Over this past holiday break, I took some time out to work on a gift for Sera who’s a huge fan of Harry Potter and not so much of the dark. Combining the two, I decided to build her a Dumbledore night light. It wasn’t just any ordinary night light you see (unless they’ve gotten an upgrade?). This night light, which is housed within a Munny doll, detects the presence of light and also contains a set of preprogrammed times for the light to fade out. The set of times can also be customized by plugging the night light into the USB, firing up Arduino (free to download), and adjusting some variables. Technology aside, this project also forced me to venture into unexplored territories of my brain by doing new things like sculpting and mixing paints, huzzuh?!
As always, I started off with a sketch of what I wanted to build using a few sheets of blank Munny templates.
WIRE AND CODE
Afterwards, I moved onto building the circuit, which consisted of the following:
- 1 Arduino Duemilanove
- 4 green 5mm LEDs (in the photo below, imagine the fourth one being there)
- 1 white 10mm LED
- 1 10KΩ resistor
- 1 momentary switch
- 1 5mm phototransistor
This part of the process required me to move back and forth between wiring up the circuit and coding in Arduino.
The link to the code is below. Also, keep in mind I had like a day to do this so be gentle! With that said, I do encourage you to pass along any changes or suggestions in the comments section below.
After running through the code, I switched back to sketching on the Munny doll. This gave me a better idea as to where I’ll be cutting and drilling holes to fit all of the necessary components.
TIP: The great thing about slicing the head in half was that I reused the top of the head to shape Dumbledore’s hat later on.
In the next photo, I drilled four holes for the four green LEDs. These LEDs would eventually be used to inform users about the current timer the night light is set to.
I was so inspired by Sera’s use of Sculpey that I decided to take a stab at it myself, but before moving ahead, what is Sculpey? Sculpey is a clay that you can mold to your liking. Once you have your form figured out, toss it into the oven and let it cook for 15 minutes for every 1/4 inch of clay (I think that’s what the instructions said) at 275°F.
Being that I was new to sculpting, I started off with the easiest part, Dumbledore’s arm pads.
I realized that I also had to install some of the components, e.g. LEDs and some wiring, into the body before baking. Fortunately, I did some testing and the LEDs can definitely withstand 15 minutes of 275°F.
The beard that you see above was a part of the accessories that came with the Munny doll. For a moment, I was relieved that I didn’t have to construct a beard from scratch, but after a while, it just didn’t seem quite right. According to a friend of mine, the beard was just a tad wide. I abandoned the premade accessory and decided to roll my own beard, literally.
After an hour or so of playing with clay and making beards, I discovered that the best way to approach this was to roll each section of the beard at a time and then place it onto the face. Once I had set the clay, I flattened it so that the beard started to fill up the surface.
After I finished up all the necessary sculpting and baking, I let it solidify overnight and started painting the next day. The paints that I used was a combination of Liquitex (Soft Body) and DecoColor Acrylic Paint marker.
While painting, I also had to figure out how to set the Arduino properly into the head. Using a container left over from the X-Men costumes constructed from last Halloween, I created a platform that propped the Arduino up at an angle so that the USB cord could plug in from the bottom half of the head.
Here’s a list of painting tips that I think might be helpful if you decide to do your own doll.
- Helping hands – I highly recommend the thing in the photograph above that looks like it belongs in a science lab. Instead of your shakey left hand holding something up as you paint with your right hand (or vice versa), helping hands helps to hold things steady.
- Always have a towel handy – When painting, always gently smudge your brush against a piece of towel after dipping it into paint. It prevents excessive paint from pooling up on the surface.
- Paint in layers – The first layer that you apply will not always come out looking awesome. Let the paint dry a little and then apply additional layers.
WRAPPING IT UP
I left the hardest part last, which was getting the wires from the Arduino board through the body and into the right arm where the wand would be. The wires would then go through the arm and connect to two contact points that were embedded inside the hand. In order to accomplish this, it required additional holes in the arm so that I was able to hook the wires through. It also required a ton of patience.
As for the contact points on the hand, I made two holes on the palm of the hand using an Exacto knife. I then connected the wires to two pieces of tin, which I managed to intricately wrap around the wires. In order to get the contact points (tin) to stay in the holes, I stuffed some leftover Sculpey into the holes and placed the contact points on top. I then used a hair dryer to heat up the contact points (approximately 30 minutes) until the Sculpey hardened.
And lastly, the wand or some of you may call it, the wrench.
In order to connect this to the rest of the doll, I had to have two contact points, which would connect with the corresponding points on the doll’s hand. I carved out the bottom portion of the wand so that I was able to fit two tin brackets, one on each side. I then connected the brackets to the LED via two narrow strips of tin.
DUMBLEDORE AND THE GOLDEN WAND OF ILLUMINATION
And finally, the finished product!
After completing the doll, what intrigued me the most was the separation of the wand from the body. By keeping the construction of the wand to something as simple as two contact points and an LED, a whole slew of wands can be created for a single doll to wield. This opens up an opportunity for people, specifically DIYers, to further customize their toys without having to wait on toy manufacturers to create additional accessories. Hopefully we get to see some of this within the coming years as customization takes hold of the toy market.