Make a Kinetic Chandelier from Junk!

This Spring the Ithaca, NY hacker space, Ithacka, put out a challenge: purchase a box of junk from American Science and Surplus and make something out of it. And so we did!

To start out, here was what we received in the mail:

The timer (with bell) was hacked up to turn the chandelier.

As you can see, I was not exaggerating. This really is junk. Fortunately with the help of some amazing teammates (@rrmutt, @m_c_t, @jof), we were able to hack away and construct a really cool chandelier.

Yes, it actually locomotes itself! The box came with (just about) everything you see here: LED’s, donut shaped plastic pieces, telephone wire we stripped, the timer used to turn the chandelier, etc.

A big part of our hack was to regear the timer box so it would turn fast enough to see. The original gear ratio would make one turn in something like an hour — too slow to notice!

To do this, we removed the first few levels of gearing, and moved the motor to drive the last two gears in the geartrain. This photo shows the removed gears and the new hole we drilled for the new motor position. We also removed the switch contacts to use as brushes for the slip rings:

To see the gearbox before we molested it, look here.

Here’s a closer look at the gear box in its finished state:

DC 5V from the wall transformer is transmitted through the rotating coupling using slip rings made from gold-plated RCA connectors. These were drilled out to fit over the long toggle bolt shaft, and the spring contacts from the timer switch were used as brushes. The top ring carries ground and is soldered directly to the shaft, the bottom ring carries +5V which is taken off by a red wire soldered to the threads. They are separated by an insulating fiber washer from the small bulb sockets, and, under the white insulating washer (surplus gear) is a ground connection to the shaft.

The rotating portion is made from the cover of the telephone terminal box with a lid from the back of the antenna splitter. The lid hides the internal wiring (made from telephone wire) and the LED current limiting resistors.

We needed approximately 50 ohms of current limiting resistance forthe six LEDs in parallel. Though we considered literally hacking up the 670 ohm resistors out of the antenna coupling, we decided that it was much easier to use two 100 ohm resistors taken from the Noisebridge supplies in parallel.

The only other items not from the BOJ in this image are primarily for safety: the hanging wire, the power cord to the AC motor, and the heatshrink tubing insulating the power cord contacts. In addition, we used extra solder.

To see much more of the process step by step, check out this slideshow that documents our progress from start to finish:

A big thank you to Noisebridge. Without their facilities and tools we never would have been able to do this. In addition, to all those who came out to help us push the project to completion the last couple nights, your help was much appreciated!

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2 thoughts on “Make a Kinetic Chandelier from Junk!

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  2. Pingback: Giving thanks for dad: my inspiration for becoming a maker |

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