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Discussion Starter #1
Thought I'd share my first attempt at making my own inflatable tombstone.....Many things I learned not to do but glad at least to have a working model on the first try....I never really sewed before so I really did start at step one.....Grabbing the wife's sewing machine and the manual to figure out how to thread the thing to even get started.....You sew inside out and then pull it through, figured that out after a few stitches into it....Don't sew one way and then start sewing from the other end towards what you already sewed....It will bunch when you get towards the other end and not line up....I bought nylon thread thinking it was what to use with nylon ripstop material....It wasn't....It was too weak and would break the second I put the pedal down....Regular thread worked great though....I cut out the pieces like if you was building it out of plywood...Didn't work that great at the base where the square hole goes up through the stone....Next time I'm going to leave the material solid and cut smaller air holes to try to help retain the shape and also need to sew a piece of nylon about mid section on the inside of the stone to help keep it from ballooning out in the middle.....Not sure how it will hold up in the weather but I traced the lettering out with magic marker and then airbrushed to fill it in....One thing about nylon ripstop is the paint doesn't soak in like a t-shirt fabric so I had to keep the coatings light or it would splatter....After it dried, I tried crinkling the fabric in a ball in my hand to see if the paint would crackle and fall off but so far it seems to be holding on OK....Next time I'm going to trace out the lettering BEFORE I start sewing....It's really awkward trying to trace out on the material when it's inflated and moving everywhere at the slightest touch...Would have been much easier on something flat and sturdy....A sewing cutting wheel and cutting mat works much better than everything I tried laying around the shop....Haven't figured out what I'm going to use on the base to stake it to the ground yet and I have to buy some zippers and sew into it so I have access back inside it again.....It's a small start but I learned a ton and am excited to start another one with a little more knowledge to hopefully make it better!....ZR



 

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Discussion Starter #7
I haven't had much time to work on this lately because of overtime at work but I did make a few changes and learn a couple more things.....



This is where I left off....Notice the tissue box underneath it....This is because I didn't make the inlet hose long enough in the back to the blower so I needed to prop it up so it didn't fall over temporarily while I made changes.....



I sewed together a longer piece of fabric to make the "hose" inlet longer so it could set on the floor....That fixed the issue of needing the tissue box but the tombstone wouldn't set on the floor without falling over....The commercial inflatables use a large inflatable base area that stakes to the ground for support....Eventually I'm going to build some bases to mount several tombstones on but I also want some stand alone inflatables.....I want to see how the "hose" system works so I can use multiple T's to different inflatables so I can use one blower for multiple inflatables to hopefully save some money.....



I have several bags of heavy bolts laying around so I decided to use a couple as weights and sew them inside a couple pouches to sew into the base of the tombstone so it doesn't fall over....Here you can see them sewed to the base.....



Now the tombstone stands on it's own with the weights holding it down on either end.....I don't think it's enough weight to hold it in place outside in the wind so I may have to get some heavy material sewed on the corners for stakes but it would work fine as is if I decided to do something inside a building or tent....



My initial thoughts about the paint peeling is starting to happen!....You can see it in the RIP letters.....Unfortunately the standard airbrush paint isn't going to work....I read on a kite making forum they have had good luck with acrylic paint but I bought some fabric paint to try last weekend....I haven't tried it yet.....Magic marker seems to be holding up better but it has a glossy sheen I don't care for....



You can see from the side view that the fabric is anything but flat when it inflates....While I don't mind the look too terribly, I'd like to figure out a way to keep it pulled in....I'm going to try to sew some support strips in the next one but I still want to have access to turning it inside out if I want to make enhancements down the road to the inflatable or repair tears....I came up with an idea to try putting snaps on the support strips so they can simply unsnap.....



I found these at Hobby Lobby




I did a quick test and they seem to work pretty good with the ripstop....I've snapped and unsnapped many times and the ripstop seems to be strong enough to take the abuse.....

That's about all I have for now.....ZR
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Great googly moogly. Homemade inflatables! You realize what you've started?
Hahaha exactly what I was thinking...this is groundbreaking territory!!
LOL....I hope you guys are right!....I guess that's one of the reasons I wanted to start this thread early on in the process hoping to give others a little inspiration from my trials and errors and hopefully get some people that want to give it a whirl themselves to go for it!.....This is an awesome community of talented folks and it would be very interesting to see how others approach it.....I started cutting out a new tombstone last night so I'll post pictures as that comes along....Thanks for the positive comments everyone!....ZR
 

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Haven't had much time lately (overtime) but wanted to give an update.....I forgot to mention the blowers I found at a pawn shop in January....I got them both for $60!



I also have some small fans that came out of computers but initial tests showed they didn't work very well for larger objects like the tombstone....They may do the trick at a later time on something smaller though....I found a company called Zoom blowers http://zoomblowers.com/ that looks really cool....They have some smaller more affordable blowers up to the commercial ones.....This is where I'll probably order from when I use up the 3 blowers I have now.....

I bought 3 arduino uno rev3's off a guy on craigslist about a year ago really cheap but didn't have any components to mess with them....I finally ordered an arduino experimenters kit with 32 experiments to get a feel for how they work....How do they apply to inflatables you ask?....They control lights and relays and solenoids, motors,servos, etc....That should make inflatables a little more interesting!



Finally the thing I am most excited about....My sister lives next door has one of these and uses the heck out of it....I finally got the money for a silhouette cameo3 CNC cutter!!!....Initially, I got it to make stencils but the more I mess with it, I want to try the heat transfer vinyl (iron on) for the tombstone lettering....At first I thought about just adding a piece of lightweight fabric as an outer shell to the ripstop but that's a lot of added expense (time and money)....I just need to get the vinyl to stick without melting the nylon...I saw a couple youtube videos of people doing it with nylon jackets so I know it's possible....I just need to experiment to find the right formula....So I guess my next step is to get some heat transfer vinyl......



Stay tuned!.....ZR
 

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Got my Siser Easyweed Extra Vinyl in the mail today!.....I snipped a small piece to experiment with....It took a minute to figure out which side the backing was on...The side that reflections are more focused has the backing....I tried a tea towel as a barrier between the nylon fabric/vinyl piece and the iron but even on a high setting it didn't get hot enough to melt the glue totally....I tried a sheet of paper and it worked much better although once the glue oozed out around the vinyl, it lightly stuck to the paper....It was successful though because it didn't melt the nylon!... I'll check the piece over the next few days to see how well it is adhering....Initial test looks promising....ZR



 

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I haven't updated this thread in awhile, not because I haven't been trying different techniques but because I've been failing miserably on every tombstone I've tried so far....I've probably made at least 10 variations of tombstones now and none of them blow up to a shape I'm happy with....Even basic shapes don't blow up the way you think they would....I've wasted a lot of ripstop....I've gained a lot more respect for the work and thought that goes into the airblowns for sure....ZR
 

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I haven't updated this thread in awhile, not because I haven't been trying different techniques but because I've been failing miserably on every tombstone I've tried so far....I've probably made at least 10 variations of tombstones now and none of them blow up to a shape I'm happy with....Even basic shapes don't blow up the way you think they would....I've wasted a lot of ripstop....I've gained a lot more respect for the work and thought that goes into the airblowns for sure....ZR
We love what you have done so far. Keep up the good work and let us know how it goes.
 
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