Introduction: TW the RGBLT LED Puppet

Tinky Winky is really an RGB LED on the rainbow spectrum but is proud to be lit up in purple. No question that TW is unique. TW is sometimes seen carrying  around a Ruby the Red LED plushie companion. TW is on the talk circuit lecturing about electronics and can elaborate on resistors and tolerance.  TW would like everyone to know that electronics is inclusive and fun..

Inspired from Adafruit's circuit playground plushies and their show on the intarwebz to educate kids of all ages, if you are curious about how things work, watch and learn. 

In real life and in this diverse maker community, I've run across all walks of life(no points yet). Yeah, some are strange. Some are different, not that there's anything wrong with that.

To celebrate having good friends and if anyone needs an analogy to explain things like AC/DC to kids or if you are from a little town and never seen anything like this, make the puppet.  And, Oh, it's so darn cute.

There are 8 million stories in the Naked City.  This is one of them.

Step 1: Scavenger Hunt...

Since these were so easy to make and supplies readily available, make a whole bunch.  If you can't wait to 3D print a an authentic Adafruit Circuit Playground puppet go this route.

I had some purple and gray fleecy fabric left over from another project.  Use something that has a nice thick nap and texture like any plush toy.

You need an empty cleaned out 2-litre soda bottle.  A 3-litre bottle would make a larger puppet but no more Big Gulps in NYC.

You need some black and white felt to make the eyes and mouth.

You need some cardboard and glue to build up the base and papier mache it a bit.

Rescue the bottle and an empty cardboard box from the recycling bin.

You need some heavy duty wire to make the armature for the "legs."

I custom made the lighting for the puppet by soldering a few components laying around but you can just substitute a small regular flashlight.  It should have a press button on the end so you can activate it to sync up with the voice talking.

A hot glue gun helps to glue stuff together since it is hard to attach things to smooth plastic.

You will need to sew.  I have a sewing machine and serger.  A serger is nice when you are sewing things on the fly since it binds the seam with an overlock stitch and trims the excess as it goes. Hand stitching would be tedious.

Step 2: Bottoms Up!

Most soda bottles are either clear or slightly tinted. It doesn't really matter what color the bottle is since they are translucent enough not to filter out your light source later on.

Cut off the bottom of the bottle where is starts to curve toward the end.

Cut off the bottle stem at the top so you will be able to make a rounded top by taping over the hole.

Use the point of the utility knife to poke through the bottle and slice around.  Be careful, the cut plastic edges can cut also.

The bottom piece can be stuffed inside the bottle to give it more rigidity. 

Cut out paper templates for the mouth and eyes.  I just sketched something in proportion to a real LED plushie.

Use some glue stick or tape to position the eyes and mouth.

Transfer the layout to the bottle by tracing with a permanent marker.

Step 3: Round and Round in Circles...

We want to make the base part of the LED.

It is a set of stacked cardboard pieces that forms a collar around the bottle.

The diameter of a soda bottle is about 4 inches.  The cut bottle flexed too much to accurately trace around it.

I took out a compass and drew a circle on cardboard.  Make it 4 1/4 inches, larger since there will be a layer of fabric when you "plug" the bottle into the LED base.

Draw a concentric circle 5 1/4 inches in diameter.  You want a 1/2 inch wide ring to surround the base of the bottle.

Cut out 4 or more depending on how thick your cardboard is.  Glue together to form a nice thick ring.  Altering the direction of the internal corrugation gives it a little bit more strength.

You can piece together bits of cardboard in the lamination.

Cut out 4 or more complete disks to form the solid base of the LED.  Glue the layers to your ring assembly.

Take something flat and metal and burnish the inside of the collar and the outside to smooth the entire piece.

Just take some scrap paper and glue to papier mache one layer on all the exposed corrugations.  This prevents the texture from telegraphing out through the fabric layer.

Put aside to dry.  When dry, burnish again to get everything as smooth as possible.

Step 4: Go on a Bender...

Hmmm, nah.

We need to bring the eyes out a bit.

Cut pieces of cardboard to match the eye templates.

You can layer 1/2 vertical cut and then 1/4 vertical cut to fill in the gap on the sides of the eyes.

I used hot glue to piece this together and tack it on to the bottle.  The hot glue was hot enough to warp the bottle plastic a bit.  I guess a low-temp glue gun would have worked better.

