12/23/17- For an American kid in the '60s, reference materials for this kind of stuff were pretty scarce. The Internet and DVDs weren't around, so the only reference material that I had when I made my first version of Beru Seijin was a Japanese book with one or maybe two pictures in B&W. Consequently, all those years since then I've believed that the V-shaped thing under his head was actually part of his head, like his chin. Now that I have better references, it looks like it's an immobile part of the body. In the show, the head is capable of a small amount of turning and up/down movement, so it was probably a separate part, maybe with a slightly flexible, hidden neck covering.

It's relevant to this project because I've been considering turning this into a lighted project: The V-section has two lights, so if I'm going to do it, the V-section's wiring would come from the suit, separate from the head's wiring.

The Lighting Gimmick: I've indicated my disdain for lighting gimmicks before: At first, they're a neat-o feature, but realistically, you play with them for a while -- how long depends on how much entertainment value you get from seeing the same thing over and over. Then the figure goes on the shelf and you later discover that you'd forgotten to take out the (possibly corroded) batteries.

Sorry to be such a Debbie Downer. There's no denying that gimmics are fun. I like pressing buttons and observing cause-and-effect as much as any lab critter! But it's more fun to figure out how to build it. My options:

  • A straight build without gimmicks would be the fastest and easiest way to complete the project; sometimes, you're impatient and just want to get one on the shelf.

  • The second fastest way would be to do a simple battery/switch/resistor/LED on-off circuit; I already know how to do that, so there's little challenge to that.

  • A third way would be to use a circuit kit that does fancy programmed LED sequencing, like Dale Wheat's "TinyCylon" kit. It's an easy-to-assemble kit, so all I'd have to do is adapt it to the doll. Unfortunately, Beru Seijin's lights aren't sequenced like a Cylon. (See TinyCylon Zetton)

  • The fourth option: Custom programming the lighting sequence with an Arduino board. That opens the door to a huge new world of learning that's more interesting than this simple dollmaking project. It's pretty exciting!

Naturally, I couldn't wait to get started: The brick & mortar HobbyTown is much faster than The Arduino (OSEPP) is extremely versatile and scalable; although it involves electronic hardware and programming, you only need to learn as much as needed for the scope of your project. LED programming by adapting an example is probably the easiest, and suitable for a rank beginner like me. You can do a lot of really cool things with the technology if you've got the knowledge; I probably don't have enough drive and time for very deep learning though.

Planning the Lights: My initial thinking/assessment/planning:

  • From watching the video, I see that the front has 6 LEDs in pairs on 3 glow on/off patterns; the backpack has 4 always-on LEDs.

  • The Arduino board can be programmed to independently ramp up/down the brightness of LEDs (adapt the "Fade" example sketch). The 4 backpack LEDs can be powered independently by a simple circuit.

  • Two coin-sized 3v Lithium batteries (CR2032) would be sufficient to power the Arduino and fit in the backpack, along with a compact version of the Arduino circuit board (DFRobot Beetle or Arduino Pro Mini). Battery life wouldn't be great, but it's a gimmick, not a Lava lamp-- I'm not likely to leave it running for days on end.

    (Someone with a lot more knowledge could reprogram the TinyCylon's ATTINY13A microcontroller to accomplish the same thing for a lot less money, but that's way beyond my abilities; I know, I've tried!)

At this stage, these are just ideas that may or may not work out, but are enough of a plan to proceed.

Beru/Bell Seijin, 30cm/12

The V-Thing: I used warm white SMD LEDs for all the lighting-- I had a bunch from N-scale model railroading and knew the drill for soldering them to thin wire (use tweezers, Qwik-Tak, thin solder, and a hot soldering pencil). Reference photos showed a diffused light behind a teardrop-shaped dome. I sculpted the teardrops in epoxy putty and heat-formed clear plastic over them. The inside surface of the domes were colored with a yellow Sharpie. Inner domes were heat-formed in thin styrene and trimmed to fit within the clear domes; this hid the LEDs and diffused their light a bit. The LEDs, wires, and domes were glued onto a V-shaped Worbla form, and the 3D structure was sculpted around them in black-tinted epoxy putty.

The clear domes should have been trimmed a little shorter for a more accurate sculpt and they didn't need to be tinted yellow... but it's hard to know how all the individual steps will work out until they're assembled in sequence... and then, it's too late (unless you're willing to go back to square one).