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.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

An Attractive PVC Cache

Today, we are going to look at a cache that is similar to a design we've looked at before.  The difference is we've made it a bit larger.  You'll need some supplies for this one so let's look at the essentials.

  • A piece of PVC pipe, about four feet long
  • Post-hole Digger
  • Power drill and some drill bits (read below to figure out what sizes)
  • A bolt, two washers and two nuts (see below for details)
  • A tube shaped cache, small or micro sized
  • A magnet
  • Superglue (preferably a kind that's designed for outdoor use)
  • Logsheet
Before continuing, let's look at the post-hole digger requirement.  For this cache, it is imperative that you not only have permission for the location the cache will go in, but that whomever gives you permission understands that you will need to dig a small hole (no more than a foot deep).  DO NOT place this in a location where you don't have that permission.  Don't worry, you aren't burying the cache.  It will make sense in just a bit.

When you are ready to get supplies, the first thing to decide on is the cache container.  You will need a tubular shaped cache.  For our design, we'll use a waterproof matchstick container.  They are easy to find in any camping store or department.  The reason we need to figure out the cache container first is that the width of the container will help us pick the PVC pipe you'll need.

The cache will need to fit easily inside the PVC pipe, so after you figure out what container you are using, either measure it's width or take it to the hardware store with you.  You need a section of PVC pipe that is at least a half inch wider than the cache container.  Also, make sure it's about four feet in length.  You can bump that to five feet if you'd like.  

Next, we need a magnet.  Aim for a magnet that is between half as wide to the full width of the cache container.  Try not to get one that is wider than the magnet, or else you'll need to widen the PVC pipe to account for that.  Just make sure you have some superglue (or another adhesive) designed for outdoor use.  You may want a second one, and we'll come to why later.

Last of all, the bolt.  You need to get a bolt that is wider than the PVC pipe.  Aim for one that is about two - three inches wider.  Get washers and nuts to go with it, and make sure you have a drill bit wide enough to make a hole for the bolt.  There is one more thing.  If you can, get a bolt made from a non-magnetic metal.  There are some out there, you just have to look.  If you can't find one, then scrap the second magnet I mentioned in the above paragraph and talked about below as it will actually hinder the cache.

Now you should have all the supplies you need.  Let's start building by attaching the magnet to one end of the cache.  I would suggest attaching it to the end of the container opposite the lid.  You don't want someone to accidently remove the magnet.  Be thorough with gluing it on.

While that is drying, let's get the PVC pipe.  You'll need to place about a foot of this into the ground so measure a foot from one end of the pipe and mark that spot with a line around the pipe.  Next, measure about one inch further up the pipe and mark that spot with two dots on opposite sides from each other.  Measure another inch and repeat.  Do this two more times.  You will drill holes through each of these dots.  Two of the holes need to be drilled wide enough to fit that bolt we talked about.  The bolt should not be placed in the bottom set of holes.  Ideally, try to place it in the last set, farthest from the line.  The remaining holes are the drainage holes, hence why you want the bolt in the highest set of holes.  When you put this pipe into the ground, those holes will help make sure the pipe can drain any water that collects inside.  The bolt will help hold the cache up out of the water when the pipe fills.

By now, the glue is likely dry (unless you used Gorilla Glue).  Grab the newly drilled pipe, your post-hole diggers, the cache container, and a logsheet.  I'd recommend a small baggie for the logsheet (can be found in any crafts store or department near where they have bead supplies).  Time to go to the cache site.

At the selected cache site, you'll need to dig that hole. This is why you need permission.  Once you have the hole dug, pack some of the dirt into the end of the PVC pipe that you measured.  Try your best to keep this packed dirt under that line, as you want to keep those drainage holes clear of dirt.  If you can, use something to stick in the top of the pipe to help pack down the dirt at the bottom, be it a stick or a hiking pole.  Once this is ready, stick the pipe into the hole and fill the surrounding hole up with dirt.  If done right, the line you drew should be level with the ground.  Make sure you pack down the dirt to help secure the pipe.  If you are able to find a spot close to a fence or other structure, you can even help tie the pipe to that structure to help hold it up.

