Mansion at Midnight: August 2011

This is my little not so scary Halloween blog "Mansion At Midnight"
... Inspired by Disney's Haunted Mansion...
I always wanted to be at the Haunted Mansion at Midnight...

Thanks for stopping by...

In Irons

Monday, August 29, 2011

Haunted Candelabra

Ok here is my attempt at Haunted Candelabra...its made with pvc pipe, romex 12 gauge wire, cable ties, paper towel cardboard rolls, some bathroom caulk and spray paint.  Whats haunted about it?  Not sure yet but will add to overall ambience

First you get some romex wiring, the 12 awg stuff is stiff enough if you make your candles light enough, then with diagonal cutters (called "dikes") and trim the romex to length:

Then you take each piece and bend it to resemble a candelabra arm....

Then add all the arms and align with the pvc pipe.....

Then position and tighten the arms with the cable ties....I also ran some duct tape around the cable ties...not sure if I needed to do that....

Got some paper towel rolls and cut them to various lengths, put some tape in the shaft of the paper towel rolls and for now for "dry run" I scotch taped them to the arms just to see and placed the little flicker tea lights.  I got some from the dollar store for 3 @ $1...not bad.   I will spray paint the candelabra black and the paper towel "candles" white and coat the tops with bathroom caulk to simulate melted wax

I found that the little plastic to-go cup ramekins work good for the candle cup holders.  I attached them using cable ties to each arm:

I then spray painted with Valspar flat black, its supposed to be ok for all types of surfaces including plastic which is important for the candle holders and the romex arms and pvc.  

 So here is finished product, I think at night it will be fine....

Thursday, August 25, 2011

August Waning...

August is on the wane (ok..ok... end of August) and I am in my design process for this year's Halloween props and decorations.

I got new Gemmy skulls from Lowe's....they are different than what they made last year.  I think last years model was better but a lot heavier....this year's model has these round eyes that light up.  On the web there are some models where these eyes move and light up..

I will be hacking these, this is what these look like:

 Here is what it looks like with the 4 screws removed....

How these work is they have a dc motor that spools a thread that is linked to the jaw lever...energize the motor and it spools up the thread and opens the jaw.   Voltage removed and the spring tension on the jaw closes it....very simple.   They have a circuit card with some sort of custom microprocessor chip that drives the sound with a custom series of sounds, plus drives the jaw and eyes.  There are inputs, one from the switch that comes with it for testing, a photocell that is between the eyes and a microphone that is a silver disk in the back of the skull that reacts to sound.   Either sound or shadows can activate the device.  I will be harvesting these boards for possible use later for triggers and what not.   If the output can drive dc motor, it can drive a relay coil so I can use it for triggering other effects (one day).

If you wish to hack these you basically cut the wires to the motor and tie that into a voltage source (like a relay with 5 vdc powered through it) and tie that into a light organ.  A light organ takes sound and converts that into voltage.  I will be using 2 Mr Christmas Digital Musical Light Show.  It cannot drive too much power but I tie the AC output and drive an AC coil on a relay (from Radio Shack) that switches DC power that ties into the motor and eyes.  You do have to include a resistor in series with the eyes or you will burn out the led eyes. 

Best site for hacking the Gemmy skull is, they are promoting their midi interface but for $45 and driving 2 skulls that is actually not a bad price at all:

Automat3d Gemmy Hack

Here is rough sketch of the Gemmy Skull circuit wiring.  The wire color may change and there is 2 wires going from and to every component:

As the wiring colors may change just be aware but this is what I rewired the above to be. I used the try me switch as my input port for power from the relays that I am driving the skull circuit with. So if there is a problem with a skull I can just change it out by unplugging the try me connector and swap out the skull.  For the connections I simply soldered all the connections and wrapped the connections in electrical tape.  I taped the wiring inside the skull to keep it away from the jaw motor lever machinations.
I have 2 Mr Christmas Digital Light Shows (MCDLS) where my left channel from my mp3 player audio output is connected to one  MCDLS and the right channel drives the other MCDLS.  I bought a couple of AC coil relays and drive those that switch on command DC power to the above skull(s). The relays essentially have their coils driven by the MCDLS whose contacts switch DC power to the skulls.  Its kinda clickity clackity with the sound, I have put the relay box inside a couple of boxes for sound proofing as I run the wiring from just inside my double door front door out under the jamb and up to the door header where the skulls are.

I still think if you are working from scratch, the above noted Gemmy midi link Automat3d Gemmy Hack is best way to go so far that I have seen.   The problem with some of the other hacks they use a Pulse Width Modulated signal to drive servos, that wont work for these simple dc driven skull motors that Gemmy uses.