Portable Solar Trackers

Fun Projects

These are some of my builds that I have made over the years. They are not very detailed but you get the general idea. Please feel free to experiment.

The Lawn Luge

The Lawn Luge is a portable roller coaster that is easily built by anyone that can operate a drill press and a chop saw. It can be put into action by children safely in about 3 minutes. There are a lot of small plastic coasters that are essentially a childs slide with a wheeled cart.

Pictured above is an example of a roller coaster I built with with only 80’ of track, I have had as much as 120′ layed out and with a gentle slope you can really fly . There is no limitation on the length of track you are only limited by your budget and terrain. The cost of PVC pipe is relatively low and this systemcan be built for about the same cost as some of the plastic coasters with only 6-8′ of track. But be careful, too steep of grade could be dangerous for children. I must tell you that adults like this too and it will easily support a 240 pound person.

There are a number of folks that have built some rather elaborate backyard roller coasters, impressive for sure but not very attractive to the neighbors.  What I have devised is easily stowed, easily installed and it will not damage the yard, unless left overnight.

Here is how I went about it. First, purchase several 1” internal pvc couplers. These are quite affordable and remember you will need to buy them in pairs…they come in bags of 10. These are excellent for interconnecting the sections of pvc seamlessly.

Next, you will need to purchase 1” pvc pipe.  The internal couplers fit inside of the 1 in. Pvc pipe. You will need Schedule 40 PVC pipe, which has an outside diameter of 1-5/16″ (1.315″). This pipe is readily available at the big box stores.

You will now need to locate some 1” x 2” pvc trim. Menards & Lowes carry a wide selection. This will serve as your cross pieces or “rail road ties”. It drills very easily and it has give, wood cross ties will be a good substitue. There has to be some flex as the pipes snap into the holes.

You will now need a 1.25” forstner bit to drill the mounting holes into the cross braces.

forstner-bit

Cut your pvc trim into 11.875” lengths, this will maximize the number of cuts out of an 8’ stick.  Now it is time to drill the holes for the pvc pipe to snap into.  This is the most critical step. The idea is to have just enough pipe to protrude from the top while still being held securely in place.

lawn-luge8

With a drill press, position the forstner bit over the cross brace so that the edge of the bit extends exactly 1” down.

lawn-luge6
lawn=luge7

 The PVC should “snap” in to the hole with just enough area on the top for the wheels to ride without striking the cross ties. The next step is to locate a good padded seat, sled or floor dolly to install your wheels on. I removed the wheels that came with the dolly. You have two options for wheels,   inline skate wheels or Delrin U groove wheels but that is a matter of choice.  Pictured below is how I configured the in-line wheels on the dolly.

lawn-luge-sled1

These wheels are mounted on an hexagon shaped block of aluminum. The wheels come preassembled, unfortunately they come in sets of three and you will need four wheel assemblies. The bracket that makes up the brake is a bit of a contraption. It is made with 2 neoprene rubber brayers. This is where there is room for improvement. I would love to get input on this. I will continue to work on a better solution.

I removed the rubber portion of the hand brayer and mounted them on a section of aluminum extrusion and added a turn-knob for a handle. I made it so the rubber remained stationary so that it would rub against the top of the track, a spring was added to make the handle retract after use. I chose to remove the steel frame that came with the dolly and replaced it with quick frame…love that stuff. It cuts easiy and knocks together with a rubber mallet. The frame is held together with plastic corners.

The track is assembled by sliding the 1″ pvc pipes together using the internal coupler.  First, lay the track and then place the cross ties about 3′ apart if the lawn is lush and soft. If the ground is compacted and hard with little grass simply add more cross ties and place them closer together.

That is all there is to building this portable roller coaster, I call it the “Lawn Luge”. It is fast, probably a little too fast for small children, easily built and assembled and will keep children of all ages entertained for hours. One slight variation of this design is to create some turns in the track, this can be accomplished with swivel mounted wheels. It is possible without making a design change to put slight curves in the track, it conforms to the terrain naturally. Another more radical idea, strictly for adults, is to fashion wheels that strap onto the hands and feet. What a work out this would be trying to maintain a horizontal plane.

Blast it! Air Cannons

Air cannons are a BLAST!  I cannot take credit for this design or any for that matter but they can easily be replicated to suite your needs.  We use them to lauch torpedo shaped footballs into waste bins, we only use about 15 psi. for that.  Jack the air to 80 psi and you can barely see it.  

The systems I have made in the past were constructed of pvc, I am incredibly leery of using pvc pipe under pressure. There are enough articles on the Internet that warn against using pvc under pressure. It is not intended for pressurized air, however, at only 15-30 psi it is fairly safe. 

I never let the children handle any components other than the trigger and I have the cannon mounted on an adjustable frame to compensate for height and distance.  In fact another one of my upcoming projects is to aim & fire the air cannon remotely.  Pop Pop will still load the thing.

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