Thursday, November 26, 2009

Ant Hill Cache

Here at Creative Caches & Containers, we are not impartial to creativeness from outside sources.  We encourage you to let us know about your ideas so that we may help spread that creative nature to interested geocachers.  It is in that nature that we present this next idea straight from HeadHardHat (HHH), host of the geocaching video series known as GeoSnippits and the author of the GeoCache: I'm NOT Obsessed...Right? blog.  With his permission, we provide you with this video on how to design an Ant Hill Cache:

Let's quickly look at what is needed for this design:
  • Bondo
  • Bondo Hardener
  • A small bucket or cup
  • Latex or vinyl disposable gloves
  • Something to stir with (and disposable)
  • Spray Paint (textured, and roughly the color of ant hill sand)
  • Plastic 35mm film canister
Bondo is, simply put, a putty. But it's not like the Silly Putty that most people play with as a kid.  Bondo is a two-part putty.  This is because Bondo alone is okay.  But once you add the hardener, it hardens FAST.  And the more hardener you apply, the faster it will harden.  This is why you want the gloves.  It will harden to anything and you don't want it under your fingertips when it does.  Bondo was originally designed for automotive use and is commonly used in automotive repair.  But there are many other uses. Just looking it up I came across pictures of people who have used it to design creative outsides for their Wii, making hand holds for rock climbing walls, making a ceiling fan look like helicopter blades (complete with helicopter hanging below), and even for making buttons on a Guitar Hero controller that light up when you push the buttons.  There are likely limitless ideas for its use, so it's no surprise that it can be useful for making geocaches.

The video pretty much sums up how to make it, so I'm not going to go over that.  When I first saw this, I commented to HHH that most ant hills I've seen don't look so vertically tall.  Guess the North Carolinian ants are bigger. :P  But all kidding aside, you don't want to create an ant hill that doesn't look like the ant hills commonly seen in the area you want to hide the cache.  I've seen ant hills that look like his but half the size.  I've seen ant hills that are small in height but are wide and circular.  What we are going to look at now is how to modify the design to blend this cache in with the ant hills in your area.

First, you'll want to go out and find some ant hills as examples to see how you want yours to look in the end.  Part of why his is taller is because of the position of the 35mm film canister.  That's going to be hard to position any different.  You could use something smaller, but I have another thought that will help in making a smaller ant hill while not necessarily reducing the size of the container.

If you want to make one of these that doesn't stand up as tall, then don't build it around the cache itself, but around a cache holder.  Let's first look at some additional supplies that are needed.  First, you need to know what size container you are going to use.  Avoid anything larger than a 35mm film canister.  Try to aim for something thinner. The goal is to lay the cache on it's side inside the fake ant hill to reduce the height, but still allow geocachers to open the container.  Bison tubes, Advantex film canisters (more oval shaped than the 35mm kind), nanos, and other small containers will work well for this.

Once you have the size picked out, make a thin plastic sleeve that fit snuggly around the container.  If using a nano, you can also just get a magnet the same width as a nano.  You want this sleeve to fit snuggly to help hold the container in place, but still be able to remove it from the sleeve as needed.  If need be, you can try to hunt down some moldable plastic.  It's been a while since I've seen it in stores, but there is a product out there that can be heated up in boiling water so that it is moldable.  Take it out of the water, and within a few minutes it will harden into whatever shape you position it in.  I'll try to look for in the future, but if you know what I'm talking about, send me the info.  Once you have this mold made, you then just snap the container into the sleeve and you have a cache holder. When you apply the Bondo, this will take the place of the 35mm in the video.

For added measure, we're going to design a cover to go over the cache to help ensure it doesn't fall out by accident.  To do this right, you'll need to design this part first, before you make the ant hill.  Figure out roughly what size you want the base of the ant hill to be (width wise) and about how tall you want it to be.  Get some hard plastic and cut it out to be about that width of the base.  Then get a screw that will be a bit smaller than the planned height of the ant hill.  Put the screw through one end of the plastic piece.  Have this with you when you apply the Bondo.

Before apply the Bondo, have newspaper down like in the video.  Take that plastic sleeve that you'll use to hold the cache and place it on top of the plastic piece with the screw.  Make sure it's not right up against the screw.  Then place a small piece of newspaper between both plastic pieces, covering up the bottom piece, but with the screw poking through the paper.  You are doing this because you want the Bondo applied to both the sleeve and the screw, but not the plastic piece that is attached to the screw.  Now apply the Bondo.

When finished applying the Bondo, and once it's hardened, remove the small piece of newspaper that you placed between the two plastic pieces.  If designed right, this will create a plastic cover that can be rotated open to expose the cache inside, and rotated closed to help protect the container from falling out.  This won't protect against the elements, so make sure that the inner container can be sealed.  If the shape isn't quite what you want, sand any undesirable parts away.

Now all that's left is to apply the spray paint.  As HHH mentions, use a textured spray paint.  Try to find one that closely matches the color of the ant hills in your area.  Paint it, let it dry, and there's a modified Ant Hill Cache.

Thanks to HeadHardHat for making this video.  It really shows how some creativity can produce interesting cache designs.  Keep up with his blog for some great general geocaching tips.

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