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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Howdy All. Well, our haunt has run quite successfully last weekend, and we have a few more days before running it again (Friday the 31st! Woo!) so I thought I would take a few to write a how-to on this years #1 prop: our Vortex Tunnel!

For those who have been reading my posts before, you know I like doing things as fast and as cheaply as possible. This year was no exception. Our Vortex Tunnel came in at around the $200 mark- which cheap(ish) for a 20' long prop people walk up, and through.


This year we were blessed and cursed. Blessed, because we had one of the largest stalls in the mall to decorate for our haunt, but cursed because we only had 7 days and 2 evenings available to do it. But darn it, I finally had the floor space to do a vortex tunnel, and I pity da foo that gets in my way!


I'll jump right into the bridge construction. We built the entire structure out of cheap 2x4's ("econostuds"), and 4 4'x8' sheets of 5/8 plywood. Everything was attached with wood screws- 3" if going into studs, 1 1/4" if screwing down plywood. The first 2 sheets of plywood were cut 3' wide (8' long). We used a full 3'x8' section on one side, with a 3'x4' on another, making our total bridge length 12'. We did this to match the length of our "driving tube", a 3" black PVC plumbing pipe.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)

The under-structure of the bridge was very cheap, and simple... taking about 12 econostuds. (This is a ground-up view, with the boards colored by length- 8' black, 3' light grey. There were four lines of support along the bottom- two full length 2x4's in the middle, screwed together where they overlapped, and 2x4 along the side edges of the plywood. I had these ends met flush, and used a 3-4' long piece on the inside to connect them. There were 3' pieces on the ends of the bridge, with a few screwed to the bottom. A 1' piece was screwed into the corners, with the legs screwed into this- so that all the weight of the bridge is handled straight-on, not sideways through a few screws digging into the wood. By itself this structure was good and only gave an inch with hundreds of pounds of weight dead center- But then we added a triangular form, inspired by roofing trusses, for the hand rails. This allowed the bridge to hold all 900 lbs of volunteers, with a bend of only 1/4" in the middle of 12'.


And here's our great secret for making a cheap vortex tunnel. The central tunnel is made very, VERY light- supported by nothing but the single tube at the top. With only a single "roller", there is 100% drive on the tunnel.


The 3" PVC pipe is supported by some fridge wheels I had lying in a box, but we're talking the kind of weight you can lift with 1 arm so I'm sure almost any wheel will do. We cut some notches into the 2x4's and screwed them down, with another pair of wheels over the top of the pipe held in place with metal strapping. We fond they worked well, albeit with a nasty squeak at times... but with the entire system in place you could spin it with one hand.


For the power behind the prop, we used an old plug in drill. The method you choose to attach the drill to the 12' PVC pipe -and do anything at all anyone describes anywhere online- is entirely up to you. I can not, and will not, be held responsible for ANYTHING that happens if you try to make anything, no matter how much it resembles something I have described. My "Prop How-To's" are to be taken as examples, only.

With all that taken into careful consideration... I found I needed a large housing nail, a 4-6" scrap length of 2x4, some duct tape. I pounded the nail into the 2x4, in *about* the center. Then I tightened the nail into the chuck of the drill, and duct taped it solidly in place. Then I turned on the drill, SLOWLY, and put a black dot where the center of rotation on the 2x4 was. I measured the inside of the 3" PVC, and copied this mesurement onto the 2x4 with the center of rotation in the middle. The drill was then tied down with steel wire to something heavy and solid. The trigger was taped down to spin slowly, and a circular saw was used to gently coax the 2x4 into a cork shape. [Okay, I lied. After ten seconds of maniacal laughter sawdust covered everything in a twelve foot radius, and I was called "Mr. Safety" for days.] This cork was then shoved into the 3" conduit, with more screws and duct tape applied.


A 2x4 bracket was added to one end to hold the drill at "roller" height, and worked much more smoothly than I thought it would!

