Tag Archives: DIY

Stranger Things Wall

Sean here again, with another Halloween related project.  Better late than never…

One of our good friends has a big Halloween party every year, and unfortunately they couldn’t have the party at their house this year for of a variety of reasons.  We offered to instead have their party at our place, and of course we would need to do some decorating for a big party.  Since we’re all fans of the show Stranger Things, I decided that recreating “the wall” that Will uses to communicate from the Upside Down would be a fun decoration for the party, in addition to being a fun exercise. We’re really happy with the way that it turned out and since I’ve had a few people ask for details, here’s a quick run through of how I accomplished it.

Here’s what it looks like in action… you’ll see that we included a bunch of memes and things to make people laugh.  The program is fully customizable, and pretty easy to use once it’s set up.

Here’s what you would need to do it yourself:

  • a good supply of WS2812 RGB LED lights (at least 26, of course, but you may need more unless you solder for a living). Here’s a set of 30 on Amazon though as an alternative you could also get Neopixels through Adafruit.
  • An Arduino (I used an Arduino Uno starter kit from Adafruit). Adafruit Link
  •  100′ spool of green wire (I used 16 gauge, now I would recommend 18 or 20 gauge).  Here’s some 18 gauge on Amazon
  • A string of Christmas lights with screw-off C9 bulb covers (we bought a string at Walmart).
  • 26 water bottle caps (hope you’re thirsty!)
  • Arduino Software (for programming the Arduino). Software Link
  • Soldering supplies (a good soldering iron, solder, wire cutters, cleanup stuff, etc).
  • A hot glue gun and a handful of glue sticks.

I recommend having extra LEDs on hand because the soldering pads on them are tiny, and unless you’re much better at soldering than I am, you’re going to have some mistakes.  I broke the soldering pad on three different LEDs while making this strand of 26 lights, so it was good that I had a few extras on hand.  There are six different pads that have to be soldered on each LED, two for power and one for signal, both in and out.



There are loads of tutorials on how to use these LEDs on the Internet, I highly recommend checking out the information that is available in the Adafruit NeoPixel Uberguide.  I wouldn’t have been able to do this without that guide.

Setting up the Arduino is simple.


See?  Nothing to it.

Okay, a little bit of explanation might help.  The Arduino starter kit also comes with a Proto Shield for rapid circuit prototyping , and also includes a cute little breadboard.  I followed Adafruit’s instructions on setting up the prototyping board, plugged it into the Arduino Uno, and then set up a quick circuit following the instructions in the NeoPixel Uberguide mentioned earlier.  Essentially, we have power coming from the +5v pin via the orange wire, ground coming from a ground pin via the blue wire, and the #6 pin is connected to the breadboard with a 100ohm resistor (to help protect the first pixel in the strand, this should have been a 470ohm, but it’s what I had on hand).  The strand of lights would then connect to the breadboard using the three wires that extend out of the bottom of the picture.  Orange “+”, Blue “-“, Yellow “signal”.  There were some other things that I set up while testing, but this was ultimately what was used.

Having the Arduino starter kit was a huge help, because it came with extra resistors, switches, LEDs, etc that were handy to play around with while I was learning how to make this work.

Now, on to the process of building things…

There are three different “runs” of Christmas lights, one for each row on the wall.  On each of these runs I used 20″ lengths of wire at the ends, and between each light there are roughly 10″ lengths of wire.

I started with three 20″ pieces of green wire, soldered those to the input pads on the first LED, then three 10″ pieces of green wire on the output pads of the LED.  I would continue with roughly 10″ lengths between each LED until the end of each “run”, where I would use a 20″ length again.  After soldering the wires on the input side I would test the LED by plugging the leads into my Arduino which was loaded with the Strandtest sketch that comes with the Arduino software.  If the light tested good, I would move on to the next step and solder the output wires, then test again.  After I had the inputs and outputs of one light finished, I would move on to the next light and solder the input wires on the next light, then test again.  If that step tested good I would then build the enclosure around the first light.

The enclosure for each LED required a modified water bottle cap…


…and a modified C9 bulb from a sacrificial string of Christmas lights.



The water bottle cap was cut up a bit using a pair of side cutters, and the C9 bulb had a channel cut out of it using my trusty Dremel, to allow room for the wires once it was put together.  I would very gently press the LED into the bottle cap, squirt some hot glue in around each wire, then press the C9 bulb into place and run glue around the outside edge.



After letting that cool down, I would then plug everything back in and test again.  If everything still worked at that point, I was satisfied that it would be pretty sturdy.  Once the hot glue set up there was nothing I would be able to do to get them back apart, so I was really careful about testing at each and every step.


So far so good.

