the winch witch

May not look like much yet, but I got the vision.
A good weekend. Football at our house with friends on Friday night, dinner at Benihana and a night at the bar on Saturday night, and all the while work forged ahead on the Halloween prop during the days. I’m slowly working on a page dedicated to this year’s Halloween project, the Winch Witch, but it won’t be ready for a while. Anyway – it was a good weekend, involving just the right mix of hangin’ out and gettin’ stuff done.

I don’t think I’m going to write much, as I’m not really in the mood. Sharaun hurt her knee pretty bad at soccer this morning and we ran over to a friend’s place just now to borrow some crutches so she can try and make it to work in the morning. I don’t know quite what that has to do with my mood and writing, but it felt like the right time to write it. This paragraph is pointless anyway, so why try and make it cohesive or anything.

Saturday I helped Kristi and Erik move some furniture into their new place, and then we all convened at our place for some college football. With everyone around, I took the opportunity to bring up the current plans for the Winch Witch. I figured with a bunch of smart people we could have an ad hoc think-tank and maybe brainstorm up a good idea. Turns out it worked, and we collectively not only greatly improved on the original idea Ben and I had, but also managed to really simplify the planned implementation.

We moved away from the original track idea and settled on suspending the witch from a wire strung above. Also, she’s no longer up on the roof, she just starts her run there and ends up nearer the ground before being reset and ascending again. Even the name I gave the project is now somewhat misleading. We’re not using a winch-winch, but we’re still “winching” the prop back up the wire to it’s pre-drop position. The cool thing being that we moved away from something uber-complicated to something really simple: a fishing reel.

We went up to the sports store and picked up a $10 el-cheapo fishing reel, which will act as the “winch” that hoists the witch back up her wire path to be dropped again. With the fishing line attached to an anchor on her back, we’re using a small DC motor to reel her back up after she free-falls on the wire-track. The reel will hold her in place at the top, and when someone breaks the infrared beam we’ll fire a solenoid to depress the reel’s “cast” button, where line can be freely fed. No longer held by the reel, gravity will send her flying down the wire-track toward the trick-or-treater, while an eerie flood light turns on and illuminates her. On the same circuit as the light and solenoid, a cackling soundtrack is played during her descent.

We managed to get everything but the motor and solenoid this weekend, and I’d say we’ve engineered about 70% of the project. We still need to figure out the whole beam-activation and motor on/off timing, and I’m sure once we get her up and running there will be little things we never even thought of that we’ll have to deal with. The good news is that Ben and I were able to make the armature for the prop’s body in one day, with only about $20 worth of material. Now all we need are the electric parts and a good old-fashioned witch mask. I want to string the whole thing up as early as possible to get a good amount of “proving” and debug time in before she actually has to perform on Halloween. We did some initial testing today, and you can watch the results here. People think I’m crazy, but I’m also pretty sure I’m adding this secondary prop to this year’s display – as I can’t see it taking more than a few hours to construct (‘cept I’m planning on using a cheaper and easier windshield wiper motor to power the prop, implemented kinda like this).

OK then… I guess I talked about everything I really wanted to talk about, now I better hit the sack. Until tomorrow or something. Dave out.

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