Blowing up a balloon

Why blow up a balloon with a pump?

Using a pump is better for your health than mouth inflating.

With a pump the kids can help you blow up the balloons so they feel that they are participating in making the creation. The older kids can fill and twist their own balloons.

With a pump, a defective balloon won't pop in your eye.

A pump helps limit the spread of germs (germ warfare) when you're physically ill.

It's more "sanitary." There's no moisture or condensation in the balloon. In restaurants I keep as much as I can out of my mouth. It doesn't look quite right biting on a balloon that you are about to give out. Also, my post-pop airborne saliva seems inappropriate as a condiment or dressing for the customers' vittles.

I use a pump all the time for safety reasons. I do alot of kid shows. I always tell kids not to put the balloons in their mouths, so I don't want the kids to see me putting balloons in my mouth. If the kids see you putting your mouth on a balloon, they will put their mouth on the balloon. If the kids _don't_ see you blowing up or even sticking balloons in your mouth, they will assume they shouldn't either. The possibility of the balloon popping in their mouth is wonderful potential for choking and lawsuits!

I have asthsma, and blowing balloons up by mouth just isn't an option.

I have glaucoma, and blowing balloons up by mouth could be dangerous to my sight.

The potential of breathing in the powder that they put in the balloons is not for me - I have enough breathing problems already.

Pumps allow you to keep talking while the balloons are being inflated. A pump frees your mouth to interact with customers. I use my pump on large jobs, if for no other reason than the fact that I can keep up a steady line of verbal 'shtick' with the kids.

Not as much stamina is required for l-o-n-g ballooning stints with a pump. If I'm going to be making scadoodles, or even just one scadude, of balloons, you can bet I'm going to pull out good ol' Mr. Pump. I pull out the pump when I am doing a lot of balloons or am getting winded.

A big pump also gives you a physical barrier between you and your audience. (this could be beneficial with that rough crowd... just hold it up as a weapon and tell them to watch out or you'll blow them all away.)

If I'm not in the mood to inflate by mouth, and someone decides they have to question my manhood by asking why I'm using a pump, I would hand them a balloon and request they inflate the next one for me. If that doesn't keep em busy and quiet for a while, and they actually DO inflate it, then I would ask them to imagine doing that 5 or 6 hundred more times tonight. Usually they smile and give no more problems.

You can do cool pump tricks like this:

Levitation - A steady stream of air from any source will float a small, light, round object and lock it in position over the stream of air. John does this with lung power and a ping pong ball. I do it with a 3 inch round made from 350 leftovers. I use my Pump1 or a fully inflated 350. The balloon ball floats about a foot above the nozzle. If you use a 350 for the air source, you can 'tow' the floating ball all over the living room...uh...I mean, stage.

The Pump1 and PumpO, when clean and lubricated, slide down on their own weight. This causes a light stream of air that can float a small balloon (like a 3" round bubble with the knot trimmed.) It is an interesting and curious activity if you find yourself with wait time. I expect the Pogo air stream could float something very light.

General The pogo is big, gaudy and attracts attention and conversation when table-hopping. Since I did away with the inner rubber return "spring", I can set the pump down as I arrive at a table and it will slowly drop to its lowest position, since I carry it from the bottom of the big tube. This extends it to its tallest as gravity pulls the stand down. This sinking movement usually causes the customers to notice the subtle it out of the corner of their eye. Most of the time they think its falling over and they grab for it. Or, they're startled by this "thing" moving all by itself... either way, its fun and starts the interaction. I also use Bruce Kalver's schtick about the pump being a giant pepper mill or parmesan cheese grinder. I also blow air at little kids' hair to demonstrate how it works. I never shoot it in their faces. I've actually been asked how often I have to replace the CO2 cartridge inside!!

pump disadvantages:

Lack of portability, slightly slower, can break down.

The kids love my Pump-O and it does draw a crowd. My biggest problem is getting the kids to leave the pump alone. I usually tell them in a nice way not to touch it because it breaks easily and if the pump breaks I won't be able to make any more balloons. This works about 50% of the time.

When kids are left to their vices, they will always play with your pump, no matter how many times you tell them not to, and this leads to breakdown too. Floor pumps get dirty easily cuz the kids love to stand on the base.

My biggest problem is getting the kids to leave the pump alone. I got a hoolahoop and stand in the middle of it. That is my "space" and they have to stand on the outside of it.

Pump testamonials

I use a Pogo 90% of the time, but still blow them up orally whenever challenged or called a cheater. I also do it when I am walking around a table and have left the pump at the other end of the table. When I started (1969) there were no pumps available (as far as I knew) so you blew 'em up or found something else to do. I've had headaches. I've had eye pain. I like using both methods and find that the pump isn't all that slow, once you get the rhythm of getting the nozzle over the inflation tip and doing the actual pumping.

Another thing I like about using both methods is the ability to use both kinds of comedy. I can use the mouth-blowing gags and the pump gags too! Plus, it eases the boredom of doing the same thing every time. And the security of knowing I can still do the gig if my pump breaks is very comforting.

For me blowing them up is faster because the pumps just slow me down. Usually I have worked large events with another twister who uses a pump. I have found that for the most part we make about the same amount of creations in the same amount of time. While I can work faster for the first hour, but she can work at a consistent speed the whole time

I've been inflating by mouth - ever since my one pump (a Q 2 way) broke in the midst of an event. However, the rest of that event all I did was mice, tulips, and small poodles - none of those big 'ol parrot hats (now, I always carry at least two pumps, if I'm going to be using them and not breath).

Here's a solution to this whole mouth vs. pump problem. Just ponder these questions yourself and then decide which direction you want to go.

Of course there are down sides.

Balloon pumps

Our dream pump:

  1. is not too expensive
  2. doesn't break
  3. doesn't make a lot of noise
  4. is small, light weight and easily portable
  5. inflates the balloon with little effort

Hand pumps; those inexpensive, usually disposable tools for balloon inflating and how to use them.

