Introduction: LED Zeppelin

Hi everyone, in this instuctable I will show you how to make this awesome zeppelin shaped lamp. Whether you're a led zeppelin fan or you just like cool shiny stuff this is a fun project that is pretty low cost. I made this at my schools workshop where i had access to machines like a vacuum former and a lathe, you can find a place that has these or make your own using instructables like this or this (or many more others).

Step 1: What You Need

As I said you will need a vacuum former and a lathe for this project. You will need a bunch of other tools and machines as well but most of them you either have or can borrow.

For the model:

-Block of wood about 10X10X30 CM. any wood should do (natural or MDF) preferably one solid piece but you can glue pieces together.

- small piece of wood to form the shape of the passenger cabin.

- Lathe. You can hand scalp the model but it won't look as good. Another option is 3D printing if you have access to one and the knowledge to use it.

- A saw (preferably a table saw)

- Some nails and screws

-sanding paper

- sanding sealer (recommended)

For the zeppelin and the fins:

-A sheet of plastic (Perspex or PVC) about 2 mm thick (size depends on your vacuum former, it has to be a perfect fit to get a good seal). If you're using a homemade vacuum former you might want to get something thinner, you will have to experiment.

-Some extra Perspex or PVC for the fins (not much, you can often get left overs at a local supplier)

- Dremel or any other rotary tool with a cutting disc that cuts plastic

- super glue (I used the cheapest simplest 3 second glue)

- Tiny bit of wire with clear insulation (I used a speaker wire)

- fishing wire (really thin clear plastic wire)

For the lighting:

- Light bulb housing, wire, switch & plug (you can buy/recycle these as one unit or separate pieces)

- LED light bulb. I used a 3w color changing bulb with a remote I got on ebay

For hanging:

you can choose how you want to hang the lamp, you can do it like I did in the pictures from a simple wooden frame which you can later hang on a wall or place on a table. The other option is to hang it from one nice and fairly small plank of wood which will later be attached to the ceiling. If you choose the latter you might want to consider replacing the hanging wire with the electric cable like modern light fixtures often have.

Step 2: Designing the Zeppelin

In order to get a nice result on the first go at the lathe I decided to get down some key measurements of the zeppelin before I move on to the wood model. This step is optional, you could skip it and just use the measurements I did or just completely wing it.

It only took about 15 minutes to make this rough zeppelin shape out of paper. The main body is comprised of 6 sides divided into four sections: head (short), neck (a little longer), body (long) and tail (medium). I cut and glued all the edges with tape and then added the fins and cabin.

Remember, the point of this paper model is to give you a 3D representation of the size and volume of what you're going to make, once you have the paper model you can make decisions like "I want it to be longer" or " I want the tail portion at more of an angle". If you are really unhappy with the paper model you can make a new one with very little effort (in comparison to making two wooden models)

Once you have a model which is roughly the shape and size you want start listing diameters along the zeppelin, I took a measurement every 50 mm but the smaller the gap between diameter the more you can preplan the shape you will get.

Note that I left a 30 mm straight edge at the end, that's for the housing to sit in so make sure it's diameter matches your housing (Mine was 40 mm). I would also recommend making this tail a little longer than 30 mm).

Step 3: Making the Model

Now that you have the measurements you want , mount your block of wood to the lathe and get to work. Your block should be a little bit bigger than your max diameter and a little longer than the final length you want. it's always good to have some extra.

For starter make your block round and bring it down to the max diameter. next, use a pencil to mark off the sections you broke your zeppelin in to (like I said I made 50 mm sections). Now start cutting each section in to its own set diameter according to the sketch you have, you will eventually get a bunch of "steps" (see pic).

This is the tricky part, using a combo of mounted blades and hand held blades smooth out the gaps between the steps. This part was done completely by feel and can't be done exactly the same again, just keep working it until you are happy with the result. Don't forget to leave a straight part at the end for the housing. Needless to say that if you have a CNC lathe this part is super easy, once you make a computer model you can just send the info to the lathe and you're done.

Use sanding paper to smooth out the model. make your way up from 120 all the way to the thousands (the higher the number the "less rough" you paper is). Remember to smooth clockwise and counter clockwise.

Now it's time to cut your model in half. If you have a table saw with a big enough blade that is the best option but a band saw or any other saw would work (the more accurate your halving is the better your lamp will look). I used this special jig we have in the workshop to half my model, you can make one with two beams cut at 45 degrees and mounted in a way that any cylinder put between them will be centered on top of the blade. Don't forget to account for the width of the blade itself if you make one.

Now trace each half on a piece of wood (any wood, at least 10 mm thick) and cut the shape out (it doesn't have to be 100% accurate) with a saw. Glue these bases to you model's halves (with nails, screws or even strong two sided tape). These bases will make sure the plastic will continue tangentially past your model's edge and not create a curve right where you want to cut later.

