Ice Luge

Posted March 28, 2005 at 6:17 pm 26 Comments
My quest for an ice luge was not without its pitfalls. After calling all of the major ice suppliers in the bay area, I determined that ice sculptures do not come cheaply. “We have a fixed rate on sculptures,” said the guy at the San Francisco Ice Company. “For $300, we make absolutely anything you want from a 300-pound block of ice.”This was an interesting piece of information to file away, should I ever need to order, say, a gigantic frozen phallus for a swank bachelorette party. However, it was of little use to me in planning the weekly CS Department social event, since $300 is well outside of our weekly budget.

Our Ice Luge, or S'liquor Slide, is a must for a truly great party At this point, perhaps I should explain the concept of an ice luge for those unfamiliar with frat parties (or Hollywood portrayals thereof). An ice luge is a large banked ramp of ice with a narrow channel carved through it. A measured quantity of liquid, typically liquor, is poured into a channel at the top of the luge, and a few seconds later an icy cold drink is dispensed at the bottom, directly into an awaiting open mouth. Awesome.”Maybe I could just carve my own ice luge,” I thought. “There aren’t any chainsaws in the Graphics Lab tool room, but a chisel and a heat gun might do the trick.” Unfortunately, it turned out that even that approach was too expensive — the best price I could find for a large carving block of ice was $75.

Not to be deterred, I fell upon the idea of freezing my own ice block. I explored the kitchens of various academic buildings, selected the largest freezer I could find, and measured its dimensions: 12″x24″x16″. After a quick trip to Home Depot for a plastic storage container and several lengths of PVC piping, I was ready to construct my very own ice luge.

Some back-of-the-envelope calculations determined that the 12 gallons of water would take several weeks to freeze. This was far too long, so I prepped the container by first filling it with four 20-pound bags of ice cubes. I filled the remainder with water, burying the pipes underneath to create hollow channels through the ice.

I left for the weekend anticipating returning to a beautiful ice luge. Unfortunately, my frozen creation was not welcomed by the inhabitants of the Packard Building. On Saturday I received the following email:

> Whoever put the science experiment ( the plastic box full
> of water slush and pipes) in the freezer on the second
> floor of Packard needs to identify themselves and their project
> pronto or, even better, remove it. It is  creating a heavy energy
> drain on the appliance and will be removed on Monday.

I began searching for a new home for my “science experiment,” feeling a sudden solidarity with the many “scientists” before me who had faced similarly imposing challenges. I soon discovered that if I slid the center shelf out from one of the freezers in the Gates building, it could just barely accommodate the storage container. I carted our partially-frozen ice block over to the Fujitsu Lounge kitchen and hoisted it into its new resting place, where it comfortably remained for two more days.

