Make a Desk Fan from an Old Bus

Make a Desk Fan from an Old Bus

Hello and welcome back to Switch & Lever! Have you ever taken apart a really old bus? If not, I can thoroughly recommend it, it’s
filled to the brim with absolutely neat stuff! This is exactly what I had the chance of doing
with this old city bus, and while there is lots that can be mentioned about this specific
bus I figured we would focus on one thing, the driver side fan, for those hot days when
driving around screaming school children is driving you absolutely insane. Just turn on the fan, lean back, close your
eyes and imagine the wind blowing through your hair…except don’t do that, because
you’re a balding bus driver and you’re about to run into a tree. The awesome thing about this particular model
of fan is that it’s been in constant production since at least the 1950s, and can still be
purchased today! With something that can make you look this
cool, how can you go wrong? Electrically the fan couldn’t be simpler. It runs on 24 volts, and has a rotary switch
in the back. Apply correct power, flip the switch and the
fan spins, easy as that. My thinking was though that a desk fan would
be a lot more useful as I lack a vehicle, and summers are hell to work in front of a
computer. It’s not however as simple as just placing
it on a table, we need something to mount it on. Straight out of the junk pile comes this auspicious
helium container. We can probably chop the top off to mount
the fan on, hopefully without blowing ourselves up in the process! I cannot stress this enough! Make sure the gas cylinder you’re using is
empty, especially if it contains any sort of combustible gas! Depress the valve and empty out the gas! If you can’t hear any rush of gas exiting
the cylinder, you can be reasonably sure that it’s empty. Of course, you could never know for sure until
you slowly slowly…EXPLOSION!!! Once you’ve made sure there’s no gas in the
cylinder, mark where you want to cut the top off. Wide masking tape makes an easy way to get
an even mark around the cylinder. If you’ve done the previous steps correctly
you should not experience any explosions as you break out the angle grinder! Take your time and make the cut as neat as
possible. Even so, you’re probably going to want to
clean the jagged edges left by the angle grinder, and smooth out any unevenness may remain. The rim will be the base of the fan, so any
unevenness will mean a wobbly end product. As the cylinder is already painted prepping
it for another color is fairly easy. Remove any labels with a hot air gun and clean
up with some etanol or other suitably mild solvent. Don’t use something like acetone, as it will
eat into the existing paint. Follow this by scuffing up the paint with
a fine scotchbrite pad. This is so the new coat of paint will stick
better to the base. Of course, before we get carried away, we
need to add holes for the hardware. Since I didn’t want this to have a permanent
cable connected at all times I installed a barrel jack to the back of the base. I also marked out holes for four screws which
will hold a baseplate inside the base in place, and act as a proper bottom to the base enclosure,
and also make sure you could never touch any live wires. Drill out the holes slowly with plenty of
lubrication, and make sure you’ve centerpunched the positions properly to stop the drill from
wandering on the surface of your cylinder. Start by priming your base with a good primer,
to give the paint the best possible chance of adhering to the old paint. If you feel really enthusiastic you could
strip the old paint using a wire brush, but this should be just fine. After the primer dried thoroughly the base
was painted with a few layers of a good quality automotive black spraypaint to give a good
strong coat, without the need for additional clear coating. This should probably have been done before
painting, but who cares about planning ahead!? Mark and drill out the position you want to
attach the arm for the fan. Start with a small diameter drill and finish
off with one that’s the proper size for the bolt. While drilling, also drill another slightly
bigger hole in between the two mounting holes, as that’s where we will enter with the cable
from the fan into the base. For this reason, filing a small notch in the
bottom part of the fan arm is also a good idea so we don’t pinch the cable. Make sure all sharp edges are apropriately
filed down, not to cause any undue wear on the cable over time. Solder some wires to your barrel jack, and
attach a couple of connectors. I chose spade connectors, but screw terminals
would work just as well if you’re working with exposed wires. Now we need a bottom for the base, easiest
is just to measure the inside diameter of the base, mark the corresponding diameter
on a piece of plywood, cut it out and sand it down until it fits properly. Now it’s just a matter of putting all the
pieces together. The barrel jack is mounted first, and the
cables from the fan are pulled in and connected with the barrel jack. Before moving onwards, make sure that the
fan is working and spinning in the right direction. If it’s not, flip the cables around, as the
fan is likely spinning backwards and reversing the poles fixes this issue. Once it’s done, insulate the connectors with
electrical tape to prevent possibility of short circuiting the fan. The arm is attached with regular machine screws,
and locking nuts on the inside. Finally the fan can again be attached to the
arm, and we can get an idea of the final result! The baseplate we made before is added to cap
everything off. As it’s just made from plywood it can be a
good idea to pre-drill the holes before attaching screws, to avoid the plywood splitting when
driving a screw into the side-grain. A small notch was also cut into the plywood
to accomodate space for the barrel jack which was mounted a little bit too low. Here’s for a little surprise, the dot over
the i as we say in Sweden, those two new holes will be used to attach a custom etched brass
plate, forever dubbing this fan as The Faninator! It’s just simply riveted in with copper rivets,
for a nice and classy finish. If you’re wondering how this brass plate came
to be, rest assured that I will cover this in a future video! That’s it, now you have something to cool
off in warm summer days, something that looks amazing in almost any decor. It delivers a surprising amount of air circulation
for its size, and I assume using a dimmer you could get it to run at different speeds
that the two settings provided by twisting the switch at the back. If you’re interested in getting this particular
fan model for a build of your own, they do show up from time to time on eBay or sites
dealing with replacement parts for old cars and buses. Either way, I hope you enjoyed this project,
and that you’ll check out some previous projects from Switch & Lever! Be sure to follow on Instagram as well for
more material while you’re waiting for the next project to be released! Until next time!

