Skip to main content

Making a 'Ponyo' or putt-putt boat

If you've seen the film Ponyo (or if you grew up in Asia) you may have seen a sort of toy boat powered by a very simple steam engine. This sort of boat is variously called a putt-putt or pop-pop.

They work by having a very simple boiler powered by a candle in which water is turned to steam. The steam forces water out of a pair of tubes creating a partial vacuum which sucks water back in. The distinctive pop sound comes from the movement of the thin metal boiler's walls.

I came across lovely plans for building such a boat from a drink can and a milk carton from Science Toy Maker. The explanation and videos are really clear and easy to follow and the boat worked first time. Here's a short video showing it under test in my sink:

The first step in the instructions is making the engine. It uses a drink can, two straws and some epoxy glue. If you follow the video instructions it's not hard to make. Here's the can with the lid cut off using scissors:

Then it's folded in half and held together with some tape:

Then a pattern of cuts and folds is stuck on with more tape and the can is cut in two places and two folds are made to form the boiler:

Once folded the boiler is completely flat:

Then by gentle squeezing and inserting some straws you form the boiler shape which is fixed using epoxy glue:

Finally the straws are glued into place with epoxy and bent until he correct angle. The bends are hot-glued to keep them from unbending:

Then the engine is ready for a power test.

The boat itself uses a milk or juice carton. Here's one I borrowed from someone's party:

There's a simple pattern to print out and stick to the flatten out carton:

A bit of cutting, folding and stapling and the boat takes shape:

Then you stretch the boat to change the shape of the bow:

Finally, I painted it using a spray silver paint that was polystyrene safe and inserted the engine. The engine is hot-glued in place which helps seal up around the straws and weigh the boat down.

The boat is powered by a tea light.


Stork K said…
The real challenge would be to make one the same size as the boat in Ponyo.

Popular posts from this blog

Your last name contains invalid characters

My last name is "Graham-Cumming". But here's a typical form response when I enter it:

Does the web site have any idea how rude it is to claim that my last name contains invalid characters? Clearly not. What they actually meant is: our web site will not accept that hyphen in your last name. But do they say that? No, of course not. They decide to shove in my face the claim that there's something wrong with my name.

There's nothing wrong with my name, just as there's nothing wrong with someone whose first name is Jean-Marie, or someone whose last name is O'Reilly.

What is wrong is that way this is being handled. If the system can't cope with non-letters and spaces it needs to say that. How about the following error message:

Our system is unable to process last names that contain non-letters, please replace them with spaces.

Don't blame me for having a last name that your system doesn't like, whose fault is that? Saying "Your last name …

Importing an existing SSL key/certificate pair into a Java keystore

I'm writing this blog post in case anyone else has to Google that. In Java 6 keytool has been improved so that it now becomes possible to import an existing key and certificate (say one you generated outside of the Java world) into a keystore.

You need: Java 6 and openssl.

1. Suppose you have a certificate and key in PEM format. The key is named host.key and the certificate host.crt.

2. The first step is to convert them into a single PKCS12 file using the command: openssl pkcs12 -export -in host.crt -inkey host.key > host.p12. You will be asked for various passwords (the password to access the key (if set) and then the password for the PKCS12 file being created).

3. Then import the PKCS12 file into a keystore using the command: keytool -importkeystore -srckeystore host.p12 -destkeystore host.jks -srcstoretype pkcs12. You now have a keystore named host.jks containing the certificate/key you need.

For the sake of completeness here's the output of a full session I performe…

More fun with toys: the Ikea LILLABO Train Set

As further proof of my unsuitability to be a child minder (see previous post) I found myself playing with an Ikea LILLABO 20-piece basic set train.

The train set has 16 pieces of track (12 curves, two straight pieces and a two part bridge) and 4 pieces of train. What I wondered was... how many possible looping train tracks can be made using all 16 pieces?

The answer is... 9. Here's a picture of the 9 different layouts.

The picture was generated using a little program written in Processing. The bridge is red, the straight pieces are green and the curves are blue or magenta depending on whether they are oriented clockwise or anticlockwise. The curved pieces can be oriented in either way.

To generate those layouts I wrote a small program which runs through all the possible layouts and determines which form a loop. The program eliminates duplicate layouts (such as those that are mirror images of each other).

It outputs a list of instructions for building loops. These instructions con…