Two notes on the LEDs before we move on. First, life will be much simpler if you use a regulated LED module that can run off of standard 9V batteries. Unregulated modules will require 12V, and 12V batteries are a pain to find.
Second, I used blue because A. Fry's was out of white, and B. My shirt is blue so it's not that big of a deal. If you're going to be wearing this with any other color shirt, I highly recommend using white LEDs.
Here's the list of supplies:
- A can, <6" in diameter, with a white plastic lid, preferably semi-transparent
- Masking tape
- Duct tape
- Black spray paint
- An LED light board. I used this one from Fry's
- A battery connector. I used this one from Fry's
- About 6 feet of two-conductor wire. I used speaker wire
- Card stock/Single-ply cardboard, at least 1" wide by 8" long
As for tools:
- A soldering iron and solder
- Wire cutter & stripper
- Tin snips
- Pliers (or just use your fingers, but you'll probably cut the heck out of your fingers)
- Straight edge
- X-acto knife
OK, let's get to painting!
Step 1: Mask and Spray
1. Take the lid off your can. Cover the lid in masking tape, then grab your straight edge and pen, and get to work marking up your paint mask. I freehanded the line thickness, but if you're inclined you could measure everything, or mock up a design in paint.net and print it out.
2. Cut out the mask, being careful to not puncture the lid itself.
3. Spray, baby, spray!
Now, take the sprayed lid and set it somewhere warm and dry. I used a hairdryer to speed the drying process, and it was dry in less than an hour.
On to the soldering!
Step 2: Soldering the Emitter Assembly
1. Take roughly 6' of wire (more if you're a giant, less if you're not), solder the battery connector's leads to one end, and the LED unit's leads to the other. Test it again. If it works, you're good to go.
2. Shrink wrap, tape, or otherwise separate and protect the soldered joints from touching each other and shorting out.
If you want to be really thorough, you could solder a switch inline. I just detached the battery to turn it off.
Step 3: Making the Body of the Reactor
1. Grab your can and tin snips, and cut it so you end up with the top ring of the can with about 1.5" of can body below it. Remember, THIS IS SHARP!
2. Draw a line on the inside of the can about .75" down from the top ring. This will be the final depth of the arc reactor, so you can experiment here with what fits your anatomy best.
3. 180° apart, cut two .5" wide tabs from the body of the can to the depth of the line.
4. Fold them outward 90°, so they lay parallel with the top of the can. These will be the tangs you use to attach everything together.
5. Now, cut a sawtooth pattern into the bottom edge of the can, up to your depth line. You should be left with a bunch of triangles pointing down, like shark's teeth. You will use these to smash the reactor into your chest and hold it there. Kidding.
6. Fold the triangles inward so they lay flat against the inside of the can. I did this to "bulk up" the edge that will be laying against my supple manflesh to keep it from cutting me.
7. Line the bottom edge of the can with duct tape. I didn't do this, but after wearing it for 5 hours, I wish I had. This will help to keep you from getting cut or abraded by any left over pokies.
8. Cut two lines through the body of the can to just below the top ring 180° apart and 90° away from the attachment tangs (E & W if the tangs are N & S).
9. Those notches allow you to bend in the walls of the can to custom fit it to your anatomy.
Step 4: Final Assembly!
2. Lay the reactor body on top of the cardboard strip, center the emitter in the center, and tape the tangs to the cardboard.
3. When it's done drying, carefully unmask your light mask. If you accidentally peel up paint, you can use a chisel tip black sharpie on both sides of the lid to touch it up.
4. Finally, put the lid, now your light mask, back on the can top. Voila!
Step 5: Care and Feeding of Your Arc Reactor Mk. VI
- I ran the wire up, over my left shoulder, down my back, under my belt, and into my left pocket. Extra wire can be coiled in there. Remember to give yourself slack if you're droppin' trou.
- One 9V alkaline lasted me 3 hours before it started to dim.
- Learn from my mistakes: I broke the leads where they attached to the battery connector's top piece. To keep this from happening, attach the connector to the battery, then tape the wires to the battery to take stress off the connector.