Introduction: Steampunk Themed Propeller Ceiling Fan.

Picture of Steampunk Themed Propeller Ceiling Fan.

My children gave me a 6’ replica Sopwith propeller for Fathers
day and by a happy coincidence we needed a ceiling fan for the conservatory. A wood burner heats the conservatory in the winter but the air could really do with circulating.

Never having designed anything like this before it took me a while to work out how to do it. Bolting the propeller onto an existing fan hub probably wouldn’t be safe (given the weight of the thing) and certainly wouldn’t be any fun. I eventually settled on a bit of a Steampunk theme with an externally mounted motor and a chain driven 3 speed gear system.

Required parts if you fancy having a go:

  • 6’ propeller, scaffold pole, M18 studding with nuts and washers, taper roller bearing.
  • 4 x 1275cc A series conrods.
  • From a bicycle a Sturmey Archer hub gear, front wheel hub, rear cassette, chain and jockey wheel.
  • Counter balance weights, three appropriately sized pulleys, wiper motor, motor power supply.
  • Christmas pudding pot.
  • A selection of fixings and other bits’n’bobs.

Step 1:

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The propeller is hung on a length of case hardened M18 studding suspended from a tapered bearing fixed in the end of a scaffold pole. The use of only one bearing allows for any rotating imbalances in the system. A couple of rubber washers adds a little damping.

A pair of bearings (one above the other) would have made life easier but any slight imbalance would have resulted in flexing of the portion of the studding between the lower bearing and the propeller. I was keen to avoid this so the single tapered bearing was used which allows the inner race to simply lift from the outer race if the studding is not exactly perpendicular. Ultimately, if the fan were run unbalanced for significant periods of time the bearing would wear unevenly but at least it is safe.

Step 2:

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Tapered bearing outer shell sits on stainless screws in scaffold pole.

Step 3:

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Three speed Sturmey Archer gear hub. This is mounted vertically from one of the conrods and is suspended from one end only. The gear lever for the hub is mounted remotely on the wall.

The fan could have had an electronic speed control, but gears are more fun.

Step 4:

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Early designs used a chain drive between the gear hub and the propeller cog and was quite simple but this soon proved to be unsatisfactory. The chain was replaced with a rubber belt drive which allows for any slight play in the system.

Step 5:

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Who would have thought that Austin Mini 1275cc A+ connecting rods are a perfect fit for scaffold poles?

Four rods are needed to allow for counterbalances and the other components. Using the conrods allows infinite angle and height adjustments.

Step 6:

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Early trials. Because the propeller hangs from a single bearing and is free to float the tension on the drive belt from the gear hub pulls the assembly to one side. I didn’t think this would be a problem but the fan proved to be quite sensitive to side loads. Some method was needed to pull the assembly back into the centre, the tension system on the left was fitted and uses a bicycle front wheel hub.

Step 7:

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The blue motor proved to have a noisy gearbox and was later swapped for a 24V windscreen wiper motor.

Step 8:

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Step 9:

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The whole fan assembly hangs from a single rubber isolated hook in the ceiling. With the heavy motor and gear hub to one side of the centre line counter balance weights are required to bring the assembly back to vertical. The weights are a combination of odd pieces of steel I had lying around and two solid brass curtain pole ends.

The fins are simply there for effect.

Step 10:

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The Christmas pudding pot, once painted and fitted it hides the ceiling hook.

Step 11:

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Rather nice ebay find for the control box.

Step 12:

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The bicycle gear lever is mounted in a wall mounted control box along with a couple of switches and the ammeter.

When riding a bike gear changes are much easier if the cyclist reduces pedal pressure a little and the same is true for the fan. To replicate this action for the fan there is a non-latching power interrupt switch which is pressed while changing gear (button the right). This makes changing gear a two handed, but curiously satisfying operation.

The ammeter displays the current which changes with gear selection and for night time operation I managed to squeeze an LED into the display.

The convoluted tube is a length of vacuum tube from work and hides the electrical and gear change cables.

Step 13:

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The three speed gear hub gives approximately 60, 90 and 120 rpm.

The propeller is a display item and is not balanced, either aerodynamically or by weight. Because the propeller and bearing essentially float any imbalances in mass or lift while rotating results in a knocking noise as the inner bearing race lifts slightly from the outer race at certain points in the cycle.