One must apply proper technique when pumping. Snapping several pumps in a single day. (which really isn't anyone's fault, the pumps don't come with any instructions) means you are not applying the proper technique. It takes a little fiddling with any new tool before you can feel comfortable with it, and be able to utilize it as an extension of yourself. Even using a hammer takes practice. Here are some tips:

I put a skinny balloon on a pump nozzle by holding the lips of the balloon lightly between my thumb and forefinger. Once the edge of the nozzle starts into the lips of the balloon I just roll the lips on over the pump nozzle. Some people quickly pull the lips open with both hands but it seems very awkward to me.

Hold the pump around the cylinder. If you cover the air holes on the end of the pump it will not work.

Don't push sideways while pumping! As the piston rod moves out it increases the leverage of any side force that your hand may be exerting on the nozzle. You need to pay attention to pumping in and out in a straight line. The less strength your arms have the more difficult it is to apply force only in a straight line.

Each stroke should be just short of hitting the end of the cylinder. If you are using the pump to tell you when to change direction you are bumping the internal piston into the end caps, your pump wioll not last. It is easier on the pump if they do not hit. Learn how long a stroke is by starting with quick short strokes and working out.

The typical hand pump will put large visible ripples into the inflated balloon. Any stop/start during inflation will affect the resulting shape of a long skinny balloon. It depends on the balloon, the pump, the pumper, how closely you look and how much you care. Trying to keep the air flowing evenly is all you can do. Usually, if I get any ripples, it's only one or two, and generally my own fault, (sub-standard pump technique) and they are never evident by the time I'm done twisting my animal. A palm pump does not produce ridges. It does however leave your hand very sore.

Quickly changing direction while pumping cuts down on the lost air between 'puffs.' The 2-way hand pump is an ingenious invention. In one version the O ring on the piston moves axially in its groove to make a seal on one side of the groove and allowes air to travel past it on the other side of the groove and into the center tube. Each time the pumping direction changes, the O ring has to seat on the other side of the groove in order for it to seal and allow the device to pump air. Quickly changing direction while pumping helps the O ring rapidly make a new seal.

The out stroke is usually less efficient. The out stroke has a smaller effective pumping area than the in stroke because the piston rod takes up some space. The out stroke also has 3 places to seal compressed air and the in stroke only has 2.

These cheap plastic pumps are just that. They are disposable. Buy lots of them and be surprised when one lasts a year. The old blue Qualatex Hand pumps were notorious for breaking immediately. The purple ones are better. The purple pumps have a nozzle hand piece that comes off. The center tube has a rubber washer and two pins. When the handle is pushed on the pins follow a slot and when the handle is turned sideways the pins lock into a notch. There are little arrows on the black handle that many people never see. Sometimes the handle comes off by accident. Glue it on with plastic cement or super glue.

The cost of making a good heavy duty pump doesn't yet fit the size of the market. (My large hand pump is $50 because each piece is made one at a time) It will. I'm working on a heavy duty 2-way pump but it will be expensive too. The market needs to get bigger to support the expense of molds and large runs to make a less expensive heavy duty pump.

One thing I don't like about hand pumps is that using one requires keeping both hands on the pump. When working in a packed dining room, I want a hand on the balloon to keep it away from patrons, waitstaff, and places the balloon shouldn't be. When inflating by mouth, a floor pump, an electric pump or a cylinder of compressed air, I can keep both hands on the balloon.

Palm pumps
Palm pumps are squeeze bulbs with a one-way valve in the nozzle. They are good for inflating 130's, or starting a bubble in a 260 for continuing by mouth. It takes about 50 squeezes to inflate a 260 with a palm pump, giving you plenty of time to talk to your customers as you develop carpal-tunnel syndrome. It's small enough to fit in your pocket or purse, tucked inside a bag of balloons. A palm pump does not produce ridges in the balloon. It does however leave your hand very sore.

From my own experience and from observing some of the 'greats' at work, I'd say that using a palm pump to repeatedly _fully_ inflate many many 260's, is not really what the palm pump was designed for. You could literally squeeze squeeze squeeze squeeze squeeze squeeze that thing forever! Instead, use it to get started! One squeeze - poof, a small bubble is born. Then go on to mouth inflate. We've all had friends beg for a balloon, determined that _they_ can blow it up, we watch until they are on ther verge of passing out, then give them a small inflated bubble to start with, and usually they can inflate the balloon. I've witnessed Royal Sorell mouth blow and twist for hours and hours, but later, when sitting around 'jamming with friends' he just couldn't get any more balloons to inflate. He promptly pulled a palm pump out of his pocket, used it to start a small bubble, and then mouth-inflated the balloon the rest of the way.

