Making Wind -- in the Willow's -- and a Lamp




Introduction: Making Wind -- in the Willow's -- and a Lamp

About: The name comes from the First Star Trek movie, that pretty much says it all.

Oooooooo SHINNY ----- That's what Homer Simpson would say. And it is that.

This is a combination wind chime, (made from hard drive platters), fiber optic light show and also a lamp.

Wind chimes don't work without wind so part of this design is to make wind, hence the name, making wind in the willows. The wood is diamond willow. Its a fun project that combines a number of elements that I have been wanting to try.

I took some of the pictures of it outside because it fits the theme, Birds singing, crickets chirping, the breeze blowing and the hard drive platters clanging. Its all part of the theme. The background is busy, because life outside is busy. I actually had made arrangements to shoot pictures indoors, in a house being remodeled against a new, flat white wall but the power was not on yet. And anyway, wind chimes don't work inside where there is no wind.

The main LED lights are shown in step 15. If you have any doubts about the intensity of them watch the video.

Diamond Willow is a wood that almost begs to be made into something. I have been accumulating pieces of it waiting for the right project to come along. The wood has been calling me.

This project is an opportunity to marry together two different fields into one cool project. I did a lot of computer case modding when it was popular, it was a big part of custom computer building. So I have a lot of those parts to use here. And then there is the woodworking. Cool, shinny. And it lights up too.

If you are bored by the wood working parts you can go directly to the parts on the lights, that starts at step 14.

And I added some video's at step 14, 15 and 19. You might find them interesting.

By the way, if your hard drive sounds like this your data is gone with the wind.

Step 1: Rust-Tech

I have to give credit to my son for coming up with the new word. It applies when you combine rustic country (and sometimes really rusted stuff) with old left over (and sometimes rusty) tech. Like when you wander around your property looking for something you might be able to use in your next project and then also raid the old computer parts junk box for more parts. Rust-tech. better than steam punk!

For this lamp project I had some specific things in mind. I wanted to use Diamond Willow wood. I wanted to run EL wire up the trees for the effect. I wanted to make it rustic and yet new. So all the lights would be LED's or EL. I also wanted to use some hard drive platters. So I had a few objectives.

It turned out to be more difficult than I thought.

The diamond willow wood takes a tremendous amount of work to clean up and finish. A little at a time is OK but when you set out to do a project that will use more than just a little it becomes a big undertaking. And with this kind of willow almost all the work is hand work. Or at least I have not yet found a way to do it with power tools like you can with other things.

I spent more on this project than I usually would but I put a lot of things into it like the EL wire. While its cheaper than it used to be it still costs a bit. And even though I got the plants for half price they still cost a bit too. So there was some cost involved with this one but it was a good learning experience and the overall result was good.

I still have fun with the idea of scrounging around for stuff to use for a project. Most people don't have 40 year old weathered wood in their back yard. And most don't have rabbit wire laying around either. (I works great for keeping deer from eating all the peas). Sometimes being "rustic" can be fun.

Step 2: Getting Parts From a Hard Drive

You can harvest those nice shiny drive platters from any hard drive except the new Solid State ones. Even the very old drives have the same concept of the drive platter rotating at high speed. Some of the drives have more than one platter, 3 is my record so far. There are more than one size although most are the standard one that you are most likely to come across. Notebook drives have small platters. The largest I have seen is an old style called a Quantum Big Foot.

The drives in these pictures were involved in a flood. They were in the basement of a school building that had a pipe break. So they all got water inside them. You can get old drives from a number of sources including places that recycle e waste. Just make sure that they don't have anything important on them because the dismantling process is not reversible.

You will need special screw drivers to dismantle the hard drives. Most have what are called Torx screws although I have run into a few other types. Most of the screws are very small so the screw drivers are very small. I have several screw driver sets that have an assortment of small bits. These sets are pretty cheap and can come in very handy at times. If you don't have a set you should thing about getting one.

Usually I start with taking off the back electronics board. Then remove the main screws around the case. There are almost always some screws under the labels. This is not to hide them but rather a warranty seal thing. Run your finger over the label and you can usually feel them underneath. Once opened just remove everything in the drive. Keep the parts you want an discard the rest. I keep the aluminum drive frames. Its usually heavy duty aluminum and if nothing else it can sold for the metal.

I have not tried altering the drive platters but I suppose its possible to change their tone by drilling holes in them. I will have to put that on my to do list.

