Make a Light-up Magic Wand

The elementary school variety show producer (yes, producer — we take this seriously!) asked if I could build some lighted magic wand props for one of the acts. “Heck yes!,” I said. I love building props.

Here’s how I built them:

  1. Start with an LED flashlight for the end cap switch, handle, and battery holder. Doing these things from scratch can be a pain. $5 lights worked great, you may be able to go cheaper.
  2. Remove the bulb, solder in leads and wires to extend the length, solder on a nice, fat 10mm LED.
  3. Use three street sweeper blades to form the wand structure, zip tie and tape them to the barrel.
  4. Heat shrink tubing to hold the LED nicely to the sweeper blade tips.
  5. Wrap the wand in masking paper. Glue the paper on, being sure to wrinkle and crease it like gnarled wood.
  6. Stain with wood stain, paint it, dry brush lighter colors at the peaks to increase the read on stage to the audience. Polyurethane the paper.

Here’s a visual guide to my method. UPDATE: The wands survived dress rehearsal and three performances! See bottom of this post for a photo of the young wizards in action.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Turning a TV set into a bookcase

A friend was moving and thought I may have a use for this broken TV set. Here’s how I turned it into a book shelf.

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I pulled off the back, removed the amplifier and CRT.

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After removing the “gold tone” trim, these retention clips needed to be pulled to free the glass. The bezel is such a gorgeous brown, cream, and patina green. Here Beatrix and I appear on TV.

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I framed it with some 1″ square strips of white oak I had left over from a catapult project, and used some hardware to mount a panel of wood. I pulled that panel from the dumpster at Walt Disney Animation Studios when they were remodeling one of the production pods a few years ago.

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Here’s the finished piece. I left the tuning mechanism in place so you can twist the giant knob on the right and change the number front and center.

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How to Make a Baymax-o’-lantern

Here’s how I made a quick Baymax-o’-lantern from a squat, white pumpkin.

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I’m not Baymax. I’m not in focus, either.

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Hi there. This doesn’t hurt.

 

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Sorry pumpkin. It’s hand brace and auger bit time.

 

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Don’t come near me with that thing!

 

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Pretty curls. And orange guts!

 

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I saw that.

 

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All clean. Wish I’d kept the line a bit thinner.

 

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Hairy baby.

 

Imperial Melody Discharger – Stormtrooper helmet art build notes

I built the Imperial Melody Discharger, an articulated Stormtrooper helmet music box, for the Star Wars Day (“May the 4th be with you”) vinyl Stormtrooper helmet art show . For the event, artists across the Walt Disney Company, including DisneyToon Studios where I work, were invited to participate by using a blank 6″ helmet as the canvas for their work. What follows are my build notes and work in progress images.

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My intention for the piece was to provide a view behind the mask of the anonymous Stormtrooper, while creating a fun, interactive moment for the person experiencing it. I wasn’t sure exactly how to get there, but I was certain I’d need to cut the vinyl helmet open. You only have one shot at that, so I decided to first cut apart a CG model inside Maya, and rig it with pivot points that could be used in the real world for the facial articulation.

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Mostly satisfied that I knew where to separate the parts of the helmet, I grabbed an X-acto knife, took a breath, and began the incision. (Note: It smelled really foul in there. Also note: I have no way to compare the smell to that of the insides of a tauntaun.)

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Once splayed out I wasn’t too surprised to see that the “pelt” of the helmet was darned floppy. I needed to build an armature to keep the structure solid, and to support the articulation of the two halves of the face mask.

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With very little time to get fancy building parts from scratch, I rummaged around my workshop, closets, and shamefully disorganized garage, until I came upon an old spider Babyface homage to Toy Story I’d build back in ’95 out of Erector sets. Sorry, Spider Baby, I needed your body parts.

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Wooden Beam Lamp

Lamp beam - hammer in lamp pole

Lamp beam - drill holeLamp beam - admire the first section of the lamp.Lamp beam - finishedLamp beam - deployed in our living room

I repurposed a scrap of 1939 4×4 beam from my house remodel to build a lamp base. I have a couple of these black metal gooseneck lamps in my garage with no bases — they broke years ago, some kind of cement in the base that crumbled, taking the threaded mount with it.
So, I drilled a hole in the 4×4, mounted the lamp post in there, and added bent nail to hold the cord. I love the result!

Schoolhouse bench desk

School bench desk by JohnEdgarPark
School bench desk, a photo by JohnEdgarPark on Flickr.

We just got this excellent folding schoolhouse bench/desk at the Rose Bowl Flea Market. It’ll be going inside the house, and I’m considering screwing it into the floor rather than mounting it on a finished piece of wood (to replace the 2x4s).

Not sure about its history (seller had gotten it at an estate sale). The iron legs have this to say:

 No 1  PAT FEB 3 1868 FEB 20 1872

If you have any guesses at its origin, I’d love to know more.