130 Blaster
T Myers sells a small, slim, black, mini-mag-lite looking, double-acting hand pump called the 130 Blaster. It is made in Sweden and very well built. It has a long, very thin, black detachable nozzle which is ideal for inflating 130's. The nozzle is carried flipped around inside of the pump to keep it from breaking when not in use. It costs $8 and works just as wonderfully as the 260 Blaster.
Euro pump
The Euro pump is a double-acting hand pump that is smaller, lighter and than the Qualatex AirInflator. The neck doesn't snap off like the Q-Pump. They come in Blue, Red and Yellow, but the case pack is something like 2500 of one color, so they rotate the colors. You get whatever color they have that month. The nozzle tip of the Euro pump is not chamfered (beveled), like the one on the Qualatex pump. Since the bevel makes it so much easier to get the balloon nozzle onto the pump nozzle, I did a little file work on the Euro nozzle, followed by some emery cloth to smooth out any rough spots. I would recommend this modification to anyone who has a Euro pump.
260 Blaster
I am crazy about the Faster Blaster II sold by Potsy and Blimpo, or 260 Blaster sold by T. Myers, or Blaster sold by All American Balloon Supply. For a type of pump which is usually considered disposable, it's built like a brick, um, outhouse :-). This is no cheap plastic party store's a good, solid pump, that even opens up for servicing should it become necessary. I've put it through its paces. Other plastic hand pumps I've used would have broken under similar conditions. This little baby is unlike any hand pump I've ever worked with. And it's colorful, too. The pink, white, & blue 130T's are difficult to inflate by mouth. Today I tore apart an old Sharpie marker and found that the tip fits perfectly on my Faster Blaster II pump!
Qualatex AirInflator
The Qualatex AirInflator . It fills a 260 in about 4-5 strokes, since it works on both the in & out motions. It is about 2.25" in diameter and about 13" long, so it is easy to carry and you can tuck it under your arm or between your knees, or drop it to the ground if you need to while you twist. It inflates balloons faster than the Euro pump does. This pump can inflate 130's; they fit on the pump's nozzle. However, the construction and materials are not the best - many users report a variety of structural failures. Many of these can be repaired with an application of Duco Plastic Weld, but if you use this pump professionally, it is best to carry a backup.
Pump T
I just received T's new Pump T and love it. It is a hand held pump made of plastic and will fill a balloon in about 2 1/2 strokes. It is a little larger than most hand pumps. As far as small pumps go, this puppy is nice. It feels like a real sturdy pump. No need to oil it like T's other pumps. It is "pre greased" at the factory. I wish T would build a bag or holster for it. If you are walking around you will need to figure out a way to carry the pump T. I love it for at home use because I lay it on the floor and make whatever I am making right there. No need to worry about how to carry it around. For sculptures that require an exact amount of air (Taz, Tweety), this pump helps me measure the amount better than others do.
Other hand pumps that work for inflating balloons

Floor pumps

There are 4 manual pumps made by Tom Myers and they have confusing names. The PumpT, Pogo, PumpO, and Pump 1. Pump T is a big hand pump (see above). Pogo is good for walk-around or stationary use. Pump 0 & Pump 1 lend themselves more to stationary work because of their size and bulk.

All the Tom's pumps allow you to control the amount of inflation. The Pump 1 and Pump O give you the same kind of pressure control that you have by mouth. You use your body to control how hard you want to blow. Just stop pushing and take the balloon off the nozzle when it is as full as desired. Both pumps leave you one hand free to manipulate the balloon as it is inflated.

It takes 2 1/4 pumps to fully inflate a 260Q with the Pogo or Pump 0. The Pogo and the Pump 0 have a valve to keep the air in the balloon while you set up the 2nd stroke. Multiple pumps can be seen as a benefit though, because 2 pumps allow you to control the degree of inflation better than 1 does. Ex. one pump for mice and poodles, two pumps for giraffes and dinosaurs.

Pump O
The materials used on this aren't as strong as Pump 1, but otherwise they should be about the same. It's great because it inflates the whole balloon in one shot. Fine for stationary use but too big and bulky to use for walk-around. You should be at least 5' 5" to use this pump. I recommend getting the cloth carrying case; it makes transport very simple. Would be nice if it had a built in strap for walk-about action. After using it for hours at a time, my palm hurts from pushing the tube down.
Pump 1
called "the Rolls Royce of balloon pumps" in the catalog. It will probably last you the rest of your life and then some. It will fill a 280 in a single stroke, up or down. It's probably about 3 feet tall and 6 inches in diameter - Not a small thing to lug around. Good if you are going to be stationary such as at a mall where you are set up to have people come to you. It is also large enough that you can pull the sections apart and stuff a large supply of balloons inside for compact travel. If you get moving fast and forget yourself, you might take it apart on the upstroke.

To clean the Pump 1 PVC try rubbing alcohol or 409. On hard spots use a SOS pad. I don't know of anything you could just dunk it in and have it come out clean. You kind of have to rub it.

Pogo Pump
As described in T Myers '97 catalog, the new POGO 3.0  and it's guaranteed for a year. If you are short (less that 5'5") or light (less than 110 lbs.), the Pogo is easier to use than the big pumps. A novel feature of the POGO is that the wooden dowel can be cut down to fit your height. The whole idea is to use your weight to power the pump. If the pump starts out at your chin, it is hard to get your weight over the pump. You'll end up using your muscles more instead of gravity.

If for some reason you need to extend the leg of the Pogo, try this: (both methods may require some sanding on the Pogo leg to get a good fit.) :

A wooden base comes with the pogo pump to keep it upright. Put an uninflated 260 across the fitting on the base and then put the dowel into the fitting. Now the base stays attached when you you can lift the pogo to move it to a new location.

After a long day of twisting, my wrists tend to get a little sore from using it.

The latex tube in the Pogo pump breaks. But the pogo still works if the tube breaks so you're not completely stuck.

The Invincible Free Standing Balloon Pump

If the Invincible should ever fail to perform to your needs or reasonable expectations, I will repair or replace it absolutely free. You will only be responsible for postage. The Invincible comes as a sealed unit. It must be cut open for repairs. Do not try this yourself, as this will void all guarantees.

Living, breathing pumps
At last, our prayers have been answered. No more hand pumps or the drone of machine pumps. As we all know, to really have the balloon inflate properly you need the air preheated and there should be moisture in the air to help expand the balloon properly. In the past you could only get the right combination of heat and moisture by blowing with the mouth. Well no more! Now a clown in the hills of Tennessee has the answer. While on vacation a week or so ago, I had the opportunity to see Dr. Happy LaClair and his buddy Blaze. You see, Blaze is a balloon blowing Goat. No fooling - a goat that blows up balloons! So everyone throw away those pumps, not more sore mouths, let's all get a goat!

