Bubbles are awesome!!! I completely reject the notion that bubble blowing is merely childrens' play, and view it as a fun, relaxing, creative activity for humanoids of all ages and backgrounds. Setting up a bubble station at a party, festival, event or your own back yard provides hours of fun and entertainment! You provide the tools, and your guests/patrons make the magic! As I frequently set up giant bubble stations at festivals and other events, I've seen first hand the diversity of bubble enthusiasts. I've done lots of experiments with various recipes and tools, and I am gifting to YOU the knowledge I've gained through this Instructable, my first Instructable ever! Whether you're looking for a fun activity for a party, a creative festival/event offering, or just some back yard fun, this Instructable will give you the know-how to set up your own Bodacious Bubble Station!
We will cover:
- The basics - What you will need to set up your own BODACIOUS BUBBLE STATION!
- How to make my favorite BODACIOUS BUBBLE SOLUTION (both in half and full batches).
- Tools of the Trade - I'll show you how to make simple DIY bubble wands and will also discuss recommended commercially available tools we love.
- Pro tips and tricks - we've learned a lot, and will share our insights.
I hope you find that this Instructable empowers and inspires you on your own BODACIOUS BUBBLE JOURNEY! I welcome you to share your own tricks and CC in the comments :)
Step 1: Gather Your Supplies!
There are some basic items you'll need to set up a BODACIOUS BUBBLE STATION.
- Buckets with Lids
- BODACIOUS BUBBLE SOLUTION (recipe in next step)
- Bubble Blowing Tools: Loop-style Wands, Tri-String Wands and Trays
- Clean-Up Station
...Let's discuss each...
1. Buckets with Lids are you friends! They are perfect for mixing and storing your BODACIOUS BUBBLE SOLUTION, and can be easily found in the paint department of your local hardware store or being discarded at a restaurant. I recommend a variety of 5 gallon and 2 gallon buckets. How many you need depends on how BODACIOUS you want to get! For backyard play, you'd probably be fine with just a single 2 gallon bucket with lid for mixing a half batch of solution in or a single 5 gallon bucket with lid for a full batch of solution. When I bring the large-scale BODACIOUS BUBBLE STATION to festivals, for one day of bubble play I use five 5 gallon buckets and three 2 gallon buckets. In three of the 5 gallon buckets, I mix full batches of solution, and the other two 5 gallon buckets are filled with water for cleanup purposes (see #4, Clean-Up Station). Mixing three full batches of BODACIOUS BUBBLE SOLUTION gives me about 10 gallons total which will last at a festival for 4-7 hours of continuous play, depending on the number and type of tools/wands provided. I use the additional three 2 gallon buckets to pour smaller batches of solution into for dipping Tri-String Wands.
2. BODACIOUS BUBBLE SOLUTION - I have experimented with many recipes and am sharing my favorite in the next step. This solution has consistently performed well for me in various conditions and with various tools, producing ginormous and beautiful, colorful bubbles. Start here, but don't be afraid to experiment with different recipes on your own and find what works best for you.
3. Bubble Blowing Tools - Bubble blowing tools can be simply crafted at home or purchased. In further steps, I will discuss the different kinds of tools. I will show you different ways you can make your own wands of various styles at home with materials you probably have laying around. I will also make recommendations for commercially-available bubble blowing tools we love and upgrades. For backyard play, a few tools/wands will do. For large-scale setups of the BODACIOUS BUBBLE STATION at festivals and events, I provide 6 standard loop wands & trays and 3 tri-string wands if the wind is gentle and space allows.
4. Clean-Up Station - If you are playing in your backyard, you'll probably have access to a water hose or spigot for clean-up. Often, if setting up at a festival, you may not have your own hose but likely will be able to fill some buckets with water to keep at your station. In these situations, I fill two 5 gallon buckets with water, one for washing tools and one for hands, and also provide some dry towels. At festivals, it never fails that parents of toddlers will be drawn to the bubbles, and will not be prepared to deal with the soapy toddler that results. These parents are always very grateful when you offer them a bucket of rinse water and towels when they're done playing. These same toddlers will inevitably drag your bubble wands along the ground getting them dirty, and in this case, you can suggest to them rinsing the wand off in the tool wash water bucket before returning it to the tray. The clean-up station is not necessary, but a nice touch that will make your life and others better.
