Endless Rain Wheel (Sound Effect)




Posted in PlayInstruments

Introduction: Endless Rain Wheel (Sound Effect)

About: I'm a fledgling electronics hobbyist and a member of the Planetary Society!! I play percussion, but am teaching myself electric bass tin whistle and am a space flight sim/game enthusiast. Having been into wo...

So I was poking about the website looking for ways to make a rain stick (musical sound effect), when I stumbled across a rather good method sent in by Obediah , on making a continuous-sounding version of the instrument. After some quick brainstorming, I made my own prototype, a complicated mess of a tin cookie can and aluminum strips that would make Dorothy run for the hills and hide!

The problem was, it was just too much work for me to try and work the metals using what little tools I had at the time, so I had to put it aside for a while. Later (much later) as I was walking back from work, I found a old bicycle tire lying by the curb. Not being one to let things go to waste, I picked it up and took it with me.

Now, it took a few weeks but I suddenly realized exactly what I could use it for. After prying the the wheel and innertube off the rim, I took one of those 3 inch corrugated aluminum vent tubes, filled it with dried rice, zip-tied it to the rim and had my second prototype. It worked fairly well, only it was much too loud, and the aluminum dented (and in some spots, punctured) way too easily.

Later that week, I was volunteering on the USS Midway, and noticed they were throwing out an old broken vacuum cleaner. Again, ever the re-purposer, I convinced them to let me take the hose. It only took a second after setting it down in my room to pick it back up again and put it to use. I removed the old aluminum tube from that good old bike rim, trimmed down the plastic hose, dropped in some rice, snapped it shut, fitted it to the rim, and behold... it was too quiet! Thinking quickly, I replaced the rice filler with .117 cal. steel BB's, and ended up with my Endless Rain Wheel, version 2.22.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

-A sharp knife

- (1) 22" bicycle rim (size is up to you, this is just what I had on hand)
- (1) 8' long by 2" diameter corrugated plastic vacuum hose
-(~30) .177 caliber steel BB's

-(6-10) 12" zip-ties

Step 2: Cutting to Size

Now, depending on the length of your hose and the size of your tire, you may or may not need to trim the hose to fit snuggly around the rim. Also, be aware that the ends of your hose may be different from the one I had, and you may have to remove some hard plastic fittings or adapters. To make closing it easier, it's best to follow the inside groove when cutting the hose. (fig. 1)

If you do happen to have a hose like mine you will notice that at some point, the end flares a little bit. (fig. 2) This is key to getting the hose to close together securely without using any extra tools or fasteners. Leave as much of it intact as you can.

Step 3: Adding the Filler

This step is simple enough, just drop the BB's in one end of tube. (fig. 1) Keep in mind though that adding more will increase your sound output, but adding too much tends to choke off the sound pretty quickly. I have yet to find the "Goldilocks" amount, but it will vary from wheel to wheel.

A quick warning, if you do get a used hose, please, please, in the name of all that is good, clean it thoroughly inside and out! First off, it's just nasty (fig. 2), and second, it may have a detrimental impact on your sound quality, as well as the response time of your instrument.

Step 4: Assembly

Closing it off is very simple, albeit a bit tedious. The best way I found to close it is to take the small end of the tube, squeeze the top into itself, and twist it into the flared end. (fig. 1) If it doesn't pop back into shape right away then try alternating squeezing the sides of the hose and the top/bottom of it. Also, make sure to get the small end as far as possible inside of the the flared end, as this will minimize the audible "seam-line" that you may experience hearing when operating the instrument.

Once you have your hose closed off you can (if sized correctly) simply stretch it over the rim, and it should just hold itself in place. (fig. 2) Optionally, you can use zip-ties to secure the hose to the rim, using as many as you think are necessary. Please note that zip-ties are almost a requirement at anything higher than 120 RPM.

Step 5: Final Notes

If all has gone well, you should now have your very own rain wheel (fig. 1), and can have fun using at your next band concert, in a theater performance, or just to freak out your ombrophobic siblings by making it 'rain' outside their windows when they wake up. To play, simply hold it by the nut/bolt/axle in the center, and rotate it slowly. (varying speeds can create many different rain types/effects).