After the lights were all buttoned up I gave the wires a bit of a twist, so that they would look like old Christmas lights.

The letters are from the Cinnabar Brush font, and were cut out of black construction paper using our Silhouette, and then glued to the wall using a bit of rubber cement.


The code that runs everything was put together using some examples that I found online, and is probably more complicated than it could have been.  My main prerequisite was that I wanted the lights to look like an old strand of Christmas lights.  Even though each pixel was capable of being any color, I wanted A to always be red, B to always be yellow, and so on.  This required that I manually enter the colors for the different functions that would run each portion of the show.  I also wanted to make it easy to program individual phrases into the show, so I made a single function for each letter, that would be used to spell out each phrase.  I made a couple of functions to do fun things like chase the lights from beginning to end, end to beginning, and a couple of different flashing and wipe functions.  All of these are called from the main loop() during the show.

If you’re looking at the code, you might notice that the numbering associated with each letter looks weird.  Each pixel is called using a number between 0 and 25, and the order of the letters in the strand do not directly correspond with A=1, B=2,etc.  That is because my strand actually starts at the letter Z (pixel 0) because I powered it from that end, and then at the letter R (pixel 8) the wire connects to letter I (pixel 9) and then counts up to the letter Q (pixel 17) before hopping over to the letter H (pixel 18) and moving back down the alphabet to the letter A (pixel 25).  It makes a bit more sense when you’re playing with it, just remember that if you reuse my code, the lights have to be wired the same as mine in the photos and video.

The code used for our show is available for download here.

To finish up the look, I hung up a bunch of normal Christmas lights all over the living room, and left it running during the party.


With that, Anna can have the blog back now. :)

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Furiosa Arm

Howdy folks, another guest post by Anna’s husband, once again about a Halloween creation.

So… it all started with this guy.

Immortan Trump! If anyone knows who this guy is, let us know so I can pat him on the back.

Yeah, when I came across this photo I just laughed and laughed.  Then I decided that a mashup of Donald Trump and Immortan Joe was definitely what I wanted to do for Halloween this year.  Since we usually do couples costumes, we decided that the best thing to do for Anna would be a mashup of Hillary Clinton and Imperator Furiosa, or as we dubbed her, “Imperator Hilarosa”.  Most of the accouterments for the Immortan Trump costume are available online, and most of what we decided we needed for the Hilarosa costume was more or less available at Goodwill with the exception of one thing… that amazing robotic arm.  We found several homemade versions of the arm going for several hundreds of dollars, but nothing that was anywhere near the price we would want to spend on a Halloween costume.  Instead, I made one.

The more-or-less finished result.

It’s difficult to provide you with a complete parts list, but it’s something along these lines:

  • a plastic oil pan from the dollar store, $1
  • a metal lamp reflector that was in the garage, $free!
  • an insulated mug from the dollar store $1
  • some pens from the dollar store, $1 for a dozen
  • a pair of pliers from the dollar store, $1
  • three wooden dowel rods, $1 for a pack of 6
  • six round dowel rod caps from Lowes, $3
  • a couple of sheets of craft foam, $2
  • a small amount of faux leather from the fabric store, $4
  • braided clothesline, $1.50
  • silver, black, and bronze paint, maybe $6
  • maybe $15 worth of rapid rivets (for leatherwork) and pop rivets
  • other assorted nuts, bolts, and springs I had laying around the garage
  • liberal amounts of E6000 clear adhesive

So, somewhere around $40?  That’s tough to believe, but yeah…

Oh, wait.

  • approximately 24 hours total of cutting, shaping, drilling, sanding, riveting, fitting, rinse, repeat.

We started by taping Anna’s hand up in a glove made of newspaper and painter’s tape, to give me something to work around while she was off doing more important things.

She’s a good sport.

I then made the shape of the back of the hand out of plastic cut from the oil pan, and also cut out the shape for the “knuckle” for the middle finger.  As you’re looking at the photos, almost all of the black plastic was cut from the oil pan, and the metal parts came from the lamp reflector.  I’ll post an aftermath photo at the end to show you what was left when I was done.  I also made templates of every piece that I cut out of metal or plastic, if there’s any interest I’ll look into scanning them into a PDF or something.

All of the black plastic parts were shaped by heating them up with a heat gun and shaping them around the edges of my work bench.  I wore heavy leather gloves and the garage is pretty well ventilated.  Since we’re talking about safety, I also always wore my goggles when cutting anything, most of the cutting was done with a Dremel and cut-off wheels, and that sends sharp bits everywhere, especially when you’re trying to be in a hurry and the cut-off wheel explodes on you.

The metal shapes of the first two fingers were beat into a curved shape using a ball-peen hammer, then drilled out by hand with a cordless drill.

