Make a crystal skull lamp with resin, an LED light bulb and a few hacking skills.
Resin is a really fun medium to caste with. It can be a bit finicky at times but if you take your time, and use the correct measurements, you won’t have any issues.
I’ve always been fascinated by skulls, especially the Aztec ones found in the early 20th Century. If you don’t know much about these skulls, check out the next step.
I’ve always wanted to have one of these skulls but there is no way that I have the skills to make one. So instead I cheated!
I used a skull mold and some resin to make the crystal skull and added a hacked LED light globe (see my other ible’ LED light bulb hack) and made it into a lamp.
Step 1: Check Out the YouTube Clip Below
Step 2: Inspiration
My first time hearing about the crystal skulls that were supposedly found in south America, (Mesoamerica) was from Arthur C Clark's "Mysterious World". In his book Arthur C Clark explores some of the world's best mysteries and one of the chapters was on the crystal skulls.
Below are some images of the skulls. They are made from rock crystal and were hand carved without metal tools (metal wasn't known in Mesoamerica at the time) There is a fair amount of controversy surrounding the skulls, as none of the specimens made available for scientific study have been authenticated as pre-Columbian in origin.
The skull that Arthur writes about is probably the most famous one and was allegedly discovered in 1924 by Anna Le Guillon Mitchell-Hedges. Anna Hedges claimed that she found the skull buried under a collapsed altar inside a temple in Lubaantun, Belize. The biggest controversy surrounding this skull is the discovery is not mentioned by her father (British adventurer F.A. Mitchell-Hedges) who was in charge of the dig.
Whatever its true history, Its still an amazing artefact. There's even a documentary about it called "Crystal Skull of Lubaantun" which I haven't seen yet so I can't really comment. National Geographic also have a documenatry called "Crystal Skulls - Behind the Legend". Oh, and there is even an Indiana Jones movie featuring a crystal skull as well!
If you would like to find out more about the crystal skulls, check out the below links:
Crystal Skull - Wikipedia
Crystal Skull - Nat Geo
Crystal Skull - Archive Archaeology
Step 3: Parts and Tools
1. Resin - I used Diggers casting resin
2. LED globe - eBay
3. Switch - eBay
4. Skull mold - eBay
5. Wood - Thin pine plywood and a piece of 20mm x 140mm pine wood (or whatever wood you want to use)
6. Video card Heat-sink - eBay
7. Flat heat screws and nuts.
8. 9v battery
9. 9v battery holder - eBay
10. Paint (stain and varnish)
Tools and Material
1. Sandpaper (wet / dry)- 800 and 1200 grit. You will also need some sandpaper for the wood.
3. Wire cutters
4. Soldering iron and solder
5. Table saw
6. Measuring cups for the resin
7. Polishing wheel (I used one which came with a polishing kit for headlight covers)
Step 4: Pulling Apart the Light Globe
1. Unscrew the bayonet at the bottom of the globe.
2. Cut the red and black wires going up into the actual globe. Try and make sure that you save as much of the wire as possible. If you don’t it’s not the end of the world, it just makes things a little easier later.
3. With a screwdriver, lever off the top of the globe.
4. Un-do the 3 screws that are holding down the circuit board to the heat shield
5. Carefully remove the circuit board and put aside.
Step 5: Attaching the LED to the Heat Sink
The heat sink that I used in a PC to keep a video card cool. The LED’s can heat-up so it is important to have some way for the heat to dissipate.
1. Remove the 3 screws that are holding the fan onto the heat sink.
2. Flip over the heat sink and drill a hole in the middle. It needs to be big enough for the wires from the circuit board to fit through
3. De-solder the little black receiver on the circuit board. As this will be hidden under the skull, its best to remove it and place it on the outside of the box
4. Add some computer wire to the circuit board where the receiver was.
5. The circuit board will actually sit inside the heat sink. Thread the black and red wire through the hole and position the circuit board in the middle. With a small drill, make a hole into the heat sink, making sure it lines-up with one of the holes in the circuit board (where the screws went to hold it onto the globe heat sink.
6. Add a small screw to hold into place.
Step 6: Creating a Skull Mould.
I decided to do a test run first as I wasn't too sure how I was going to polish the skull. The first one came out ok but I used too much catalyst and the resin heated and the skull cracked across the nose.
1. You need to make a stand for the skull mold to fit into. All I did was use a piece of ply wood and cut a hole large enough for the skull to rest upside down into.