Now for the tricky part.  Make sure you place the geocache into the top of the pipe so that the magnet is facing up.  For security purposes, you can always attach a magnet at both ends of the container just in case a geocacher puts it in upside down.  But don't do this unless you can get a bolt that won't attract magnets.  If you do, and you place a container with magnets on both ends into the pipe, the bolt will grab hold of the magnet and nobody will be able to retrieve the cache.  If you are forced to use a bolt that will attract the magnet, make sure to include a line in the cache description about being careful replacing the cache (you don't have to say way, just that they need to be careful).

The cache works like my Magnetic Micro cache, but on a larger scale.  A geocacher will have to bring something that they can lower down into the pipe to "Attract" the magnet on the geocache, then pull it up to retrieve.  Now it should make sense why we placed drainage holes and why we put the bolt in there, alongside why I made a big deal about the magnetism of the bolt and using two magnets.

Oh, and you can easily modify this one a bit.  Here is a design that MrDSW took of just this kind of cache (used with permission):

Note that the pipe used is attached to a girder for stability.  Also, the unique idea of placing this lure makes it feel more like fishing, which is essentially what geocachers will be doing.  If you look carefully at the cache container, you can get an idea of how they built it using PVC parts, a hook to attach to the hole at the back of the lure, and the tongue of the lure to attach the magnets too.

There are some other variations of this design, which I'll introduce in the next post.

By the way, I mentioned designing log books in my last post.  Sorry I haven't posted since as I've been busy, but that is on my list.  I'll give you a quick preview here: LOGBOOK SNEAK PEAK


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween Series - The event

Some people enjoy planning events.  For some, it's a chore.  Almost everyone loves attending them.  What you plan will make all the difference.

Okay, so a little bit of this post will be based on an event I held only two days ago, but with some encouragement from the kind words I've received about it, I felt that it wouldn't hurt to talk about creativity in event planning.  We could focus on events in general, and maybe in the future we will.  For now, lets look at some ideas for planning a Halloween event.

Hold your event at night.  This makes it a bit harder for the kids, but it makes the atmosphere ten times better for caching.  Speaking of caching...

Haunted caches.  If you can find a location with room to plant some caches, try to do haunted caches.  You can use the rat and skull caches from the previous two posts, or come up with something else.  Fake graves, ghosts in the trees, fake snakes and spider caches will provide those little EEKS escaping from geocacher's mouths.  If the area you are holding the event has some wooded trails, definitely plan on using them.  Put some Halloween related swag inside for good measure.

And speaking of wooded trails, if you're up for the task, try to build a night cache for the event.  Make it a haunted night cache to boot.  Night caches are fun in groups, even more fun in the atmosphere of Halloween.

It is Halloween so plan on people wanting to dress up.  Plan for this by holding a costume contest.  This will encourage some people to put more effort into their costumes and you'll see some interesting ones.  You may end up showing up at the event only to have a silent, heavy breathing, mad doctor staring you down as you try to guess whose inside.  And don't forget the kids.  Make it more fair and have a kids category and an adults category (don't forget prizes for both).

Mentioning kids reminded me something about caches.  If you are planning caches, it couldn't hurt to plan some kiddie caches.  Direct from the mind of redsoxfan65, who helped me with my event, plant some temporary caches for kids.  Fill them with Halloween swag that the kids can take so it feels like trick or treating.  Then, nearby, place a permanent "logger" cache.  When the kids find all of the temporary caches, the logger cache is the place where they can claim their find.

Try to plan for treat bags.  Everyone loves treats on Halloween, and the inner geocaching kid in all of your attendees will enjoy this extra step.  Plan on having more than what you expect to show up.  Chances are you will still run out.

Door prizes.  As with any event, try to have door prizes.  Especially if you hold a costume contest.  The chance to win prizes will get even more people dressed up.

If you can find something else to work into your plans, awesome.  For my event, we held the event at a park that had an observatory.  We worked with them to reserve it for the night and a member of their club came out and gave people views of Jupiter and the Moon through a HUGE telescope after the clouds rolled away.  It ended up being cool finish to the event.

All of this may seem like a lot of work, so ask for volunteers to help.  Put some effort into planning a fun haunted event and you'll have a lot of happy cachers in the end.

If you have other ideas to incorporate into a Halloween event, post some comments so others can plan for next year.

I have one last Halloween post planned and the plans can definitely be used outside of Halloween too - logbook design.  Bet you didn't think about that when planning your caches.  I sure didn't until recently.  All the artistic geocachers out there will love this one.