Chocolate fountains seem to be everywhere these days, but I remember some way back days when the mark of a swanky gathering was a champagne fountain. So when I learned a week before Christmas that I was supposed to be hosting a New Years Eve party, I scrambled around to find one, only to be met with disappointment. I learned that I could either buy a really expensive silver one for around $700 or arrange to rent a similar one, or buy this ugly plastic one from Wal-Mart or Target (online orders only, not available in stores) - and the same exact ugly plastic one from other online retailers from between $29-$45. When frantic Googling comes up empty handed, obviously it's time for an Instructable!!!!
Basically, all a punch (or Champagne, or whatever) fountain is at it's core is: big bowls of varying size to hold the beverage which are arranged in tiered vertical levels, a means to join the bowls together, and a method of transporting the beverage from the lower bowls to the higher bowls. Gravity does the rest to give us that gentle trickling sound as well as a means to fill our cups. To make it swanky, we can add some illumination, and even make it glow in the dark!
Step 1: Materials
- Big Plastic Bowls:
Find a couple of matching bowls of similar sizes at the dollar store or party store. We found some nice, rigid, squarish shaped ones with cutouts in the corners at our Party City store. I liked them because they were kind of modern looking (not cheesy plastic trying to look like cut crystal) and came in several sizes in the same shape. I got three of them: one each in 12", 9", and 6" diameters.
- Something to use as a riser:
What we ended up using for our project was a container that held Kraft Parmesean cheese. It's a plastic cylinder about 8 inches high by about 3 inches in diameter, and it was almost empty, so I put the cheese in a smaller container, pulled the label off, and cut off the threaded end at the top where the cap was, and the bottom, so we were left with a clear plastic cylinder. Other options would be cake pillars (to separate layers in fancy wedding cakes and such, available at craft stores), or what I originally intended on using was a section of PVC pipe, nicely cleaned and painted with food-safe paint.
I spent a lot of time looking up pumps for this application - I wanted to make sure it was food safe, waterproof, etc. My findings were: While it would be nice to have an in-line pump to make the workings of the fountain more invisible, I went with a submersible pump. Not only was it easier to get, I was also able to make sure it was thoroughly clean, and submersibles are going to make less noise than inlines. Go to a pet store, home improvement store, hydroponics store, or garden store and ansk for a small fountain or pond pump. I over paid for mine at $25, but I was in a hurry and the pet shop was on my way home.
- Plastic tubing: available anywhere, I already had some at home, and just make sure it fits the pump you bought.
- Epoxy sealant:
Please be vigilant on what you use here. I used "KwikPlastik" plastic repair epoxy putty by JB Weld. The main thing is that you need something that will glue your pieces together, but also be somewhat flexible and water tight, and food safe. We have tons of tubes of silicone sealant already at home, but I went out and bought this stuff since it is specifically "safe for potable water" where as most of the tubes of silicone caulk I already had at home had all kinds of non safe warnings on them. The tube of JB Weld that I got was about four bucks at Home Depot, and we have a lot left over.
- Some LED's, batteries, etc:
Here's where the fun part comes in. If you don't already know this: be aware - the quinine in tonic water glows under UV light. So how about our punch bowl holds gin and tonic, or a tonic water punch?!? Go to Radio Shack and buy a few Ultraviolet LED's and some 9V battery connectors. Hopefully there's already some electrical tape and stuff like that at home. Lighting is completely optional, and you could always substitute other colors, leds, do an array or whatever to make your punch bowl to your taste.
- Black spray paint, masking tape
Step 2: Prepare Your Electronics & Their Housing
Grab the smallest of the three bowls you got from Party City. That one is going to be the base for everything else. Take some masking tape and mask off the BOTTOM INSIDE of the bowl, and maybe mask a little bit of the outside edges. Next, go to your closest well ventilated area and paint the INSIDE sides of the small bowl with some flat black spray paint. What we are aiming for here is to hide the batteries and wires while still allowing the light to shine through the bottom (which will eventually be the top) of our small bowl.
While your paint is drying, wire up your LED's. There are tons of references about how to do this, so I won't repeat them (plus, I'm only a beginner at electronics, so don't take my word as law, but keep in mind that the UV lights may need a little more power than what a regular red LED would take). I used 5 UV LED's and soldered them together with two 9 volt batteries and a toggle switch to complete the circuit. I wasn't being fancy here since this part won't be seen, so I just used some electrical tape and hot glue to attach the LED's to the bottom inside part of my small bowl so they shine through the non-painted part. The switch and batteries are just loose so they can be easily accessed once the punch bowl is set up and filled.
When you're done with this step, you should be able to turn your bowl upside down and have your UV lights shining out the top, and also have the wires, batteries and switches hidden, but still somewhat accessible. You're done with the base of the fountain!
Step 3: Assemble the Riser and Tubing
Find the middle of your middle sized hole and very carefully drill a hole in of a diameter that will accommodate your plastic tubing. Go slowly, as it is easy to crack this plastic - we used a step drill for this. Insert your plastic tubing into this hole and seal around it with your epoxy putty.
Next is the riser. In this case, I used an empty plastic parmesan cheese container. I cut off the bottom so I had a cylinder with two open ends. Cut a notch for the pump cord to come out on one end, and also poke a couple of vent holes to allow the liquid to get inside the cylinder. Use some more putty to seal the end without the notch to the bottom of the bowl with the plastic tubing. Cut off the tubing so that when it is attached to the pump, the tubing and pump together will be about the same length as the cylinder. I used some more epoxy to seal the tubing to the pump, but of course this is optional if your tubing fits snugly.
At this point, it's a good idea to test everything out, and you can clean your pump at the same time. I just filled my sink with a mild bleach and water solution, plugged the pump in, and let it run for a few minutes.
Step 4: Assemble the Fountain
The assembly is pretty straightforward - just keep in mind that it will be heavy once it's filled, so it's probably a good ideal to put it together on the table where you will be serving the punch. Put the small bowl with the lights upside down on your table, then the largest bowl on top of that. The medium bowl, cylinder, and pump combination just sit inside the largest bowl. Fill with a drink of your choice containing tonic water, making sure you have enough to keep the pump submersed. You should get a nice trickle over the side of the top bowl falling into the lower bowl.
Next time I do this, I may add some more lights inside of the cylinder to get the top bowl to glow as well, and maybe add some dry ice to get a smoking effect.