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 Amazon.com. 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
- 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
At this stage, these are just ideas that may or may not work out,
but are enough of a plan to proceed.
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).
NEXT: THE HEAD, CONTINUED