Introduction: Easy Candy Floss (Cotton Candy) Machine From Junk


Candy floss (or cotton candy) is great, but expensive to buy and hardly worth investing in a dedicated machine.

This is a quick project using an existing kitchen pot (unharmed) and a handful of junk that you probably have lying around to make your own candy floss from ordinary table sugar.

Essentially all you need for a candyfloss machine is a container of sugar with tiny holes in that you can heat (to melt the sugar) and spin around (to throw out the little threads of sweetness).  We'll put this inside a big pot because you don't necessarily want strands of re-solidified sugar all over your kitchen.

I'm entering this instructable in the Jury-Rig It contest 'cos it's a treat-machine rigged up from junk bits I had lying around.

Step 1: Things You Need:

You will need:

Construction items:

A jet-lighter (£3 off ebay).  These are lighters that burn with a blue flame.  They are hotter than normal lighters and don't cover everything in soot.  Get one that locks "on" because you don't want your arm covered in candy-floss from holding it.
 
Small DC motor (e.g. 9V - £1 or so again off ebay)
Battery for motor (pp3 in my case)
Battery connector
Small tin of food.  Mine was around 6cm high and had kidney beans in.  Tuna tins would be the right size but might give you fish-flavoured candy-floss.
Small lid in which your lighter will stand (miik bottle lid in my case)
Deep pot or bucket - the one in the first picture was much too small.  I used a stockpot in the end but a clean bucket would be fine.
Long baton -  longer than your pot is wide.  I used the runner from an old dishwasher drawer but anything wood or thin metal would work.
Long bar or tube as a stand-off (about 6").  I used a brass bar because I had it to hand and brass is nice and soft.  A wooden dowel would probably work too.
Small nut, bolt and washer.  I used steel so that it would tap itself into my brass standoff.

Consumables:

Sugar
Bamboo skewers
5-minute epoxy
superglue
cling-film

Tools:

Drill with bits including a very small (1mm or less) bit.
Soldering station.
Files
Tin snips or Can-opener

Step 2: Stabilise the Lighter


My jet-lighter stood up but was pretty unstable.  However, I couldn't just mount it in epoxy 'cos it fills from the bottom.

So, to make a base you can wrap the lighter in at least two layers of cling-film, mix up some quick-setting epoxy, fill a small lid with it and stand the lighter inside.  After a few minutes, take out the lighter and peel away the cling and you have a removable base for your lighter.


Step 3: Mount the Motor & Rod


The motor is attached to the can by a standoff so we need to drill a hole in one end of the standoff just large enough to take the motor shaft.  A pillar drill would make this a great deal easier but I managed reasonably by eye.  Once drilled, put the rod on the motor and spin it to check that it's reasonably true.

While you are drilling the rod, add a hole at the other end just smaller than your steel machine screw/bolt ready for the next step.

A little super-glue is enough to fix the motor to the rod.  I was going to use a grub-screw so that it could be removed but for the price of a little DC motor I decided not to bother.

The next thing is to attach your motor to the supporting baton.  My stainless drawer runner had a large hole that just needed expanding slightly with a file.  Two small mounting holes for screws and the motor is ready to mount.


Step 4: Mount the Can

The can will be our sugar melting vessel so we need to get sugar in, suspend it over the heat and spin it to fling the strands of molten goodness out of the sides.  

First-up we cut a hole in the top.  I did this with tin-snips and a file to leave a lip so the sugar could not get out the top.  In practice that seems to have been unnecessary, so a can opener to cut to top out would be fine.  Either way, smooth off the sharp edges to avoid injury.

Next, we want to drill a series of little holes around the bottom.  The smallest bit I had was 1mm, which was slightly too large and some sugar crystals tended to get flung out.  Use the smallest you have and drill a ring of holes just above the bottom seam.  Mine were about 1cm apart, but only by eye.

Step 5: Mount the Can

Next, cut a thread into the brass rod by screwing a steel machine screw into the pilot hole that you drilled earlier.  If you have a tap to do this properly then great, but brass is soft and it works well enough without.