Use masking tape to blend in all the surfaces.

Step 5: Give the Gift of Sight...

Sign the back of your driver's license...

Cut out felt pieces for the eyes, pupils and mouth.

I used a straight stitch to tack the pupils in.  Then  I used a nice zigzag stitch to go around the edges making it look like an expensive appliqued embroidered parts puppet.

Cut a piece of purple plush big enough to go around the bottle.

Choose which side of the fabric you want as the good side.  The rougher side looked more plushier.

Position where the eyes and mouth go.

Sew eyes and mouth to the fabric.

Step 6: Hello World...

On the back side, cut out the inside part of the mouth.

This forms a white light panel when we illuminate the puppet.

Put the plush piece inside out around the bottle and position the eyes by feeling through the fabric.

Figure out where to seam vertically it to start forming the body cover for the puppet.

You should now have a tube that fits over the bottle.

Play around with the top to see how you will create some darts that will gather the excess fabric to form a round top.

I found that two darts toward the eyes and one lateral one in the back took out the excess fabric.

I serged on the lines I marked.  I flipped it inside out and test fit.  I did a little more serging to round out the seams a bit more.

Step 7: You Need a Leg to Stand On...

With the gray fabric, cut some long strips about 2 1/2 inches wide? I didn't measure, I just eyed it.

With the fabric folded with the good side inside, serge it lengthwise to form a tube.

Cut to length 4 pieces to use as the leads.  Each one a slightly different size just like an actual LED.

On each piece serge one end to a rounded tip.

Turn inside out.

Cut corresponding wire a bit longer so we can bend the ends so they don't poke and for securing to the baseplate.

With pliers, loop one end of the wire to be placed in the lead.  Cover with tape so they will not snag.

I was trying to figure out how to attach the leads to the bottom piece of fabric for the base.  Since I made the tubes for the legs individually already, I cut side slits at the top and joined the adjacent lead by serging together.  This kinda made like a pair of pants, except with 4 legs.

Stuff with fiberfill.  The drumstick didn't really help.  I ended up gathering up the stretchy fabric and just pushing the fiberfill in.  I guess if you look close, there are some cellulite bumps.

Cut a piece of purple fabric a little bit bigger than the base diameter.

Cut in half to insert the lead leg assembly.

Serge to attach the lead legs.

Cut a strip of fabric to form the collar piece of the baseplate that goes around the bottom.

Serge around and join the vertical seam.

Step 8: Armature...the Leg Bone Is Attached to The...

Insert the wires into the lead legs.

In the base poke 4 holes that line up with the lead leg wires.  I used a pointy awl for that.

Pass the wires through to the top of the base, bend in a U-shape to poke back into the cardboard base.

Tape everything down front and back of the wire.  This will keep it in place when you bend the wire to animate the puppet.

Stuff with more fiberfill if needed to fill out the shape.

Hot glue the bottom fabric to the bottom of the baseplate.

Hot glue around the outer edge of the baseplate to fix the  bottom collar fabric.

Hot glue around the inner top edge of the baseplate rim.  Tack on the edge of the bottom collar fabric.

Adjust the fabric so you have a collar surrounding the bottom basebplate.

Step 9: The Lights on Broadway...

Can anyone hook me up?

You can rig up some lights to shine through the mouth and work it when to match someone speaking.

I was going to use my sound to light circuit from my other LED plushie mod but I hadn't figured out how or if I could use darlington transistors to boost the light output.

You can just have a flashlight in there with an end flasher button hanging out back.

I wired up a 9V battery, 6 LEDs, 2 resistors and a tiny tactile switch because I had the parts laying around.

The switch was taped to a small backing piece of stiff cardboard.  I could then tape it on to the back of the bottle where it will be pressed.  I taped the light assembly inside the bottle. Note that it sounds pretty loud as you press the switch on the back because you are flexing the plastic bottle too.  You could move it out to one of the lead legs depending on how you usually hold the puppet.

Always use circuit protection

LEDs can be burnt out from too much partying current flowing through.  Always place a resistor inline to prevent maximum current going through your LED which will ruin or destroy your LED.

If you ever wanted to see what resistors you need, use an online "LED calculator" to help you design your circuit and see a wiring diagram. Ooo, there's an app for that.

So go find some LED friends or other plushie electronic components to play with.

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