Step 2: Making Your BODACIOUS BUBBLE SOLUTION - Mix the Day Before Using for Best Results
I have experimented with many bubble solution recipes with a wide variety of ingredients and ratios. The recipe I am sharing here has consistently performed well in all conditions from sunny, hot, dry and windy to cloudy, humid and still. You will find that these environmental conditions, as well as the tools you are using and your mix, all affect the quality of bubbles produced. You may wish to experiment yourself, as different recipes may perform better in different conditions, but the recipe I offer here is great, and a highly recommended starting point.
Gather all materials. Most can be found locally. To make BODACIOUS BUBBLE SOLUTION, you will need:
- A Bucket with a Lid (purchased at Home Depot, painting department)
- Measuring Cups and Spoons (found at most any general store or online)
- Blue Dawn Ultra Dish-Washing Liquid (found at most grocery or general stores)
- J-Lube (veterinarian's lubricant, see Amazon.com link at the end of this step)
- Baking Powder (purchase at any grocery store)
- Warm/hot tap water
- Large spoon for stirring
Here are the recipes for both Half and Full Batches of BODACIOUS BUBBLE SOLUTION:
For a Half Batch, you will need:
- 2 gallon bucket (with lid or cover for storage)
- 1 1/2 cups blue Dawn dish-washing liquid
- 1/2 Tablespoon J-Lube
- 1 1/2 gallons warm/hot tap water
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons baking powder
For a Full Batch, you will need:
- 5 gallon bucket (with lid or cover for storage)
- 3 cups blue Dawn dish-washing liquid
- 1 Tablespoon J-lube
- 3 gallons warm/hot tap water
- 3 Tablespoons baking powder
- Gather your ingredients and mix the bubble solution a day or more before using it.
- In your bucket, add the Dawn dish-washing liquid.
- Add the J-lube to the dish-washing liquid and mix well to combine.
- Add the warm/hot tap water, one gallon at a time, stirring after each gallon to combine all ingredients well.
- Add the baking powder, stirring well to incorporate.
- Let your mix sit overnight and stir again before using.
Here is a link to J-lube on Amazon:
Step 3: BODACIOUS BUBBLE TOOLS! WANDS, TRAYS & MORE: a Look at Your Options
We've talked buckets. We've talked bubble solutions. Now, let's get into the fun stuff... the tools!!! These are the wands and trays you will use to transform that bucket of BODACIOUS BUBBLE SOLUTION into the most glorious bubbles ever!
You have some options here.
- We will explore the two most popular and effective styles of wands.
- DIY or buy your wands? It's up to you. I will show you some of my favorite commercially available tools and (in the next steps) how to easily make your own BODACIOUS BUBBLE WANDS in both styles.
Two styles of wands that are effective and popular for making huge bubbles are the 'standard loop wand' and the 'tri-string wand'. Both can be purchased commercially or created easily at home with materials that you likely have on hand.