The bulk of the first finger was cut out of metal and also beat into shape using the same method.

The two pieces of the first finger were glued together using a long strip of craft foam and E6000.  I then started working on the middle finger, cutting everything out of black plastic and gluing it together with a strip of craft foam in the same manner I used on the first finger.  I  I then fastened it to the “knuckle” using two rapid rivets, and fastened the knuckle to the back of the hand (after making a couple of test fittings to make sure that everything was positioned correctly).  Then the bottom of each finger was put into place, more craft foam and a small “ring” of black plastic for strength.  I also added a bolt to the end of the middle finger, partially for the look but mostly to keep them from spreading apart.

On the right side of this picture you’ll see the inside of the first finger, with craft foam strips that were put into place for support, and also the plastic ring (the thickest strip behind the clothespin).  This is what is hiding underneath the craft foam in the other photos.  Also pictured here are the beginnings of the elbow brace, cut from a plastic insulated mug.

After I finished up the first finger, it was attached on one side using a rapid rivet.  This is also where I had a slight disaster (I split the relatively brittle plastic) and decided to rivet and glue in place a reinforcement piece.  The ribs on the bottom of the first finger were created from strips of craft foam.

The third finger (which contains Anna’s ring finger and pinkie finger) was shaped out of metal in the same fashion as the others, and fastened on one side with a rapid rivet.  It was finished on the bottom in a similar fashion as the first two fingers, plastic ring for support and craft foam for looks.  At this point I decided I didn’t like the way the gaps looked when the fingers were bent.  Even though Anna was going to be wearing a black glove under the hand I figured it would look better with something in that gap, so I took strips of craft foam and embossed ribs into then using a heated file.  Those were glued on one end so they would slide back and forth as the finger was moved.

Next I shaped the piece that covers the palm and wrist, this was originally planned as one piece but I ended up cutting it into two pieces to make it easier to work with.  I say “planned”, though most of this was trial and error as I went.  These pieces were fastened with short pop rivets.  I also painted the little finger with a light wash of black paint around this same time, so that it would wear away slightly as I was handling the glove.

Next I glued into place the dowel caps that would be the “tie rod ends” that connect the hand to the elbow brace.  I drilled a hole in the side of each one with enough room for for some movement of the dowel rods.  E6000 still remains some flexibility when cured, and I was banking on that to give Anna some wiggle room once it was all together.  The dowel caps were glued into place on top of long pop rivets that I scored with a Dremel cut-off wheel.

While that was curing I worked on the elbow brace.  I glued faux leather to the outside of the plastic piece that was cut from an insulated mug (pictured earlier), fastened another piece of the mug on the outside using rapid rivets, and glued on dowel caps using the same pop rivet method used on the hand.

The thumb was made of two more piece of plastic, and put together in a similar fashion as the other fingers, it was finished with a piece of metal that was riveted to small strips of metal that ran from one side of the thumb to the other.  This was probably the worst-documented part of the entire process, sorry about that.  I then attached a chunk that I cut off of a pair of pliers, a small metal armature made from the same metal as everything else, and a small spring that was in my toolbox.  This was all held together with a variety of rapid rivets and pop rivets.

After that was finished I painted the dowel caps black and then dry brushed everything in silver to give it a little sheen.  I also prepped and painted the dowels (silver) and pens (bronze), they’re in the background of the next photo.

After everything dried up, I put it all together for a test fit.  The pens have short sections of dowel glued into them, which are then glued into the dowel caps on the hand side, then the long sections of dowel are glued into the dowel caps on the elbow side, and just inserted into the pens.  This means the length of the arm can be changed.  This gives a little bit of flexibility in the wrist but also means that it will fit other people and isn’t sized just for Anna (there’s a hint in there, somewhere, maybe).  I also started adding some of the additional accouterments at this point, such as the cap nut on the back of the hand, the wrench lashed to one of the supports, some aluminum tape shiny bits here and there, etc.

The wrench took some modifying so that it didn’t interfere with the rods.

Action shot!

I fashioned the pressure lines out of a length of braided clothesline that Anna was kind enough to thread over a piece of wire (she has a lot more patience than I do) and then painted silver, and a piece of aquarium tubing that I inserted a piece of green weedeater line into.  This looked pretty good until it was under a black light, then it looked amazing.  These were glued into the appropriate places underneath patches of craft foam.  I also painted some light weathering in various places, grease spots, etc.

