Store 2013 Update

As many noticed, the kits in the store are all sold out. Rest assured that my kits will be returning for the Spring 2013 season. You can send me an email if you need something before then and we can work it out.

The Spring reopening will be an exciting time. Popular kits are being upgraded, and even adding more.

Here’s a brief rundown:

Ammo Counter
- Better optional sound module integration
- Clip reload support (magnet switch)
- Optional low battery indicator

Cortana Switch
- New purple design

New* Lighted On / Off pushbutton
- Lights green when on
- Lights red when off
- Use to turn on the rest of your electronics

This last one is exciting just because how long I have been working on a lighted on / off switch. My previous attempt at having an illuminated push on push off switch was functional, but wasn’t accurate. Yes, was a push on, push off switch, and yes, it had a lighted LED with a cap and the right symbol. However, it never looked quite right. In addition, the cap was too narrow and switch push actuation distance was too long.

Why is this so hard to get right? You see this type of lighted mini push button switch used for all sorts of electronics. They make it look easy because there is a logic chip controlling the ON signal and LED color. It isn’t truely an on / off switch. Your computer or whatever sits in standby, providing minimal power to that logic chip waiting for the ON signal to be received, then the logic chip turns on the rest of the system.

What I wanted was a passive solution, no logic chip needing programming. I struck gold when a friend sent me a sample from a fabricator. Bidirectional red green light, DPDT meaning that you push it once to connect the left side terminals, press it a second time to connect the right side terminals. Some clevor wiring allows each switch press to reverse the voltage output, driving the LED color change with each switch press. Then the output’s voltage is limited to one direction through a diode output. There you have it, a small lighted push on push off switch capable of switching everything on and off without the use of a logic chip.

illuminated switch, green, on *cropped

Recipe: Boneless Chicken Wings

I have been trying to wrap my head around these delicious chunks of chicken for a few years. After a half dozen attempts, I have it almost perfect.  The exact measurement of ingredients is less important than technique to achieve the correct texture of the batter.  Can now enjoy them at home for twice the effort and half the cost :)

Time: 45 mins

Cooking Tools:

  • Large Tupperware with Lid
  • Frying pan
  • Tongs
  • Whisk
  • Paper Towels
  • Baking sheet or oven safe bowl
  • 1 Gallon Plastic Zipper Bag (can also use another large Tupperware)


  • 1 lb boneless chicken breast
  • 1/4 – 1/2 liter vegetable oil
  • 8 Tbs corn starch
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 cup water


Step 1: Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Put half in a plastic bag and set aside the other half. Is important to use a large bag to allow room for shaking later.

Step 2: Prepare the boneless chicken breast by cutting into 1 inch pieces. Can throw each one right into the bag of dry batter.  Seal the bag and shake to ensure each chunk is covered in the dry batter. Shake harder to give the chicken that familiar rounded shape. Refrigerate the chicken pieces in the plastic bag for at least 30 mins.

Step 3: Prepare your frying pan and oil. Use enough oil that the chicken pieces will sit under the surface.  The temperature should be hot enough to sizzle when you “flick” a very small amount of water into the pan.
Pro tip: Is a good time to turn on your oven to a low temperature, 200-300 degrees.

Step 4: Combine the wet batter ingredients with a whisk (you want lots of bubbles) and setup an assembly line.
1. Raw chicken, 2. Wet batter, 3. More dry Batter

Step 5: Take the cold chicken pieces covered in dry batter from the plastic bag, hand dip in the wet batter, roll in the dry batter, then gently place in the hot frying pan oil. Re-wisk the wet batter as needed to make more bubbles.
Pro tip: You [i]can[/i] cook several chicken pieces at the same time, using the dry batter bowl as a staging area. Be aware that cooking too many at the same time will drop the oil temperature.

Step 6: Use your tongs to rotate the chicken pieces in the oil, cook until the batter has browned on all sides.  Place cooked chicken pieces on paper towel and eventually a baking sheet in the oven to keep warm while the rest of the chicken pieces are cooked.

Step 7: The final “super secret” step is to take the chicken pieces from the oven and place in the large Tupperware.  Pour in your sauce of choice.  Close the lid and give them a few hard shakes until the sauce coats all the chicken pieces.


End of life on Current ammo counters

Stock has been updated in the store, when the current ammo counters are gone there will not be more. Pending redesign.

Reasoning: I went to reorder display parts today and found that my display of choice is no longer being manufactured. The alternate display I’ve prepared is more expensive, I won’t be selling many of those.

Looking forward: There are other cheaper and plentiful displays available, however they are not pin compatible with my current design of ammo counters.  A new design is mandatory to use these new displays.

