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Making your own Watercolour Charger.

Copyright John Salmon 2006

3 chargers

In the spirit of environmental friendliness, recycling and energy conservation, which I know most artists embrace wholeheartedly, I have also invented a new term for the technology of the Watercolour Charger which is 'Re-designated Function Technology'.

This simply means taking an existing item which has already been manufactured, making a number of small modifications and additions, and using it in a different way than was originally intended. It would take someone with basic crafting skills and just a few tools, an hour or so to make one, for as little as 4.00, about the same price as a 5ml tube of watercolour paint. Everything required to make one could be found in virtually any high street and many people would probably have some of the materials in their homes already.

Above is a photograph of a Watercolour Charger shown at slightly different angles. This is the type we are going to make. I'll use images where it's possible to show you what to do but my digital camera doesn't allow me to get in as close as I'd like, so I may have to supplement this information with some drawings.

Although it may look rather narrow, don't worry it is very stable on a worksurface and will take quite a knock before it will topple over. Notice that the hair spray cap has now become a drip tray, and that the charger and reservoir assembly will slide up and down the supporting tube to allow you to adjust it to the most comfortable height. See, I think of everything for your comfort and ease of use.

The first thing to do is to take your piece of waste pipe and cut it as squarely as you can with your hacksaw so that you have a piece of wastepipe which is 4.5 inches long.

Then, with a sharp craft knife, score it from the top to the bottom, using a straight edge. This is a hard waxy type of plastic so you will need to score it over and over until you have cut right through it. You may need the help of someone with strong hands for this if you find it too hard to do. Please be careful and take steps to avoid injury.

Once you have made a split from top to bottom, you need to cut two little chamfers at about 45 degrees as shown in the photo.

charger support

Prise the tube open slightly and push the White Plastic Access plug into the opposite end to the chamfers. This will be gripped by the tube and will become the base of the Charger. If you want to, you can glue it in but it is not really necessary. This part of the manufacturing process is now complete.

charger support 2


For the next step you will need to remove the metal tube from the pet drinking bottle cap. The best way to do this is to grip the tube with your pliers and twist and pull it at the same time until the tube is removed. You will find a couple of ball bearings in the tube which can be disposed of. Don't grip the tube too tightly, we need to reuse it and don't want it damaged.

You now need to shorten the metal tube that you just removed. We only want a length of approximately 1 and 1/8 inches long. The best way I found to do this was to put the tube into my drill (see photo) and cut it with the hacksaw while the drill was revolving. The end to cut off is the rounded end. When you have made your cut, you can smooth the metal burrs with the nail file or emery cloth. Make sure it is smooth otherwise you may damage your bushes later. I also did this while the tube was in the drill. I was using the drill like a lathe.

Once you have done that, you can push the shortened length of tube back into the bottle cap again.

If you have got his far you have already completed the most physical part of the job. The next part is just as simple but a little more fiddley.

You are about to fabricate the Charging Cradle which is really a capillary guide. This is where the water will be suspended until it is charged into your brush.

Firstly you need to ensure your piece of wire is as straight as possible. Cut a 4 inch length and roll it between two old paperback books to straighten it further. A bit like rolling a modelling clay sausage. Remember that?

Using your pliers bend the wire so that it looks like the wire in the picture here. It doesn't need to be perfect, but the more accurate you can be, the better. trim the "U-Shaped" piece of wire so that it is approximately 1.25 to 1.5 inches in length.

If you have access to a soldering iron, cut a short length of wire and solder it into the two open ends of the wire as shown in the diagram. It will make a more robust job if you do this but don't worry if you can't. You may just have to adjust the wire Charging Cradle occasionally when it is fitted into the outlet tube of the reservoir bottle.

capillary guide

capillary guide 2

Having made your Charging Cradle, you need to bend it. Hold it in the pliers as shown, and bend it up gently until it represents the Charging Cradle in FIG.1. in the following drawing.

Once you have bent it correctly, put it into the outlet tube as shown in FIG.2. in the drawing, and force a short length of the neoprene tubing in also, to hold it firmly in place. This is known as an interference fit. The neoprene tubing will hold the Charging Cradle in place quite firmly enough for our purpose.


We are almost finished now, just a little further to go. You need to superglue a little piece of plastic to the plastic cap as shown in the photograph opposite. The size of the plastic is only 1.5 x .5 inches in size. You can cut it from another plastic cap if you have one. Just run a line of superglue down the centre of the plastic piece and glue it to the cap as shown. You may need to use a peg or something to hold the pieces together until the glue has set.


Once the glue has set, prise open the support tube and slide the drip tray down the opened slot until it makes contact with the surface that the whole assembly is standing on. The drip tray is now in the ideal position.

All that remains is to fill the bottle with water and screw on the cap which contains the Charging Cradle assembly.

Push the bottle into the support tube as shown in the photograph and adjust to the height that suits your way of working.

Check that the Charging Cradle is horizontal and adjust if necessary. If the Charging Cradle points upward, a meniscus of water will not form along its length. If it is pointed too far downwards, it will drip constantly and you don't want that.

You will notice that a meniscus of water will form on the Charging Cradle which you can now use to charge your brushes.

You'll be amazed to find the water lasts a long long time. An average sized painting will only use about an egg cup sized amount of water.

I know for a fact you are going to enjoy painting with this device but be careful. It is very addictive. Have fun.

Don't leave the Charger filled with water and un-used for too long otherwise mould will start to grow in the bottle.

finished charger

I can answer emails if you have any problems but please don't expect a reply if I have already covered your query elsewhere in this article.

If you really do want a Charger and can't make one for yourself, I can make one for you but to be perfectly honest, I'd rather be painting. If you do want one that's been handmade by the artist and inventor, email me and I'll contact you as soon as I can, but I warn you it will be expensive, I'd far rather you made your own.

If you are still having problems making one, can I suggest you contact your local model making or crafting club/society. I'm sure they would be able make one quite easily for you.


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