One of the best entertainers I've seen was a clown here in Orlando that had a cart drawn by a goat. The goat blew up the balloons for the clown!!!! I couldn't believe it at first, but it was true. The clown held the balloon to the goat's mouth. (I couldn't see, but I suspect he had some apparatus in the end of the balloon to hold the mouth of the balloon open since it looked like the goat clamped his lips down hard.) I thought it was a wonderful act!

Carrying Pumps

I have the pogo pump. I used it as a walking stick while I was walking parades.

When I do walkabouts at fetes my hand pump gets tucked under my arm, which is awkward.

At IBAC Marvin taught that you can make a hand pump holster out of a shampoo bottle by cutting the bottom out of it and adding slots in the side for your belt to go through. Paint it if you don't like the color. I also like Larry's idea of tying the pump to your person, which can be combined with the holster just described.

The Balloon Dude in California (His real name is Fred something-or-another) rigged my pump for me at the last COAI convention, to make it easy to hold. He ties 2 260's around the pump and then around his forearm. When not in use, the pump hangs from your forearm. I found that I really didn't have an interference problem with the hanging pump. When you need the pump, just drop your arm to your side, and in falls into your hand.

I wear an outfit with big sleeves and I made a pouch in the sleeve for it to sit comfortably. The balloon is up in 4 moves, so that's as impressive as using lots of puff. The pump is brilliant.

I used to connect a string to my small plastic pump and put it around my neck - then it was at my waist and available. I could just drop it and know where it was. I may tie a string onto a small, thick rubber band that I can put around the pump and then take it off easily. Kids often want to run off with the pump while you are busy.

I bought some really colorful nylon rope (mountain climber stuff). I taped the ends, tied it around each end of the pump (using some fancy knots because they tend to gradually slip out of the nylon rope) and made a strap for my hand pump. Now I just sling it over my shoulder and across my chest. I tied the rope at just the right length so that it is not in the way of my twisting yet easy to grab without looking. I had tried pockets and holsters of all sorts and this works the best for me.

I carry my pogo and it carries everything I need.

Decorating Pumps

I made a list of the animals I make and printed it out on transparency film. I taped it around my pogo pump. I made a second transparency with my name and phone number and wrapped it along the bottom of the pump. I then took a little plastic basket and added one of those clips that you hang your mops and brooms up on and attached it to the basket. The basket can then be clipped on the lower part of the pogo handle. It holds my markers and balloon tags.

At BJ's WHOLESALE CLUB I bought a huge package of alphabet pretzels. They came in a clear plastic jar that was shaped like 2 large abc blocks on top of each other. I attached the 2 broom clips onto the jar and now I can attach the jar to the bottom of the pogo handle. I keep my assorted balloons in the jar. I can even screw on the lid and the container is secure and waterproof. The jar holds 4 bags of balloons.

On the top edge of the pump (the black area) I glued a piece of velcro to hold my plastic letter opener which pops and cut off pieces of balloon.

The most amazing decoration I've seen was done by a clown in southern California. I don't remember who it was but she had make an outer tube in which the pump slid up and down. The whole thing was painted like a cowboy (I think). When she picked up the pump the cowboy's mouth opened wider and wider and when she pushed down the mouth closed. Very cute and clever. On the pump tube she had painted the head down to the middle of the mouth including the upper lip and teeth. Then the black hole of the center of the mouth went all the way down the tube. From the lower lip of the mouth down was painted on the extra outer tube so the mouth hole was covered until the pump was pulled up.

I was playing around with the new gray balloons and made a B*** Bunny. It was next to my pump with the hand on the nozzle and it hit me. The greatest decoration for the Pump-O has been right in front of our noses. I wrapped his arms and legs around the pump, and turned his head and it looks great. If you put the arms around the pump about three or four inches below the nozzle and attach the legs a few inches above the bottom, the pump works great, the balloon is not in your way, and what a great advertisement. Any of the big multiple cartoon characters would look great. The Duck, the Coyote, the pink Panther, tropical birds, etc., etc. Duh! Why didn't I think of this before??

I have a neighbor who does pin striping on cars for a living so I had him candy stripe my Pump-O in exchange for balloons at his daughter's birthday party. It looks great and was cheap to! I think anyone could do it, but I took the easy way out.

I've painted PVC pumps by light sanding, primer and Krylon Spray Paint. My paint jobs ended up chipping when the PVC knocked against something hard. I've had people tell me they did the same thing and it has not chipped. Partly chipped paint means repainting or getting all the paint off. Stickers, Tape, gluing something to the pump seems to be easier to clean or replace.

I have a PumpO which I have decorated with scraps of self adhesive vinyl gleaned from friendly instant sign companies around town. The stuff is used for lettering and graphics cut out on a computer. The vinyl comes in rolls and they usually throw out the last couple of feet on the roll end. It sticks permanently and is impervious to spills, baby vomit, salsa, water, margaritas and sweat. You can cut out shapes with an X-acto knife and stick them to the body of the pump. I covered mine with a field of bright yellow. I then took blue and red dots, along with some black squares, and stuck them on so it looks like confetti falling. The yellow came from a large sheet that I cut to just wrap around the circumference of the tube. It's worked great for almost two years!! It is durable, brightly colored and really adds to the look of the pump and it attracts a lot of attention!!

Portable, Battery Powered Inflators

There are mini electric pumps small enough to fit in a fanny pack which can inflate a couple gross of 260s on a single battery charge.

Regarding battery operated pumps, you have got to remember that any electric or rechargeable pump is nothing more than an electric air compressor. The all make noise and the motors can get warm and even hot after continuous use. There are several good electric inflators on the market now and all have their pros and cons. Which pump you use depends on what kind of entertaining/twisting you will be doing. If you are working outdoors or in a large crowd, any of the electric inflators can be used without worrying about the noise, they are also good if you need to keep mobile. If you are in an intimate setting though, you will want to keep the noise level low an a hand pump or PVC style push pump is the way to go. For restaurant work I would not use an electric because of the noise factor. The 'whirrrr" of the motor (over and over and over) can be distracting/disturbing to those people who want a nice quiet meal.