2. Next mix the resin and catalyst making sure that you measure correctly. The resin that I used specified to use 1.5ml for every 100ml's. I have worked out from previous projects that this is usually too much. I went for around 1ml for every 100ml's and this worked well.
3. Let sit for 12 hours and once dry pop the skull out of the mold. If you have put the correct amount of catalyst in you will find that the bottom of the skull is smooth. My first try, I put too much in and the bottom was wavy which meant it set too fast.
Step 7: Polish Your Skull
There are many ways that you can polish resin. I have tried a few different ways (see my LED resin cube ible') but this time instead of using a polishing agent like brasso, I used a headlight polishing wheel which worked really well (and cut down on all that hand polishing!)
1. You won't be able to polish the teeth, nose or eye section as there are just too many curves etc. I just polished the top of the skull. Start with a 800 grit wet/dry sandpaper and rub until the skull is smooth. It will take some time but keep at it.
2. Next use some 1200 grit paper and go over the skull again until polished.
3. Lastly I used a foam polishing wheel and the polish that came with it and went all over the skull. You can use this to smooth some of the front of the skull as well. Don't push too hard as you will melt the resin in spots.
4. Just take your time and keep polishing until you have a glass finish. You won;t get all of the dints out but you will end up with a super smooth skull.
5. Lastly you will need to remove any white resin residue out of the cracks that run through the top of the skull. I jjust ran it under hot water and used a soft brush to get the white residue out.
Step 8: Making the Light Stand - Cutting the Wood
I'm sure that there are many ways to make a stand for the LED's to go into. I wanted to have something simple so as not to detract from the skull.
1. Cut a square piece of wood. The size I used was 140mm x 140mm x 20mm
2. Next drill 4 holes into the wood as shown below.
3. Use a jigsaw and cut out the inside of the wood.
4. For the top and bottom of the light stand I used some thin ply wood. Cut 2 pieces that fit on each end of the square piece of wood.
Step 9: Making the Light Stand - Cutting Cont., Gluing and Painting
1. You need to make a hole in the middle of one of the ply wood tops. Find the middle of the board and drill out a hole large enough for the circuit board to fit through. If it is slightly smaller then this won't be a problem.
2. Glue the other piece of plywood to the square piece of wood and let dry for 12 hours
3. Next you will need to add the magnets to the lid and inside of the section which is cut out. Measure up where each of these will need to be stuck and add some super glue to the magnets. You might need to try a couple of times before you get this right as the lid needs to sit flush with the sides of the wooden sides.
4. Once everything is dry you can sand down the sides. This will ensure that the ply is flush with the wooden sides.
5. Paint the stand. I used a stain and some clear varnish but you can use whatever takes your fancy.
Step 10: Adding the LED/Heat-sink to the Box
Initially I thought I would have to add the remote receiver to the outside of the box. I de-soldered it from the circuit board and extended it so it would be on the outside of the box. DON'T DO THIS! It doesn't have to the on the outside as the receiver works just as well under the skull. I wrecked my first LED circuit board de-soldering the receiver from the board. The first image shows what I did.
1, Measure where the holes are on the heat-sink onto the top cover and drill a couple of holes.
2. Attach the heat-sink with a couple of small screws and nuts. Use some flat heat bolts and counter-sink the holes so the head of the screws are flat on the top of the lid. Initially I used some round screws which stuck up and didn't look that great.
Step 11: Attaching the Lid
You can see in the images that I used the rounded screw to attach the heat-sink. Use flat ones as these work a truck load better
1. Drill 4 holes in each corner and counter sink the holes.
2. carefully screw the screws into the holes
Step 12: Test / What I Would Do Differently
Test the remote that comes with the LED globe. You should be able to change the colour of the lights. If not, pull it apart and check your soldering. Now add the skull, turn on the LED, sit back, an watch the magic happen.
So what would I do differently next time.
- Definitely son;t have to de-solder the receiver from the circuit board. I has a good range, even with the skull on top of the LED's .
- I would love to find a better mould (should just make one for myself!). I had to do a lot of sanding and polishing to get the dome as smooth as I did. I didn't manage to get all of the dints out but I did get a great shine in the resin.
- The base came out ok. I did think about making it out of steal but wood is so much easier to work with.
- I would have liked to have hidden the switch so the base ended up with a cleaner finish. I am happy with where I added it though as it is easy to see and invites people to turn it on.