Advice for Building Contraptions

Contraption Advice

There are several types of parade contraptions that are ideal for the Chewbacchus Parade.  These include:

  • Trikes… which can also be used to tow mini-float trailers (e.g., the X-Wing/Bar2D2)
  • Golf Carts/Electric Utility Vehicles (e.g., the Millenium Falcon Wookiee Throne)
  • Shopping Carts (e.g., the Barship Enterprise)

Remote controlled electric power chairs, recumbent bicycles, wagons and homemade rolling platforms can also make great contraption chassis.  There is no single “best” or “right” way to do it… however, here are the MOST IMPORTANT general guidelines for contraption construction. Dimensions: All contraptions should be no larger than 11 feet high and 8 feet wide for New Orleans streets.

1. All Chewbacchus Parade Contraptions should be Drunk Proof.  It’s crazy out there… i.e. in the heat of battle, ANY random drunken nerd could be called upon to push/pull/pedal ANYTHING at ANY given time.  K.I.S.S.  Dont build something that is overly difficult to operate.  Err on the side of whatever is the simplest and most versatile in all things and your life will be better – thus sayeth Chewbaccacabra.  That being said…

TEST your contraption BEFORE rolling it in the Chewbacchus Parade.  Your contraption needs to be able to move at very slow, stop and go speeds.  It must be safe and it must be funtional.  Gaps develop in parades.  That’s normal and OK.  If your contraption creates hassles and hazards because it doesn’t really maneuver well, that is not OK.  If your contraption causes problems for other parade-goers you might be asked to remove it from the parade (i.e. chain it up to a telephone pole and roll without it).

2. Standard Shopping Carts are made for rolling on linoleum floors in super markets NOT the potholded streets of New Orleans.  If you build a contraption onto a standard shopping cart chassis you should REPLACE the small standard casters with BIG heavy duty casters or pneumatic tires from Harbor Freight.  THE BIGGER THE CASTER THE BETTER.  Space Commander Chewbaccacabra uses big 10″ solid rubber casters on all his shopping cart contraptions and you should too.

If you create your own trailer/chassis you should mount swivel casters on the front and rigid casters on the back end.  SWIVEL ON THE FRONT.  RIGID ON THE BACK.   It’ll be a lot easier to maneuver and push/pull in the vast majority of cases.

3. SOLID RUBBER CASTERS ARE SUPERIOR TO PNEUMATIC TIRES BECAUSE YOU DON’T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT FLAT TIRES OR MAINTENANCE.  But, if your contraption has pneumatic tires… you should bring a can of Fix-A-Flat with you during the parade in case you get a flat.

4. A basic tool kit and/or a multi-tool can TOTALLY save your ass in case of a mechanical breakdown on the route.  Bring one. Fix-a-flat and a broom are also good tools to have on the route.

5. Bring a chain and a padlock or a bike lock with you in case your contraption breaks down severely and must be abandoned on the route.  If you lock it up to a Stop Sign or telephone pole, there is a good chance you will be able to go retrieve it after the parade and save it.

6. 12v Power Systems/Batteries/Electronics/LEDs are the recommended standard for EVERYTHING.  Deep Cycle Marine Grade 12v Batteries are the tried and true method for powering the lighting, sound and animatronic components for contraptions.

7. What you use as your chassis should depend on what you are trying to build.  Keep it light, simple, and structurally solid.  The creative possibilities are endless.

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