Drill a hole in the can and mount it on the shaft.  The nut on the inside ensures that the can spins when the shaft spins.

We could glue or solder the can on but it's likely that you will want to remove it to clean or replace the can so the nut & bolt solution works well.

The can attached to the shaft should hang comfortably above the lighter when placed over your stock-pot.

Step 6: Make Some Candy-floss!

All that's left to do now is fire up the lighter, add a teaspoon or two of sugar to the can and start the motor.  

Try to position the lighter under the side of the can.  As the can heats the sugar will melt and be flung out of the holes to make you a tasty candy-floss treat.  Once a little has accumulated, scoop it up with a bamboo skewer or similar and enjoy!

Ugi

Comments

author
gecko_girl3 made it!(author)2013-04-23

Awesome 'ible!

You can crush your favorite hard candy to turn into delicious cotton candy. One of my family's favorites is lifesavers. We add single flavors or mix 2 or 3 together. Always comes out delicious. Lifesavers also offers a sugar free option. You can't tell the difference.

Yummy Earth makes delicious hard candy/lollipops that we've also used. So VERY delicious.

If you want that true cotton candy flavor you can buy floss sugar. It's pretty easy to find online.

Have fun and remember to brush your teeth after all that sugar. :)

author
Ugifer made it!(author)2013-04-24

What a great plan! I only tried basic table sugar and that pretty closely resembled the cotton candy that you buy. I must try this with crushed West Indian Limes - that would be incredible.

author
trigger222 made it!(author)2016-09-04

Thanks for all your work in creating the machine and posting the instructions, they're great guide lines to follow.
I used a drill instead of a small motor and i got the locking torch lighter at Canadian Tire, they sell it as a mini soldering torch.
I also mixed some crushed Jolly Ranchers to my sugar/syrup mixture and melted it before adding to the machine allowing the torch lighter to maintain the liquid state of my sugar.
It worked great and tasted excellent.
My kids and i loved it.
Thanks again ?

author
Ugifer made it!(author)2016-09-04

Great!

Glad you enjoyed it and thanks for posting such a kind comment. Did you take a photo of your machine? If you did, post it and there's a 3-month pro-membership for you so you can look around instructables for other projects you fancy without all those annoying ad's!

Keep up those projects!

Ugi

author
zorrothefox made it!(author)2015-11-02

Nice project. One way to make larger quantities would be to heat up the sugar into a liquid, and then pour the liquid in to the tin. No need of a lighter, and the amount of candy that you could make would be much faster and more voluminous.

Cheers!

author
RowenConnects made it!(author)2014-08-15

I MADE IT WITH A MOTOR WITH MORE TORQUE

author
Ugifer made it!(author)2014-08-27

Cool! - thanks for posting.

If you paste in a picture, there's a 3-month pro-membership available for you.

Ugi

author
sdass2 made it!(author)2014-07-13

testy

author
LecJackS made it!(author)2014-05-09

Really nice design! Simple, cheap, and solid. Loved it!

author
jonzee made it!(author)2014-01-11

playdoh works great on the inside of the cap to hold the lighter..... did not have apox. res.

author
xalpage made it!(author)2013-05-13

Very cool.
I am having a birthday party in a couple of days and will try to make this.

Though I got to ask you where you bought the jet lighter from?
I have been trying for many days to find one with a lock mode on ebay but cant see it in any of ebay items description.
Could you send me the link?

author
Ugifer made it!(author)2013-05-13

I'm afraid my one was several years old and the seller is no longer on ebay - this project really was just stuff I had lying around.

However, these do lock on: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Coney-Large-Tank-Windproof-Jet-Lighter-Flame-Lock-Electronic-Gas-Childproof-/151042039333
They are only one flame so I don't know that they will be quite so effective but I did have one of that design for a while and the lock worked fine.

