Introduction: Making the Magic Mirror Stage Prop for Beauty and the Beast

About: I'm a physics and chemistry teacher at a public school in Maryland and active in my local science teacher's association. I love building things and am teaching myself how to use arduino in electronics projects…

The school where I teach choose "The Beauty and The Beast" for our theatrical production this year, and as a known tinkerer I was asked to create the mirror that magically shows the person you ask it to show you. So I started thinking about how to construct it, what materials to use, and how large to make it. I was also asked to make the rose that drops its petals throughout the show - but that's a whole other Instructable which shall hopefully shall be published soon!

Step 1: Making a Cardboard Pattern

Before cutting the mirror out of wood, I made a cardboard pattern to make sure it was symmetrical and large enough to have stage presence. My first try was a success!

Step 2: Tracing the Shape Onto Wood

So I traced the pattern onto wood twice. Once for the whole outline, and once for the top oval part. I want a two level top portion so that the electronics to make it sparkle can be hidden within the frame.

The first image I traced with pencil, which is very hard to see on plywood so I retraced it with a dark marker before continuing to cut.

Step 3: Cutting Shapes Out of Wood

Time to cut out the shapes! Safety first as always, I used hearing protection, glasses, clamps, saw horses, and leather gloves. My Dad had just purchased a new tool for cutting wood so I tried that instead of a jigsaw, its called a speed saw rotary cutter and being battery powered there is no need to worry about where the cord comes out of the saw. This made cutting out the shape easy. Because of the shapes I was cutting I had to adjust and re-clamp a couple of times for each shape so I didn't cut through the top of my saw horses. The tool made a nice clean cut though. Since I'm planning on covering all of the wood with several layers of fabric I didn't need to sand anything.

Step 4: Figuring Out the Electronics

Time to figure out how to add a light show for the mirror!

I rummaged through my electronics collection while thinking and found a spool of neopixels. These are a specific type of red-green-blue LED's. For details on how to use them with an Arduino microprocessor visit my introduction to neopixels here. The other Instructable will walk you through lighting your first string of neopixels, or refresh your memory if its been a while since you messed around with these fun little lights.

So next I had to choose a microprocessor to run the light show. If I'm using a neopixel strand I only need one digital output pin. I'm planning on using a physical switch between the microprocessor and the 5 volt pin of the neopixel strand so that when the actor or actress wants to turn off the magic mirror they can do with a quick switch. The smallest microprocessor I had that works with the Arduino language I had at the time was a 5 volt Trinket from Time to connect everything, write a short program, and test it out.

Step 5: Assembling the Circuit

If you look carefully at the neopixel strip, you can see that one end has a din (for digital input) and one has a dout (for digital output). I want to send information to the strip so I connected pin #1 on my Trinket to the din tab by soldering a short length of wire. Then I soldered another wire from the ground pin on my Trinket to the ground pin on the neopixel strip, and a third wire from the 5 V tab on the neopixel strip one of the ends of the switch, and the other end of the switch to the 5 V pin on my Trinket. I added some additional support to the connections by using short lengths of heat shrink tubing and later tightly wrapped the connections with electrical tape.

I found someone had already created a perfect Trinket case and published it on Thingiverse, so I fired up my 3D printer and printed one using teal colored PLA filament. It printed perfectly the first time, and even has pins and holes that allow it snap together securely. You can find it here. I didn't secure the components with electrical tape yet because first I had to write a program to test the circuit, so far everything can be easily reworked if I had made an incorrect connection.

Time to write some code!

Step 6: Coding the Light Show

I wrote the code for this in the Arduino language, there are a ton of great introduction to Arduino Instructables if you have not tried using an Arduino microcontroller yet its time to give one a try - there are limitless fun, entertaining, and even useful things you can with these little wonders!

I divided screen shots of the code into three parts. Including the libraries and declaring variables are both in the first screen shot, then the setup portion of the code where I indicate where the neopixel strip is attached and how long it is, and finally the loop part of the code that repeats as long as the circuit is getting power.

Once I had the code written, I complied it, and then uploaded it to the Trinket. It works! The Trinket microcontroller is a little different from other Arduino boards in that you need to press its reset button to put in it "ready to receive" mode to load the code. But the strip at this point is getting power from the USB port of my computer - that won't work for the stage! Ah, how about that battery pack I use with my cell phone? It works great - the light show goes on!

Step 7: Assembling the Wooden Frame

Now that the electronics all work well, and I have the power source attached its time to assemble the frame.

I wanted the mirror to have some white padding as a bottom layer to give it a softer look, but batting can be expensive and this show is on a budget so I used an old mattress cover and hot glued it to both parts of the frame.

It is supposed to be a mirror after all, so I needed to make the round part reflective. Luckily last year's musical selection was "The Wizard of Oz" and I had sewn the Tin Man costume so silver fabric scraps were available for the center of the mirror. This I also attached with hot glue.

Next I was ready to put on the top layer of wood, but the neopixel strip is delicate and I didn't want it to get jostled so I had to figure out some way to keep it protected. I drew a nice spool on Fusion 360 and went to print it on my handy 3D printer but alas my left nozzle was clogged and the thermocouple on my right nozzle was not reading consistently. The struggles of owning a 3D printer! Not to worry, while I was bemoaning the condition of my poor machine I noticed some packing material sitting next to the trash. Hum...

A quick snip with a pair of scissors and I had spacers that I can use between the two pieces of wood. A dab of water from a damp towel and some gorilla glue did the trick! I used my sewing weights to put pressure on the part while the glue set on first the bottom piece, then on the rim. Now things were moving along nicely!

Step 8: Covering the Wooden Frame

At this point I thought it best to double check whether or not the electronics still fit in the design. I don't want to incorporate them until the hot gluing was finished though as I didn't want to risk melting the electronics with my hot glue.

Looks like a good fit! I also turned on the light show and made sure it was visible through a layer of the gold fabric I had selected to cover the mirror. Its a roll of taffeta from Oriental Trading. Quite a nice fabric that worked great for the project. I used two layers of fabric (just to be sure I couldn't see the edges of the silver fabric through it) and hot glued it to the frame being careful to fold it neatly so it tucked into the inner part of the mirror.

You may have noticed I have switched from my small glue gun to a larger one. The only reason I did this is because I ran out of small glue gun sticks. The low temperature one (the smaller one) actually worked a little better for glueing fabric but the higher temperature one was fine too, just made it a bit easier for me to burn a finger while pressing down the fabric.

Step 9: Inserting the Circuit Into the Frame.

Almost finished now! I secured my Trinket, wires, and switch with a generous portion of electrical tape and fashioned a seat belt for the battery from a mitten clip and some elastic.

As I worked through this portion of the project I tested the circuit regularly to make sure I had not damaged any connections. Then I also covered the handle of the mirror with fabric being sure to leave access to the switch, and a loose pocket through which I could work with the battery.

Step 10: Show Time!

I neatly gathered the fabric on the handle, added a pair of pretty red bows and its show time!!

Make it Glow Contest 2016

Participated in the
Make it Glow Contest 2016

Arduino Contest 2016

Participated in the
Arduino Contest 2016

Homemade Gifts Contest 2016

Participated in the
Homemade Gifts Contest 2016