Salad Spinner Science and Art

On June 1, the Blairstown Farmer’s Market kicked off it’s 2014 season. I was there with some fun projects for the kids. To kick off the summer, I decided to do one of my kids’ all time favorite science crafts at my table: Salad Spinner Art.


Lots of spin art examples!

It’s a pretty simple concept. Select your favorite washable poster paints and thin them with a bit of water. Use a spoon, eyedropper (excellent for fine motor skills) or paintbrush to add drops, blobs and splatters of paint to an inexpensive paper plate. Then put the plate into a common salad spinner and spin it as fast as you can!


Drips and drabs of paint.

Viola! You have a beautiful piece of artwork. The key to success is to avoid putting too much paint on at once; the colors just muddle together into a yucky brown. Some kids like to put colors on randomly, while others like to make patterns. Either way, you always get something exciting. You can keep adding, layering and spinning, until you get a design you love.


After a spin.

If you want a more permanent piece of art, buy clear glass plates at a department or craft store. (you can get dessert plates for about $1 a piece.) Using enamel paints (found in the paint aisle of most craft stores) added to the back of the plate, create your spin art. Then bake the plate according to the paint directions. You can make a whole one-of-a-kind set quickly and easily this way.


Colorful glass plates.

The fun thing is that you can make this a great little science experiment too. Here are some questions for your child:

  • Does the thickness (viscosity) of the paint affect the artwork or the distance the paint moves across the plate? (For older kids, actually plan ratios of paint to water and test each on the same plate.)
  • Does the surface of the plate make a difference to how the paint moves? (Compare glass, uncoated paper, waxed paper, styrofoam and plastic. Can friction be at work?)
  • Does the speed of the spinning matter? Does it affect the shape of the artwork? (Use a stopwatch to determine spins per minute. Older kids can test the effects of positive and negative acceleration, too.)

And once you’re done with that, give a go at exploring centrifugal motion! Your salad spinner can make a great centrifuge in a pinch. Use egg cartons as inexpensive test tube racks. Pour the same amount of various liquids into test tubes, small jars, film containers or other clear vessels. (Look for the plastic tubes that are sometimes found on the steam of cut flowers.) Cap them with foil, plastic wrap or duct tape before beginning.

Fun liquids to try include OJ with lots of pulp and vinaigrette salad dressings. For the best results, be sure to balance your centrifuge and SPIN! You’re going to need to keep it spinning for a few minutes, so taking turns makes sense, but you will be able to get separation.


Two tubes of OJ.

If you’re looking for something really exciting, you can takeĀ it up a notch by making giant spin art. All the instructions are available as part of last year’s Maker Camp. With a canvas frame, some scrap wood and a corded drill, you can create a really spectacular project!

A giant spin art machine!

A giant spin art machine!

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One of a kind giant spin art.


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