On the bright side: I am now offering LED holders in the store.  These faux chrome holders are for the 10mm jumbo sized LEDs and look fantastic in any design.


Marvel Arc Reactor Shirt: Modification

I have dabbled with arc reactor costuming before, so when I learned of an official licensed arc reactor shirt from Marvel I jumped at the opportunity.  What I got was a good product.  Plenty bright to be seen behind a black shirt.  The arc reactor runs on AAA batteries and is velcro removable for washing the shirt.

I bought mine from ThinkGeek for $30.

The only problem I found with the shirt was the shirt itself.  The arc reactor is not heavy but is enough that it pulls down the collar of the shirt, making it sit awkward on your chest.  In addition, the shirt wasn’t comfortable.  I wear a large, so I ordered a large.  For a large, the shirt felt tight in all the wrong places.

Since I loved this simple arc reactor, I decided to do a little project using my previous experience and convert the arc reactor to a standalone wearable without the shirt. Assuring that the arc reactor will sit centered on my chest without drooping.

Tools Needed

  • Scissors
  • Drill
  • Pliers / Tweezers

Build Part List

  • Official Marvel: Tony Stark Light up LED Iron Man Shirt
  • Nylon Rope
  • Double-Sided Tape, Optional

Start by removing the arc reactor from the shirt, the velco pulls easily.  Pop the cord out from the battery back (small clip connector), don’t force.  Then de-thread the wire from the inner cloth of the shirt.


With the arc reactor removed from the shirt you can now pry off the top casing of the arc reactor. The top casing is held on by some adhesive but gives way with some mild force.

Top removed

Can turn on the lights to check you didn’t break anything. Overall, is durable, but you never know about those LEDs. Plus it looks cool :P

Four drill holes

Time to break out the drill. The smooth plastic surface is a little difficult to drill into, a pilot hole would help. You need to be very careful when drilling into the back casing. The LEDs and reflector are close to the casing wall. Do not drill holes into either of these, only drill a hole into the back casing wall.

First rope added

Thread the first length of rope. The length should be long enough to wrap around your arm to chest, can always trim down later. I made mine 3 feet each. Nylon twine likes to unravel when cut, I used a tweezers to help push all the fibers through the hole.

Threading the strap

Thread the rope through to the next hole. Two for the left strap. Two for the right strap. When pulling the rope through, be sure that the rope ends up behind the LEDs and metallic reflector. The rope in front would cause unwanted shadows.

Rubber diffuser removed

Now that your rope is pulled through into place, but not yet tied in a know for sizing, it is time to put the lid back on the arc reactor assembly. The adhesive on the top cover is still good. Use double-sided tape to re-attach if needed (I didn’t).

When placing the cover back on, alignment is important. The rubber diffuser has grooves to follow, is easy to align with the top cover. Aligning the top cover with diffuser attached to the rear casing is more tricky. I found it easier to do this with the LEDs turned on.

Hold the cover as close to the casing as you can without sticking the adhesive, then line up the shadows in the light with the black portions of the top lid.

Straps need trimming and knots

You should now have a nearly completed wearable arc reactor. Just need to size the strapping to your body. Take your arc reactor rig to a mirror. Place the arc reactor where you want it on your chest, then loop one of the straps around one of your arms.

Pull the strap tight and pinch the spot with your fingers, then take off the rig and tie a knot in that spot.

Repeat for the second strap.

Once all done, the arc reactor should be centered on your chest and feel snug but not tight. If you tie the knot in the wrong place, un-tie and try again.

The last step is trimming the excess rope. Leaving an inch or two for future adjustments.


I took more pictures during this project. You can view them on my flickr: Marvel Arc Reactor Shirt: Modification

Outdoor Movie Screen

As all the worst stories begin, I found myself on pintrest and stumbled onto a new project.  Hosting movies in my backyard with a projector.  The idea is not so far fetched, movie goers have loved watching their entertainment outdoors throughout history. Nostalgia, etc.

I did some research into the idea and pre-built screen kits.  The cheapest pre-build kits are on ebay.  It does not matter where you would purchase your kit online, none come with the poles.  Too big and expensive to ship.  Visiting the hardware store to look at PVC poles, I also look at connectors in the plumbing isle.  There I see all the parts that they charge a bundle for in a “pre-sorted” kit online.

I based my design on the kit instructions found on  They also sell “ruggedized” connectors and screen material to build your project.  I did purchase my screen material from them, more on that later.  I modified the screen frame design to have the whole thing break down into easy to transport lengths, 6 feet.