I found those portable pumps to be too noisy for indoor use. A restaurant would throw you out if you used one.
I find those battery operated pumps too noisy for restaurant work. They also get hot after a while.
The electric pumps are either on full power or off. You lose some control
They inflate the nozzle end and makes the balloons slightly more difficult to tie.
What do you do when you run out of power? Start huffing and puffing?
Can the battery be easily changed?
I'm totally convinced that a T. Myers Pump won't let you down. As long as you're in good shape you never have to recharge. Stick with the Pump, as a matter of fact, consider upgrading to the Pump 1. I have two and they are great!
I think the battery devices are great, but have yet to see one quiet enuf' for me....particularly for going table to table... If you're stationary in the lobby or such, then any of the pumps would work..' though I recommend PUMP! & PUMP0 by T. battery and they still just keep on pumping and pumping and pumping....

The Inflator
I had a problem with the original design and it was upgraded. It has a relatively heavy 12 volt battery in it which is soldered in. The upgraded one is lighter since the transformer was taken out and a 12 volt charger is used. He has a socket for an auto cigarette lighter for the charger and there is a cable to recharge from a car. It seems to work OK.

My wife uses the Inflator from Clown Supplies Inc. We have one that's about 15 months old. It's been put through the paces big time. The one we have has the integrated battery and charger. He's updated it since to have the battery charger external. Also, the button on ours is the old hard to push one. We will be upgrading the button in the near future. It lasts about 4 - 6 hours at our level of usage (1+ gross/hr), then we plug it in to the wall, and keep going. Yes, It gets hot, and can mess up the balloons, so you have to be careful, and judge when to stop for a few minutes. Having two major pumps, person's, and T's, we can do this as necessary. We are also thinking of buying another one so Frances can swap back and forth as they get hot. Also, for the big jobs, we have some friends that help us inflate the balloons in advance, and try to keep up with us as we go :) In case you're wondering, my wife has wrist problems and has a hard time using T's pump, so she uses the inflator. Also, It's a mite bit easier to carry being smaller in size.

I saw a Balloon Buoy in action and I was impressed that it was lighter and less noisy than the Inflator that I have (from Cheezo). I have wondered about putting a nozzle cap over the existing nozzle to have an easier time with 130's, although the Inflator will blow up the balloons if they are held on top of the nozzle without actually pulling the end over the nozzle. It blows them up quite fast. I used to overinflate the balloons when I first started with it.

The Inflator by Clown Supplies Inc in NH is a great pump (I've had mine for over 7 years) and for the same price you get more inflation power - it will inflate 4 to 8 gross of balloons before it needs to be recharged. Although it weighs 10 pounds, its advantage is the amount of balloons you can blow in one sitting.

Balloon Buoy
The Balloon Buoy is good and does what it says it will do.

The 95-96 T. Myers catalog has several brands of these battery powered electric pumps (with short reviews) in it on p. 9-10, and they sell for $165 and up. One brand is called the "Balloon Buoy". Here's what I wrote in the catalog about the Balloon Buoy:

Battery powered pumps make inflating a 260 easy. Just push the button. If you want to be a roving entertainer, able to twist a few balloons and move on, a battery powered pump might be just the thing. The noise would draw attention. You could do a few balloons with lots of entertainment thrown in and move on. Or maybe you want it for parties. The noise is fine for kids parties. Kids parties are noisy to start with. They'd get a kick out of pushing the button. If I'm making balloon hats for a line of customers I'd rather have the Pump 1 or PumpO. The constant buzzing of an electric pump coming from my area would drive me bananas and limit conversation with the customer. Cranking out hats would heat up a battery pump and I'd have to slow down to let it cool. I'd be worried about running out of juice. But I am cranking out balloons. That's my style. I test battery powered pumps by sitting in my living room and fully inflating and tying 260Q's one right after the other. As if I were getting ready to do a workshop. This is not a field test. This is about as hard as you could be on a battery powered pump.

I saw an ad in January's "Genii" magazine for the "Balloon Buoy". The ad reads: "New Balloon Buoy will pay you back. Or we'll buy it back. If it doesn't help you do more business within two weeks we'll gladly buy it back. This is the world's fastest automatic push-button balloon inflator, delivering one-second inflation with excellent length control. Tie Helper nozzle makes it easier to grip and tie ends. Comes in an ultra-lightweight 3-lb. shoulder pack. Safe, dry 12-volt battery fills up to 400 #260 balloons with fast, one hour recharge.

from "T's" 97 catalog:

"Ed Rohr has put together a nice little rechargable electric pump. The recharger is a separate piece that comes with the pump. He uses a brand name tool battery so they are safe. I sell extra batteries or you may find them locally. The balloon buoy comes in a padded pouch with a shoulder strap and a side pocket. It weighs 3 pounds and is fairly comfortable to use. The padded pouch helps muffle the medium, loud noise. This is a great little walkaround tool. It could probably inflate 400 poodles during an afternoon with one battery. It inflated 130 full 260q's in about 25 minutes before the battery needed a recharge. During the test the compressor got hot and I had to slow down. After an hour recharge it did another 130 full 260q's. It is very light, tough and reliable. Ed's been selling this for 2 years and they have built-up a good reputation. 14 Day, money-back, 1 year defect warranty.

BALLOON BUOY/ED "In the same padded case, the ED has a bigger battery and the pump casing is metal. It weighs 3/4 of a pound more but it pushes up to 70% more air. That's about 220 full 260q's."

