While working as an apprentice for Troupe America in Medora, North Dakota I had the opportunity to build this spittoon. The director wanted to make the spittoon jump as if it had been hit by high velocity spit. One of the unique challenges of this project was being able to source all of the materials in time. I had a little more than a week from the time I was handed the project till opening night. Medora, North Dakota is a remote town that is a two hour drive to the closest airport. Once I found reliable vendors that would express ship the parts everything came together fairly quickly.

Another hurdle that I had to overcome was the range at which it responded to the transmitter. The wireless relay board had an antenna, but the director did not want anything sticking out of the spittoon. Keeping the antenna inside the spittoon was not an option because it was metal and blocked almost 100% of the signal. To compromise I came up with the solution to drill a small hole in the side and wrap an insulated wire around the neck of the spittoon. The wire wraps around in the same place as a seam in the metal and is nearly invisible. This is not the most ideal location of an antenna, but it allowed me to achieve approximately 75% of the rated range and was more than enough for the show.

An aftermarket car door lock actuator was used to move the spittoon. A hole was drilled through the base that actuator arm would move through. The hole was drilled off center in order to achieve a rocking effect when the arm actuated. The transmitter was wired with a 120v relay so that it could be activated by a dimmer. The idea was to sync the sound and light board in such a way to synchronize the movement with a sound effect.

When building this unit I constructed everything keeping in mind that it had to work for 4 months in an outdoor theatre in one of the harshest climates in the continental US. I was only in Medora for the first month as we were constructing the set, but I am told that it worked the whole summer. Troupe America contacted me six months later asking for help to refurbish the unit because it was being used in another one of their shows. It turned out that the only issue is that the cheap battery charger prematurely killed the SLA battery. I replaced the battery and ordered them a better quality smart charger.