The standard loop wand is a basic and highly-effective bubble making tool. Loop wands are simply a handle/stick with loop at the end. You dip the loop into a tray of bubble solution and you're ready to make bubbles! Loop wands are great for all ages and easier for young children to handle than tri-string wands. Even a novice can pick up a loop wand and instantly produce an onslaught of glorious bubbles. The standard loop wand works better than the tri-string in tough weather conditions (windy, sunny, dry, dusty,etc.), and for this reason, I now have 6 of these in my festival bubble station setup (since conditions at festivals can be unfavorable). I will show you how to make your own simple standard loop wand in the next step. A commercially available loop wand that we love is the Incredi-bubble Wand made by Gazillion Bubbles. There's nothing not to love about this wand its self. The tray it comes with, however, I find to be sub-par since they are very shallow and I often can not set up on perfectly level ground which leads to much solution being spilled from the shallow tray and frequent refills. I upgraded the trays to metal dog food dishes found at Walmart, the Bergan Basics Pet Platter. They are deeper than the trays the Incredi-bubble wands come with, so require less frequent refilling and are easier to work with on ground that's not level. This is also a great tray to use with your home-made loop wands. I've also found some recycled materials that work quite well for trays; specifically, the plastic cover from a store-bought cheesecake was perfect. Here are links for the Incredi-bubble Wand and the Bergan Basics Pet Platter:
The tri-string wand is also popular, and rightly so. In favorable conditions, you can make the most incredible and ginormous bubbles with this style of wand. This style of wand tends to be trickier and sometimes too large and complex for smaller children to handle. For larger children to pros, this is a great way to go when the weather is in your favor! Since the tri-string wand is harder to work with in tough weather conditions, I only have 3 or 4 of these in my festival bubble station setup, and bring them out only when the conditions are right. Another challenge is that since the bubble are so big, you need more space to use this style of wand, unless you want your festival neighbors upset at you for getting bubble solution all over their belongings. The tri-string comes two ways: with two separate operating stick handles OR with a single stick handle and a sliding mechanism. The strings forms a triangle. You stage your bubble solution in a bucket, close the strings, dip them into the solution, lift them out, then open and close the strings again to form your bubbles. Gentle wind can be very helpful, or you may have to walk/move with the wand to gather air into the bubble before closing it off. Two steps down, I will show you how to make your own simple tri-string wand at home. A commercially available tri-string wand we love is the Bubble Thing... you'll notice that the Bubble Thing comes with a bubble mix... we've tested it, and it's OK, but not nearly as great as my BODACIOUS BUBBLE SOLUTION! Here's the link:
Step 4: DIY BODACIOUS BUBBLE WANDS - LOOP STYLE WAND
Both of the DIY wands I'm going to show you are seriously easy to make. I challenged myself to make them with just what I had on hand, in the simplest of ways, and I didn't have to buy a thing! The cool thing about both of these designs is that they are very adaptable... work with materials you have on hand, test out your own ideas, make them small or go big (just imagine the behemoth bubble you could make standing on a ladder with long bamboo poles as handles and a 20' tall tri-string loop!!!) Both of these designs work great and produce results better than commercially produced models we've tested. In the photos, you will find all steps on a single page, and also close-ups of each step as individual photos.
To make your own simple loop style wand you will need:
- a wire hanger or other wire
- twine, natural fiber (cotton) or other rope or yarn
- a stick/handle
- duct tape (optional)
- Gather your supplies.
- Bend the wire hanger or other wire into a loop shape.
- Tie your twine to the wire loop by the hanger with a double knot.
- Bring your twine to the loop on the other side of the hanger and begin wrapping the loop. You want to wrap tight enough that the twine doesn't get saggy when saturated in bubble solution. Gather and tighten the twine wraps as you go.
- Continue wrapping until you've wrapped the entire loop.
- Once your loop is completely wrapped, tie the two ends of the twine together with three knots.
- Using your scissors, snip off the excess twine.
- Bend the hanger part to a shape similar to the step 8 photo.
- Twist the top portion of the hanger around your stick/handle.
- Cover the connection of the hanger and the handle with duct tape. Some brands of duct tape will fall off after used with bubble solution many times. If you have trouble with this, I suggest either replacing the duct tape when needed OR using your twine to tie and wrap tightly over the duct tape to reinforce the connection. Or, skip the duct tape all together and just use twine to tightly wrap & tie over the wire/handle connection.
Step 5: DIY BODACIOUS BUBBLE WANDS - TRI-STRING STYLE WAND
I've tested more complicated hand made tri-string models that work just as fine, but I really don't see any need for a bunch of hardware if you can tie some good, tight, strategically placed knots. These wands are about as simple as it gets! I will show you here how I made a bodacious, mid-sized tri-string, and hope you will experiment yourself with various sizes and materials.
To make your own simple tri-string wand like I make here, you will need:
- Cotton rope (It's OK if it has a nylon core. We'll remove it.)
- Cotton twine
- Two Sticks/Handles
- Weights (heavy washers or beads work well)
- Gather your materials.
- Begin by cutting a length of the cotton rope. I cut 9 feet.
