Skee Ball Coming Together

The Skee Ball game that I’m building for the Crucible’s volunteer party is coming along nicely.

I’ve spent the past few days working on the cups, electrical hookups and the fire effect that makes the whole thing fun.

The cups are made from 4″ PVC drain connectors and 4″ to 3″ reducers. There’s a mounting bracket welded onto a stainless steel hose clamp that goes around the 3″ end of the PVC reducer. With a slot cut into the reducer and the switch mounted onto the bracket, it should allow a ball to fall through and trip the switch. At least it should work once the lever for the switch is bent a bit to ensure that it’s in the path of the ball as it falls through. The only real concern I have about this is the amount of time that the switch will be on to trip the fire effect. If the ball passes through too fast, then the fire effect might be too short. But at this point, I’m will to wait and see how it works once they’re installed.

The electrical system runs off a regular 120v socket. The switches mounted on each of the cups are used to provide power to the outlets seen toward the bottom of the photo. The original idea was that there would be three solenoids on the poofer that would provide a small, medium and large poof based on which cup the ball went through. The lowest cup would have the smallest poof, the two above it in the center would have the medium poofs and the two in the upper corners would have the largest. This would hopefully mesh with the difficulty in getting the ball into the cups. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to come up with a simple wiring setup that would allow this to work. So I went with plan B. There would be three different size solenoids on the poofer and the three pairs of outlets would be wired to allow the different solenoids to trip based on which cup the ball fell through. The lowest cup powers the left most socket, the upper middle two power the center socket and the upper corners power the left most socket.

The fire effect can be seen in the image on the right. The rail along the top provides a pilot light that ignites the propane as it is expelled from the solenoids. It’s wrapped in stainless steel wool to give it some resistance to being blown out but diffusing the propane coming from it. There’s a 1/4 turn valve on the left that’s used to control how large of a pilot light is burning.

The different size solenoids can be seen in the center. They’re 3/4″, 1/2″ and 1/4″ normally closed solenoids with a propane resistant seal like buna-n or viton. Because of the three different size orifices on the solenoids, they’ll produce three different sized fire balls.

The white tank on the bottom serves as an accumulator to hold the propane that’s going to be discharged through the solenoids. Because of the volume of propane held in the accumulator, the propane rushing out of the solenoids forms a fire ball instead of just a stream of flame. That makes for a great fire effect!

The three power cords can be seen coming from the solenoids. They’ll be connected to the three sockets mentioned earlier.

The net effect of the poofer going off is pretty cool!

The whole project is starting to come together. Kevin and Matt are almost finished with the core of the ramp. The major pieces have neen cut and glued up. The ball return has been installed, that’s the 4″ PVC drain pipe that’s seen toward the bottom of the image on the right. And the lift bump is almost finished.

This’ll be one kick-ass skee ball game when we’re done!


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