For the past couple of Halloweens, I’ve come to really enjoy hacking together costumes. Seeing everyday objects in a different light and turning them into makeshift props is one of the most gratifying design exercises ever. “But why?”, you ask. I blame the A-Team, McGuyver, and Legos, but it was mostly my dad who got me thinking this way.
During my early childhood, I remember him making household repairs using whatever he was able to muster out of the family toolbox. He referred to these pieces as the ‘cuffah.’ I’m not exactly sure if it was a Chinese word or some Chinglish that he managed to hack together, but the cuffah represented the missing piece to the puzzle. These pieces were usually spare parts that he collected over time, ranging from nuts and bolts to bigger pieces like brackets and unused caulking guns.
Halloween 2010 (last year)
I managed to piece together a Mega Man costume, which involved a Japanese lantern (cuffah!), a disassembled LED flashlight, a snowboarding helmet, and of course, blue tights. My two rommates followed suit, Will as Quick Man and Dave as Zero.
Who would have ever thought it’d be so much fun to relive your childhood? Besides laughing at each other, we were in our own world, jumping around, blasting our plasma cannons and humming the Mega Man theme song. People that crossed our paths were also reminded of their early favorite early 90s video game.
“OMG, it’s Mega Man!” Moments later, my brother comes around the street corner, “Oh shit! It’s … the Other Man!” The guy was almost in tears even though he didn’t recognize Will’s character.
Building off the fun from last year, Derek Chan and I managed to get together a handful of our friends to go as X-Men characters this Halloween. To help carry on the tradition of hacking from last year, we required one constraint, materials spent on an X-Men costume needed to be under $50.
With a total of eleven X-Men and a Magneto, there was certainly going to be some variation in fidelity of the costumes. To tie us all together as one cohesive group, I decided to build out the X-Men Communicators for all eleven of us.
The communicator is a simple circuit, which consists of the following:
- 10mm red LED
- 2032 coin battery (battery holder, optional, but helpful)
- a switch
- red cellophane
- Scotch tape cylindrical plastic container
To house the entire setup, I used the plastic cartons that came with the electrical tape. I lined the inside with foil and covered the outside with red cellophane, which enhanced the red glow of the communicators.
Tip #1: When making this is to point the LED downwards towards the foil surface for maximum reflection. I heard there are other ways of making the LED shine even brighter, but I’ll leave that up to you guys.
Tip #2: Never buy 2032 batteries from a regular store like CVS, Blockbuster, etc (2 batteries for ~$4). Go to your local 99cent store and get 5 for ~$1.29.
After making several communicators, I got bored and decided to help Derek make his optic blaster. Optic what? It’s the visor that Cyclops wears that prevents him from taking everything down when he opens his eyes.
The parts required for this consisted of the following:
- a pair of Jersey Shore sunglasses that he picked up from St. Mark’s ($7)
- 2 10mm red LEDs
- 2 2032 batteries
- 2 2032 battery holders
- tiny momentary switch
- red cellophane
Disclaimer: I’m not going to go into much detail about this, but if you know basic electrical circuits, this should be cake. Else, if you know a friend that knows basic electrical circuit, you will probably have to get them cake. 🙂
In order to get the cellophane to curl around the lens, cut a slit in the center of the cellophane. This will allow it to bend. This will create some space on the sides for the LEDs.
Next, melt holes into the side of the glasses so that they match up with the back side of the battery holder. Also make sure to have a hole for the wire coming from the momentary switch, which will be placed against the battery holder.
Tip #3: Create a template of where the pegs on the backside of the battery holder are located. Then map the pegs onto the side of the glasses.
Next, do the same thing to the other side minus the hole for the momentary switch since you already did it to one side.
Tip #4: Hot glue gun works best when mounting plastic pieces together.
Tip #5: Helping hands (the maniacal lab looking object in the photo below) are super helpful. They help (duh) with keeping wires in place as you solder the night away.
Finally, place the red cellophane back over the opening and you have yourself a pair of sweet looking optic blasters.
Here’s a demo of Derek nerding out with his new pair of blasters.
Halloween 2011 was a success! All the costumes turned out to be frikkn’ amazing. Here are some pics from that night. Before signing off, I’d like to thank the following people for taking part in this: Wally, Jess, Derek, Jane, Sera, Will, Dave, Chris, Ryan, Vicky, and Shelley! What’s on the plate for next year?