We can't give a more personal gift than one we made ourselves -- so it was time to think of something that we hadn't done before.
I came up with a design using pieces of plexiglass staff that were bent around a block of wood, illuminated by (of course) RGB LEDs. It struck me as appropriate because the plexi would 'connect' the two sides of the block and it would be impossible to see where it started and where it ended -- thereby connecting two sides into one whole.
klik was not impressed, and suggested something completely different. As usual, her insights on designing physical objects were better than mine, so we went with her idea.
Basically, the idea is to have eight pieces of plexiglass staff stick out of a container, illuminated from below with RGB LEDs. The plexiglass diffuses and guides the light, and because the pieces are of unequal length and are not arranged in a neat row, it gives off a colorful and chaotic atmosphere.
I decided not to make the color-cycles programmable, which freed up quite a few pins. Still, I can only do a maximum of 5 RGB LEDs with a single 16F628A microcontroller, so I would need more than one. With 4 RGB LEDs controller per microcontroller, I settled for a design with two microcontrollers.
The two microcontrollers side by side. The left one is turned upside-down, so to speak -- this allowed me to tie the power supply lines of the chips together. The pins that I use to drive the LEDs are all connected to resistors, which I have placed upright to conserve space.
The tin in which it all had to fit isn't very large, so I could not fit the LEDs on the same level as the microcontrollers. I soldered header pins next to the resistors, and then...
...I soldered the female pins on the underside of the board with the LEDs. I placed the header pins 'upside-down' (with the long end sticking down) on the board, and then pinched the female pins around those. They were secured using huge blobs of solder.
The board with the LEDs seen from the top.
With a bit of fiddling, you can plug the female pins onto the pin headers, creating a multi-layered installation.
Another shot, to put it all into perspective. Note that I clipped the pins off the upper side of the LED board, so that I could place the LEDs as low as possible.
The end result. The plexiglass staff is 10mm thick, and when we bought it, it was clear. The clear plexi did not diffuse the light to our satisfaction, but after a bit of experimentation we determined that using a fine-grained sanding paper would improve this a great deal. Most of the light is still directed straight to the top of the rod, so we cut the tops off at an angle of 45 degrees, so that the light would also be dispersed horizontally at the top of the rods.
The container is a tin we bought at a cheap store for household goods. The cover is made of clear plastic that I drilled holes in. I used the sanding paper to make this diffused as well -- you can still see the light being produced underneath, but you can't make out any details.
This shot shows off the diffusion of the lid. The whole thing is about 8 cm across, and the longest of the rods is about 13.5 cms.
A shot from the top. I really like this one. It's like colorful ice crystals sticking out of a clump of ice. Or maybe the cold weather we're having here has managed to sneak into my subconsciousness.
I spent about 9 days working on this, and I am really pleased with the result. I want to do more with diffused plexiglass, because it is easy to work with and gives a great effect.
As the wedding is still two weeks off, this post is friends-only -- we want it to stay a surprise! Afterwards, I'll make this entry public.