I was given a 1/6th scale model of the Star Wars character "Commander Gree" which came with it's own stand as shown. In case you are wondering... Commander Gree is the guy who has the task of killing Yoda when Order 66 is issued. If you are still not sure who he is, just watch Episode III.
However, as nice as the figure is detailed, I thought the stand was a little too cheesy looking for my home theatre room. So... I decided to build a LED lighted stand to set him off a bit so he stands out while watching my favorite Star Wars episode.
This project blends stained glass techniques and basic LED wiring.
Here is what you need:
A shadow box from Hobby Lobby 8 x 10" - Cost $15 USD Or make your own.
Stained Glass System:
Colored Glass approx 8" x 10" - I picked a swampy green art glass.
Glass cutter with cutting oil
Gloves - are a good idea if inexperienced in glass cutting.
Glass grinder or glass file
Black Patina solution
Green, Blue & White LEDs 4 pin High Intesity type from Radio Shack $ 2.49 each.
Resistors - 250 Ohm
Power supply - 12 vdc from 120 VAC taken from a old phone recorder
1/2" Plywood base approx 8 x 10"
Hot melt Glue Gun & Glue.
Stranded electrical wire
Solder & Soldering Gun
Paint for base - ie. silver spray can, Model paints, airbrush system
Let's get started...
Step 1. Making the glass base. If new to stained glass there are better instructions on the web, but I describe the basics here.
Choose a glass that has some translucence with lit from behind. A color that matches the scene is great. I choose a blue green to mimic the swamps Commander Gree appears in the scene in the movie.
Dab some cutting oil on the glass cutter and cut the glass to size to fit slightly less than the case. The undersizing is required to account fo rthe thickness of the foil and tolerance stacking when soldering the joints together.
Cut the glass further down into pieces in a pattern to fit the scene. I used curves to mimic swamp roots of a tree of plant growth. After cutting the glass, use a glass file or grinder and clean up / square the edges of the glass. This is important as it helps the foil to adhere to the edge and keeps it square with uniform dimension on both sides of the glass.
Once all the glass is cut and edged, adhere or press the foil onto the edge all around the perimeter of the glass piece you are working on. Overlap the foil approx 1/2" to ensure complete coverage of the glass edge. Using a wood dowel or similar (fid) press the foil onto the edge firmly. Now take an exacto knife and cut the corners to allow for the corners of the foil to be tucked or overlapped to each other for a neat corner. Think like folding a bedsheet military style. Using the fid again, rub all the edges of the foiled glass piece, then rub down the foil on both sides of the piece of glass to adhere it well to the glass. Foil and rub down the foil on all the pieces of glass.
Now use an old ceiling tile and some push-pins to hold the pieces together while soldering. Place them all together on the ceiling tile, then hold in place with the pins. Take an old brush and run some liquid solder flux all over the copper joints. This helps the solder bond to the copper.
Heat up a heavy duty soldering iron (copper really wicks the heat away) not one used for electronics as it wont get hot enough. Heat the foil joints where two pieces comes together and start running solder on top. I prefer to tack the entire assembly together to help prevent movement of the pins, then they can be removed with no worries. Now finish soldering all the joints. Leave the joints flat at the edge to fit into the frame. Elsewhere, build up the joint to look rounded.
Flip the entire assembly over and solder the underside for strength. No need to worry about making pretty joints here, no one will see them. Now clean the entire piece with warm soapy water to remove all traces of flux. I also use a soft scrub brush to get the flux out from the nooks and crannies of the solder.
Once cleaned, run the entire piece in a black patina solution (copper sulfate) to blacken the silver looking solder. You can also paint this by hand but it will be tedious.
After the patina, rewash the extra solution off the glass. Your are done with the stained glass aspect.
Now let's work on the lighted base.
Cut a 1/2 " thick plywood board or similar material, to fit the back of the frame and design your circuit for lighting constraints. Paint it silver to help it reflect the light back up through the glass. I ended up lining the board with aluminum foil for maximum reflectivity.
I used an old power supply from a phone message machine instead of having to replace batteries. The LED circuit needs resistors in them so the LED will not blow on over current. Refer to the specs on the LEDs to know how to calculate the right sized resistor to use. Here is an example caluclation:
Power supply delivers 12 VDC
LEDs typically will drop 2.5 - 3.5 volts each and only allow 20 miliamps of current through them. The brighter the led the more volts it will typically use but the current usually will stay around 0.020 Amps. For surplus LEDS with unknown specs... use 2 VDC drop and 0.020 A. The bright LEDs shown here use 3.5 vdc each, so I used them in pairs in series and the also use 0.020 A max current.
2 x 3.5 VDC = 7 vdc dropped across the two of them together.
12 vdc available - 7 vdc for the LEDs leaves = 5 VDC dropped across a resistor.
Using Ohm's law that V=IR (or Volts dropped across the resistor = current flowing through it multiplied by the resistance) we can determine the reisistance needed to reduce the current to the max an LED can take:
5=0.020 * R or... R = 5/0.020 = 250 ohms.
So solder the LEDs in series in pairs (positve lead to the negative lead of the other) and solder a 250 ohm resister to the positive lead of the first LED in the line. You can tell the positive lead from a negative lead in an LED because the positive leads are longer than the negative. Do this for all LEDs you want for your lighted base.
Mount the stained glass into the shadow box frame. I hot glued it in place to secure it. It was very easy method to really secure it and I have no future need to ever pull it out of the frame.
Below the stained glass, I then glued in a piece of "crackled ice" plastice from a flourescent light fixture diffuser panel. This helps to soften and even out the "hot spots" of lighting. Note I drilled 3 holes in it: one fo the figure's support stick, and 2 for LED light fixtures to shine up and illuminate the fugurine when on the stand. I fashioned some lighting fixtures for illuminating the figure with an LED inside a crimp type wire nut.
Next I fastened all my LED circuits into the frame. I used Hot melt glue again. It is simple and secure. Note in the photo I mounted each LED in a scrap of clear plexiglas. Just drill two holes with a dremmel tool for the leads then solder from behind. Connect all the wires in series as mentioned above. Tie all the resistors to the positive lead (+) line coming from the power supply and all the negatives to the (-) line coming from the power supply. Oh yeah, I added an on/off small toggle switvh on the incomming (+) line.
Sorry I have only a few ictures here for the decoration of the fram itself. I forgot to take more pics I got so involved! Here is why i made the dimensional aspect of the frame... I accidently dropped a tool on the frame and it chipped the frame right in front of the unit. While made of wood, I noticed there was a very thick resis like coating over the wood frame that chipped off. There was no way in having any luck filling it, sanding it smooth, then repainting the frame again, so I came up with an idea to rough up the entire frame to make it look rugged. I was fearful, future nicks could occur and make it look bad down the road. Well, one thing lead to another and I came up with an extension of the swap idea.
First I made a bunch of "roots" to affix to my frame. I took ~ 4 to 5 inch long pieces of stranded #12 wire and stripped them. Then I twisted them into "trees" dividing the strands making branches along the lengths. Once I had a few made, I added even more wire to thicken them up in spots. I then fluxed them and soldered them. This left a nice "metal" tree easily bendable to confrom to the side of the frame.
I then took my dremmel and ground "roots" and rough areas in to the frame. Where I wanted a metal root to emerge, I drilled a small hole in the frame being careful not to puch through it. I then hot melted my metal roots to the frame. For even more roots, I took the hot melt gun and created some more, and also some areas of lumps as if to show foliage growth.
Then I painted away - first with an airbrush using flat black, then dark beige, then dark green. I then detailed it with two different lighter shades of green.
I show three different views of the completed figure.