Movie Screen

Yes, that is a little doodle of me standing next to the giant screen.  Estimated frame size is 12 feet tall.  I did adjust my design while building.  The frame width is 18 feet, too long for no center supports, so I swapped out the 3way T connectors for 4way + connectors. In addition, I did not use all the bungee ties.

Part List

  • 1 – 8×16 White Tarp
  • 40 – Bungee 12 inch ball ties
  • 8 – 10 foot PVC poles, 1 inch diameter
  • 2 - Elbow 2way connectors
  • 8 – T 3way connectors
  • 6 – Straight 2way connectors
  • 2 – + 4way connectors
  • 100 feet of rope
  • 6 – Ground stakes
  • 2 – 3 inch bolts and wing nuts

Assembly went fast, PVC cuts like butter with a power saw.

Movie Screen Assembly 1 Movie Screen Assembly 2 Movie Screen Assembly 2 Movie Screen Assembly 3
Movie Screen Assembly 3 Movie Screen Assembly 3.5

I assembled the whole thing on the ground, with the feet rotated.  Then made a two man lift to stand the screen upright and rotated the legs back around.  Very effective and with the rear diagonal supports, the frame is VERY solid.  Added the 4 stakes and rope to the top, to keep any wind from blowing the whole thing down.  Then because the 1 inch PVC started to buckle under the strain of all those bungees, added two more ropes midway on each side.  Straightening the long vertical PVC stretches.

Standing the screen up was a marvel to behold. It was exactly as large as I had on paper, but somehow my imagination wasn’t able to comprehend the size until I saw it standing in fantastic glory!  Frame size is 12×18′ screen size is 8×16′.

Movie Screen


Had a good turn out for the premiere night, everyone was impressed by the screen’s size.  Bright scene’s of movies highlighted the flaws of using a tarp, because with a mostly white picture you are just staring at a white tarp and all it’s seams.  I will keep that in mind going forward to choose darker movies.

If I had to do anything over, I would bump up the 1 inch PVC to something stronger to prevent buckling.  Like 1.5 inch PVC or aluminum pipes. Replacing the tarp with a proper blackout cloth is also a planned upgrade, as suggested by this DIY.

New Sound Options in the Store

I often get asked about offering sound functionality in my prop kits that I sell. As demonstrated by my energy sword design I had a solution for sound, but it was not a solution that I could extend to my cheaper kits. Sound is hard, not just hard but expensive. Till now.

Introducing the 300 second USB recording module from <a href=””></a>. I have fully inregrated their sound module into the Backlit Ammo Counter offered in my store via an adapter circuit. The sound module can also be used stand alone, but you do not need me for that, go buy one from Electronics123! They are good folks.

The need for the Adapter Circuit

The sound quality offered by this sound module hits a sweet spot in cost to performance. In addition, the level of programmability at this price level is unmatched. The only function that cannot be programmed is to switch between two sounds based on a second input. I want to hear the firing sounds only when ammo is available, and the dry fire sounds only when ammo is not available. This is where the adapter circuit comes in. The backlit ammo counter already reports via the bottom LED if ammo is available or not. The adapter circuit takes the signal from that LED and the FIRE switch and performs some logic to decide which sound to play.

Is that simple, now the sound module gives sound effects exactly as expected for a fully automated weapon. Options for semi-automatic are in progress.

Secondary Announcement

New configuration options for the Ammo Counter in the store! Custom rates of fire. Prior to now all Fully-Automatic Ammo Counters have had the same fire rate of 5000 rounds per minute. Which is crazy fast for the most popular selection, the Halo AR having a fire rate of 600rpm.

Let’s talk about luck

Luck can be quantified. Each person has a set max amount of luck they can carry with them, and a set flow rate that their luck is replenished.

A person throughout the day uses there luck all the time, without even realizing it.  Each time you take a risk, big or small, you use a portion of your luck reserves. Here is where people run into problems. Using too much luck creates a luck deficit, this is the cause of bad luck. A person who presses their luck all the time with a risky lifestyle will find themselves out of luck when they really need it.

Don’t worry too much about you’re own luck deficit. The important thing to remember is too be aware of events in your life and how much luck you are using to accomplish your goals. If you use a lot of luck in any given day, lay your head down low for for awhile. Don’t take any additional risks. Depending on how much luck you used, your luck will be replenished in a few days or weeks.

Another important aspect is that luck can overlap between people and even be shared. This happens because the two people are close emotionally, or sometimes just physical proximity.  A person in a luck deficit will attempt to replenish their reserves, this happens naturally, but is sometimes not enough and that person becomes a luck black hole to those around them.

