Diorama Castle

From LVL1
Jump to navigation Jump to search

LVL1 Presents

Castle Active.jpg


In the early days of my LVL1 membership, I was wondering which of my project skills to use as a show piece. After much thought, I decided on a nuclear fussion reactor. But the reactor would take time, so I decided to build a diorama. The diorama would show my electronic skills, my item reutilization skills as well as a sense of humor. Realizing that Dr. Frankenstein is a role model to some hackers, I decided to model his hakerspace with a touch of LVL1.

In the light of day, the diorama looks like a simple semi cylinder. The contents represent a mad scientist's laire while the outside shows a disregard for wiring safety and building codes. The walls are made of project bricks arranged together and held in place by toothpicks and liberal amounts of elmers glue. The doorways, window and stairs are taken from a few old Frankenstein movies trapped in my subconscious.

Castle Dormant.jpg

Castle Side.jpg

Castle Stairs.jpg

Project Bricks.jpg

Below are brief descriptions of the diorama's contents.

LVL1 Sign

The LVL1 sign is a collection of four duplicate circuits. Each circuit provides a high voltage charge to a xenon flash tube. The voltage is not discharged such that the tube flashes, but instead allows streaks of plasma to form between the two ends.
Plasma Tube Schematic.jpg
Plasma Tube Parts.jpg
The circuits are divided into two parts. The first part is the charging circuit from disposal cameras with a flash. The internal flash module is scavenged for its transistor, step-up transformer, resistor and diode. The components are wired as before on a perfboard. The second ciruit is based on a strobe light. The trigger ciruit charges a capacitor. When charged, the capacitor allows current to light the neon lamp which triggers the SCR. The triggered SCR, shorts out the capacitor through the trigger coil with the output end and ground attached to the flash tube. The camera circuit does provide a capacitor and trigger coil, but they are not capable of making the plasma streaks as bright as the substituted components.
Flash Circuit Top.jpg
Flash Circuit Bottom.jpg
The construction of the sign is in three parts. The sign has a simple stained wood fascade. The actual sign portion is a lexan rectangle with xenon flash tubes arranged and wired inplace to form "LVL1". The main body consists of three layers of circuit boards. The bottom layer has the high voltage charging circuit made from the camera parts. The middle level has the charging capacitor and SCR trigger circuit. The top layer has the trigger coils plugged into IC sockets. The trigger coils do short-out, so they are in sockets for easy replacement.
Finally, the sign is powered by 4 AA batteries in a switch box. Each letter in the sign has a seperate switch.


The diorama has four torches. The torches consist of flickering LEDs scavenged from electronic tea candles. The torches are made from stained dowls chained to a backboard. A second dowl is used to seat the LED. The LED has wires running inside the support chains to backboard and through the wall. The torches are then wired into a switch box.

Electronic Tea Candle.jpg
Torch Partial Alone.jpg
Torch Bare.jpg
Torch Capped.jpg

The Monster

Every castle deserves a monster and that is what we have here. The monster is a mystery McDonalds toy wrapped in surgical tape (not that a real monster wouldn't be wrapped in surgical tape.). The tape has been painted with UV paint for added effect. The monster lies on a segmented slab atop a simple wooden frame.

Monster Above.jpg
Monster Side.jpg
Monster Glow.jpg

Plasma Disk

"Lightning bolts on a dish" could be used to describe this staple of mad scientist lighting effects. In this case, the effect is supplied by a "Plasma Disk" device sold as a rave accessory. On the back is a belt clip, which is used to attach thin plastic sheets for anchoring in the castle window. Even without a diorama, everyone needs one.

Plasma Disk Off.jpg
Plasma Disk Side.jpg
Plasma Disk Back.jpg
Plasma Disk On.jpg

Scaffolding and Slab

Nothing says "Mad Scientist" more than scaffolding and chains. The diorama contains a functional lifting slab. The top spools not only take up the chain but ropes are used to stop it from unspooling. The above cross bars also provide the anchor points for the "Black Lights" used to activate the UV paint. There are two segments of EL wire. The first segment is wrapped around the top scalfolding. The second segment is wrapped around the monster's slab. Each segment has its own driver and can opperate in steady, slow blink and fast blink modes.

Scaffold Top Full.jpg
Scaffold Top.jpg
Scaffold Shaft.jpg
Slab Side.jpg

Switches Everywhere

The diorama is operated by three switch banks. One switch box is exclusive to running the LVL1 sign. Another switch box holds the torch power switch and a momentary switch for operating the "Black Light". The last bank is the EL wire drivers.

Switch Banks.jpg

Final Words

There is more to do, but that will have to wait until next Halloween.