Introduction: Flying Saucer Lamp 1.0

About: I like to dabble in a bit of everything: woodworking, metalworking, sewing, electronics.

A friend of mine asked me if I could make a flying saucer lamp; it sounded like a fun project so I said 'Heck yes!'

Step 1: Planning

I did some googling to see what other people had done. A common theme was to have a transparent cone under the saucer as the tractor beam.

This was cool but had a couple issues:

1. I have no idea where to find a clear plastic cone like that.

2. There was nowhere to hide the power cord. It had to come out of the saucer part itself.

I tried to figure out other ways to hold it up and hide the wires. First I thought about having it hover near a tree or maybe crashed into the side of a building, but eventually I decided just to give it legs.

Step 2: UFO Model

I spent a while trying to figure out how I would make the saucer itself. My first thought was to use a couple shallow mixing bowls, then I thought about turning a saucer shape on a lathe and vacuform a plastic shell from it. Eventually it hit me that 'wait, they probably make UFO model kits'. Sure enough they do; I went with this model kit because it was pretty inexpensive and I liked the shape. I wasn't expecting it to be clear, which ended up working it out because I could shine the light out of the bottom without cutting a large hole in it.

Step 3: Painting the UFO

Painting was pretty straight forward. I used primer and chrome paint that I picked up from the hobby shop, spraying several thin coats. I made sure to mask off the center of the bottom piece, to act as a window for the light later on. Finally, I used some brass model paint on the vent details on the top and the rim of the saucer.

Also, between priming and chrome, I decided to drill holes for some blinking LEDs. The plastic cracked easily, so I took my time and started with my smallest drill bit and worked my way up to the final size.

Step 4: Weathering the UFO

This step is optional and I don't know if I'd do it again, but I decided to weather it a bit. I used a combination of black, brown, and grey craft paint, and dabbed it in all the nooks and crannies. I then wend back and wiped off as much as I could. This did make some the the lines and seams pop, and make it look like the saucer has lived a life, however it also seemed to affect the shine of the chrome and brass paints I used.

Step 5: Legs

I originally thought to use tubing for the legs, so I could hide the wires inside, but I was afraid they would look too thick. Instead I used short lengths of brass rod. I soldered a length of wire to the ends of each and covered them with clear heat shrink tubing. The legs themselves would be the wires: one for a shared negative, one for the red and blue blinking LEDs, and one for the bright white LED. I just used zip ties inside the saucer to hold them in place.

Step 6: LED Holders

I put in these 5mm LED holders. I thought they looked a little nicer and spacier than just hot gluing the bare lights in place.

Step 7: Solid LEDs

I picked up a pack assorted solid color 12v LEDs. I alternated red and blue around the side since the LEDs at the top and underneath blinked red and blue.

Step 8: Blinking LEDs

I wanted lights to blink underneath the saucer; and these red and blue flashing LEDs were the only ones I could find in 12v.

Step 9: White Internal LED

I found a small 30W equivalent 12v LED bulb to use as the main bright light, and placed it over the window in the bottom of the saucer.

Step 10: Routing the Base

The base was made out of MDF. I started by marking where the legs would go so I could drill the holes for the wires. I then used a router bit to chamfer the top edge. I routed a channel in the bottom so I could run the wires from the feet to the switch. I forgot to rout a groove for the main power at this stage, and did it later between coats of paint.

Step 11: Painting the Base

The MDF sucked up the primer like a sponge. I went through most of a can, sanding between coats until I had a nice smooth surface. I sprayed black mainly around the perimeter. I then masked off the edge and sprayed the top green, so that later when I add grass any thin spots wouldn't be too noticeable.

Step 12: Spray Glue

To attach the grass, I used Super 77 adhesive spray.

Step 13: Adding Turf

After pealing off the masking tape, I sprinkled model turf moss over the whole top until I couldn't see any exposed parts. I then padded it down then brushed off any spots that looked too thick. This stuff kind of sticks to itself, so it was easy later to touch up any bald patches just by sprinkling some on and padding it down.

Step 14: Wiring

In order to wire up the bottom of the base, I used some dowels to hold it all upside down. Luckily the holes for the feet were tight enough and the heat shrink tubing was grippy enough, that the saucer didn't fall out. I used hot glue to hold all of the wires in their grooves.

My initial plan was to cover the bottom with felt once I was done, but I didn't route the channels deep enough, and some of the wires laid proud of the surface, instead I used three furniture feet.

Step 15: Power Supply

I found this 12v Samsung power supply in a box of old phone chargers and soldered a different connector to it. I also put a bit of strain relief in the back of the base, since the power cord was only held in place with hot glue.

Step 16: Wiring Test

Testing it out to make sure I didn't melt anything important.

Step 17: Filing Control Plate

Instead of a simple switch, I wanted a small control panel. I found a small slider switch for the red and blue LEDs and a toggle switch, and temporary push button for the bright light.

The toggle and button were just a matter of drilling the right size hole, but for the slider I needed use some needle files to make the right shaped hole. I specifically picked aluminum for this panel because I knew it would be soft and easy to file.

Step 18: Installing Control Plate

I rounded over the corners and wired up all the switches and we were in business!

Step 19: Priming Farmer

I had envisioned the flying saucer landing in a cow field. I waned some cows and a farmer. I wasn't very happy with the farmers I found but then I came across this man looking up on Etsy, he is HO scale. I sprayed him with primer at the same time as the saucer parts.

In order to hold onto him, I stuck a bit of double-sided foam tape to a popsicle stick, this gave a nice stable base to hold onto. I also used some sticky tack on the bottom of a shot glass to hold the popsicle stick while he dried.

Step 20: Painting Farmer

I used acrylic model paint on him. It was fiddly, but I was able to touch up any mistakes with a second coat.

After he dried, I took some dark blue and dark red craft paint and diluted them with water to make a wash. I used these on his jacket and overalls, then wiped off the excess. The wash stayed in the folds and creased of his clothes, bringing out the detail and exaggerating the shadows.

Step 21: Placing Farmer

In order to glue him to the base, I used an x-acto knife to scrape away some of the grass. I sprayed the exposed spot with some CA glue activator. This makes the glue dry in a few seconds instead of a few minutes. I dipped his feet in some thin super glue then stuck him in place. I repeated this process for the HO scale cows. Once they were solid and the glue was dry I used some tweezers to replace the grass by their feet.

Step 22: Done!

And we're done! I'm incredibly pleased with how this turned out, and can't wait to do some more model making and diorama type projects!

Check out this project on Instagram.

This project was completed September 23, 2018.

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