Nov 20, 2011

Halloween Build Part 1: Exterior Design

This is my first real entry showing the build log on my Halloween display that has been the subject of several of my recent entries. I will be focusing on the form factor build in this entry – i.e. carving the Halloween pumpkins and building the bases. Since anyone who follows this blog knows that I secured some fake foam pumpkins from Oriental Trading last month, I am going to skip talking about those and focus on the aftermath.

My first step was obviously to carve the faces into each one of the pumpkins. Out of habit, I cut into the top of the pumpkin as if I needed to place a candle in the center. For anyone who might want to try something similar, I don’t think this is necessary and you will find you have fewer pieces to deal with if you avoid it. The faces I chose can be seen in one of my earlier posts, and as I explained they are a compilation of my ideas and various pieces I could find googling “Pumpkin carving faces”.

I mentioned in another post that I was looking for a way to diffuse the light effectively because my last attempt at this project was largely a bust. After about a week of searching craft stores and online retailers I came across some small storage containers at Michaels. They are made by ArtMinds, but good luck trying to find them online because I haven’t been able to find a link where you can buy them. You will just have to trust that Michaels sells them.

I made small incisions in the bottoms of each of the pumpkins and then gradually cut outward to form a circle such that the containers would slide inside. The containers are ridged on the upper lip, which helps keep them from falling into the pumpkin. I intentionally cut the holes smaller than the diameter of the container because it is made of flexible plastic and can squeeze into the cutout to form a tight fit without the need for adhesive.

I realized too late that I would need something to enclose my circuitry. My original plan was to manipulate the pumpkins into housing the electronics but as my design progressed it became apparent that wasn’t really an option. As a last second panic effort, I bought some cheap paper kids bowls from Giant and painted them black (pictured) so it would be hard to see the bases at night. The idea was to have the LEDs protrude out the top of the bowls and into the storage containers, which would diffuse the light evenly inside each faux gourd.

I used an Exacto knife to cut holes into the newly painted bowls.  From there I sort of awkwardly positioned the circuit boards so that the LEDs would be oriented how I wanted them. The battery was secured to the bowl using a nut and machine screw combination I had left over from another project. The 9V battery holders from Radio Shack worked pretty well in this application. There is a small hole in the back that allows you to feed through a machine screw. My full BOM will show the exact parts I used for future reference. I included a picture of the underside of the base to the right. You can see how everything is just sort of floating and smashed together. I added a switch to each of the bases because I pretty much didn't care about creating synced animations anymore at that point.

All in all that was the entire form factor build for this project. I want to make some substantial improvements to the design of the base to make it more solid. Right now the design is a last second kludge ball that I managed to throw together before dark on Halloween. I may keep one around to serve as a reminder that no detail can ever be assumed trivial. I didn’t put enough time into the total project design and it burned me this once. This once.


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