Introduction: How to Be a Cylon, or the Excitable Glowing Cylon Spine

About: See some of my work here and as always accepting orders for custom design and fabrication as featured on Discovery Channel, Wired Magazine, Gizmodo, Engadget, Geekologie, PCWorld, CNet and many more - Pinteres…

Note:  Video at end is being hijacked by Cylons!  New video and pics to be uploaded soon!

Have you always wanted to be a Cylon, or just maybe like the shenanigans and hijinks of being mistaken as one?  Either way, with the Excitable Cylon Glowing Spine you too can join the ranks of the fabled 12 as number 13!  Of course you are the black sheep of the Cylon family, being that your spine glows at any old time rather then just for naughty reasons.  "On the show, a Cylon spine would glow when they, um, er became erotically satisfied?".  Yours though will activate at the flick of a switch, your Cylon spine will spring into action glowing brightly through any light colored shirt.  You can keep the traditional Cylon fade and glow, or really mix things up at your local Singles Cylon Disco Dance night.  This is a oh-so-easy costume and comes together in less then an hour aside from the 3-4 cure time of the Silicone Oogoo.  How long you keep it on for will of course vary your battery life as will the chosen pattern.

A little prologue:  The Excitable Cylon Glowing Spine was going to be tied into a DIY galvanic skin response kit featured in Make magazine, however my highly focused procrastinating skills stopped me from getting it here in time for Halloween.  It doesn’t help that I live in the middle of Northern-No-Where Kitimat, BC Canada; shipping times are not so friendly…   If everything had gone to plan, the wearer would turn the unit on before going out and rely on his/hers skin: sweat response to trigger the spine off and on.  Oh well, either way, the Excitable Cylon Glowing Spine is sure to please Humanity.  Wear it out shopping, to the club, to a FanExpo and trigger it at just the right frakking time and watch the hilarity ensue.  Other species have glowing spines as well, such as featured in Falling Skies , but they never quite caught my attention the way Battle Star Galactica's did.

Step 1: Materials

  • Approx’ 1.5 feet of Red Led strip lighting – Non silicone coated, and with leads.  If you can’t get it with leads see this instructable.
  • 1 LED light controller
  • 9 to 12 volt battery with leads, or equivalent in a battery holder.  Smaller is better, but it needs to have decent amperage to drive the unit for more than 5 minutes
  • 1 tube of clear silicone caulking, old school type – not the paintable type.
  • Box of corn starch
  • A simple SPST switch,  once again small but robust is good
  • Some parchment paper and scotch tape
  • A board about the size of butcher block or cookie sheet to use temporarily
  • A disposable mixing cup and disposable stir sticks
  • Solder and soldering gun, kinda optional, depends on if your strip lighting came with leads
  • Electrical tape or shrink tubing

Step 2: Measure Your Spine

Measure a couple inches below your shirt collar down to an inch above the waist seam of your pants.
Cut your LED strip as close to this measurement as your LED strip allows.  Your Strip will have little scissor cut marks on it to show where it can be cut.
The end with the leads will be coming out close to your butt, keep that in mind…

Step 3: Prep Your Spine Board

Take a piece of parchment paper and wrap it around your butcher block, cookie sheet or what have you.  Secure by running tape around the whole board at either end.  You have to go all the way around as nothing really sticks to parchment paper, except the oogoo.  The Oogoo bonds quite well with the silicon in the parchment paper and is much nicer feeling against the skin.  You could skip on the parchment and use other backing materials such as fine weave cloth or even just paper.  All personal preference really.  If you are using something other then parchment, you can skip on the paper tabs in the last paragraph.

Tape your led strip onto the parchment paper, make sure you have at least a inch on either end free and several inches on either side.  See the pictures

Using a pencil draw a spine shape around the LED strip, with a vertebrae support coming off each LED.  See the pictures.  Once happy, remove the LED strip and flip it over.  On the back is a 3M adhesive strip.  Peel this off and cut out 5 to 6 little squares of paper.  Stick this on to the 3M strip spaced out every 3 inches or so.  Later you can use the paper as glue points to attach it to your back using spirit gum (make up glue).  Sure you could use the 3M stuff as well, but I like a little back up.

Step 4: Oogoo!

Mix up some Oogoo.  I use a ratio of 3 parts silicone to 1 part corn starch.  You can color the oogoo by adding a touch of oil based paint dye, a very little goes a long way and I imagine getting this to be skin color would not be easy.  It doesn’t have to be dead accurate to work.  Keep mixing the starch into the silicone, at first it won’t seem like it’s going to happen, eventually it will come together.  Less cornstarch means a longer time get to work with the stuff before it hardens.  A 1:1 ratio can have the whole mess harden up in 15 minutes, this is toooo quick, trust me.  Once the Oogoo looks and feels like cake icing its done.

Start spreading the Oogoo down the center of the LED strip first, gently working it into all the crevices of the LED strip.  Work from one end down to the other, spreading the stuff about 1/8" thick.  Now take some more and start spreading it on the sides of the strip just past the edges of the vertebrae supports.  It doesn't have to be perfect, but it should be pretty smooth.  Once its cured up you will trim the silicon with some scissors and make it take on the vertebrae shape.

Step 5: Test - by Your Command

Several hours later the Oogoo will have firmed up, the starch does a marvelous job of speed curing the silicone.
However, my procrastination is only equal to my impatience, and here we give the strip a light test.
Plug in the LED strip to the battery and see if all is well, which it probably did; the silicone will now be glowing red, with the whole structure lighting up and diffused. 

Once its all cured remove from the board and cut out your vertebrae shape.  The parchment paper is great in that you can see your pattern through it like tracing paper.  Just cut it with regular scissors or an exacto blade, being carefull not to cut the strip or the wires though.

Step 6: Wire It Up and Try It On

This is very simple and will make the novice relax
Simply twist the red wire of the LED strip to the red wire of the LED controller.  Ah, but which red wire you ask?  Lucky us, it’s printed on the controller (LED).  Then do the black wire, same as the red. 
Next hook the battery up, red wire to positive, black wire to negative and turn on.
Click the controller on till you find a pattern you like, or is the most Cylon-ee.  At this point you can choose to add another switch to act as a simple on-off switch as the LED controller will remember the last setting you chose.
After that it’s a matter of routing the wires.  Wearing jeans?  Maybe only a couple feet of wire to reach a pocket.  Wearing a dress?  Well things get trickier unless it has pockets.  Perhaps re-route the switch and batteries to a garter belt.  (Can you tell a guy wrote that last sentence)…
The spine it self is worn 2 ways. 
  1. Use a drop of spirit glue on each of the paper points and glue it to your back
  2. if you don't like the direct contact you could always glue, pin or sew it to the shirt itself, though this doesn't look as natural.  Like a real glowing spine does... :)

Step 7: Cylon Blinky Action!

Go out and test the general public on their Cylon knowledge, and be ready to be asked, Are you a Cylon who’s happy to see me, or some sort of human firefly.

Note: My Pregnant wife was going to be wearing this but... Cylons do have a tendency to want to steal Cylon/human babies.  So on the off chance, my daughter filled in...

More video to come, but here is a taste.
During daylight hours

Step 8: Blooper Video Bit

ok, not really a blooper.   Just something i thought was cute my daughter did while taping...
Workshop Contest

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Halloween Costume Contest

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Halloween Costume Contest

Make It Glow Contest

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Make It Glow Contest