Ugi

author
xalpage made it!(author)2013-05-14

Thanks

author
Ironsloth1993 made it!(author)2013-05-13

Congratulations on winning.

author
bajablue made it!(author)2013-05-07

.

bajabot.jpg
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Ugifer made it!(author)2013-05-07

Oooh! Sparkly! :-)

author
jammindewy made it!(author)2013-05-07

Sugar free butterscotch cotton candy!!! Yum yum yummmmers!!!

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Ugifer made it!(author)2013-05-07

Good plan - Never tried sugar-free but I see no reason to think it wouldn't work.

author
doodlecraft made it!(author)2013-05-07

Ha ha ha! Congrats on Winning the Cotton Candy machine!!! :) Too ironic! :)
Great tutorial...looks like I'll be making one soon!

author
Ugifer made it!(author)2013-05-07

Thank you! Yes, I did wonder whether I would be barred from the grand prize on the basis that I didn't need it! Still, this one will be much grander and the kids will be impressed!

author
spylock made it!(author)2013-04-22

Very nice job,I see some things I would have done a little different,but Im sure the operators have ideas on how even a commercial cotton candy machine could be improved upon,anywho you have my vote,and again,well done.

author
Ugifer made it!(author)2013-04-23

Thank you!

This was never intended to be a perfect build - it was what could be done in an hour or so with the materials to hand, and in that context I was pretty happy with it.

author
spylock made it!(author)2013-04-24

Yeah dude no problems here,I think its great,it showed me the basics on how they worked,which is something I didnt know up until now.and like I said you got my vote.

author
Edgar made it!(author)2013-04-24

Nice!
Voted, and a link went to to my Blog:
http://faz-voce-mesmo.blogspot.pt/2013/04/algodao-doce-projet-amido-partir-de.html

author
Ugifer made it!(author)2013-04-24

Thank you!

author
Edgar made it!(author)2013-04-24

:)

author
elephantwalker made it!(author)2013-04-23

Great stuff here. Reminds me of machines I have seen in Vietnamese parks that are 12 v units mounted on the back of a bike. Heat source was a small butane/propane torch that heated from below , motor below as well. Have been dying to make one for my bike

author
Ugifer made it!(author)2013-04-24

A bike-mounted candy-floss machine! Now there's a great idea!

This one would never be heavy enough duty to make quantities for sale, but I'm sure that a fairly simple bike-mounted version with the motor below could be constructed easily enough!

Love the idea!

author
EVIL+STICKMAN made it!(author)2013-04-23

wow man i actually got the idea for this a month or so ago and wanted to make it but had some trouble with the heater well made i must say.

author
sconner1 made it!(author)2013-04-21

Awesome! Don’t forget to flavor the sugar.

The MK II could have the motor under the pot so the top is open like the commercial machines allowing you to roll big bunches of wool without pulling the stick out every 1/2 trip around the sides.

author
Ugifer made it!(author)2013-04-22

There are many things that would improve this project if you were wanting to make a heavy-duty cotton candy maker. The motor at the bottom is certainly more convenient but makes it a more difficult build and means that you have to cut about a pot, making it more expensive.

After I wrote this, I found this one: https://www.instructables.com/id/The-One%2c-The-Only-COTTON-CANDY-MACHINE!/ That's a serious CC machine, but then you couldn't make it for a couple of pounds out of the stuff lying around your kitchen and garage.

I'd like to make a MkII version some day, but with all the other projects (and indeed work) I have in mind, it may not be for a while yet.

Thanks for your comment.

Ugi

author
BlueberryCrazy made it!(author)2013-04-21

This is cool! I've voted... for both contests :)

author
didibemi made it!(author)2013-04-22

me too!

