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Make Snow??!

 
 
This is mostly for you gearheads out there who have nothing to do all winter but stare at the latest issue of Summit.
I should say right off that making snow is HARD on a compressor...it will be running continuously, so unless you have complete confidence in yours, dont try this.

Now, man-made snow is nothing more than frozen drops of water....the trick is to spray the water fine enough, and keep it in the air long enough that it will freeze before it hits the ground. Actually, if you just filled an automotive spray gun with water you could make snow, but it wouldn't amount to anything:)
Anyway, this is where the compressor comes in. You simply make a suitable "gun" that uses the air to propel and atomize the water. The diagram below shows the easiest method:

Using common copper pipe and fittings, you could easily whip one up in an hour or so.
The whole gun can be less than 18" long using 1/2" pipe. Length wont have much affect here. 12-18" is fine.
Now, although this is much less technical than the machines used to cover whole ski areas, some attention must be paid to airflow. 
First, always make sure the air runs straight through and the water intersects it...in the above diagram if the air and water lines were switched, output would be almost nothing. The reasons involve velocity and turbulance, neither of which I care to get into here. 
Next, make sure you keep the airway as smooth and restriction-free as possible. Never use "quik-couplers" on the air hose at the gun or anywhere outside...condensation travels through the airline and any edge rough enough to catch one drop will start freezing the air line. Use a ball-valve at the gun instead(it's a good idea to have an air valve here in case you have to turn it off quickly). Use a decent separator at the air source to eliminate as much condensation as possible. As for the "suitable" orifice, or tip, a simple pipe cap will do, with a hole drilled in it. very simple, but effective. To get a good idea of how big to drill...I have a 2.5HP/9CFM compressor and an 1/8" hole works perfectly, holding 80PSI. 
Once you get a basic gun working, you can play around changing tip sizes and shapes and even make water inlet tips to get better results.
You may want to make some type of stand to set the gun on out in the open. However this gun is small enough that I just prop it on the old grille out back or in the railing on the front porch:)

Once you have constructed your masterpiece, it's time to wait for temps.
Temps would be anything below freezing. So, once it hits 30F hook up your hoses (air-straight-through) make sure the valves at the gun are closed, then go back and turn on your compressor. once you have full air pressure, turn on your garden hose/pump station and head back up to the gun. Turn on the water just enough that it runs steadliy out of the end. no more. Turn the air on all the way. Now you should have the gun a few feet off the ground pointing slightly up into the air.
Let it run for a few minutes so the air pressure evens out....as this point, your compressor should be running unless you have a decent size one:) Now just walk out about 10 feet in front of the gun and let the "snow" fall on your arm....does it bounce off? Or does it instantly soak in? If the snow is on the "dry" side, it will bounce slightly. If it soaks right in, its wet. Now you can go back and either open the water valve some more(wetten it) or close the valve a bit (dry it up). Then check it again. For comparison, once you get some on the ground, "snowman" snow accumulates the fastest, so if that's what's on the ground you're doing good:)

Now I should explain the water/air thing a bit. The colder it is, the faster water will freeze and the more you can put through the gun, which will put out more snow. Also, the more water going through the gun, the less air it will use. So, in general, the colder it is, the better, and since this system isnt really an engineering marvel, it needs all the help it can get:)
One more factor before you try this out. If the air pressure is greater than your water pressure, water wont get out of the gun...the air will hold it back. So, If you turn the air on and the water stops coming out, just turn back the regulator on the air tank until you have water, and then drop it another 5 pounds. This will take care of it. If your gun starts spitting water and acting like theres no air, the air line is probably frozen. The solution is to turn everything off and bring the whole works inside to thaw out. There are ways to de-ice airlines on the fly, but I'd be risking a lawsuit telling you how. If you got this far I'm sure you'll figure it out though:) Just remember to keep the water running...water wont freeze while its moving.

Well, this is definitely the quickest lesson I have ever given on snowmaking. However I love to talk about snowmaking and would be happy to answer any questions you have regarding it, or just talk about it in general. So, be careful, and make sure to have fun:)


 
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