Functional Pip-Boy

Getting around to finishing my Pip-Boy project, this is my plans and research so far.

Last fall, I purchased a Pip-Boy cast from Skruffy of theRPF.  The cast I received from him needed very little sanding to get it to fit together and look right.

I was inspired to go beyond this by another member named pudding of theRPF who posted a video of a functional Pip-Boy he made with an android app and an arduino for the serial interface to the phone.

I think I can go beyond this. Smaller, more functions, and more accuracy.  I asked a my buddy to code up a universal pipboy webapp that will function very close to the pipboy in fallout 3, calling it the Pip-Boy emulator. He is very excited to see this prop in action!
I’ve seen a few demos of his progress, looks good so far. He assures me that the sound effects / animations I want won’t be a problem.

Then on my side is the hardware. I figure the interface between the controls and the ipod will be a mini bluetooth keyboard. The app will support keyboard input so keypresses will be used to navigate the Pip-Boy.

The last piece of the puzzle is the controls on the face of the Pip-Boy that will be wired into the bluetooth keyboard.  There are three input sets on the face controls; the Wheel which moves up-down through the menus, the Knob which moves left-right through the menus, and the front Lights which switches menu areas (STATS, INFO, DATA).


The Wheel and Knob will be a incremental rotary encoders. Rotary encoders have 3 pins; the common pin, the A pin, and B pin. Example: For the Wheel, the common and A pin will be connected to the UP keyboard key, the common and B pin will be connected to the DOWN keyboard key. The when you spin the Wheel clockwise, a pulse train will be input into the UP key, resulting in the UP key being pressed over and over as you spin the Wheel in an upward motion.  Conversely, spinning the Wheel counter clockwise will send a pulse train input to the DOWN key, resulting in the DOWN key being pressed over and over as you spin the Wheel in a downward motion.

Here is a demo of a rotary encoder being used as a keyboard up/down.

The Knob will be connected similar, but for LEFT and RIGHT.

Finally, is the three front LEDs. Each of these will be an illuminated yellow LED switch wired into the keyboard’s A, B, C keys.  In order to get each LED to light up when it is selected an Attiny chip will be used.  An Attiny chip has six I/O pins, perfect for this purpose. Three of the pins will be an input, connected in parallel with the keyboard wiring. Then three of the pins will be an output, turning the LEDs on and off.

There are a couple of ways to turn those LEDs on and off but the Attiny is a very small chip, DIP8, and inexpensive, ~$2.  Makes it an ideal solution.

As an extra, I noticed that in the game the radmeter window (upper right corner of the pipboy face) has a clock hand that spins continuously.  I have a few micro motors and can see this being easy to implement. Yellow glowing background, slow spinning clock hand.

Cortana Prop Circuit

Project is a cortana prop. Partnered with James Hodson and friends to complete. My portion is complete. Have a circuit board here that is the size and shape of the Halo Data Crystal (the thing that can contain an AI such as Cortana).

What is a Data Crystal Chip? Please see the Halo Wiki [].

Feature set:

  • Circuit board is designed to look like a naked “cortana” data chip.
  • Board can be placed in a molded outer shell to be more accurate. More details to come.
  • Compatible with multiple power sources depending on final usage:
    • LiPo cell (internal shell design)
    • Alkaline (wired to slot connector)
    • USB (wired to slot connector)
  • Can be plugged into a matching slot connector for power up
  • Slot connector can be used to power up other suit lights. Inserting the board into the slot is like flipping a switch on.
  • Micro-controller chip is on the circuit board to animate the lights.

Source Code



Working hard on the next stage of the project: Make a plastic shell that houses the circuit and a battery (team jlhR2).
Link to post: [405th Forum]

Video demo of using the cortana chip as a switch


PCB order is in, could mass produce a few right now if I wanted.
Link to post: [405th Forum]


First prototype is fully assembled, ready to proceed to stage 3 on the schedule.
Link to post: [405th Forum]


A nice explanation of all that the cortana board can do.
Link to post: [405th Forum]


First few revisions of the circuit board have been assembled and tested. Slot connector works great~! I ran out of those tiny smd LEDs and ordered some more. Will get one completely assembled later this week.
Link to post: [405th Forum]

Bringing in the latest pictures and videos to page 1.


I am still working on a final draft of the main board design, but here is the gist of what it will do and look like: First, the size is tiny. The thing is as small as the real deal, 1.00×1.85 inches (25×47 mm).

JlhR2 and I are still working on a pep template / mold that will go over the top.

How to modify an old entertainment center to fit a new HDTV

How to modify an old entertainment center to fit a new HDTV