It took quite a while playing with balance weights and aerodynamic flaps to eliminate this. Invariably the combination of weights and flaps would work for one gear setting or perhaps two, but never all three gears. Also, the two bands (hub gear drive and tensioner) pull against each other. If they are not precise lengths the propeller is pulled slightly to one side and this adds another variable.

Step 14:

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The fan was installed for Christmas 2014 and has proven pretty reliable and certainly moves the air around the room. particularly in 3rd.

Step 15:

A quick update.

As the propeller is suspended on a single taper roller bearing it is free to wobble if the system is not perfectly balanced. Initially this seemed a sensible idea as it could impart no bending forces on the studding used as the axle. However, in practice the prop has proven to be very sensitive to drive belt and tension belt lengths and also requires accurate balancing. Under certain conditions the prop wobbles and lifts the upper section of the taper bearing resulting in a knocking noise, disconcerting for those who didn't know what was happening.

As the whole assembly hangs from the ceiling on a rubber mount and is free to move I decided that a second bearing could be installed without too much risk of the axle flexing. This second bearing is fitted at the top of the axle to reduce the wobbling and has eliminated the knocking. The bearing is sleeved in rubber to allow a little movement, a piece of bicycle inner tube served the purpose and satisfied my inner Womble.

The pdf shows the final configuration for anyone who might be interested in the detail.


blkadder (author)2015-06-24

I have to say, this is by far the best ible on the site. You sir, are a genius. I will tell you in advance that I will be stealing this idea very shortly. I just hope I can find some pipe that will fit my offset MGB rods.

SolarB (author)2015-06-13

Once again, thank you for the positive comments. Like the idiot I am
I managed to set Instructable post notifications as junk email and
hadn't realised there were more comments.

I managed to get a whack on the head the other day while fiddling with it and I can confirm that:

a.) It hurts.

b.) Head wounds bleed quite a bit.

c.) Wives and children laugh like drains until they see blood.

Robbied - I've been fine tuning it in-situe with stick on lead sheet.
It's 99% there but I don't think it will every be perfect. I suspect
the axle in not in the exact center of the prop and that it also may not
be quite perpendicular. If I was going to build a second one getting the prop correctly centered on the studding would have to be a priority.

Markman007 - Dam, I have to be a citizen to have a go at running your
country? I have informed my wife that at lest one person thinks I am
Super groovy dynomite.

markman007 (author)2015-04-14

You have to do a youtube video of at least this things operation.

markman007 (author)2015-04-14

This is the coolest thing I have ever seen. You sir are a genius. If it weren't for the fact one has to be a naturally born citizen I'd emplore you to come be our president. Are you grasping exactly just how super groovy dynomite i think you are? That's D Y N O M I T E ! ! ! !

pray4hayden (author)2015-04-03

This has to be the best instructable I've seen in awhile. I love this fan. True ingenuity.

andrew.spencer.2 (author)2015-04-02

I'm a huge fan.

hobbyman (author)2015-04-02

Unbelieveably beautiful.

balloondoggle (author)2015-04-02

This is the mostest awsomest fan I've seen.

tyler roberts (author)2015-04-02

this is one fan I'd have on all day just because it looks so cool.

NightHawkInLight (author)2015-04-02

This is great. Your craftsmanship, documentation, and final result are all excellent. Super cool

Stew2 (author)2015-04-02

This could very well be the coolest instructible I have ever seen! Love this and thank you for sharing the build :)

JohannBisschoff (author)2015-03-27

This is Awesome!!! Well done - you should put a serial number on that! :-)

monkeywork (author)2015-03-25

That. Is truly a work of art. Well done!

generalmaker (author)2015-03-25

I'am in awe...this must be the best instructable I have seen! Well Done! Nice to see you included your failures too...Thank You.

8e6 (author)2015-03-25

This is seriously THE coolest Instructable I've ever seen. I would love to build this some day. I'm so jealous.

oopsvampire (author)2015-03-25

it is very beautiful but its not an easy thing that any one can make it. where can i find the accessories?

theHankster (author)2015-03-24

Really nice build! I love the looks and wish I had a spot for something so unique.

MrJuliBear (author)2015-03-24

Wow, this is amazing and so beautiful!

Uncle Kudzu (author)2015-03-24


gbr1918 (author)2015-03-24

I love it!

