I converted this recycling bin into a giant jack-in-the-box.  And then I surprised people with it.

To build the giant jack in the box, I initially attempted to quadruple the size of a small kitchen scale that used a mechanism I thought would be perfect inside a recycling bin.  I call the part that moves up and down the carriage.  I designed it in Solidworks and laser cut duron piece and glued them together.  I used wooden dowels as the pivots and fasten them to the rotating parts on the carriage.  It quickly became clear that this would be too bulky and unsteady at such a large scale.  [Lots more about process after the jump!]

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Next I considered using drawer sliders like those you find on drawers in your kitchen or in a desk. Mounting them vertically throws them off their tracks, however, so I quickly reconsidered this as well.

I found some expandable, very lightweight, aluminum duct tubing, about six inches in diameter. I realized that this could just slide up and down on some kind of track and I set to work milling a track into a four-inch diameter piece of PVC pipe. I added a locking mechanism on one side that the slider could lock into when pushed down and pulled forward by the springs. On my first attempt at milling the pipe I found that this kind of PVC is injection molded in compression somehow, such that when you mill out a portion of it, it will close up. However, when you release the tension on the other side, it stays open and creates a perfect track.

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I attached the pipe to the bottom of the inside of a paper recycling bin using a toilet drain flange.  I punched holes in threaded rod and passed it through the duct, which I reinforced with duct tape, and through the track.  I bolted the rod to the duct and then attached the springs to the front two corners of the bin and to the rod.

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Next I created a release mechanism comprised of a small metal lever attached to a hinge bolted to the bottom of the bin and in tension using a spring attached to the back of the bin.  The release cable uses a spring to keep it taught in both directions and is attached the lid so that when the bin is flung open it releases the duct and it shoots up.

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I wanted whatever flew out of the bin to be terrifying but also funny.  I dressed it in a cheap polka dot clown suit and fashioned a head out of a squishy ball, sunglasses, clown hair, and a facemask.  In addition, I originally wanted the jack in the box bin to sit next to another bin that would regurgitate whatever was thrown into it.  So I gave the clown an “out of order” sign in the hopes that unsuspecting users would try the jack in the box bin and then try the other bin.

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I affixed an altered recycling sign to the sides of the bin where I reversed the arrows so that they were pointing outwards instead of inwards.

Recycling