Any Skull screams Happy Halloween! Pulling this out of the basement stairway to spook the kiddos as they come for candy! Please VOTE Halloween Decor!
How to make a human detecting (motion activated) Deer Skull Light.
This is my first Instructable, so I hope my steps can be followed easily to help others. Sorry, but my project was completely finished upon the creation of this tutorial. What I lack in pictures I hope I can explain in words.
Basically, I have been tinkering with small fun wiring projects that make noise and make light. Thought it was time to make something more permanent that others can enjoy when they enter our basement.
What makes this lighted skull a bit different than what I have found online is that the lights are motion activated with a PIR sensor. Secondly, many of the lighted skulls I have seen have been done by simply adding an LED strip with power taking advantage of the translucence of the skull. I have included independent lights in specific areas of the skull to give a variety of colors and custom ambiance.
Step 1: The Skull
Start with a Europeon Style skull mount or any skull that you have access to. Plan the effect you are looking for by taking notice to all the holes, cracks, and crevices in the skull. The time you take now will help on placing your LEDs and planning for running wires. I made no modifications to this mount when running wires.
Step 2: The Tools and Supplies
- Wire Cutters
- Soldering Iron
- Soldering Paste
- 5/16 Drill Bit: drilling holes to run wires through front plate if mounted
- Screw Driver
- Marking Tool: Sharpie for marking where to drill holes
- Hot Glue Gun: glue lights and wires in place
- Glue Sticks: Need glue for the glue gun right?
- 9 volt battery: Powers the 6 LED lights and PIR sensornicely
- 9 volt battery connector: I made one from a dead nine volt battery and soldered on leads. You can probably salvage one from somewhere.
- 3 volt battery: I kept this handy to test lights as I worked through the project. Nice to know when a connection may have broken sooner than later.
- 22 awg. colored wire: I used wire color that matched the light color as the pos+ and black for the neg -. Helps identify all nest of + and - wire leads you will have from 6 LED lights
6 LED Lights: I liked these prewired with resistor as they are a huge time saver.
Terminal Block Bus Bar: All LED wires and power lead to block for connecting.
PIR Motion Sensor: I used this one, but on my next project I plan on shopping for another. Will explain more on that later.
- Heat Shrink Tubing Sleeving: Will need to cover those solder joints to prevent shorting your project. LED wire leads were not long enough to reach the connection block, so lots of soldering of colored wire that helped for identification was needed. Tubing also makes your joint stronger.
Step 3: Soldering LEDs to Lead Wires
Did you plan where your LEDs will go in/on the skull yet? Take time to do this now so you do not solder more or fewer lights than you have too. I recommend finding places that will hide the LED and allow the light to show through the translucent bone.
Get your soldering iron fired up?
Sorry, this is not a soldering Instructable, but from the picture you can see where solder joints are for one of the lights covered in heat shrink tubing.
While the leads on the LED lights have nice length for many projects, they are too short for this project. So I had to extend every lead by about 18 inches. The 18 inches makes for easier running of wires later where you should not run short. You can cut off excess when you make your final connections.
Too make things go a little easier later, use colored wire to help identify the LED color. Especially if you use the clear LED lights.
6 lights = 12 solder joints plus, be sure to heat shrink each joint to make your joint stronger and prevent shorting out your project.
If you have not become at least a novice at soldering, please take the time to do so. Taping connections will be difficult to work with as you are working the wires quite a bit in this project. You really do not want connects to come apart. Other plastic connectors will inhibit how far you can run a wire before you encounter a hole or crevice that you need to snake through. Solder connections are stronger and easier to work through holes when needed.
Step 4: Test Your Lights and Sensor
Again, my pictures are of the final product.. Much neater than my actual testing where I had a next of wires after testing on the connection block.
After you have soldered all your leads to the LEDs, connect them to the power distribution block in a somewhat organized fashion. On this particular block, one side is negative (- black) and the other positive (+colored wires). The two wires at the top end lead to the 9 volt battery. Once you are sure all your lights work, then test the PIR sensor with your lights.
NOTE: Had a hard time locating the connection markings on this PIR sensor. they are hidden behind the green connection terminal casing. If I was not in such a rush to get this thing connected, I would have noticed there were paper instructions include in the box. ARGH! Anyways, output and input are clearing marked.
Polarity is - + / + -
So, connect battery to Input - and + , and connecting block wires connect to - and + Output.
Now stand still and wait for lights to go out. One movement and they go on. If all tests well, disconnect everything and start placing lights and snaking wires.
NOTE: As I mentioned earlier, I will probably go with a different sensor in the future. The timing on this sensor is 1-10 minutes after no motion is detected. My tests show that the lowest setting is on average 1:24. If your light is in a spot where there is a lot of traffic you will drain battery quickly. Mine is hidden in a stairway to the basement. So the initial joy of the light is only a few seconds. I plan to change this out to another sensor with probably a 3- 60 second timer setting. There are others on Amazon... shop around. I used what I had.
Step 5: Placing White Lights in Nasal Cavity and Testing Effect
These I placed in the nasal cavity to give a glow and some beam out the snout. The glow in the skull worked well. You can move these forward and backward to your liking before gluing the wires in place after snaking the wires through the bottom backside of the skull. With my future skull I might add 2 more deeper in to give more glow to the translucent bone.
Step 6: Placing Blue Lights Above Teeth for Beam
Snake one blue light on either side of the skull just above the teeth. As you can see from the picture there are a variety of holes to run wires. The LED fit in here nicely with just a spot of glue to secure.
Step 7: Placing Red Lights in Eye Sockerts AndTesting Effect
From the picture you can see there are plenty of options where to glue your light in place. Place it and glue it where you feel you get your preferred effect. Run the wires to the back/bottom side of skull through holes in the back of eye socket.
NOTE: At no time did I have to drill any holes in the skull itself. All wires were run through the natural cracks, crevices and holes.
Step 8: Running Wires Through Mounting Plate
You may have been wrestling with wires quite a bit at this point. Might be a good idea to test with your 3 volt battery.
I drilled (3) holes in the wood mounting plate hidden behind the skull allowing me to feed all wires back behind to the connecting block. Wires are hidden very well from straight on perspective. LED wires were divided between left and right sides. This could help in the future if I need to change out a burned light. The third hole allows for battery power wires and wires to come from connecting block to PIR sensor. Battery will be hidden behind skull.
PIR Sensor partially visible at top of skull behind antlers.
Step 9: Hide Wires and Connect to Block
After the wires are run through the mounting plate try to make them neat so they are hidden. Again, from a straight on perspective, no wires are visible on my project.
Connect the wires to the block in some organized fashion. Again, for me black is negative and colored are positive. All wires are color code to their light color. Might make things easier if I need to replace a light.
Connect the battery to the connector hidden behind the mounting plate!
Step 10: Hang It!
Now enjoy the response from visitors when they see your masterpiece.
Looking for ideas for Skull 2 if you would like to share. Would like to continue with the motion sensor concept. Was thinking of hiding a 12v PC fan behind mounting plate to give sound and a rush of air was one walks down the steps. Looking for ideas on Audio inclusion
NOTE: Camera did not take the greatest image of the final product. Much more glow and less ambiance to the naked eye. Camera really picked up a lot of light.
Hope you find this helpful. Please share ideas and picts of your skull light