Next, you will take a piece of wood that seems the right size and make your passenger cabin. I just took a block that seemed right, rounded of the edges and gave the top a curve to fit nicely with the main body (as much as I could). I connected the cabin to the body by drilling holes in the cabin and body (not all the way through!) and placing a wooden peg between them. Trace the cabin's outline on the body and drill holes in the main body near the outline on the inside all the way through (see pics). These holes will later help the vacuum pull the plastic all the way to the edge created between the body and the cabin and give you a small radius along the line.

The vacuum forming copies not only the shape of the wood but the texture as well so you want to make your model as smooth as possible. I recommend applying about 3 coats of sanding sealer (NOT varnish!!!). Apply sealer with a cloth (make sure not to leave any drippings), let it dry for 15-30 minutes, sand with very smooth sanding paper (some places sell things like water paper or super fine sanding paper) and apply the next coat. let it dry 24 hours before continuing.

You can tell I skipped the sanding sealer part by looking at how murky my zeppelin is. It's possible to get a completely clear look if your wood model is completely smooth. You can also use a sheet of plastic that's colored (but still half clear) and then the murkiness doesn't really show but your light will only be one color.

Step 4: Vacuum Forming

Now that our model is done we can move on to the cool part. A vacuum former is made of two parts, the first is a heated tray where you soften the plastic and the second is the vacuum space where the model sits.

I used a 70*70 cm Perspex that is 2 mm thick. The type and size of your plastic need to fit your machine. You have to buy plastic that fits perfectly in the machine and create an air tight space.

Preheat the machine and place you model inside. Peel the protective film from your sheet (both sides!) and place it in the machines frame, make sure there's no space between the sheet and the frame. Move the frame over to the heating tray until it start to feel stretchy (time varies depending on the material,it's thickness and your machine). Pull the frame over the model, press the model up and turn on the vacuum. Part of the process can be different and automatic/manual depending on what machine you have.

Let the plastic cool.

Use a saw to cut around the models (not too close so you don't crack it). Take your Dremel or any other rotary tool (this part can also be done with a saw but not as well) and use a disc to cut out the plastic object. Work slowly and at a low speed, if it gets too hot the plastic melt and mends behind you. Extract the model from the plastic object.

In order to flatten the objects down so they have maximum contact, glue a strip of sanding paper on a piece of wood and run each half back and forth until it looks good (see pic).

Step 5: The Fins

The fins were extremely easy. I made a few different fins using solidworks, printed on paper and cut them out to figure out the best configuration. Once I was happy with the shape I added the logos for led zeppelin's band members (I simplified them a little so the laser wont just make a huge mess of it). The laser cutting was outsourced to a local business so I don't have any details or pics, you should talk to your local laser cutting place before you go (make sure you know what material to bring and what files they work with.

Attached is my design ready to get sent to the laser cutter (PDF for you to print and try and DXF for the laser cutter), however you might require a slight adjustment on your zeppelin.

Step 6: Wiring

You can buy the lighting unit as a whole (or recycle it from an old lamp). You can also put it together with a few part from your local hardware store.

Cut a length of wire as long as you want. On one end strip the wires and screw them into the holes in the housing (the order doesn't matter, see pic), on the other end do the same with a plug (my wire was recycled and already had a plug).

decide where you want the switch to go and strip the wire at that point, strip only the outside cover and strip a little less than the length of your switch. Cut and strip one of the wires in the middle and screw it into the designated holes inside the switch. run the other (untouched) wire on the side of the switch (on the inside) and close it all up. see picture for details.

Give all the wires a light tug to make sure they are all connected well. If everything looks good, put in a bulb and test your light.

If you have any concerns or uncertainties, consult with an expert to avoid any danger.

Step 7: Putting It All Together

After all the hard work, it's time to put the zeppelin together. I used super glue to seal the whole thing off, you can do it the way I did or find your own. Be careful when using the glue, it's not very good for your skin and very bad for your eyes. also, make sure everything fits well before gluing because ungluing is a pain.

I started by connecting the bottom half to the light bulb housing, a single drop of the cheapest 3-second-glue should be enough. Wait a few second for the glue to set and glue the other half to the first using 4-6 drops of glue spread out.

The stings and fins can be done in any order you want. The Fins also need 1-2 drops of glue, don't forget to peel off the protective plastic from both sides of the fins before gluing them.

I used a fishing wire to hang the zeppelin because it's thin and almost invisible yet pretty strong. I didn't want to drill into the zeppelin because I was afraid it would crack after all my hard work. So, Instead of holes I cut a really small piece of clear speaker wires, removed the copper wire from inside the tubing and glue just the tubing to the zeppelin. I then ran the fishing wire through the tubing and made a triple knot so it won't slip out. you don't have to use 2 wires, If you plan the location of the first wire well the zeppelin will balance at a nice angle on one wire.

I chose to hang the zeppelin from a simple frame, this was a temporary solution so that I can display it until I decide where to hang it. I'll post an updated picture when the lamp is hung in its final formation.

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