We then fashioned the harness out of a few belts from Goodwill.  It’s basically a strap that goes up the front of her arm and crosses over her shoulder to her back, and fastens to a belt she wears right under, ah, right at the top of her waist.  The other strap goes up the back of her arm, over her shoulder to the front, and attaches to the same belt at her right side.  Once we got everything situated we marked where they crossed (at the shoulder, the right side in front, and the right side in back) and fastened them with rapid rivets.  The “pressure lines” where then lashed together with some fine wire in a few places, and then attached to the back strap all the way up to her shoulder.  If we decide to do a full-on Furiosa costume, we’ll add the shoulder pad and stuff at a later date.

So anyway, here’s how the costumes turned out… I’m pretty stoked at how great it all came together, and we won a couple of costume contests, which is super exciting :D

I’m also happy to report that it was functional, which is very important when it comes to an adult Halloween costume.
Oh, right… I promised that aftermath photo.  Here’s what was left of that oil pan and lamp reflector when it was all finished.

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The Wedding Invitations

Front Cover

After helping my sister make her wedding invitations, I swore I was going to purchase mine until I started shopping for invitations. The options I really liked were way out of price range; the options in our price range were run of the mill options. I wasn’t about to spend more on invitations than I had on my dress and generic wasn’t an option. I did what any self-respecting crafter would do. I designed my own.

Title Page

I wanted to provide a lot of information without all those pesky inserts that tend to show up in invitation envelopes. As we are both voracious readers, a book made sense. Designing the pages took the most time. I spent a couple of weeks agonising over font choices and map selections. Which information was most pertinent. The proper order of pages. Did you know there are etiquette rules for the exact wording of wedding invitations? I now do! Once the pages were designed, I had them printed at Staples.

Invitation Page

The RSVP cards were a little quicker to make. One random evening, I said we should as for a recipe with each RSVP. This would make the card memorable and hopefully provide extra motivation to send the card back. I used a vintage look recipe card from Love vs. Design. I used Photoshop to edit the card size and some of the wording as well as changing the colours to match our wedding. On the back I put all the important RSVP information including a QR code to reply online rather than sending back the card. I also had this printed at Staples using their same day printing option for postcards.

Further Information

While waiting for those pages to be printed, I scoured the local craft stores for cover options. Thankfully, scrapbooking paper comes in many colours and designs. I was able to find a collection that fit the design. I also found envelope seal stickers. Thanks to Pick Your Plum, I own enough Washi tape to cover every wall in our house from floor to ceiling, so I didn’t need to purchase anymore.

Even more information

With all of the supplies gathered, assembling the invitations went a bit faster (We make our Christmas cards, so I have had a little practice).  The first step was to trim and score all the pages so they could be sewn into books. (I don’t have photos of this process since I was concentrating on completing this task as quickly as possible.)

This page intentionally left blank.

Next, I moved to my sewing room, where I stitched together each and every book. This sounds worse than it really was. Just imagine you are making a quilt with 120 five and one half-inch seams. Just a couple of hours of work, no big deal.

RSVP Front

To complete the invitation, I secured two strips of Washi tape over the stitching. This meant I didn’t have to hand tie all the stitching strings.


I then spent the next 2 days writing out addresses. Then carefully stuffing the invitation into envelopes.

The entire process took me through 6 Harry Potter movies. Not a bad way to spend a few days.


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Furniture Building

Projects with my boyfriend usually go in this manner. He comes up with an idea. We talk it over, share a few ideas, then think about it. I then figure out how to make it happen. We take our time tracking down the supplies. Finally, we make it happen. We have done this many times in our three years together.

This project has been the longest and largest project to date. It has been over a year since this project began with the suggestion that we needed a bench at the end of our very large king sized bed. We started shopping around, not really finding exactly what both of us liked and wanted. This is another problem we run into. We agree on many things, but not always when it comes to decorating.

One Sunday we enjoyed Sunday dinner with MiCTLaN’s mom and step-dad and we noticed what looked to be the perfect base to our bench. It was being used as a bookshelf, but was otherwise the perfect length. We inquired about getting another one. Conveniently, his step-dad works at a furniture warehouse. He was able to save another box for us to use, as well as a foam cushion and legs.

It was up to us to find the perfect fabric. We kind of agreed on making it red. That’s as far as we made it for about 9 months. Any time I visited a new fabric shop (or even my regular shops), I would check out the options, picking up little samples of the possibilities. Last Christmas we had almost agreed on a fabric. We both liked it, but it didn’t fit the personality we wanted.

Just last week, I was inspired to try finding the perfect fabric once again (spurred by trying to complete as many projects as possible this summer and a sale!). I stumbled across it in the third stop of the day. I spotted it, checked it out, then moved on to another fabric. I came back to look again. Then proceeded to look around some more. After taking my third look at the fabric, I knew it was the one we were looking for. I even bought it without waiting for confirmation from my boyfriend.

There will be further tellings of how we made this marvelous bench. I am still working on editing the pile of photos we took showing our progress.


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