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Ugifer made it!(author)2013-04-22

Thank you both!

author
newbeatle made it!(author)2013-04-21

hi whats aamazing and simple invention you make!! i have a cuestion , when your are doing the cotton, you need to hold the metal part where the motor is attached ? can't be maybe easier to fix it with screws or something like that to avoid that ? and another cuestion , do you tink that a plastic pot can be used instead of a metal pot ? i have thing also a way to substitute the lighter, maybe a little brass tube forming some kind a bunsen burner or so , to avoid that when you're making the cotton.... the gas empties!!

thanks , regards from mexico !!

author
Ugifer made it!(author)2013-04-22

Yes, this is only a quick project and most suitable for small quantities - you need to hold the bar and it's less convenient than having the motor underneath. The butane would not last very long but you can make a fair amount with one filling. Certainly as much as I would want in one go.

You would not want to supply a fairground stall using this machine. That said, it makes a nice product for the amount of effort involved in building it and is great to do with your kids - they tend to be pretty impressed with making your own cotton candy!

Ugi

author
RichardBronosky made it!(author)2013-04-22

Before I build this with no form of temperature control, please tell me: What kind of burning problems did you experience?

I'm thinking of doing this with a can of sterno and a Red Bull can chimney to focus the heat and keep the floss from coming in contact.

author
Ugifer made it!(author)2013-04-22

I ran this for only fairly short periods at a time - my kids are quite small and I only needed to make fairly small servings. There was a little caramelising inside the can but it didn't really burn the sugar and didn't flavour the product at all. I soaked the can overnight in warm water to remove the residue at the end.

I don't think the candy will catch unless you try to make huge batches. It gets flung away from the centre and thus away from the heat. It's only likely to reach the heat source if you let it really build up. My guess would be that a chimney might focus the heat too much and make it too hot - the jets of the lighter are hot but quite small and comfortably below the can. However, I have not experimented extensively - I really just hacked this one device together and it worked well enough first time for what I needed.

It's a fun project and really makes quite a good result for the time and effort required so why not give it a go and see?

Ugi

author
robbied made it!(author)2013-04-21

You have triggered my sweet tooth. So simple, very impressive.

author
Beergnome made it!(author)2013-04-21

Dope....
:D

I would say the only difference I would make would be to use a can of Sterno fuel for the heat source instead of the lighter. But, this is about stuff you had lying around.

You have my vote

author
Ugifer made it!(author)2013-04-21

Thanks!

And Yes - just stuff from my kitchen and garage. If you had a can of Sterno fuel then I'm sure that would work very well. This is by no means an optimised build.

author
Exocetid made it!(author)2013-04-21

Good gawd I love clever and this rates a 10 on the clever scale. I also love seeing tricky devices made from junk and cotton candy machines are tricky. Excellent, simply excellent.

author
Ugifer made it!(author)2013-04-21

Not as tricky as you might think but thank you - I was pleased with the result, given the nature of the components!

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mirrorclick made it!(author)2013-04-21

*bows* You are the king

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Ugifer made it!(author)2013-04-21

Sorry, I'm just another guy. But thank you for your kind comment!

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M.C.+Langer made it!(author)2013-04-21

It's amazing!!! Thanks for sharing your awesome idea! Home made cotton candy!

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Ugifer made it!(author)2013-04-21

Thank you!

author
lunaticadk made it!(author)2013-04-21

Very smart, Ugi, earned you another vote. I've been disappointed by the plastic junk you can buy around that become useless after 1-2 times. I'm always scared from projects that involve soldering (old bad associations) but I think I'll try yours.

author
Ugifer made it!(author)2013-04-21

The only soldering required is the wires to the motor and you could probably use croc-clips if you preferred (or get a motor with wires pre-soldered).

author
puggirl415 made it!(author)2013-04-21

Neat! Don't know if I will get to making this. (not too many parts laying around here:) Still thought I'd suggest another method for making the holes in the can. Freeze some water in the can and use a hammer and very small nail to poke holes in the can. The frozen water keeps the can solid so you can hammer and get the holes without collapsing the can. Did this method to make candle votives from cans. Worked well.

Question? Do you know if it's possible to naturally flavor cotton candy with stuff like citrus, or granulated citric acid?

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