The bad news is that apparently the storage container didn’t fit into the freezer very well. The freezer door closed fine when I put the container in, but it must have been just large enough to keep the door from swinging shut by itself. Someone must have opened the door and then failed to notice when the door didn’t close properly. As a result, the freezer began dripping condensation on the floor, prompting someone to send an email to fixit@cs, which in turn prompted Christine or Hector to remove the ice container and dump it out back by the shipping dock. Fortunately, Christine was pretty good-natured about the whole thing, but the upshot was that the several weeks of freezer time I had invested in my homemade ice luge were for naught.
The good news, I suppose, is that when I found my poor abandoned ice block, unceremoniously dumped in the day lilies behind Gates, it was quite thoroughly frozen. It looked pretty awesome, and if I had discovered it sooner I might have been able to salvage it. As it was, it was covered in dirt, and the outer 2-4 inches of ice had already melted. But I was heartened to see that my plan had more or less worked. The PVC pipes even slid out smoothly when I pulled on them, leaving some perfect channels through the ice.
This failure left me discouraged, and for a while I gave up on the ice luge. Eventually, though, “science” soldiered on. I decided to use my own freezer for the next attempt, so that I could avoid pissing off any more building administrators. I’m finally beginning to understand why large ice blocks are so expensive.
This time the freezing process completed without incident. Unfortunately, I ran into another problem after carting the ice luge over to a party at Jessica’s place. The PVC pipes had not been properly plugged this time, and they had filled with water and frozen, causing them to stick firmly inside the block of ice.
Everyone had their own ideas about how to remove the stuck pipes, and we tried nearly every idea without success. Bob suggested pouring hot water into the end of the pipes, but we found that the empty space in the pipe was so small that it quickly filled up and the water became cold immediately. After ten minutes of pouring in hot water and tilting the block to pour the water back out again, we had made almost no progress.
Jessica suggested heating a metal coat hanger in the oven and poking it into the pipe to melt the ice. At first this seemed like a good idea, but it turned out that the coat hanger wasn’t sturdy enough to chisel through the ice, and it cooled off very quickly.
We even tried using a hair dryer and a funnel to blow hot air into the frozen pipes, but it didn’t seem to have much effect. Finally, we made a run to the grocery store for some metal barbecue skewers, which we were able to drive gradually into the icy pipes using a hammer. After about fifteen minutes of hammering, pouring in hot water, pouring out cold water, and hammering some more, we were able to make a channel through the pipes.Of course it turned out that because PVC pipes are such good insulators, pouring hot water through the middle the pipes didn’t actually do much to melt the ice around them. But by this time everything had melted enough that a few careful hammer whacks drove the pipes out at last.
The luge operated quite well at first, but it had taken so long to get it working that it was starting to melt, forming unusual holes and channels inside the ice block. After the first hour of shots, we found that when we poured liquor in at the top and it would never come out the bottom; it was being trapped in a cavity somewhere inside the block.
Undaunted, I got out the hammer and a screwdriver and carved some curvy channels along the top of the ice block. This allowed the party to continue for quite a while longer.
The ice luge rounds continued for so long, in fact, that we eventually hit upon the bright idea of administering shots mouth-to-mouth. Though perhaps not the most sanitary practice, I think it imparted a special flavor to the drinks.

26 Comments »

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  1. Re: Your ice luge post…
    Dan~The way you experimented with making your own block is admirable- Also, you are obviously much better at computer related things than I (see I use an aol address)~ However, I’d like to suggest you visit our web site to answer your question about why ice blocks are so expensive…
    The 300 lb blocks are actually made in machines called Clinebell block makers and cost about $5.000.00 each. There is a photo essay on our web site that shows how they’re made…also some great photos of ice luges..
    Regards,
    Andrea Latham
    Ice Art, Inc
    Virginia Beach, VA
    http://www.iceartva.com

    Comment by Andrea — February 13, 2006 #

  2. great way to get big chuncks of ice for the ol’ ice luge is to just call around to different ice sculpting places and ask if they have any left over ice/ failed carvings. I scored a real nice sheet of ice last minute doing this.

    Comment by t — March 26, 2006 #

  3. thanx guys, halloween party santiago, chile

    Comment by robert szabo — October 24, 2006 #

  4. thanx for the great idea ,went out today and bought the needed supplies to try n make this work,hope it does

    Comment by mike — December 17, 2006 #

  5. Very helpful illustrations. I must have talked to the same 300lb, $300 guy as you and sought out homemade alternatives but don’t have near the diligence to follow through. First off, I haven’t been counting on weeks of freezing.

    I was thinking a knife sharpener (the pole kind) might have more staying power than a coat hanger. Another suggestion was spiraling medical tubing for the piping, but I suspect that may have similar insulating qualities to your PVC.

    If I can summon the motivation to follow through on any of these I’ll let you know.

    Comment by TasterSpoon — December 22, 2006 #

  6. im planning on making one soon too, it too about 2 1/2 days in my freezer to get a 24 long 5 inches tall 12 wide to freeze. right now im experimenting on the best way to get it done right. i used pam in the tupperware container to help the ice slide out easily, i would assume paming the pipes would work as well. but i was trying to think of wayss to get a curvy track inside the ice instead of a straight line

    Comment by bob — January 9, 2007 #

  7. ice luges are stupidly expensive, but this seems like waaay too much work. might as well just splurge for the real thing, or, better yet, split it with friends and share the cost/benefit. without all the hassle.