Step 3: Getting Diamond Willow

Diamond Willow is actually a result of an infection. There are 6 different Willow trees that will get it and show the typical diamond pattern. I look for branches and trees that have been dead for a while. Its probably harder to clean them up than live ones but you don't have to worry about the wood drying out, or killing trees.

Once you get a few pieces you need to start the cleanup process. Its begins with scraping off the dead outer wood. I use a mixture of tools depending on what is going on with the wood. If your not in a hurry for the wood this is the kind of thing that makes good busywork. That is something I have never had a shortage of.

Step 4: Video About Hunting for Diamond Willow.

I made a video last fall of the beginning process of working with diamond willow. Its here if you are interested in seeing it. It is a longer video so if you get bored easily you might want to skip it.

Step 5: Cleaning It Up

I use an old linoleum knife for a lot of my initial work. I don't know why but it just seems to be really good for the job. A flexible one works best. I have a newer stiffer one that doesn't conform to the contours of the wood as well as a flexible one. Some other tools that might help are a draw knife and a large rasp, whatever works. A really handy tool is a hoof knife since it has a small curved tip that gets into all those little recessed diamonds. The cheapest place to get one of these is a store that sells animal care products. They might also have the large rasp as mine was originally for shaving down horses feet. Whatever you use It will be a long job and I have yet to find a "fast" way of doing it.

Step 6: Sanding

After you get most of the scraping done its time to sand. Unfortunately you can't use a belt sander, in fact you almost can't use any power tools. The one thing that does work though is the little Dremmel sanding drums. It's like brushing an elephants teeth with a regular toothbrush in that it takes so long. Just back and forth a little at a time. One plus to the little drum is that It can reach into many of those hard to reach places. Many of the diamonds are deeply recessed, some actually go all the way through the wood. On these branches I also had a lot of woodpecker holes. I cleaned them out as best I could as they fill up with dirt and junk.

Step 7: Cutting Channels

One of the things I am going to do for this lamp is to run EL wire up the sides. In order to do that I have to cut small channels for the wire to run in. Mark it out with a pencil first so you know where you are going. Use the Dremmel tool and start shallow and go a little deeper each time. I looked for interesting paths through the wood. A few times I went through holes and out the other side.

Step 8: Cutting Wire Runs

Because I am going to run power through this I had to cut a wire run. This was not easy. If it was a straight you could just get one of those super long drill bits but my logs were anything but straight.

For straight parts the little Dremmel saw was very handy. For the other areas it was a matter of chewing away with the burr first and then a mini router bit buried in the wood chewing away.

Step 9: Making the Platform

I made the platform for the lamp starting with a redwood base. I still had some left and it is a nice light wood that works easily. Planed down and run on the table saw the boards were ready for gluing. I used my new biscuit joiner. It came in handy.

Added some diamond willow legs to go with the overall look. The really hard part was getting the legs all the same length. The willow pieces do not sit flat in the miter saw so it took a few tries to get them all the same.

So, now I had a nice redwood top table. But I wanted rustic so I pulled some boards off of an ancient shed I have. They have been weathered for probably 40 years. Definitely rustic. I really liked the look I ended up with.

In the meantime I fine sanded the willow branches and finally gave them a coat of finish. I can't believe how much sanding I did on these. After the Dremmel sanding I had to switch to hand sanding to get out the Dremmel tool marks. Then finer paper still to get a good finish. I actually sanded off my fingerprints from all the hand sanding.

Step 10: Mounting the Willow

Once the platform was done the challenge was to mount the willow branches. If you look at the picture of the bottom of one of the trees you will notice that it has voids in it. In this case if I wanted to put a bolt in it to hold it upright there were only a few places that were sound enough to do that. The procedure I used was to trace the outline of the base on the platform and then find the point that I wanted to put the bolt and drill it from the top. Then place the tree back and drill it from the underside and then finally put the bolt in. I also toe nailed (with screws) them in a few places to make sure they were going to stay.

Step 11: Running Wires

After the willow was mounted I ran wires for the upper components. There is a power wire for the LED's and 3 cables with multiple wires for the fans or whatever I can think of in the future. After getting the wires in place I caulked them with a colored latex caulk. I was surprised at how closely it matched.

Step 12: About the Lamp Shade

So, a guy who does woodworking walks into a fabric store and a nice lady asks how can I help you? "I want to make a lamp shade and I am trying to figure out how I am going to do it." I really did have it figured out in my head how it should look. Trouble is fabric is not wood.

In the end it didn't go well. I thought that using contact cement to glue heavy cloth backing to a chicken wire frame should work just fine. It doesn't. In fact it kinda looked like the cat peed on it a lot and a lot and a lot. I really did have a good idea. But this was not the result I hoped for. I would have been better off to stick tissue paper in all the little holes and spray paint it. Good thing I didn't think of that at that moment of desperation.