To keep the tunnel in place, I found I only needed to cut 2 plywood rings. (remember the 1'x8' pieces left over from the deck?) I shoved these down the length of the pipe before screwing down the wheels on strapping, and screwed them in place with triangular cuts of 2x4. For pieces that small I found using the 3" screws in pre-drilled holes worked best.

[This how-to was provided for free at hauntforum.com. If you paid money for this on Ebay or similar site, congratulations! You've just helped support internet copyright infringement!]
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)

The entire bridge was painted with half a gallon of dark gray wal-mart mistinted paint- $10. I put 2 light sockets on each side and screwed in bulb-sized florescent blacklights, with an 18" tube black light over each "door". All these lights were wired in series with a single plug to a control box screwed to the side of the bridge. The bottom was "always on", while the top plug had the hot wire run through a 600w dimmer switch, which the drill was connected to. (we broke the tab off one side of the receptacle to split the circuits) A wire from the control box plugged into an extension cord that ran to the wall.


Did you see those three light gray rings supported by the 3" PVC a few pics ago? More PVC!!! Our "tunnel" is made with a frame of 9 10' long 1/2" grey pvc conduit, 3 per loop. The end of each pipe was flared open, so we only had to shove them into each other- no glue or taping needed! We found it worked best with one of the conduit cut in half, giving us 3 25' lengths, for 8' tall loops. We took an exact measurement, divided it by 5, and marked all the conduits at these points. This gave us the 5 equal points along our pipe to duct tape the rest of or tunnel 'frame'- bamboo garden stakes. Before attaching the bamboo we decided on the spacing between loops, and marked the bamboo accordingly. We taped them on the ends in the middle of the PVC, so that there would be no overhang to catch on our plywood circles. In the middle we also taped the overhanging pieces to each other. The duct tape worked best for this in 1' pieces, torn in half width wise, and wrapped around each side of the PVC/Bamboo in an X shape. A few short pieces of full width DT was applied over the edges to keep them smooth.

Once we had all 5 of the horizontal lengths in place, we worked our way around the tube again and added diagonal lengths. From the central loop one side went up, the other down. These kept all of our 5 points on the 3 tubes the same distance apart- so much so that when the tube snagged on something the entire thing came to a stop without distorting- even as the 3" PVC kept turning.

For our "fabric", I used my favorite cover-all: black poly! A 10'x100' roll costs about $40, meaning covering a 10' long tube with a circumference of 25' will cost $10. I should have thought of that when I made our tube 11' long. Oh well, quick fix with 3 little 10' long slices.


I'm going to have to keep this stuff in mind if I ever make an axeworthy ghost. For 14 cents a yard, this braided 25lb black braided test fish line was perfect. ($7 at Canadian Tire!) Our poly was only taped to the 2 outside rings- with a zigzag pattern of black fishline between them holding the poly out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)

All our haunts are wheelchair accessible, so ramps were a must. We screwed 2x4's to the side of the frame, and cut them at the floor so they would lie flat. Then we screwed a few lengths between them, spacing them 14-16 apart. We measured from edge to edge, and cut one of the sheets of plywood to cover everything. The railings were made from a single econostud.


But, I could never leave well enough alone... so I made a weird entrance with a distorted bridge that spanned out to the side. I won't go into too many details on this, other to say that I covered it with a chunk of carpet painted to look like a giant tongue.


Of course, why have a tongue without a face? I used strips of bent cardboard taped to the front and a chickenwire nose. This gave a little shape, that would be covered with black poly and painted.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)

For the upper half of the face, I made a half-circle out of cardboard, and cut holes for the eyes. I backed these with boxes and put in pupils, for the "sunken eyes are watching me" effect. I painted everything with a layer of light gray mistint paint, which I later dusted with spraypaint for color.

(Notice the dots on the tongue?)


Oh, such bright eyes! :D


I spent a little more on the spraypaint- Krylon plastic-bonding paint from Canadian Tire. But WOW did it work out great!!!

