Tri-string wands can be used to make bubbles from small to whale-size depending on the size of the loop. They are easy to make and the go-to wand for creating big bubbles. While they can be elaborate, with clips and swivels and segmented or telescoped handles, they can be as simple as a pair of chopsticks and a shoelace.
They usually consist of a pair of handles and an attached loop (often called a wick). Loops are sometimes made from a single piece of wick material but are more frequently made from two lengths of material: a top string and a bottom string or down string that is roughly twice the top-string's length. The bottom-string is sometimes threaded through a washer that weighs down the bottom string slightly. The term tri-string seems to refer to the triangular shape of the loop's opening.
Getting Started? See the article Getting Started With Tri-Strings for a wealth of advice.
Wick materials. (See: Wicks.) Quite a large variety of materials work -- though some work much better than others. Cotton twine, so-called "t-shirt yarn", diamond-braid cotton rope (with the core removed), mop yarn, and some knitting and crochet yarns are effective -- even cotton shoelaces can work. In general, natural fibers work better than synthetics though there are some synthetics that work great. The wick does not need to hold a lot of bubble solution. More is not necessarily better. Even a super giant bubble consists of only a few teaspoons of "juice".
Attachments. Many methods can be used to attach the strings to the poles. On my first wand, I just tied the strings tightly to bamboo garden stakes. There are a couple of basic 'styles' of tri-strings: those where the loop attaches directly to the handles and those where the handles have some sort of clip or attachment point to which the loop attaches.
Thommy has posted a great blog entry about string materials and how to attach them.
Getting started. To get started with tri-strings, take a look at Getting Started With Tri-Strings. The article contains advice on wick materials, design and use.
More about tri-strings. See all the articles on the wiki tagged with Tri-String .
To use a tri-string wand, you simply dip the string into a container of bubble juice, lift up the wand with the handles held together, spread the handles apart to let the bubble start forming (you may have to walk forwards or backwards if there is no breeze) and then bring the handles back together to close the bubble as in the video.
See more videos in the section Giant Bubbles
Tips for Using Tri-String Wands
- If there is a lot of wind, don't open the string all the way open and stand so that the opening is at a 30 degree to 45 degree angle with the wind.
- If there is no wind, open the wand and walk backwards to create the bubble.
- If there is a lot of wind, walk forward as the bubble forms to keep rapid expansion from bursting the bubble. You may want to start walking BEFORE you start to open the wand.
- Since conditions radically impact the size of bubbles that can be made, start your bubbling sessions by making several bubbles that you let grow until they burst so that you get an idea of how large a bubble the conditions (and your bubble juice) will allow. Thereafter, you can let your bubbles grow until they are a bit smaller than the bursting size and close them off.
- It is often useful to have the poles raised above you so that your body doesn't become a source of eddies and vortices that make it tricky to close a bubble off.
- Long poles held high can help you launch the bubbles far enough off the ground that they don't quickly sink to the ground and pop. Launching high also increases the chances that the bubble will be caught by an updraft that will carry the bubble up.
How To Make a (Primitive) Tri-String Wand
Tri-string wands can be extremely primitive or elegant. Even the most primitive wand can create beautiful bubbles and tubes. Here are step-by-step instructions for a really primitive wand (which will work nicely). Links to more tri-string wand projects are found in Getting Started With Tri-Strings.
What you need. Two handles/poles. Some cotton twine. Optional: a metal washer or nut.
Your poles/handles can be anything from chopsticks (for a small wand) to bamboo garden stakes to dowels to .... well just about anything. For small wands, bamboo garden stakes are handy -- they are cheap and light. The wand shown in the picture uses bamboo garden stakes. For the string, you can use simple cotton twine or butcher's string or something heavier. Cotton (but not polyester) shoelaces work okay. For a big wand, you could use cotton clothesline although I find a couple of strands of twisted twine to be sufficient when you have a wand where the top=string is in the 36 to 48-inch range. For smaller wands, a single strand of twine works just fine (it does for bigger wands, too but they will benefit from another strand or two). A metal washer or nut can be handy but isn't necessary. Some purists don't believe in them but beginners often find them useful for keeping the string straight and making dipping into the container easier.
- Decide how big you want your wand to be. The "loop" is going to be made from two lengths of string: the top-string and the bottom-string. My first wand had an 18-inch top string -- and we had loads of fun with it. You can create bubbles up to about twice the diameter of the top string . For a first wand, it is recommended that you start with a top-string 18 to 24 inches long.
- Cut two lengths of string: a top-string and a bottom-string that is twice the top-strings length.
- (Optional) Thread the longer string through the washer .
- Tie the two strings together at both ends to make a loop.
- Connect the loop to your handles/poles. There are many ways to connect the loop to your handles. For my first wand, I cut two pieces of string a few inches long and tied one end tightly to the pole and the other end to place where the top string and bottom-string met. For later wands, I tied a short string to each pole and tied a fishing swivel on the other and so that I can clip and unclip wand loops from the poles which makes swapping loops easy.
There are much more elegant designs that people have but this should get you started.
Long Handles for Tri-String Wands
For tri-string loops up to about 60", you can use handles about 48" in length. Dowels, bamboo garden stakes, PVC-tubing and other materials found at the local hardware or garden supply store will do.
For larger loops, it is necessary to have longer handles. Long handles are also useful for keeping the loop high of the ground (which can give bubbles more of a chance to get some loft or to fly over the potential bubble poppers).
See the article: Poles and Handles for ideas about poles and handles.
Large Tri-String Loops
The larger the soap film and the bubble, the more vulnerable it is. Very large loops seem (at least at first) exponentially more difficult to work with than smaller loops. The size difference between bubbles made with a 10-foot top-string (and larger) loops and smaller loops (such as 5-foot to 7-foot top-string loops) is often less than one would imagine in part because very large loops (such as 10-foot top-string loops) are more difficult to manage than smaller (but still large) loops. However, under the right conditions with the right bubble juice and the right loop material, it is possible to create massive bubbles that can be quite impressive.
Very large films/bubbles need much calmer conditions than smaller films -- they also take more practice. Closing very large bubbles is a skill that requires practice -- even just dipping a giant loop requires practice.
Very large loops may require different bubble juice and different loop materials than smaller setups to reach their maximum potential.
See also Rigging Loops for Tri-String Wands
Modular and Composite Loops
Modular tri-string setups consist of separate top and bottom strings which are clipped onto your wand leads without being bound or tied together. They are very convenient if you like to use different materials (or weights of materials) for your top and bottom strings. They add a great deal of flexibility and let you choose the combination of materials that are ideal for current conditions.
Composite loops are simply tri-string loops that make use of different materials or weights of materials for the top and bottom strings. Composite strings are especially useful for giant loops as they improve loop responsiveness, and dramatically reduce juice consumption without impacting the maximum bubble size in most conditions. The majority of the super-giants on this site were created with composite tri-strings. The Guinness World Record giant bubble (as of 2016) was created with a composite tri-string!
Custom Cords/Ropes for Tri-String Wands
Most people that get serious about big bubbles, eventually seek out the ideal material to use for the string. Everything from butcher's twine to upholstery piping and mop yarn and clotheslines have been tried. Making custom rope/cord is trivially easy and has many rewards as they generally work better than off-the-shelf cord, rope or yarn. Read more on this topic in the article Rope and Cord Making which includes step-by-step instructions and video.
Garland Wands are a variation of the tri-string design. More about Garland wands.