Picture of Droning Machine
This device is a tribute to one of the coolest movies of recent memory, Eli Eli Lema Sabachthani. In the movie, the protagonists improvised a lot of cool instruments with the goal of making a pure and beautiful noise. One of the most striking things they made was a droning machine built out of an old fan, an umbrella and some drainage tubing. You can see this device in action 56 seconds into the movie trailer.

After dreaming about making one for a long time, I finally went ahead and did it. It was a lot of fun to make, and it worked pretty much as advertised. The biggest problem I encountered is that I was over driving the fan motor and I probably could have chosen a more powerful one that could have handled more tubing (more weight). I will solve this problem for revision two.

Anyhow, without further ado, here is how to make your own.

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Step 1: Go get stuff

Picture of Go get stuff
You will need:

A box fan
An umbrella
Ribbed tubing
A 1' foot metal tube with a diameter slightly bigger than your motor shaft
A rod clamp slightly bigger than your metal tube
Zip ties
Assorted tools

Step 2: Take apart the fan

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Remove the front cover from the fan.

Forcibly pull the fan blade mount from the motor shaft.

Step 3: Measure

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Measure the diameter of the shaft and get an extruded 1 foot metal tube with an inner diameter of that value.

Also get a rod clamp with a set screw that can fit around the tube.

Step 4: Clamp

Picture of Clamp
Tightly clamp the metal tube to the motor shaft with your rod clamp.

Step 5: Strip the umbrella

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Remove the cloth from the umbrella.

This may require breaking, bending and/or sawing off a clamp at the top of the umbrella that is holding the cloth in place.

Step 6: Saw off the handle

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Saw off the handle of the umbrella in such a way that you will be able to remove the base off the shaft when done.

Step 7: Remove the spring

Picture of Remove the spring
Carefully free the spring from the umbrella. Be careful as the spring is springy and this may cause the spring and/or the pointy bits of the umbrella frame to launch towards or away from you.
sdfgeoff3 years ago
No ways, a UFO sound......
I love the spacey sound this makes. I have an idea to make a small one but not sure how well it would work. I want something I can just put into the chuck of a cordless drill. Any thoughts on that?
Ah yes, the Droning Engine revisited. I wonder how long it will take to transcribe the test run this time? A friend of mine is nearly deaf and is always disappoint about the lack of transcripts.
gabrieljosh5 years ago
You can also use a white noise machine in the office to mask out distracting noises and increase concentration.
macrumpton5 years ago
I think it would work without the umbrella (aside from the cool look). You could just attach a long tube by the center to the motor shaft so the two ends are like the blades of a propeller. You might have to cut a hole in the center of the tube if it depends on air flowing from the center to the ends. You could tape a dowel to the tube to stiffen it if it is too floppy. I suppose you could also do a similar thing with a bullroarer, which also makes a great sound.
finfan75 years ago
It would be interesting to put different lengths of pipe and add weights to keep it balanced to see if you could get it to make a chord. Or take it and an alien mask/gloves to a amusingly gullible friends window.
randofo (author)  finfan75 years ago
To play a few different notes at once is the eventual plan. I think I need a bigger motor. Someone suggested that I balance it with lead tape that they sell at sporting goods stores, which seemed like a good idea.
I like stuff like this! I bet this is a real howler- please post a recording so we can hear it!
i used to have a toy similar to this. it collapsed, but when it was extended you would twirl it around, and it would make a noise similar to this one
It was called a "Bloogle" as I recall.
AndyGadget5 years ago
So much work gone in to make such a pointless machine - I love it!
(The comment above is NOT a criticism - you should see what I've got planned ;¬)
Pointless machines are fun! Why does everything have to have a purpose?
The comment was not meant to be sarcastic! I love pointless machines - I've made many in my time. The more effort put in and the more it does to acheive absolutely no useful purpose , the better it is! If everything had to be efficient and frivolity was banned the world would be a very, very boring place. It's the individualists, eccentrics and downright loonies who make life worth living.
NOW yer catchin' on! :-)
I concur. Maybe I conpurebreed. Haha!
Precisely! Anyone who has to ask 'why' is not a true maker (IMHO, of course). Sometimes, because a thing CAN be done, it MUST be done. :-D
thepelton5 years ago
One other thing. I was thinking of adding something like this to my bicycle. Maybe I wouldn't be ignored by other traffic as much.
on the sides of the wheels? if so, then id be kinda scared if i saw you riding down the road haha jk
I might try putting a tube like that into the spokes of the wheels so it would hopefully sing while I went down the street.
brandonssk5 years ago
Hmm, what if you just attach the tubes to the fan blades themselves? Or are you going for an artistic look as well?
lieuwe5 years ago
i made one that bolts onto a drill, but it makes an anoying high sound and is unbalanced enough to make the earth leave it's orbit :-)
i think the length off the tube makes the pith higher/lower, longer tube=lower pitch
Ideaphore5 years ago
Search Google for corrugahorn for more info on musical corrugated pipes.
canida5 years ago
Weirdly enough, in person it sounds not unlike a theramin.
hm, the last picture looks REALLY safe lol
Transquesta5 years ago
I'd rather buy a white noise generating apparatus of some kind myself, but I can't deny this project is still WAY cool. The most impressive aspect of it is the balance of the mechanism while in operation! Considering the, ahem, 'construction material,' that's an awesome demonstration of engineering talent. You're right, though: I'd upsize the motor to around a quarter-horse--something like an old condenser fan motor from a junker HVAC system. How the higher torque/RPM's would affect the sound is anyone's guess.
. . .Oh, and one other thing if it hasn't been mentioned. The motors on box fans are designed to get their cooling from in-rushing air--meaning that operating it flat against the floor like that is a safety/fire hazard. I'd put some cinder blocks or something on each corner for proper ventilation if you're gonna use this thing 'routinely.'
Had a similar problem with an old disk drive. I put it on an open wood support frame so air could come in underneath, and it stopped overheating.
goatgirly5 years ago
What is the purpose?
Now i get it.(I turned on the sound)That is one cool noise it makes.
Didn't you ever hear a bloogle before? I remember them from about fifteen years ago. Just about a yard (meter) of corrugated tubing that would make about four notes (like a valveless trumpet) depending on how fast you twirled it. I could play "Taps" on it.
You should probably stereo-mic it , like place one on the floor to the left & another on a stand above it to the right, pan each mic to hard-left & hard-right to get the Doppler effect... They used to sell tube specifically design for this sound @ toy-stores, but vacuum hose works too, I think it just has to be corrugated...
firehazrd5 years ago
I'm making one! Very nice project.
wow that is coollll
I absolutely love ambient/white/droning noise machines/music. I'd like to try this myself. :)
amplex5 years ago
great idea, cool sound, looks awesome!! too bad it takes up so much space, nice modulating drone out of it though =] sounds like one of the voices in my weird sound generator (that Ray Wilson from MFOS designed) but if you used 2 or more mics panned hard left/right you could probably capture the spaciousness that we are missing out on with only 1 mic. nice job, very unique instrument!!!!!
Bongmaster5 years ago
reminds me :) i wanted to build something like the one they used in Riven :)
fwjs285 years ago