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 wood…

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...