I have been using the Balloon Buoy (original one) for almost a year now. It has made my life a lot easier. I feel that T. Myers has given it a bad rap. Sorry Tom, If I were you I would want to sell my own pump also. The battery lasts about two hours. I carry an extra one so I have the capability of going about four hours. The battery charger allows me to charge one up (it takes about an hour) while I am using the other battery. I have not had any problem with it heating up. It does get a little warm but not hot enough to pop balloons. If I was going to just blow up balloons, one after another, without stopping to twist them it probably would heat up too much. But I always make something out of the balloon I have just blown up. I used the original T. Myers pump for 10 years and loved it. But it was a lot more work to blow up the balloons. The Balloon Buoy makes a little noise but not as loud as other electric pumps that I have heard. The sound does not frighten anyone. They just laugh and think that it is smart that I don't have to blow up the balloons by mouth. Blimpo blows up the balloons by mouth and I tell them that I am not as full of hot air as he is. The difference with having an electric pump and exerting the energy to push on the T. Myers pump has really made a difference to me. I still have my T. Myers pump and won't give it up. It was a good work horse and I have it to fall back on if need be. I think pumps are a personal thing. Whatever works for you. You might be saying that I am talking it up because I sell them. Well, I had a Balloon Buoy before I decided to sell them. The profit margin on them is very low. I started carrying them because I wanted to share a good thing. Pat/Jack Frank

Tom writes: I didn't think I 'bad rapped' the Balloon Buoy. I like it. I'm happy to sell them. I just don't want anyone disappointed because it makes noise or gets hot when you work it hard. I try to describe it as honestly as I can.

I used Tom Myers big pump since the WCA convention in San Diego in 1985. I just changed over to the Balloon Buoy electric pump because it just weighs 3 pounds. I still use T. Myers pump once in a while because it just keeps going & going & going. I am also happy with the electric pump because I can do balloons for two hours and I am not "glued" to one spot. I am also not as tired as I used to be after a job. We started selling the Balloon Buoy pump because I was so happy with it. They now have one that is a little bit more expensive because it has a heavier duty compressor and battery and will pump up more balloons. But it weighs 3.7 pounds. That doesn't sound like much but if you are a fragile female it means a lot.

We have been selling the Balloon Buoy Pump now for at least six months. The only complaint we have had is that one only lasted one hour. We sent the compressor back and it was replaced post haste. I am very pleased with my balloon buoy pump. It does make noise but not as much as other battery powered pumps. I have the original model that weighs just 3#. They have since come out with a more powerful model that weighs 3.7#. I have to admit that it is the weight and size that sold me on the pump. I have had no trouble with my personal pump. I used a T Myers large PVC pump since the 1985 convention in San Diego. It is a wonderful pump. I make sure I have it for a back-up just in case my Balloon Buoy goes out. This has not happened yet. I carry an extra battery so I have at least 4 hours of balloon blowing right on my hip. The profit margin on these pumps is very low. We only carry it because we have been very happy with its performance and wanted to share it with others. Potsy

One other thing about the battery pumps. They slow down as the battery runs down. In blowing up 4 to 9 hundred 260's for a workshop, the PumpO was more work but faster than the battery pumps in balloons per hour. For $ per balloon, the PumpO is your best deal.

Here is Larry's extensive review:

I got to use a Balloon Buoy yesterday and I think I'm going to get one. Outdoors, the noise isn't bad at all. It does sound in a way like a mini fog horn and it does wonders to draw the crowd, but that's because of the distinctive sound, not the volume. People were as fascinated by the pump as the balloons. (It got even better reactions than the Pump O usually gets.) In fact, when the battery died on me and I started inflating by mouth, the kids complained that what I was doing now wasn't as cool. A few kids asked me if the thing in my bag (the balloon buoy) ran out of air.

Battery life - It did about 2.5 gross of balloons on a single charge. This is real life use, not Tom's rapid fire full inflation of balloons. It did slow down towards the end, and I may have made quite a few poodles, but I was happy. two batteries will get through most events that I do, and I have no problem inflating a couple gross by mouth if I need to. The battery to the Balloon Buoy is easy to change out. It is a Skil tool battery, available at hardware stores. If you are taking your time with twisting the balloons I don't think overheating the battery pump would be a problem.

I just had a very long day of ballooning last week. My Balloon Buoy, on one charge, went through 3 gross of balloons before I changed batteries. This is not a normal thing, but I thought those keeping tabs on how much use you can get out of a charge would be interested. I think the key is that I wasn't just pumping out balloons. I played around with folks as they came up. There was never a line. It was just steady work entertaining. So, the battery kept getting a rest and could keep going longer.

I have a few complaints:

  • I wish the nozzle was tapered to make it easier to put various sizes of balloons (130s, 350s) on it. It was definitely designed for 260s, but that is what I use most.
  • I found it easiest to operate the pump two-handed. This made it impossible to control where the air went in a balloon as I inflated it. That's a limitation I think I can live with for most things on busy days, and I can inflate by mouth for those sculptures that need it. I'll probably get the hang of one-handed inflation over time too.
  • Lastly, I wish it inflated the balloons faster. The difference between what it does, and what I do by mouth is probably only a couple seconds, but it felt like a long time.

For walk around at picnics where I'm doing mostly balloons, it's great, and I'm willing to take a chance with it on long balloon days just so I can carry less stuff.

The Balloon Buoy works really well. It is a bit noisy and the tie helper nozzle is just a longer nozzle that would allow you to slide the balloon on farther. Anyone who can twist a 1" bubble and then let the air out before tying doesn't need the tie helper. It does recharge amazingly fast and comes in a nice bag that allows you to keep it hidden even while inflating balloons. The bag has a small pocket on it's front but it is too small for balloons. Maybe a good place for postcards?

I happen to be an owner of the Balloon Buoy. I was very excited with my purchase, but was slightly disappointed with the performance. It really just depends on what your using it for. I found that at restaurants, when going table to table, the noise was sometimes bothersome or the kids would make fun of shall I say it.....expelling gas noises the pump makes. If your in a really noisy place, I'm sure it wouldn't matter. Also, I found that the battery would die about 1 1/2 hours into my 4 hour shift. I told Ed (the owner of Balloon Buoy Co.) about my problems, and he replaced the battery, but it really didn't help. Needless to say, My Balloon Buoy is in the closet and my purple Qualatex air inflator pumps are back in action. I wonder if I will ever find a pump that I'll be really happy with.