Well, there you have it. I'm sure there are tons of details I missed out- feel free to PM or comment and I'll try to fill in all the blanks I can. Thanks for reading!
 

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Hillbilly Wrangler
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Thank you. This is why I come to haunt forum. You were right, you could have just sold this on ebay and made a killing. You chose to put it here on the forum for those of us who love halloween and want to make an amazing display with wonderful props to put in it as cheaply as possible. Im not sure if I will ever make a vortex tunnel, but its great to know that I can if I want and for under 300 bucks. YOU ROCK!!
 

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This is definitely a "big" how-to. Thanks for sharing. It's a shame you are so worried that someone will steal your plans and sell them on Ebay, though.
 

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Panic time is here!
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I pity da fool who violates your intellectual property! LOL!

I always wondered how those vortex tunnels are made. Thanks for showing us how you made yours.
 

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i have always wanted to do one of these but the price has always scared me away but now im thinking of trying it thanks for the super cheap way
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks all for the great comments! :)

Sorry about all the "E-Bay" stuff- I was reading a thread not too long ago about someone downloading a bunch of stuff from the haunt list and other sites and selling them online- I love making my howto's but dread the thought of someone stealing my ideas. :( Tossing some anti-theft text into the howto was about the only thing I could think of, other than just not writing about the vortex at all- which is something I just couldn't do to my H.F. friends.

Some additional things I didn't mention:

1) The height of the legs was 18" from floor to bottom of the bridge. This left the tunnel turning about 2-4" off the floor.

2) I thought using the dimmer switch to power the drill was a good idea- it turned out to be a MUST. We had to start turning the tunnel slowly, then bringing it up to speed over a couple seconds, or else one side would fly up into the driving pipe, unbalancing the tunnel, and something would catch or tear on the bottom of the bridge. The VT was also too noisy to run constantly- though mostly due to an old loud drill and squeaky rollers- but this worked out for the best because the controls were hidden in a little control room with one person operating 3 props, and we asked our groups to come into the funhouse "when it spins", so we had crowd control as well.

3) The spraypaint on black poly... wow. It worked SO well, I think a large painted something is going to find its way into a haunt of mine from now on. But ONLY with the Krylon paint. Everything else we tried in years past has flaked off and been ground into the floor under patron's feet.

4) I have lots of video, but its going to take some time to empty the HD and do some video editing. Keep watching this space!

Thank you all again!
 

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That's amazing. And nice to see someone from the neighbourhood (well, Alberta anyways) join the forum. Welcome.
 

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so just double checking here, you had a person controlling when the tunnel started and stopped correct? otherwise im sure teh drill would have burned up right? I had hoped to have built one of these for a haunt this year because i have the rings already, but I just had no idea of what wo power it with, now i know! Great job and thanks for posting this!!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
so just double checking here, you had a person controlling when the tunnel started and stopped correct? otherwise im sure teh drill would have burned up right? I had hoped to have built one of these for a haunt this year because i have the rings already, but I just had no idea of what wo power it with, now i know! Great job and thanks for posting this!!!
Yes, we had someone bring the tunnel up to speed slowly over 3-5 seconds so it stayed relatively balanced on the black pvc pipe. When someone just turned on the drill full speed the tunnel would jump to one side and usually catch on the bridge. I'm not sure if the drill would have burned up- very little torque was needed to turn it- even with the drill connected I could reach up and turn everything by hand. But of course, if your running the thing for 8 hours straight... that might cause some issues.
 

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I want to have one of these so bad, but I dont have the space. Is there a way I can scale it down to a size that wold work for my space i have?
 

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The Red Death
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That is really cool and a lot cheaper than I would have ever expected. I'd love to do one but my space is so limited here.

I wanted to do a spider based one with the insides covered in the spider lair scene setter, hang some damp egg sacks and some fishing wire. Add creepy spider sounds and a huge spider prop at the end.

Ah the things I would do with time, money, and space.
 
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