    Comment by veronica mars — January 16, 2007 #

  8. I’ve had some success making smaller luges very easily using a standard 2′ flower planter box. Just fill 3/4 full of water, place in freeze propped up on one end (to create a natural slope once the ice is removed from the ‘mold’), then wait about 48 hours.

    To make the channel I just used a small, solid kitchen knife (not one you like, it kills the blade) to make the initial channel, and then carefully pour warm water in to deepen the channel (I say carefully so that you get an even depth throughout. if you just pour it all in at the top you’ll get more melting there than farther down.)

    Comment by Dave — February 5, 2007 #

  9. If you want to make a quick luge all you have to do is take the lid off a cooler and put it in your freezer for a night or two. Carve out a tunnel and there you go, quick and cold shots.

    Comment by Ryan — March 3, 2007 #

  10. well i thought i would make one myself too but then i called the San Diego ice company and they told me $55 but they want $75 to deliver it . i have big strong friends so ill be OK and the cool thing is they will carve the channels for ME i just need a stand for a 300 lbs block of ice any ideas oh and you can all ways drill ice just use a wood bit and go slow .

    Comment by sarrah — March 9, 2007 #

  11. […] They’ve also got art and ice sculpture going on, which hopefully includes the luge. 10 bucks covers food and beer. […]

    Pingback by iheartpgh.com » Git Aht! - Things To Do This Weekend — March 30, 2007 #

  12. We’ve been playing around trying to make a luge using a traffic cone and tubing. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

    Comment by msk2 — April 10, 2007 #

  13. or just go here and buy the mold for like $25…

    Comment by Bob — April 12, 2007 #

  14. 300LB block of ice on the northeast coast, only $40, what a beaut!

    Comment by nika — June 15, 2007 #

  15. Use a router with a straight bit to carve the channels on top…it works very well.

    Comment by Jdilla — July 24, 2007 #

  16. why didn’t you dorks use copper pipe? it whould be alot easier to heat up no.

    Comment by keenan — September 1, 2007 #

  17. 40 for the block of ice….and a drill bit.

    Comment by Roland — September 25, 2007 #

  18. I made my first successful luge tonight with a sawsall, a drill and a knife.

    It lasted about 1.5 hours before it started springing leaks but it was very tough to cut through even with a sawsall because there were very few air bubbles. Cracks in the ice are what got me today.

    I used distilled water to reduce the air bubbles. It was a hit at our tailgate party.

    Comment by 9erMan — October 7, 2007 #

  19. you my friend are a fucking genius! =)

    Comment by Jenn — December 14, 2007 #

  20. I am in the process of trying to make my own luge for New Years eve using a long plastic container. Thanks to mother nature, I filled it with snow and water and put a flex tube thru it- It is only 10 degrees out so I am thinking this will freeze faster? Wish me luck.
    You’d think they would make a mold you could buy to make your own..There is only one on amazon but it looks cheap and small.

    Comment by Gpac — December 18, 2007 #

  21. The best thing to carve a trail would be to use a soldering iron.

    Comment by E — January 23, 2008 #

  22. Now how did you secure the PVC pipe the first time (the one that fell in the dirt) so that they slid out perfectly without any hassle?

    very interested : )

    Comment by sara — March 6, 2008 #

  23. for those of you who don’t feel like making a luge, there are PRE-MADE, already slanted LUGES, with designs down the sides and two “shoots” down the top at East Bay Ice in East Providence, RI for only $45! I’ve gotten a couple from there. They’re really good and last a long time, even when it’s hot out

    Comment by H — June 19, 2008 #

  24. There is a place where I live in Baltimore That always has some ice luges made up and there only $60.
    you don’t even have to call first. Just show up and ask.

    Comment by bensons — July 23, 2008 #

  25. http://www.lugez.com is now offering some pretty exciting and functional Ice Luge Molds.

    Comment by Greg Albright — August 18, 2008 #

  26. What the hell is the big secret on hown to make a spiral luge!!??? ive try and just cant the hose to flow. my last creation was , a 3 tier luge!!!!!awww yea!! one block of ice drains to another, all on an angle, above each other

    Comment by travis — March 30, 2009 #

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