Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Halloween Craft Corner: Cobweb Machine

Spooky spider webs enhance any homemaker's Halloween decor. Unfortunately attempting to apply the "Bag-O-Webs" from the corner thrift store usually ends with mixed results at best.

But fear not dear reader, I'm here to save you the potentially humiliating embarrassment of shoddy webbing. If you're savvy enough (and I think you are) you to can make your very own Cobweb Machine just like the big shots in Hollywood use.

Years ago as a mere college student I drove to a theatrical supply house in search of a cobweb machine for a Halloween video project. I was told on the phone the machine cost $100, and since I had never seen a web machine before I expected it to look complex - something like a cotton candy machine turned inside-out. To my surprise it was just about at low tech as you can get, and decided on the spot I could build my own. Check this out...

On the left is a cobweb machine I found online for $99 (it's interesting to see inflation has not touched the cobweb machine market), and that's NOT including the electric drill. On the right is my homemade cobweb machine made for less than $5 (if you decide to make one for yourself your mileage may very). But whatever your construction cost, purchasing the cans of cobweb fluid will now be your biggest investment (purchased online or at your neighborhood theatrical supply house).

A cobweb machine is essentially a cup on a treaded rod with some fan blades. That's it. The trickiest thing is attaching the fan blades to the cup. My blades were made from some scraps of paneling. I used a transparent cup so I could see how much fluid was left. Now place your assembled web shooter into to your electric drill, and fill the cup about 3/4 full of web fluid.

The are no special holes for the web fluid to shoot from. You simply tighten down the wing nut on the top until the lid is tight, and then back up the nut ever so slightly. You just want the teeny tiniest hairline crack between the lid and the cup. Now give your electric drill it's all. Don't hold back, you want the machine to spin at top speed. You should now be spraying realistic webs like crazy. Gone are the days of drudgery and disappointment with those spider webs in a bag.

To demonstrate this magical web machine I set up a spooky little tableau in the above photo. On the left is the not-so-scary before photo, and the right is the terrifying cobwebbed after photo! Please click to enlarge, and experience it in spine-tingling detail!!!

Yes siree, that's some mighty fine looking webs... Oh so dramatic... Umm, are you buying this?

Okay I'll level with you, those webs in the after shot were Photoshoped. You see I had every intention of dazzling you with real fake cobwebs created by my homemade cobweb machine, but when I dug out my old can of web fluid from the basement it was empty.

Who knew that after 10 years of sitting in the can the web fluid would eat right through the side. Man that web fluid is like a really, really slow acting Alien blood!

Also it's no accident I set up my spooky little tableau outside. Cobweb fluid is basically thinned out rubber cement. If everything had gone to plan for the demonstration I'd only want shoot the webs outdoors because little droplets of fluid can spray all over. So unless you're planning to completely redo your home (new furniture, ceiling, walls, floors), I seriously suggest you don't use your cobweb machine inside.

Gee I guess we're back to buying that "Bag-O-Webs" from the corner thrift store.

UPDATE: I have a post that shows what plain old rubber cement will do if used in the cobweb machine. You can click here to check it out.


Jen said...

Please help!!! I am in need of the cob web machine but need to shoot cotton candy so I can spray the crowds outside at Halloween! Don't need to be sued for spraying hot glue all over some child.I can make the machine..but any ideas on the candy spray instead of the chemicals? I am not a clumper!Love this site!!!spit on myself laughing already..thats a good sign!

David W. said...

Jen, I just now discovered your post.

I'm sorry I'm too late to provide you assistance, but I hope you've found the help you so desperately need.

FZ said...

Hey, I like those spider-webs-in-a bag. Whaddya mean, drudgery? You just take it out and it takes less than a minute to spread it all over. If you use it creatively, it won't be disappointing at all. And unlike cobweb machine webs, you can use them inside.

As for homemade machines, I suppose they are nice for people who like to build stuff and have faith that they won't fall apart, but for someone like me with my crappy motor skills and building ability, I'd just as soon fork over the 99 bucks (actually, I've found professional ones closer to 50) and not have to sweat building a machine that will probably have to constantly be fiddled with and will break after 2 years.


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