

My first thought was a tripod for stabilization, as well. I wonder if that could be done by using a trilobate pressure plenum, or whether it's actually necessary to run three blowers...

Hovercraft! And ultilikilt!

Mmm, must tempt geek roommate to pull out powertools and make one or purchase the other!