- Remove the nylon core from the cotton rope. Most cotton rope has a nylon core. To remove it, begin to separate the cotton casing from the core. Use fingers on one hand to hold the nylon core. Use the fingers on the other hand to begin gathering the cotton casing, pulling in the opposite direction from the other hand. When the gathered cotton casing gets hard to move, run your hand down the length of the rope in the same direction you're moving the casing a few times to help move the cotton off of the nylon core. Continue this until the cotton casing is free, and discard the nylon core. The cotton part of the rope is all you'll need.
- Cut 6 pieces, a foot long each, of your smaller cotton twine.
- Lay out your project to figure out your lengths. Make it as large or small as you want. I used measurements of: 3" from points A to B and C to D. 18" from points B to D. 24" from points B to E and D to E.
- At point A, attach the cotton rope to the stick/handle near the end using the thinner cotton twine. The cotton rope goes around the stick/handle, and the cotton twine binds both parts of the cotton rope tightly together to hold the rope securely to the stick/handle. It is important to get the cotton rope attached as tight as possible to avoid slippage. If it seems that you may have slippage, you can fix this by wrapping the ends of the twine back around the ropes, in opposite directions, between your first knots and the stick/handle and finishing with additional knots. Continue adding more wraps and knots between your previous knots and the stick/handle until you have no slippage. Use your scissors to snip off the excess twine.
- Coming in a few inches from point A to point B, gather both pieces of rope together. Use twine to tie the two pieces of rope together with a triple knot at point B. Snip off the excess twine. I came in 3" from point A to B, but if you are making a larger tri-string, come in a bit further.
- We now repeat steps 6 and 7 on the other side to attach the tri-string to the other handle at points C and D. At point C, use twine to attach the rope tightly to the handle, using extra wraps and knots below the previous knots if needed to prevent slippage. Use another piece of twine to tie the gathered ropes at point D with a triple knot. Snip off excess twine.
- Bring the open ends of rope together evenly to form the tri-string. Tie the ropes together with twine at point E using a triple knot. I made these long sides of my tri-string 24".
- Tie on the weights to finish your tri-string wand. I used washers. There's probably no wrong way to tie on your weights. I tied my two ropes together into a square knot, cris-crossed the ropes through the washers, tied the ropes in another square knot at point F, below the weights and the snipped the extra rope off. That's it! You now have a bodacious tri-string wand!
You have successfully made a tri string wand, and now you're ready to blow some BODACIOUS BUBBLES! Here's how to use your tri-string wand (see photos for visual demonstration):
Tri-string wands have two positions: open and closed. In the open position, your strings are spread out, forming a triangle. In the closed positions, your strings are gathered together.
- Start with your strings in closed position and dip into your bubble solution.
- Lift the strings out of the solution, still in closed position.
- Now, open the strings to begin forming a bubble.
- If you have a breeze, it will help you form the bubble. If no breeze, you will have to move the wand by walking or turning to gather air into the bubble.
- Bring the strings back to closed position to close off your bubble and let it fly free.
- Repeat. Often times you will get multiple bubbles out of a single dip into the solution if you open and close your tri-string repeatedly.
Step 6: Clean Up
If you are playing somewhere with easy access to a hose, outdoor sink or spigot, you are golden!
However, often when setting up at festivals or events, you will not have this luxury. Filling two 5 gallon buckets with water, one for washing soapy hands and one for washing dropped tools will make life better and keep the play going for longer. A few dry towels are a nice touch, too.
When I'm done setting up a bubble station, I end up with many soapy wands, trays and buckets to clean afterward. I usually find it easiest to stack these all up as they are, and bring them home for a hosing off before storing them for next time.
Step 7: Bodacious Bubble Trick - Bubble/s in a Bubble
There are many bubble tricks you can do! Here's a favorite of ours for its simplicity. All you have to do is make a big bubble, then, using puffs of air from your mouth, blow into the center of the bubble to create more bubbles inside your big bubble! Play a game to see how many bubbles you can get inside another bubble! My personal record is 12 :)
Step 8: That's a Wrap! Get BODACIOUS and Spread the Bubble Love!
I hope my first Instructable has inspired and empowered you to set up your own BODACIOUS BUBBLE STATION! Please feel free to share your own BODACIOUS BUBBLE ideas, photos, experiments, successes and suggestions in the comments!