Cautions Before You Begin Construction of Our Projects


We heartily encourage you to be careful while building our props and devices. Read the following information, and be sure to take your time as you work.

Cutting and Drilling:

Phantasmechanics projects require cutting and drilling aluminum parts. If you have never worked with flat aluminum stock before, you will find that it bends and drills easily. Simply clamp it in a vise, and bend it. Be sure to wear gloves while doing the work. If you use pliers, you may want to cover the stock with a rag where the tool grips it, or else you will leave marks.

You should also wear a respiation mask and eye protection when working the stock with drills, grinders or hacksaws, as a very fine aluminum powder will be produced. Be sure to wear shoes. Small, sharp, spiral shaped debris is often produced during drilling, and it can cut you. Be careful, and sweep up or vacuum as you go.

Be sure to use a drill bit as close to the size of your fasteners as possible. Where you see an indication in the plans of diagonally spaced screws, it means that this connection must be rigid, and the joining should not be able to twist laterally. Use lock washers and flat washers on all fasteners, as indicated in the plans.

Pivots in our mechanisms are formed with bolts, lock washers, and flat washers, secured by sets of locked nuts. You will see these indicated in the illustrations, and the order of their installation is important. These improvised bearings are more than adequate for the slow-moving devices we describe. What you want to achieve is a snug fit, but one which allows free movement - in other words, a mechanical compromise. Use a lubricant (such as 3-In-One Oil) to help the bearings along. Re-lubricate these bearing assemblies regularly.

Electrical Connections, Motors, and Heat

For all your power leads, use grounded cordsets ('3-prong' type). Attach the green (ground) lead to the frame of the device, and you will increase the safety factor. Should the hot lead (black wire) contact the frame due to a connection failure, the line fuse or breaker will blow, instead of producing a shock hazard to the builder. To keep this from happening, use twist insulators over your connections. You should consider using electrical tape over the insulators, and wrap it around both the insulator and the lead wires. This will keep the insulator from slipping off accidentally.

The Dayton gearmotors we suggest (as well as any substitutes you may decide to use) will get warm in operation. This requires that you space any and all drapery well away from them. We recommend that you 'cage' your motors to prevent contact with hot surfaces. A cage may be either a perforated (vented) box, or a piece of perforated metal screen cut and bent into a cover. If you are running a professional haunt, this will help to satisfy the fire marshal.

Note: If you paint your FCG motor platform black to hide it, do not paint the area where the shaft exits the gearbox, or the insulation covering the electromagnets on the motors! Cover these locations with masking tape while spraying. It also helps if you use paint compounded for use on engines or hot surfaces.

Working With Solder and Wires:

When soldering, use common sense, and don't burn yourself. Don't leave your skin exposed, as drops of molten solder can spatter and burn you. Don't touch hot joins until they cool. (Allow them to cool without blowing on them for a good contact.) Large solder joints take longer to cool, so be very cautious.

Naturally, we also recommend eye protection during project building. Doing something as simple as cutting off a bit of wire can send small fragments flying in unpredictable directions. In fact, any operation that employs a force has to potential launch a sharp fragment into some area of your workspace. Be sure that no one is standing nearby when you are working. Keep safety first at all times!


Please Note! We no longer recommend the use of PVC plumbing pipe elements in compressed air setups. If you have been using PVC, please discontinue using it. Although we have been using it in our shop foressed air and may shatter under pressure. We are converting the manifolds in our shop to black metal pipe of the kind used in natural gas applications. This is safe for use, and we heartily recommend it. The plastic quick disconnects we show are safe, and this warning does not apply to them.

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