Other Rechargeable pumps

Compressed air

I've seen ads for a CO2 powered balloon inflator, says it can do as many as 3 balloons on 1 CO2 cartridge, so obviously it's more a bit of business than a serious inflator, was wondering if anyone had actually seen it, and any opinions on the same...?

Canned air dusters; They sell them in computer and camera shops. I used one for a gag. Have the canned air in a bag of balloons. Attach a balloon to the nozzle. Take out a balloon and try to blow it up. When you blow the balloon in your mouth release some air from the can and a balloon in the bag will start to fill. Try not to invert the can-it will release liquid freon and the balloon will pop.

I like to use a nitrogen tank to inflate balloons. This will obviously only work where you can stay in one place, or you have to drag this huge tank with you. I do a couple of school carnivals where I'm stuck in a booth, so it works for my. A regular black rubber helium tilt valve works great. Nitrogen should be available from helium suppliers, and it comes in a variety of sizes. The smallest tank I've seen is roughly the size of a steel 110 helium tank. Warning - Nitrogen does make for a much firmer balloon, so inflate accordingly, and burp the balloon before tying.

The simplest way to inflate 260Q's as well as other entertainer balloons is from a small, portable tank of Nitrogen. Have a 6 to 10 foot hose attached to the regulator with a tilt valve on the end of the hose. A small tank will fill hundreds of 260's. If you decorate the tank it will add to the performance and it is quiet, clean, and easy to carry. Contact Conwin Carbonics at 1-800-for their catalog. They are probably the best source for tanks, regulators, and the like as well as being a full line Qualatex distributor.

I can't inflate by mouth, the palm pump is giving me carpal tunnel syndrome and I don't like the ribs a hand pump puts in the balloon. The solution I opted for is compressed air. I bought a 5 gallon air tank, attached a mini-regulator that I set at 30 psi and connected a 25 foot 1/4 inch air hose. At the working end of the hose I put a brass button valve and one of the nozzles I got from the T. Meyers catalog. The button valve allows me to precisely control how much air I put intothe ballon. I switch between a large and small nozzle depending upon whether I'm filling 260's or 350's. I fill the tank from a small compressor before I leave the house. If I run out of air I have a small foot pump for refills. You can always get somebody to do the pumping for you. This set up is the ultimate for a couch potato like me. I leave the tank under the end table and drape the hose over the back of the couch. I can effortlessly fill a balloon and spend my time trying to figure out how to twist it. I attempt to do at least one balloon per commercial break while I'm watching television.

Air blowers

The cool aire II won't inflate a 260.

I have a Belle Gold, also called "Big Red", which is a very powerful blower, and I can get it to inflate a 260. I stretch the lip over the inflating tip, and then with the full force of the blower on, I stretch the balloon way out and it will start filling as I'm stretching it. By the way, a nice side effect of stretching the balloon while inflating is you can get a really straight balloon when it's inflated.

Get an old Electrolux cleaner, clean the guts out of it, place a funnel on the exhaust end of it and place the mouth of the balloon over the funnel. This will blow them up readily. Unfortunately, power is not available everywhere you perform. (but you can inflate the balloons before the show.)

I bought a small electric impeller pump which runs on 12V. I now have it fitted in a wheel-around box complete with speakers and cassette deck so that I can have music whilst I travel, it's also useful for holding extra bags of balloons, cold drinks, etc.

Air Compressors

I have an air brush artists air compressor that I use when I am blowing up the balloons for the Indiana Pacers. It never shuts off unless you unplug it. It is great for that job!!

There are numerous artist's airbrush air compressor models that automatically shut off when the demand for air isn't present. Besides being quieter, they save a lot of money down-the-road on wear-and-tear maintenance and repair of the 'pumps'. They require a 'storage tank' and have the added benefit of user selected air flow and storage pressure. For any airbrush or similar compressor, the air flow rate and delivery pressure can be regulated, but not all models come with these 'regulators' attached; be sure and get them separately if buying a compressor without them!!! Anyhow, my experience is with compressors made for 'studio' work and which shut themselves off. They are muffled, very quiet, and some 'Badger' models look sort of like a flying saucer, so they might make attractive props!!!

If you need to run your compressor out in the middle of a field somewhere, you may want a gas-engine powered model (but they are noisy, and have vibration, exhaust...)

Small electric-motor driven compressors use household 110V power. If you decide on an electric-motor driven compressor with more than 2 or 3 horsepower, it will require 220V power. (and those compressors which can be wired for either voltage will always last longer on 220 since the motors will run cooler). So you need to ask yourself whether or not 220V power is going to be available where you want to use the compressor.

If you desire to operate an inflator or air tool at a certain pressure you will obviously need to keep your air tank pressure a bit above it at all times to account for pressure drops in the regulator, lines, etc.

Preferably you would keep your air hose length between the compressor and the inflator/air tool as short as possible to minimize pressure drops. If you set up several inflation stations, feed full tank pressure straight to individual regulators mounted at the stations to minimize any problems with pressure drops that would occur when stations fed from one hose/regulator were used simultaneously.

Most electric motor driven, single stage air compressors have a pressure switch set to turn them on when the pressure drops below 95 psi and turn them off when the pressure reaches 125 psi. You may be able to get a serious commercial unit that can generate 140 psi and has adjustable pressure switch. If not, you may want to operate your CCSSDSI at, say, 90psi instead of 100psi, because the two-stage air compressors needed for generating higher pressures cost quite a bit more.

If you can, get a "direct drive" compressor where the motor is mounted directly to the crankcase of the air compressor (no belt). These are more efficient, more compact, lighter in weight (easier to lug-around), and have fewer parts to break than the belt drive models.