The idea was to have a large top with a "shade" running around it. I wasn't quite sure how I was going to do it but I had an idea of what I wanted it to look like. I hit on the idea of using welded wire as a platform in the top from which I could add everything else. I had some 1 inch square welded wire that worked perfect for it. After cutting it to size and hammering it flat I spray painted it along with some chicken wire that I was going to use for the part that went around the outside. AND by the way, that is where everything went wrong. Save the chicken wire for the chickens. I was able to drill holes in the top branches and run hanger wire through them to tie the top in place. It makes a good platform for all the lights.

Step 13: The New and Improved Lamp Shade

So I gave up on the idea of having nice soft curvy lines and went back to what I know works. Wood.

I shaved down some cedar boards and some redwood to make a new lamp shade. Cedar is very light and so is redwood. So this time I decided to make the entire thing one light weight piece that could be removed. This would make it easier to move around. Also I am able to run the LED light strip around the inside of the shade turning it into a light box in its own right. The power connection can be unplugged at the top because I ran the extension wires through the branch. So the whole thing can be taken down and worked on or modified or stored. Its a much better idea.

I used red wood as a contrast to the cedar to give it a nice look.

I did run into a little oversight. While cutting the slots for the plastic panel I actually cut them on both sides of the support pieces. I guess I got a little carried away. But, not a problem. I cut some slivers of redwood and glued them into the slots so it looks like an inlay, and actually it is. So it looks even better than I planned. Now why couldn't fabric work that way?

Step 14: EL Wire

The EL wire took a lot of time to glue in place. I used hot melt glue but still following all the traces and getting it right takes a while. Altogether there are 9 separate wire channels. I bought 4 new types of wire that look like they are moving. They call it chasing EL wire. It looks very cool but my one complaint about it is that it is not as bright as the regular wire.

Another good reason to use hot melt glue is that EL wire has a limited life span. It usually only works good for a few years. With hot melt glue it will be possible to pull the old wire out and replace it with out much trouble.

All the controllers for my wire are battery powered. I tried to get ones that are for computer voltages but nobody sent those. The new fad is to wear the wire so everybody has these battery pack controllers. I am thinking of converting them all over to run on a PC power supply in the future.

I am going to be suspending PC fans from the upper platform so the look I was going for was to appear that the EL wire pipes the power up from underneath then down to the fans. That is why I got extra long wire.

Below several night time videos of the EL wire in action.

Step 15: LED's on Top (Main Light Source)

I bought a set of LED lights that are in a strip. They are designed to go around the top of a room and add indirect light. I thought this would work perfect for running around the inside of my lamp. The set comes with a remote control that allows for extensive control of the lights. There are many color combinations and the entire set only uses 3 watts of power. It is also possible to add more to the same strip much the same way Christmas lights work.

In the video below the camera had trouble with the intensity of the LED's. The lights themselves do not flicker, or if they do its to fast for our eyes to pick up on. In addition to colors the remote allows for all kinds of combinations and allows you to turn up or down the lights.I had a little trouble running the camera and remote at the same time.

When it does the RGB flashing it creates a very strange sensation because it gives the appearance of everything moving back and forth. I can't take it for very long.

Step 16: Plants

I decided to add some plants with fiber optics in them. Just another little cool thing to improve in the overall look. I mixed regular plants with the fiber optic ones and its hard to tell what is what except at night when the fiber optic ones glow.

The fiber optic plants that I got were intended for outside use with one of those solar chargers. They were pretty pitiful when I got them. First, all the fiber optic strands were bunched up together. Each "flower" looked like it had a cable sticking out. It was possible to move the fibers around and make a fan but then they went right back. I needed to glue them in place to stay. Something NOT to do I found out is use hot melt glue on plastic fiber optic strands. It MELTS them. What does work is some silicone glue. I had to glue each flower to keep the fibers in place. Then I scrapped the entire solar charger thing. It had this one little battery and it barely made the lights glow. I dismantled the battery box and connected it directly to the PC power supply that I am using to power the fans. The 5 volts from that was just what it needed. Then to make them brighter I drilled a hole in the receptacle base and added a second LED from one of my color changing fans. It made the lights brighter and also made the array of colors more interesting. Now each light had 2 LED's that were changing color. Lots of work for a few plants but the effect I thought is worth it.

