GREAT INVENTIONS

Homemade zamboni

By Ray Ford

How two cottagers made one slick ice surfacer

Homemade zamboni

Photo by Donna Crozier

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Unlike Alberta’s other famous brother act, the Sutters, Greg and Doug Crozier can’t claim successful pro-hockey careers (or any sort of hockey career at all, actually). But thanks to their pint-sized cottage version of the Zamboni, the boys really make a good impression on home ice.

 

It wasn’t always that way. When it came time to flood the 25- by 50-metre shinny rink at their parents’ Long Island Lake cabin, Greg says, “We used to auger a hole through the ice, hook up a little gas-powered pump, dump a bunch of lake water on the ice, and hope it would level itself out.”

The effort produced an uneven, lumpy surface, and got Greg and Doug musing about a better way. They knew a thin layer of warm water would produce the smoothest ice, but how to spread it over such a large rink?

Enter the Long Island Lake ice resurfacer: an old Coleman cooler mounted on a John Deere lawn tractor. Warm water flows through the cooler’s plastic drain into a garden hose (secured in place with silicone to prevent leaks) and then to a plastic shut-off valve.

After skaters clear the ice, the brothers open the valve, releasing water through flexible tubing to a T-fitting that splits the flow into both ends of a PVC pipe. (This year, the Croziers plan to replace the tubing with semi-flexible PEX pipe and cemented fittings, which Greg hopes will better resist damage from freezing and thawing.) The water trickles from about 30 small (3/16″) holes drilled in the pipe and is spread across the ice with a strip from an old canvas air mattress.

“It takes about fifteen minutes and five coolers of water to do the rink, and we get a nice, shiny, flat surface,” Greg says. “The only problem is there’s always one sucker who has to run up and down the hill to the cabin to get the hot water.”

Has better ice improved the Croziers’ skating? “Not at all,” he says. “But it’s fun. Who doesn’t want to drive a Zamboni?”

 


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