About the Author: Michael Flood


  1. I really love this project!
    however if you are using a flammable gas container you should definitely bubble it underwater to make absolutely certain there's nothing left in it.

  2. Excellent upcycle Sir! Can't wait for the label video…have an old 1950 drill press label to build…if I can find the font. Thanks for your enginerdity. Did you use an off the shelf 24VDC switching PS? Always a high point in my day! ~PJ

  3. Not a good idea to tin stranded wire before crimping the connector. These crimp fittings depend on stranded wire to spread out during the crimping process to make a secure connection. Tinned, stranded wire or solid wire will "take a set" during crimping and loosen over time with temperature fluctuations.

  4. is it an acid etching video I sense in the future? or maybe electro etching? I suppose it could be something else, but I'm interested in whatever it is 😉
    Thanks for the videos!

  5. That's an old bus? Here in America it would be considered new and serviceable. Europeans live better than we do.

  6. Helium is an inert gas so it will not combust. Also, to be DOUBLY sure that all the gas has been removed from the cylinder, fill it with water as the water will displace the gas out.

  7. Excellent work as always, and a pleasure to see..
    Maybe a domed cap nut would look nice on the golden valve

  8. The BEHR AUTOFAN is very sought after by classic car owners as fitted to Porsche 356 VW Oval beetle and split bus.
    A good one is over $100 .You can however buy a mains house fan for under $20 .This video is pointless.

  9. Guess I'm a bit picky but the lap on the weld was just looking wrong. I would have ended up wasting half an hour grinding that down.

    Might have been cheaper to buy a fan but I like the project. The finished product has character.

  10. Russian (Soviet) drivers used bucket or bottle with water instead of fan))) All LiAZ-677 buses had two-speed automatic transmission, and in a hot summer day you always can see a driver with his left leg in a bucket xD

  11. STOP! STOP! STOP! If your container held any type of combustible or flammable material DO NOT repeat DO NOT cut, drill, grind, or weld on this container. If there is any residual product inside a explosive atmosphere may be present inside. if it combusts the explosion may seriously injure or kill you. I am not the Safety Sally type but this is no joke.

  12. Man, you have very nice finish, but you spend so much time and efford to build something very, very simple, imo. Looks like pretty much all your videos are like that. I'd be much cooler for me to see this kind of finish and care on something that isn't, at the very least, overly simple.

  13. As a former bus driver, I'd be very gratified to see a video where you work over that bus carcass with a sledgehammer and blowtorch. And "jaws-of-life" if you can borrow a set.

  14. Hey, Mr. Science, Helium is not explosive. You're more likely to die due to your lack of knowledge than an exploding helium tank.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *