Surprise! Covering a living room floor with confetti... through the mail
April 4, 2005 11:05 AM   Subscribe

I want to shower somebody with confetti--by mail. Is there any low-tech way I can rig a gift box to achieve maximum confetti coverage?

I once received a card that contained a small tissue-paper packet glued on both sides to the inside of the card; upon opening, the tissue paper ripped, producing a modest shower of confetti. I loved the idea and would now like to do something similar to congratulate a friend on his new house. (By making him vacuum it!)

Ideally I'd like a helium balloon to rise up out of the box and pop, spreading confetti and a small note, but don't know how this can be achieved. (Or if the helium will last that long.)

I'm open to other methods. I know the wedding industry sells devices that spread confetti, but the ones I've come up with in my Google searches either 1) are sold in multiples, 2) are decorated with frilly wedding themes, or 3) require the user to follow instructions to push, pull, twist, or otherwise manipulate it to get it to explode (thus ruining the element of surprise and thwarting me in my plot to get confetti all over the carpet).

Any ideas? Please, no devices that will make the Post Office panic and call the bomb squad. Thanks.
posted by Soliloquy to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I like your helium balloon idea. I think if you can attach crinkly paper with lots of folds to the string and fill the bottom 6" of the box with confetti (like small hole punch pieces and glittery pieces), it will lift enough of it to scatter it absolutely everywhere as the balloon rises. The great thing is the confetti is light and can be really deep... a full balloon can lift about an ounce and three or four of them should be able to do a good job. If the postman overturns the box, even better, it will "recharge" the folks with confetti.

I'd probably throw in a bunch of those "snappers" (sperm shaped pieces of paper that pop when thrown); if those get lifted and dropped they might make some pops.

Alternately, there are party favors that you pull apart and make a snap. They sell them at various import gift shops (especially UK); here in Austin they are at World Market. I bet you could rig one up with string to pull apart as the box flaps are pulled open.
posted by rolypolyman at 11:35 AM on April 4, 2005

Could you do something clever like wrap up the balloon in a particular way and then instruct your friend to open the box by puncturing it in a certain place? For instance, fill the balloon with confetti, and place it in a thin, opaque bag or box. On this bag/box, draw and elaborate series of instructions on how to open the thing, which involves your friend stabbing the thing so it explodes. (Sort of like what happens in "The Gift" by the Velvet Underground, but with confetti instead of blood.)

Oooh! How about a jack-in-the-box or spring-in-a-can device? Find one of those snake toys and modify it so you can put a bag of confetti inside it. I think this would work pretty well.
posted by Dr. Wu at 11:36 AM on April 4, 2005

folks = folds
posted by rolypolyman at 11:36 AM on April 4, 2005

I like the spring-in-a-can idea... I wonder if it's possible to buy a fairly large spring at a hardware store that would hold the confetti under five or ten pounds of tension.
posted by rolypolyman at 11:38 AM on April 4, 2005

Get a small battery operated fan and rig it with a simple microswitch from Radio Shack so that removing the box lid closes the circuit.

The fan at the bottom of the box, facing up. A layer of screen in the middle between the fan and the box opening is where you could put the confetti. When the box top is removed the fan starts up and blows the confetti all over the place.

I think a small computer fan, a 9V battery, and that switch I linked to would do the trick. You could pack it all inside a shoe box. Those switches have both a Normall Open and a Normally Closed lead.

Once you connected the battey you'd have to hold the switch down as you closed the box. But even if the fan started up as you removed your finger it wouldn't matter since at that point the confetti would be mostly self contained.
posted by bondcliff at 11:50 AM on April 4, 2005

The spring-in-a-can works. I used it to make joke gifts when I was a kid. If you don't need much pressure, you can even fold a spring out of heavy paper. Alas, it's been a while since I was five and I don't quite remember how to do it. Look online for kids' crafts projects, maybe?
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:04 PM on April 4, 2005

I've used odinsdream's method; it works well and I think would do well in shipping.

If you want to use a helium balloon somehow, I would suggest using a mylar balloon; they hold the gas in better than rubber balloons.

Good luck!
posted by Doohickie at 12:57 PM on April 4, 2005

bondclif:: it's got to go in the mail! Imagine if some suspicious delivery man somehow discovers microswitch, fan, battery, wires inside a shoe box. Having the bomb squad carry out a controlled explosion might not be the best gift ever :)
posted by TheDonF at 1:28 PM on April 4, 2005

I don't see a helium balloon working very well. I mean, look at the scenario:

1. Friend receives large, but very light package.
2. Friend cuts tape on top of package and opens flaps.
3. While opening the flaps, friend sees the balloon inside the box, thinks "That's pretty unusual--a balloon inside a box."
4. Friend suspiciously opens the box very slowly, probably putting a hand on top of the balloon to keep it from floating up.
5. Friend notices confetti in bottom of box and figures out what's supposed to happen.
6. Friend pushes balloon back into box, shuts box, tapes it back shut, and returns it to sender.

I have what I think is a better idea: Put a genuine gift for your friend in a box (say, a book--something with some weight to it). Surround said present with tissue paper that's all one color. Add in a lot of confetti that is the same color as the tissue paper, so as to conceal its existence. Close the inside flaps of the box. Now, here's the best part:

Get two thin plastic sandwich bags. Fill each with confetti. Spread one on each inside flap of the box, and attach double-sided tape to the top of each bag, so that, when the outside flaps come down, the bags will stick to them. Cut a couple of slits in the bags for good measure. Bring the top flaps down and tape them securely, making sure they're pushed together so the confetti-filled bags won't be visible at all.

Now, when your friend gets the box, he won't be as suspicious, because the box will have some weight to it. He'll cut the tape and open the top flaps, which should cause the bags to release their contents all over the place. Figuring that must be the entire joke, he'll then open the inside flaps, root around the tissue paper, and pull out the book, thus causing even more confetti to spread.
posted by cerebus19 at 2:43 PM on April 4, 2005

An automobile airbag would do the job.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:26 AM on April 5, 2005

Best answer: I must be crazy. But drawing on the snake-in-a-can, claymore mines, and parachute deployment systems, I've engineered an idea. If you can obtain a large compression spring, this oughta work. You'd want a sturdy box but it doesn't have to be crazy strong if you use large enough washers on the outside of the cardboard surfaces. An option would be to reinforce the box bottom and the "shelf" with a layer of tough plastic or something.

A box with a removable lid, rather than flaps, ensures that the path is clear to launch confetti, which is piled on the loose-fitting spring-loaded "shelf." A length of string, sufficient to let the gift clear the box opening, pulls a retaining pin out of the looped cord, releasing the shelf. BOING! Confetti sky-high.

(Should probably glue that washer to the shelf, fasten the shelf to the spring, and the spring to the box bottom, so that only the confetti is actually ejected.)


Alternatively, you could use no actual gift, instead attaching the trigger string right to the removable lid. "Hm, tight lid." *yank* BOING.
posted by Tubes at 1:00 AM on April 5, 2005

I love this thread.
posted by putzface_dickman at 7:17 AM on April 5, 2005

Response by poster: Some great ideas here; some are crazy enough to work!

While Bondcliff's "Confetti Vortex" idea is very tempting for sheer dramatic effect alone, I'm wary of sending such a device through the mail. With my luck, something would catch fire, or I'd be arrested by the Department of Homeland Security. I would attempt it if I could deliver the box in person.

Cerebus19's scenario is probably accurate, so I guess I'd better abandon the helium balloon idea.

An automobile airbag? Weapons-grade pandemonium indeed. :)

I think I'll experiment with the Tubes Device in my secret underground lab, with the "snake in a can" idea as Plan B. Thank you so much for the helpful diagram, Tubes.

To the hardware store!
posted by Soliloquy at 12:09 PM on April 5, 2005

Good luck! I hope we get to hear about it later.

One more thing, on review: you'll probably want to use a curved retaining pin, or maybe some plastic cable. A straight pin might resist too much when the string is yanked upwards at a near 90-degree angle. A curved pin will tend to right itself and release regardless of the pull angle. See the "STAINLESS STEEL CURVED PIN" on this page at Paragear. Your nearest drop zone has riggers who likely stock these.
posted by Tubes at 2:29 PM on April 5, 2005

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