Sunday, October 7, 2012

Working Ceiling Fan Tutorial

In an earlier post I shared the ceiling fan I made for the Quilt Shop Room Box and told you I wanted to make a working version. Later I posted a short (poor) video of the working fan. Here is a much better video of the fan in motion. I think the black bars in the earlier one were from the LED lights in the box. This time I didn't turn them on.

In response to several requests for a tutorial, here goes:

Here are the basic components of the fan itself. For a photo of the origins of the fan blade hardware, look at the earlier post. The clear plastic star is a mirror fastener that was replaced by a plain disc as the build evolved. The fan blades are cut from a sheet of frosted Mylar. I chose the Mylar because it was thinner than a credit card (so more to scale), wouldn't warp like paper/card stock might, and has a "tooth" surface that takes paint well. Note the tiny hole in the end of the eighth-inch wooden dowel that became the shaft. The translucent red bead serves as the motor. Because of the variety of materials that had to be glued together, I went straight for the E-6000.

You may have noticed the gloss black paint in the previous photo. I didn't use it. The matte finish looked more like "old fan" to me, so I used it exclusively. I gave the small end of the hardware bits a slight twist before gluing them to the center flat bead, so the blades are canted slightly, as in a real fan.

My apologies for the out-of-focus picture of the loop at the end of the shaft. I have a new camera and haven't yet figured out the close-up settings. I stripped the paper from a twist-tie to get a pliable wire to make the hook. I ran the two ends through the hole in the shaft from opposite sides and then did some simple twisting to get the loop you see. That slight bulge at the top of the shaft is a narrow strip of tape covering the hole. I'm not sure it was necessary, but the wire was a bit rough in that area and I didn't want it to get hung up while threading it through the base cap and ceiling.

This is a view of the ceiling cap. The clear star that you saw above was replaced by a plastic pull-seal from a carton of half-and-half. I cut off the ring part and cut a hole in the center. That is a wooden bead glued in place to form a bit of a sleeve for the shaft to keep it from wobbling. If you look carefully, you can see that the hole in the bead and the hole in the ceiling don't quite match up. I had problems with the shaft sticking when I tried to thread it through. As luck would have it, I had some plastic drinking straws that just fit into the space. A snip from the end of a straw became a smooth lining for the sleeve. Wobble cured.

There's no magic formula for the length of shaft or ceiling base. I eye-balled it and made several small trims to get it to the point where it all worked together.

This is the twirler that I ended up using. It is battery operated and came with an extra battery from Christmas in Prescott.  It is sitting over the hole that I drilled in the room box roof. The scrap bits of angle molding are glued in place to keep the spinner from moving from the vibrations. (You're right -- I don't throw anything away!)

Here's how it goes together. The fan shaft is passed up through the ceiling cap and the spinner hooks onto the loop. I wanted the fan to be removable to spar it from jarring in the event the box needs to be moved an appreciable distance.

When the shaft is hooked, the fan looks like this.

What would I do differently next time? I'd be sure I have hardware for both sides of the blades. It's not noticeable to the casual viewer, but I know it's missing.


  1. wow this is soo cool! thanks for sharing! I made a fan simalar to yours by looking at the tut. I used real life hand held fan for the blades but didn't have all the other neat stuff you have. You can see it on my blog..I may want to try your working fam idea!

  2. How awesome is that! I am doing a quilt shop as well (a work a year or more in progress so far) and wanted a fan for the upstairs sewing class room. I'm not sure that mine will be as wonderful as yours is and actually work, but it is inspiring to see that you have done it. ☺

  3. Está muy bien este tutorial. Gracias por compartirlo. Besos