Introduction: Autumn's Light

About: Industrial / Manufacturing / Systems / Quality engineer with a passion for gadget making and emerging technologies

This Instructible details the design and construction of Autumn's Light, a fall faerie themed quartz topped staff, complete with 3D printed parts and plenty of LED awesomeness!

The LED controller has several key features:

  • Many modes to choose from including Fire, Storm, Water, Earth, and a variety of rainbow and sparkle effects
  • Adjustable brightness (from barely visible to beacon bright!)
  • Momentary brightness Boost (with multiple boost buttons!)
  • "Photo Mode" which freezes the animation of the LEDs if the brightness UP and boost button are pressed together, and keeps it frozen as long as the boost is pressed.
  • Rechargeable Lithium Polymer battery (with USB charging!)

There are Four major parts to the project:

  1. Sourcing: Where to get this stuff!
  2. Design: The 3D modeling and design work that went into the staff, as well as the electronics work, and code to run the LEDs.
  3. Construction: The assembly of the 3D parts onto the stick.
  4. Decoration: Taking it from some bits of wood and plastic to a proper costume item!

Step 1: Sourcing Step 1: Obtain a Crystal

This is probably one of the more challenging parts of the project, as large pieces of quartz can be hard to come by.

What you are looking for is a mostly clear piece of quartz, with some but not too many cracks and clouds.

Here near Portland Oregon, the best place I've found for crystals is Mystery Gallery: They have great rocks and crystals at incredible prices!

Step 2: Sourcing Step 2: Obtain a Stick

The stick is a bit easier of a part to get, since it really depends on what kind of staff you want to make. For this staff I used a hiking stick I found at Mystery Gallery, but so long as the stick is about the right size (more on that in the design phase) and has a top that sticks straight up, it will work well!

Step 3: Sourcing Step 3: Electronics

I got almost all my electronics from the always awesome Adafruit Industries.

The LEDs used are these:

The brain is:

The battery charger is:

For a battery I used a 500mAh battery I had laying around, but any LiPo above 250 mAh should work fine

The toggle switches on the top of the staff were scavenged out of an old CD drive, but simple pushbutton switches would work great, or if you want to get really fancy, a capacitive sensing board like this one

the "Boost" switch is a simple limit switch I had left over from building a 3D printer like this one:

Other than that all that's needed is some wire, solder, and patience.

Step 4: Design Step 1: Electronics

The electronics in this are relatively simple: Power comes from the battery to the charging board, then is split to the Arduino, the Neopixel ring, and the buttons, which are arranged in pairs with pullup and pulldown resistors (this is used as a trick to be able to use a single analog input instead of two digital inputs for each button pair. NOTE: This also means that the buttons for a given control must NEVER be pressed simultaneously or it will short the power and ground rails, if momentary toggle switches are used this is not a problem.

While all the involved electronics are 5V standard, I've found that they work quite well even on a single LiPo cell.

Attached to this step is a copy of the Arduino code used to run the staff. To use it you also need the Adafruit Neopixel library.

Pins used:

  • VCC= main power
  • GND = main ground
  • D6 = Neopixel data
  • A0 = Mode pin
  • A1 = Brightness pin
  • D2 = Boost pin

Step 5: Design Step 2: Crystal Holder

The shape of the crystal defines all other shapes in the staff, and so that is where you have to start the design. Since every crystal is different, significant modification of the provided files may be needed (and may not be very easy if the differences are too large)

To design the crystal holder, first create a precise model of the bottom surface of the crystal in CAD. This model must be extremely precise, or the parts will not fit together snugly.

I am currently designing a revised crystal holder that allows more of the staff components to remain the same when the crystal is changed, but at this point, the entire holder must be redesigned for each crystal.

The rest of the design follows from that one initial sketch, as seen in the series of screenshots posted here. Also attached here are CAD files for the staff topper as a whole and for the individual parts.

The base of the crystal holder is sized based on the stick chosen, you have to allow enough room for the stick to fit, along with a couple of wires for the boost button. If it's a bit over-sized that's OK, as the bolts that hold it on will keep it steady.

