Step 16: Tipping Buckets

Picture of Tipping Buckets

This is the grande finale toy that was much easier than I thought it would be. My original idea was to have a single giant bucket (1+ gallon) slowly fill up and then drench my daughter, but my wife put the brakes on that. She argued that it would scare my daughter so much that she would never want to get inside the toy again. So we went with a much smaller bucket and I doubled up on them. By having two buckets fill up, the splashes come more frequently and randomly and they aren't nearly as violent. But the main thing that this bought me was weight reduction. I designed the tipping buckets first and built the EAC around the finished design. If I had to support a gallon of water and all of the motion from a swinging bucket, the EAC would have been much bulkier. It might have not worked at all.

So onto the design. I picked up a pair of 1.5 qt buckets at Garden Ridge, which is a craft and hobby store down here in the South. They had these in all sorts of colors and sizes. Everything else was purchased from Home Depot.

Required parts:

  • 2x 1.5 Quart buckets in blue (Garden Ridge)
  • 2x 1/2" x 2.5" bolt
  • 2x 1/2" nut
  • 2x heavy plate electrical washer (package of 5)
  • 4x 1/8" spring clip, J-style speed nut
First step is to test the tipping feature. I built a model of this in my office kitchen using a paper cup, a pair of thumbtacks and my key-chain. I weighed down the cup by clipping the keys to the bottom rim and created a pivot point by piercing the sides with the thumbtacks. Sure enough, when I poured water into the cup it filled up and then tipped over. The weight of the keys then pulled it back down again. The trick here was to find the proper pivot point so that the water fills up to the brim before counterbalancing and tipping over. For the cup, this was just below the halfway point. The buckets were slightly wider so I tried this right at about the quarter (from the bottom) mark. Turns out this was right.

Here I am, testing this out:

But I'm getting ahead of myself. First we have to weigh down the buckets. You can't have too much weight, or the water won't properly tip over the buckets. Too little and you could either have buckets that tip over too quickly or don't right themselves after tipping. I found some great heavy washers in the electrical section at Home Depot that did the job perfectly. To create this counter weight, start by drilling a 1/2" hole directly in the center of the bucket. Place two washers directly on top of this hole and then slide the bolt through them. Now slide the remaining three washers onto the bottom of the bolt and cap it off with the nut. We now have a properly weighted bucket.

Next, create the pivot point in the buckets. Measure about a quarter height up the bucket and make a mark. On the same spot across the other side, mark the same spot. Now drill a hole into each side with a larger bit than the 1/8" steel rod. We want it to spin pretty freely inside the hole. A 5/32 or 3/16 would work great. Now thread the steel rod into the holes. Now run to the sink and give this a test like I did in the above video. It should fill up, dump out and reset in a similar manner.

Repeat the weight & pivot process on the second bucket.

Now we have to secure the buckets in place using the J clips. Mount the assembly inside the gripper arms you built for the pinwheels. Now position the buckets so that they are directly underneath the spigots of the EAC. Mark the sides of the steel rod with a crayon so that you know where to place the J-clips. Now remove the bucket assmebly from the EAC and remove the rod from the buckets. Slide the internal pair of J-clips onto the rod into place where you marked. Now put the buckets back in place. Finish by sliding the outer pair of J-clips onto the ends of the buckets. Leave a little bit of a gap so that the buckets are not securely held in place by the clips. We just want them to stay within range of the spigots but still spin freely.

Now mount the assembly back into the EAC and fire it up. Here I am testing the whole thing out:

That's a great toy to add some excitement to the splash-pod!