This is quite a bizarre question, but this group seems like the best place
for it. For a number of years, I've had a hobby of building large snowforts.
The structures are built primarily from blocks of snow, and with the help of
friends, some of these have reached heights of over 15 feet. I've devoted a
website to these creations, and I recommend checking it out to get a better
idea of what I'm talking about:
(some pages aren't complete yet but all
the fort pictures/specs are there)
The blocks are made by packing the snow, by hand, into 20-liter (5 gallon)
buckets and allowing them to harden. This simple but labourous method has
been used right from the beginning, but it has some inherent problems.
The first problem is that there's no way to maintain consistency between
blocks. One might weigh 15 pounds, the next 30, the next 25, and so on.
Variations in the density of the blocks can have a MAJOR effect on the
finished structure. As the structure is built higher, the added weight tends
to further compress the blocks on the bottom. If for example, the blocks
near the bottom on one side are made from lighter snow, they will sag much
faster and cause the entire structure to lean in that direction. This
problem has plagued many of our projects, and the cause of poor blocks is
usually shoddy workmanship, not poor snow.
The other problem is the labor involved. If the snow is damp and packy, a
block can be assembled in less than a minute. If the snow is dry and hard to
pack, it can take up to 2 minutes to make the block, plus 30+ minutes for it
to become stable enough to handle. This isn't a problem if there are plenty
of helpers, to keep up a steady stream of blocks. But good help is becoming
harder and harder to find, and as this winter rapidly approaches, it appears
that I'll have only one helper to assist me with these projects. Which
brings me to the point of my post:
What appears to be needed is some kind of contraption to speed up the
production of these blocks, and to produce better consistency. My basic idea
is a tall steel frame, with some kind of ramming/compressing device that
will pack the snow VERY FIRMLY into the pails. I need something that could
assemble a block in about 1 minute, and pack each one to a density of about
35-40 lbs (currently, we can pack by hand to a density of 15-30 lbs). The
idea would be to fill the bucket with snow, operate the "ram", top off the
bucket again, compress, and repeat until the block is fully assembled.
This is as far as I've come with the idea. I'm told that compressed air
would be the best way to do this, and this sounds feasible as I have a 200
PSI, twin-cylinder compressor that could be used for this.
If anyone could come up with some ideas, I'd appreciate it. If I can
manage to construct such a device within the next couple of months, this
cherished winter tradition might just be saved for another year or two......
- posted 17 years ago