Anyone else reminded of the opening sequence of 'Apocalypse Now'?

robbied (author)2015-03-24

This is simply amazing. Taking something ornamental and putting it to work as something beautiful. I like how you've kept the control box in the same style. If you want to balance the prop, take it off and mount it on a single axle horizontally. Add weights to the light blade until it balances. Then refit it and adjust the weights until your vibrations are gone. Mark the position of the weights and then weigh them. Tack the same weight in lead sheet onto the blade with small tacks. Wouldn't advise that for a real prop, but would look ok on yours, especially if you buffed it to a shine.

RayJN (author)2015-03-24

Sources and prices?

abrown39 (author)2015-03-24

that thing is amazing , very cool design. have you tried using stick on wheel weights to balance the propeller? they come in small 1/4" oz increments on a strip of very strong adhesive tape

u20417 (author)2015-03-24

I have the original propeller from an airplane my grandfather and his brother built back in the 1930's. I was getting ready to turn it into a ceiling fan for my front room. While my plan was similar concept I was going to put all the gearing in the attic. I like your Steampunk motif so much I think I am going to do something more along your lines. Thank you so much for taking the time and effort to document and share your project.

Neroserval (author)2015-03-24

Very cool, cleaver design

askjerry (author)2015-03-24

That is pretty darned cool.

hsteinbe (author)2015-03-24

you can pickup real wooden propeller blades (props), I used to have one, and have seen others. Contact a local small town airport. They are balanced but of course for a whole different speed and torque!

cr2457gy (author)2015-03-24

Excellent build! I can't help but think of the board game "Clue". "I've got it! The killer was 'The Maker' in the 'Conservatory' with the 'Propeller'!"

SolarB (author)2015-03-24

Wow, many thanks for the welcome and the positive comments, and thanks to the admin who featured the build.

Unclelar. No, unfortunately not a machinist, just someone who likes tinkering down the shed and has an understanding wife.

Shizumadrive. I suspect a genuine WWI prop is thousands and to have one would be really quite nice. This propeller is a prop for a shop and I think it cost around £100.

Bongmaster. The TARDIS you spotted in the window is the chicken coop.

I made a quick video and stuck it on utube a while ago. It's not the best quality, the free software insisted on special effects for the text and the fan wobbles because it hadn't had it's final balance weights, but it does show the fan working.

I think this link should work:

sensoh8su (author)SolarB2015-03-24

Still a little wobbly, but overall I love this. The design and the aesthetic are wonderful. Hope to see more like this in the future.

ptrobrn (author)2015-03-24

This is not the fan to try and stop with your head... though it may not take it off it will likely not stop either.

ClaudioDonate (author)2015-03-24

This is beautiful! But I would be very afraid that it would take my head right off if it fell while spinning.. =D Great job!

I was thinking the same lol

pete.buckston (author)2015-03-24

That is an EPIC build, I love it. Well done ;-)

ShamWerks (author)2015-03-24

I absolutely LOVE IT.

Congratulations, brilliant idea!

Bongmaster (author)2015-03-23

great build, and is that a police box u got in the garden? :0

shizumadrive (author)Bongmaster2015-03-24

heh you know it is. Only the doctor or a dalek is missing

shizumadrive (author)2015-03-24

dang how much is a ww1 era prop cost?

sickdog74 (author)2015-03-23

Wow, just wow. This is amazing and a work of art!

grrr21 (author)2015-03-23

Absolutely beautiful. I would pay outrageously for this.

technovative (author)2015-03-23

Impressive ingenuity used in this piece of functional art. Welcome to the Instructables community.

russ_hensel (author)2015-03-23

Should be featured, keep posted.

I was gonna suggest that too Russ, but I guess staff figured yeah, he's right, let's feature this, right after I'm done suckin' down my smoothie.

JON-A-TRON (author)2015-03-23

Nicely done! Can we see a video of the mechanism in action?

breagan22 (author)2015-03-23

This is beautiful!!

zaphod07 (author)2015-03-23

That is one awesome job. I could see that being produced and sold. Excellent execution and great use of material.

unclelar (author)2015-03-23

Very cool,how much do you want for it? Just kidding I realize it was made from a gift.Great job on the design and assembly.Are you a machinist by any chance? Would love to see your work shop.Again great job,something to be very proud to display.

sensoh8su (author)2015-03-23

It looks fantastic! Do you have any videos of it running? Also, does it move enough air to be a practical ceiling fan?

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