Step 6: Design Step 3: Electronics Door

The initial prototype of this staff did not include an electronics door (the only access to the electronics was via the hole in the top under the crystal). This very quickly became a pain, since it made it difficult to change batteries. The new design includes a door on the back of the crystal holder that serves two functions: Easy electronics access, and a simple small part that is easy to redesign to accommodate different switches.

Step 7: Design Step 4: Ribbon Rings

To hold up decorations such as bells and ribbons, 5 rings with holes on the perimeter are attached to the stick, these are very simple parts, designed to be quickly made either by 3D printing, or with a drill press and wood pucks (shown here are the 3D printed versions with the support bolts inserted.

Step 8: Construction Step 1: Printing

All parts get 3D printed for assembly - Attached are both the STLs for printing, and the Inventor design files for editing. I can export to other formats if needed, just ask!

Step 9: Construction Step 2: Mounting the LED Ring

The LED ring slips into the mount from behind, the slots for the wiring provide an easy pathway for installing them!

Step 10: Construction Step 3: Switches and Electronics Cover

For my staff, the switches are just glued in to the electronics cover, but any attachment method would work (round switches could be held in as regular panel mount switches)

Step 11: Construction Step 4: Assembling the Crystal Mount

The crystal mount is held together by two bolts and two captive nuts in the large part of the mount, just place the nuts into the hexagonal holes inside the base and bolt the crystal holder, arch, and base together with two M3x20mm bolts.

Step 12: Construction Step 5: Drilling the Stick

To secure the top of the staff to the stick, 6 holes must be drilled to accommodate the 3mm bolts that hold the two together.

To drill the holes, pass the boost switch through the bottom hole in the mount, and slide the stick into position, then using a 3/32 drill bit (or similar sized, it's not critical) drill the first hole, using the 3D printed holes as a guide.

After drilling each hole, insert and tighten it's bolt to make sure nothing moves around.

Step 13: Construction Step 6: Attaching the Crystal

Once the topper is assembled and attached to the staff, it's time to add the crystal.

Insert the crystal from the front or back of the mount (depending on your crystal one may work better than the other) and rock it into place. Once it's in, add and tighten the securing bolt at the top of the arch!

Step 14: Construction Step 7: Drilling the Stick (part Two)

Using the same method as the topper, attach the ribbon holders to the staff. I chose to place them about 10 inches apart, but it's really a matter of personal design preference.

Step 15: Construction Step 8: Boost Button Mounting

The boost button should be mounted somewhere that it can be pressed easily and discretely, that way you can light up the room with just the slightest movement of your hand.

Step 16: Decoration Step 1: Planning

To decorate the staff, you'll need lots of ribbon, and other cool things to hang. The ribbon rings we installed on the staff provide an easy way to attach various things, and by layering them up the staff, it ends up looking really cool!

Basic Materials:

  • Ribbon (at least two or three kinds)
    • Fall colors
    • Lace
    • Glittery
  • Bells
  • Tassels
  • Leaves (real or fake, depending on when you plan to use the staff)

The next few steps are just suggestions and ideas, the staff will look best if you use your own artistic flair to make it just what you want.

Step 17: Decoration Step 2: Ribbons

Ribbons add a lot of body and flow to the staff, and by layering them down the staff, you can get a really cool look.

Using a variety gives more to catch the eye, and they are quick and easy to add or move!

Ribbons can also hold up bells, giving a light jingle to the staff as you walk!

Step 18: Decoration Step 3: Tassels

Tassels add glitter and motion to the staff, and are super easy to loop on

Step 19: Decoration Step 4: Leaves

The last decoration step is to add some foliage. If you are using the staff in the fall, real leaves would look great, but artificial ones work well too. You could also use a vine of leaves wound around the staff.

Step 20: Wrapping Up

Once all is said and done, this is definitely a personalized project, If you decide to try it, make it your own! Between different decoration, edits to the 3D printed parts, changes to the code on the LED controller, and more, there are tons of cool ways to modify the staff and make it a great prop for any occasion!

The picture shown here is me with my beautiful fall faerie girlfriend holding the first prototype of this staff at FaerieWorlds 2015. If you want to see the project in person, we'll have it as well as some other tricks at next year's festival!

Make It Glow! Contest

Participated in the
Make It Glow! Contest

Halloween Props Contest 2015

Participated in the
Halloween Props Contest 2015

Epilog Contest VII

Participated in the
Epilog Contest VII