Step 17: Fiber Optics

I bought some extra fiber optic strands to add to the grasses and make things sparkle. I had to use my own LED's and make cable bundles. It is not hard but it is time consuming.

You can salvage LED's from fans that have them. Most are just pressed in place and so pull right out. Run them with 5 volts from a power supply and they work great. You might have to do some soldering on them to get them hooked up right.

Step 18: Preping Fans

Any fan will work to provide air movement and move the drive platters around. LED fans look a lot more interesting and don't really cost anymore. Whatever fans you use there are a few things you should do to them before you use them in this kind of environment.

On many LED fans the lights are just pressed fit in place and the connecting wires are often bare. You should coat them with a glob of hot melt glue to insulate them and hold them in place. Also put some glue on the power wires where they leave the fan frame. Finally you should put grill guards on both sides to protect the fans and your fingers.

I used a fan controller for this set up. I have a tub full of different types. This one can handle 4 fans and can turn the speed up or down but it does not require the third speed sensor wire to work. Some fan controllers do require it. One good reason for using a controller is it puts control of all the fans in one place and provides power to them all from just one connector. I ran an extra cable in the willow so I can add another controller and more fans if it needs it.

Step 19: Fans and Drive Platters

I suspended PC fans and drive platters from the top platform. The effect is a sort of fan powered wind chime.

Different size platters and different density platters make different notes. A variety keeps the sound from being monotone. I also keep the little spacer rings from the drives. They work as clangers, not unlike clappers in bells.

Another reason for the drive platters is they have a mirror finish. in the day they catch the sunlight and reflect it around. Also the view you see is always changing as the platters rotate. At night they reflect the lights of the fans and the LED's it creates an interesting effect on the ground around the lamp.

I have been using thin mono filament fishing line for hanging the drive platters. I should work on changing the arrangement of the fans to see what will give me the most noise. The fans do work quiet well in making the platters clang against one another. I need to put fan grills on all the exposed blades, I forgot about that.

Overall this was a fun project. Difficult but fun. I like the results. The lamp is multifunctional. It looks good in the day and can work as a Zen type thing with the sound of the drive platters. Then again upon meditation you might not like hearing the sound of your unrecoverable data clanging in the wind.

At night the entire thing is transformed. It comes alive with all the little lights and wires and such. And finally the LED's on top are bright enough to work as a low level light, a mood light or something like that. If I add more to them they can easily get bright enough to be reading lights.

Step 20: A Better Way to Hang Things

I got annoyed that every time I wanted to change the position of a drive platter I had to cut it down and then cut a new thread for it. After a little thought I came up with a better way to hang things.

Instead of tying the thread directly to the overhead support I could tie it to a small stick and slip it in the wire mesh. A fat piece of wood if the height was going to stay the same all the time or a small stick that I could wrap the fishing line around and then secure in the wire. A Popsicle stick would work perfect for this. Now everything is adjustable and I can even remove all the hanging elements and put them back in place later.

And one more thing you can use is a regular clothes pin. It clamps to the wire so its plenty secure.

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    7 years ago on Introduction

    I don't understand why you didn't get featured for this wonderful unique creative technical whimsey. This would be a crowd pull at Burningman.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I haven't given up on it yet. In fact I am remaking and adding some new elements. Maybe republish it as a a second edition. I have found better LED lights and better controllers. And I am eliminating the battery packs and replacing with inverters that run on 12 volts. Also putting in a panel with micro switches for all the different elements. By the time it's done it will work as a fancy night light or a whole room indirect light source.

    I may make a matching platform but for the cats to climb and hang out in, a super cat condo. But with no power to it.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    The sound is not edited in any way.

    Different size platters make different tones. I have 4 sizes. The biggest is from an old Quantum Big foot drive. They were made to fit a CD bay so they were wide. Next is a regular size, then a slightly smaller one from an old server. The drive platters were a little smaller for some reason. Finally notebook drive platters. Little bitty things.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Never seen diamond willow before, that's really pretty stuff. Lovely work!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    very cool would like to see a picture of it completed in day light . have you tried to sand blast the diamond willow that is beautfull wood im gona have to look for some


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Sand blasting might work but you would have to be careful with it. The lighter color wood is also softer than the dark colored wood. The Dremmel will eat it really fast and you will have low spots if you are not paying attention. Its kind of amazing, your grinding away at this dark stuff and it feels like your paper is used up and not working and then you hit a patch of whiter wood and the dust fly's and its eats it away.

    I have redesigned the top as the other one just did not work right. It looked a lot better in my head than in the finished results. So I will be putting up new pictures of that and some videos as well. It should be up later today.