Most people find that their homemade wands work better than manufactured wands -- and they are considerably less expensive. You can make a tri-string wand wand suitable for creating 20 to 30 foot long bubbles tubes for only a few dollars -- less if you have the materials on hand.
Types of WandsEdit
Wands can be traditional plastic wands that come in bottles of commercial bubble solution but they can be made from just about anything -- even your hands can be used to blow bubbles (if they are wet). Great wands can be made from drinking straws, string, wire hangers, and even paper. Paper cones can be made to blow basketball-sized bubbles and bubble domes (as demonstrated in the videos below).
Paper Cones. The soccer ball size bubbles in the video below were created with paper cones like the ones documented at Bubble Town.
[MORE INFO AND PICTURES NEEDED] Please help this page grow -- and add pictures of your favorite wands!
Tri-string wands (so-called because of the triangular appearance of the string) are a popular and easy-to-make wand that can be used to make bubbles from small to whale-size depending on the length of the string. Tri-string wands generally consist of a top-string tied (or otherwise connected) to a bottom-string that is roughly twice its length. The bottom-string is often threaded through a metal washer that weighs down the string slightly. The strings are then attached to poles or sticks.
Cotton twine works well for small and medium wands (I personally have used wands with top-strings from 8-inches to four-feet). Many materials are used from cotton shoelaces to simple twine to thin rope. There seems to be general agreement that natural fibers (such as cotton) work better than synthetics. Many bubblers search for the perfect "string" and even make their own rope (which is actually quite easy to do and which I hope to cover in another section of this Wiki). More is not necessarily better. For large wands, a single thickness of twine may not absorb enough bubble juice to create huge bubbles. I have found that a double-length of twine twisted or braided together works better than a single length for wands up to to 48 inches. Increasing twine thickness beyond that with wands of this size doesn't seem to improve the result (and may waste bubble juice).
Many methods can be used to attach the strings to the poles. I just tied the strings tightly on my first wands. Some people attach the string directly to the poles/handles. Others prefer to attach a short string or light chain or hook to the pole/handles and attach the string to that.
Thommy has posted a great blog entry about string materials and how to attach them.
To use a tri-string wand, you simply dip the string into a container of bubble juice, lift up the wand with the handles held together, spread the handles apart to let the bubble start forming (you may have to walk forwards or backwards if there is no breeze) and then bring the handles back together to close the bubble as in the video.
See more videos in the section Giant Bubbles
Tips for Using Tri-String WandsEdit
- If there is a lot of wind, don't open the string all the way open and stand so that the opening is at a 30 degree to 45 degree angle with the wind.
- If there is no wind, open the wand and walk backwards to create the bubble.
- If there is a lot of wind, walk forward as the bubble forms to keep rapid expansion from bursting the bubble.
- Since conditions radically impact the size of bubbles that can be made, start your bubbling sessions by making several bubbles that you let grow until they burst so that you get an idea of how large a bubble the conditions (and your bubble juice) will allow. Thereafter, you can let your bubbles grow until they are a bit smaller than the bursting size and close them off.
- It is often useful to have the poles raised above you so that your body doesn't become a source of eddies and vortices that make it tricky to close a bubble off.
- Long poles held high can help you launch the bubbles far enough off the ground that they don't quickly sink to the ground and pop. Launching high also increases the chances that the bubble will be caught by an updraft that will carry the bubble up.
See also Rigging Loops for Tri-String_Wands
How To Make a Tri-String WandEdit
Tri-string wands can be extremely primitive or elegant. Even the most primitive wand can create beautiful bubbles and tubes. Here are step-by-step instructions for a really primitive wand (which will work nicely).
What you need. Two handles/poles. Some cotton twine. Optional: a metal washer or nut.
Your poles/handles can be anything from chopsticks (for a small wand) to bamboo garden stakes to dowels to .... well just about anything. For small wands, bamboo garden stakes are handy -- they are cheap and light. The wand shown in the picture uses bamboo garden stakes. For the string, you can use simple cotton twine or butcher's string or something heavier. Cotton (but not polyester) shoelaces work okay. For a big wand, you could use cotton clothesline although I find a couple of strands of twisted twine to be sufficient when you have a wand where the top=string is in the 36 to 48-inch range. For smaller wands, a single strand of twine works just fine (it does for bigger wands, too but they will benefit from another strand or two). A metal washer or nut can be handy but isn't necessary. Some purists don't believe in them but beginners will find them useful for keeping the string straight and making dipping into the container easier.
- Decide how big you want your wand to be. The "loop" is going to be made from two lengths of string: the top-string and the bottom-string. My first wand had an 18-inch top string -- and we had loads of fun with it. You can create bubbles up to about twice the diameter of the top string . For a first wand, it is recommended that you start with a top-string 18 to 24 inches long.
- Cut two lengths of string: a top-string and a bottom-string that is twice the top-strings length.
- (Optional) Thread the longer string through the washer .
- Tie the two strings together at both ends to make a loop.
- Connect the loop to your handles/poles. There are many ways to connect the loop to your handles. For my first wand, I cut two pieces of string a few inches long and tied one end tightly to the pole and the other end to place where the top string and bottom-string met. For later wands, I tied a short string to each pole and tied a fishing swivel on the other and so that I can clip and unclip wand loops from the poles which makes swapping loops easy.
There are much more elegant designs that people have but this should get you started.
Long Handles for Tri-String WandsEdit
For tri-string loops up to about 60", you can use handles about 48" in length. Dowels, bamboo garden stakes, pvc-tubing and other materials found at the local hardware or garden supply store will do.
For larger loops, it is necessary to have longer handles. Long handles are also useful for keeping the loop high of the ground (which can give bubbles more of a chance to get some loft or to fly over the potential bubble poppers).
See the article: Poles and Handles for ideas about poles and handles.
Large Tri-String LoopsEdit
It is often noted by people that explore using very large loops that 10-foot loops generally don't create bubbles that are significantly larger than 5 or 6-foot loops -- and they are much more difficult to manage. However, under the right conditions with the right bubble juice and the right loop material, it is possible to create tall bubbles with large loops that can be quite impressive. It seems that very large loops may require different bubble juice and different loop materials than smaller setups to reach their maximum potential. Very large loops also require calm conditions were the soap film won't encounter too many particles.
See also Rigging Loops for Tri-String_Wands
Custom Cords/Ropes for Tri-String WandsEdit
Most people that get serious about big bubbles, eventually seek out the ideal material to use for the string. Everything from butcher's twine to upholstery piping and mop yarn and clotheslines have been tried. Making custom rope/cord is trivially easy and has many rewards as they generally work better than off-the-shelf cord, rope or yarn. Read more on this topic in the article Rope and Cord Making which includes step-by-step instructions and video.
Garland WandEditGarland Wands are a variation of the tri-string design. More about Garland wands.
Clothes-hanger wire is a great material for making wands as you can bend it into a large variety of shapes and sizes. Simply unravel the hanger. Bend one end of the wire to make some sort of closed shape. Bend the handle with an angle convenient for dipping into a tray. You can use a pie tin as a dip tray. Lastly, wrap the looped part of the wand with cotton twine or cotton yarn. The string/yarn makes it much easier to make bubbles with this type of wand than if you leave the wire bare.