Compressed air will have condensed water in it, especially on humid days. When people talk about humidity effects on devices, they often make the distinction between "condensing" and "non-condensing." Whenever you throttle air through a pressure drop (like what happens in a pressure regulator), the temperature of the air is lowered. On a day where the relative humidity is high, that lowered air temperature is often below the dew point, and water droplets *will* form. You should consider an in-line water separator if you are worried about keeping water droplets out of the valves in your inflator. More importantly for latex balloons is the oil mist that could be present in the compressed air - oil and latex don't mix. The new oil-less compressors out today obviously won't have this problem, but a standard compressor having oil in its crankcase should have an oil-removing coalescing filter installed in the air line.

Sizing the compressor:
You obviously don't want the compressor to be the rate determining factor to how fast you can inflate balloons, so it must provide enough capacity to do the job continuously. To ensure that you get a powerful enough compressor, you must calculate what minimum capacity you need.

The method described below is the same way that you size compressors for use with air tools, spray guns, etc. For compressors of equal CFM capacity, the horsepower number is only going to tell you which design is more efficient. Horsepower is not the determining factor; they just use that in all the advertising because people are more familiar with the term "horsepower." It's just like advertising in the vacuum cleaner industry which pushes the number of "Amps" used as a measure of performance, when that term is really only of secondary importance to the real measure of how a vacuum cleaner sucks. :-)

First you need to know the volume of air in a balloon. Say that a balloon contains "V" cubic feet of air for this exercise.
Let "B" be the total number of balloons you want to inflate per minute, counting all the stations you have attached to the compressor.

The necessary Cubic Feet of air per Minute (CFM) is then V x B.

Air compressors capacities are typically given as a number, followed by the term "Free air CFM @ 100psi". These numbers are always given right next to the horsepower numbers, even on Sears Craftsman air compressors. Call that number "Q" (why Q? I don't know. They always use that for flow rate in fluid mechanics class...)

So a capacity of "4.9 Free air CFM @ 100psi" means that when:

then the compressor is supplying 4.9 cubic feet of air, measured at atmospheric pressure (sometimes you will see this given as "4.9 Free air SCFM @ 100psi" instead of just "CFM." The "S" stands for "Standard", which means that the cubic feet are measured at atmospheric pressure, room temp).

So, the minimum requirement is that the compressor output equal the necessary CFM for inflating the balloons:

Q = V x B

If each balloon contains 0.4 cubic feet of air, and you wanted to inflate 12 balloons per minute, then from the equation above you would need an air compressor with a MINIMUM rating of "Q" = 4.8 Free air CFM @ 100psi.

A compressor with the minimum rating would run continuously during use. It would also have no extra capacity for adding more inflation stations in the future.
A compressor just slightly larger than the minimum requirement would be starting and stopping all the time during use, and this isn't the greatest thing for motor life. The bigger the air tank capacity, the fewer the number of starts and stops though.
Finally, a compressor that could deliver 1000 times the minimum requirement would cost a lot of $$$, be rather difficult to move around, and probably need its own electrical substation.
So obviously, how big above the minimum you decide to go is up to you.

Calculate your requirements and choose based on the Free air CFM @ 100 psi number even if you are setting your regulator at 50 psi; because the tank pressure will typically hover around 100 psi during use.

You don't have to be limited to the tank size that comes bolted to your compressor. If you unscrew any of the pipe- fitting plugs in your compressor's air tank, you can install a female quick disconnect coupling in its place. Then you can buy a roll-around auxiliary air tank of any capacity and put an identical coupling on it in the same way. With male quick disconnect couplings installed onto each end of a short piece of hose, you can connect/disconnect the tanks in seconds. This combination will give you any size tank you desire, and since the female quick disconnect couplings are self closing you can still use your compressor w/o the auxiliary tank whenever you want to. I've used this system myself with great success. The auxiliary tank won't weigh much either.... until you fill it full of compressed air :- ) :-)

That brings up an important point:
*** Make sure you tie it down when you load it into your vehicle ***
If someone cuts you off and you have to swerve or stop hard, a 100 pound compressor is not the thing you want to have hit you in the back of the head at XX mph! When I got my first pickup I brought my compressor to a friends' house without tying it down, and almost had it come through my back window. The experience left me shaking for a while... I later learned that even briefcases left on a back seat have killed people when they start flying around the car in an accident.

Helium and "Balloon Gas"

Latex balloons and helium are not good bed partners, period. Helium is a tiny, monatomic molecule. In a short space of time the helium will diffuse through the wall of a latex balloon and then the balloon will stop floating and go for ground zero. Depending on the thickness of the balloon wall, and the size/shape of the balloon it might float anywhere from 45 minutes or several hours. Foil balloons filled with Helium are much better at remaining up in the air for a long period of time. There are liquids on the market called "Hi Float" and "Super Hi Float" that you can squirt into a latex balloon prior to inflating with Helium, and the balloon will last up to a week rather than the traditional 16 hours. Check with your local balloon delivery shop for what they are using, since there is more than one brand available. See the Balloon Care section for more details on Hi-Float.

In my area "balloon gas" is becoming popular. This mix of Helium and Nitrogen(?) is being sold to local party stores, florists, and anyone else who inflates. My distributor delivered this stuff to me prior to a large decorating job, and I went nuts! Needless to say, I've since changed distributors. Be aware of the difference between "compressed Helium" and "Balloon Grade", or "Balloon Gas" Helium!!!

Don't use CO2 or your balloons won't last very long. At a nightclub they thought they could save money by doing part of the balloons themselves. After all, it was only swags around the dance floor. They didn't have air blowers so I guess that CO2 was the next best answer since they use it and have it on hand. Cheaper than helium in there case. The balloons started out as 11" and within approximately 2 hours. they were down to maybe 5". Quite interesting.