Introduction: Neopixel Light Up Sushi Serving Board

A maker has to make.

“But one of the things that people will come in for, is everyone has to eat.”

Christy Canida on Instructables

At the intersection of food, technology and the hunger zone, make this light up sushi serving board to better enjoy your food. You have permission to play with your food.

Step 1: The Freshest Ingredients...

So a random (random, not odd, though one of many) thought came across my mind. How would have Steve Jobs liked his sushi served? On an iPad platter? The movement of the sushi pieces would probably be sensed as touch input and disrupt the HD clip of flowing waters on the Retina display below ruining the whole experience though.

To keep it simple, how about a translucent cutting board lit up from below for some kind of light show. It would be more advanced than the all white 2001-esque light up counter space at a retail store.

I've got an Adafruit Circuit Playgroud already wired up to a small strip of Neopixels. Any Arduino or microcontroller with LED strips could do. I also have a 4x20 LCD text display so I might as well throw that in. It is programmed to display some humourous quips and give a few beeps for entertainment along the course of the meal.

I could also implement the capacitive touch capability of the Circuit Playground board to choose which light animation to run. Instead of a press switch that could get contaminated with food, how about a touch pad or surface that can be wiped clean/sanitized and much better in compliance with NSF food handling guidelines. Since I was using the capacitive touch on the end of a long wire away from the touch pin on the board, adjusting the threshold for sensitivity did not make for consistent sensing. I ran a ground wire out to the fish head so you can touch that and the capacitive sense at the same time to get a more consistent capacitive touch sensing.

I am just running a few basic animations and rainbow color transitions from the standard Strandtest demo code for Neopixels. The lights are pretty mellow and suited for sushi but I could always load up a Fire flame effect sketch if this was for a red hot cast iron skillet fajita serving tray.

Code here

Note that I had a generic 4x20 LCD character display with I2C backpack and trying to get the right drivers and settings was tough. And because they have evolved from old tech and no one has updated libraries to accommodate this, the display lines are interlaced so you have to work with it as a 2 line display with 40 characters for each line but split up with the first 20 characters of line 1 on the first display line, the first 20 characters of line 2 on the second display line, the last 20 characters of the 1st line on the third display line and the last 20 characters of the 2nd line on the fourth display line.

The Circuit Playground also has a built in temperature sensor. I used that to get the reading of the ambient temperature by the board and display that in the message. You could also use the on board accelerometer to sense when the serving board is moved or use the light/dark sensor to trigger a lightshow for birthdays or celebrations. Someone might even be moved to use this for a surprise proposal. I guess go for it! Let us know how it turns out.

Step 2: Hold on a Minute...

I was actually going to try to use some fancy Japanese cabinet joinery to construct this. But I got hungry.

So I just cut the pieces and decided to glue them together.

I first tried the corner clamps. Since the ends were hand cut and not really 100% square and plumb, I saw that they didn't contact too well when in the corner clamps. The small pieces were hard to adjust right in those big clamps.

I then went with plan B to tape the corners together and waited for the glue to set.

I then tried to glue up all four corners at once and saw that everything got out of alignment as the tape really couldn't hold it together getting it all square.

So then I had to use my giant clamps to sandwich the cutting board with the wood strips to create a perfectly fitting frame.

Note that I really didn't measure anything. I just put up the piece of wood to the cutting board and made a mark. It's the most accurate way of piecing together parts. Well, that and cutting consistently on the side of the marked line to take account of the saw kerf or thickness of the blade and then sanding to fit...

If you are using a new cutting board with the packaging wrap on it, leave it on until you are finished with the project to make cleanup easier since you will probably get glue all over it. If you are using a cutting board you already have, you may want to cover it with plastic wrap or masking tape before constructing around it.

After the sides were glued up and dried, I put the cutting board in flush with the top of the frame. Lay it all upside down on the table. You can then fill in with thinner strips to form the ledge or stopper frame for the cutting board. I put in a wider piece on one end to cover the cutting board handle hole.

Step 3: Picture Your Display by Framing It...

I then made a U shaped frame that fit around the LCD display panel.

I added a header strip to the front of the frame and angled the way the LCD display would be mounted.

I had to notch it out a bit at the header so the LCD display could fit in flush.

Step 4: Heads or Tails...

A square or rectangular serving board is square or rectangular, nothing special. Add on some fish shaped handles to make it look really cool and functional.

I had a piece of scrap doorway threshold that I used to cut out a fish head and tail. Use a jigsaw or coping saw to cut to the rough shape. I then used my utility knife to whittle the edges to give it a rustic or hammered copper texture. Use a real knife or wood carving tools to whittle so you don't get the gouges from the pointy tip of the utility knife digging in. It's not good for scooped cuts.

I was hoping in the end that the red or white oak or was it yellow pine - I'm not sure, it had better be oak, I paid for oak - threshold piece was going to darken with the oil finish later and provide a nice contrast to the plainer pine and poplar wood strips for the main frame. I guess it would have needed it bit of stain to accomplish that. Some of you may be lucky to have exotic woods to use for the different parts. Consider the appropriateness of the woods you are using since they may be in food contact or render safe with a more durable finish.

Carve in the detail of the fish gill line. Carve in a recess for the fish eye to fit a coin(I used a US quarter) to use as the touch pad sensor. Drill a hole to for the touch sensor wire to go through.

Make some standoffs for the handles. With the fish head and tail set off a bit from the main body, you get that segmented fish bone skeleton look.

Step 5: Make It Stand Out...

The frame was all done on the go. Pieces were fitted to the next by laying it out in position and marking where to cut.

Now I have a reference that the LCD display hangs down lower than the frame and would have to make feet to raise it high enough so it does not touch the ground.

Pieces were cut to be legs and glued in. Just like on sofa couch feet, you can bulk up the look by adding a side piece to fill up the side of the leg. You would think the L shaped leg was a big chunk of solid wood just looking at it from the front.

Step 6: Taking a Shine to It...

To finish off the frame, I used a food-safe oil finish. Sand well and clean off the sanding dust. Apply the oil with a clean rag, wait a bit for it to soak in, and rub off the excess. It leaves more of a satiny finish instead of glossy and results in a light natural wood look. The product I used has beeswax as an ingredient but not enough to get it glossy.

You could do it up in dark lacquer bento-box style if desired.

Attach the electronics to the bottom of the unit. The LCD display was positioned in its slot and mounted with screws. The Neopixel strip was threaded through some cable clamps to support it around the sides. Have the lights facing inward to light up the cutting board. The battery pack was also secured by using the cable clamps to clip it in to the wood frame. The touch sensor wire was routed through a hole in the frame to the fish eye cutout.

You could enclose the bottom but leaving it open lets the lights bleed out to the table surface giving it that ambi-light effect.

Use a dab of E6000 or hot glue to secure the coin for the eye in place. Make sure it is contacting the sensor wire and glue doesn't get in the connection. The secondary exposed ground wire was stapled in place for easy access.

Place the cutting board surface back in the wood frame.

Plate up with sushi, power up and enjoy!

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