Alternatively, if you're like me (and by that I mean you have a bunch of old drum hardware lying around) you can work out some sort of clever mounting system. (fig. 2) I'm actually planning a mount that will let me attach this to a standard percussion clamp/rod.

Thank you for your time, and if I've made at least one person smile, it will have been worth it...



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    I do love this rainmaking sound idea...and would also be great for a display on aspects of sound, and different ways to create music! Thanks !!:)

    I did see an instructable here with a wheel that just took a small motor to turn the wheel...and you could then add the solar to that...and since their wheel may be heavier than this one, it should work quite well. The instructable was on 'Deciding lunch'...:) anyway, Love this idea, and would have liked to have seen HOW this was mounted to the base you have? That makes all the difference when doing this project, and I would love to see this done as a colour wheel for kids to spin it and see the colours vanish into white...might be just the ticket!:)

    how could you get this to turn just by wind power? Anyone?

    Now what you need to do is make little paddles all the way round the pipe and put it under your gutter spout so when it rains, it uses the water falling to turn it :)

    6 replies

    Having rainwater run a rain making machine is a little redundant. However he could set it up like a weather vane and have a propeller turn it.

    Haha, thanks SeaBreazy, I didn't have the heart to say that! =)
    As for the automation bit, this is intended as a sound effect to be controlled by the performer (in this case, me) but maybe one day I'll make one for purely 'atmospheric' use.

    I bet it would not be to difficult to turn this into an "atmospheric" model by mimicing the wind powered lawn ornaments you see.

    Incorporate the propellar into the spokes and add some sort of swivel mount and a directional tail.


    Haha! No, I think I'll stick with my "Performance Model" for the time being. xD

    Great idea, can you post a sound clip?

    hey, i bet you could even make a rock tumbler out of this with an old electric drill!

    1 reply

    Y'know, I hadn't thought about that! Haha, I might just do that with the next one I make. =)

    This makes a nice avenue for Artwork even if perpetual motion is not possible at this time. Promoting this as an art still teaches laws of physics to the entertained youth and so is a good way to express science in an interesting way. Add a strong magnet and a fine wire coil with a Led soldered to it, and this will show that this near perpetual energy "flywheel" will slow down a lot faster if we are drawing any energy from the weight of the wheel turning. This bike flywheel only stores energy. It cannot create or maintain any energy level when drawing even the tinnist bit of energy from the motion of the wheel.

    2 replies

    To all those people who are making posts about "perpetual motion" please READ what this device is. Its an instrument made for making a rain sound that continues endlessly until you stop spinning it. It would be good if you stopped and listened first before launching off onto some "expert" tangent.

    ynneb. I am sorry that I misunderstood your intension of your idea. Endless means endless. Not just when it rains. I said that it was a fine idea for artwork.
    And it is. You do have A good idea, but you should expect some people to be
    lead on by your project name "endless" rain wheel. That a flag for many of us who have to endure with the people that post perpetual motion device on so many websites. Again I am sorry for assuming.

    This is a great idea, i love it. Think i may find some child bike wheels and do the same thing!

    1 reply

    Hey, that'll be great, and then (because of their size) you could stack them beside each other to tune-in the volume... *goes out to look for abandoned kids'-bike*

    Perpetual motion is unlikely but so is water spontaneously forming into ice, even though it would not explicitly violate any laws of physics as long as a proper energy conversion takes place to allow the forming of ice, yet do not see this happen. Many theories contain infinites such as Quantum Electro Dynamics (QED) and a perpetual motion machine would contain such infinities but as long as those infinities are renormalizable, such is the case with QED, you can find a way to take an infinity from one part of our physics and exploit it in another area.
    Really, perpetual motion need not be infinite in any case, but to be useful should last for a large amount of time which makes the case for a "near" perpetual motion machine extremely plausible, we just have not been clever enough to devise one as of yet. Also consider the fact that an electric charge can be induced in a superconductor and left for a "near" infinity. Just trying to think outside the box!

    1 reply

    Perpetual Motion is not possible, at least not on earth. It's simple physics. Because gravity is acting upon the wheel, that force will eventually stop the wheel. If, however, this was tried in space, it may indeed be a perpetual motion machine, due to inertia. If, however, it was done near a planet, it would not work, because of gravity still acting upon it, but at a lesser force.