The flasher circuit was harvested from a toy. These flashing wands are glued together, and the batteries are "not replaceable" and unfortunately you have to break them to get to the batteries. I've never successfully opened one without ruining the clear plastic housing, but I saved the circuit boards hoping to reuse them someday.
Once the circuit board was liberated from the toy, the connections were mapped and it was cut down to remove the switch traces, and the original LEDs which I didn't like for this project (though I did desolder and save them.
Once it was cut down, it was trimmed and the mask was cleaned off to expose the traces for soldering (later the rest of the mask was also removed for appearances).
The switch came from an old circuit board. It was a beast to get loose!
Thanks to my Dremel, I was able to cut around it, and section the remaining circuit board so it was easier to desolder.
The spiral twisted wire was twisted by hand from square brass stock.
This wire comes "half hard". In order to twist it without breaking due to metal fatigue, I had to anneal it to "dead soft". This consists of heating to a dull red, then quenching or allowing it to cool naturally. Quenching in a pickle pot helps to remove scale and tarnish, but I don't have one that could accommodate the long wire so I opted to just let it cool.
Once it was annealed, I twisted it using two pair of pliers. I held the wire with nylon lined pliers (not shown) to protect the twist and twisted the other end using flat noise pliers. Twisting the wire also work hardened the metal and returned it back to about "half hard", which is perfect for this kind of work.
Once twisted, I coiled the wire into a flat spiral, and then pulled it up from the middle into a tree. The tree was made in two parts.
Throughout this project had to devise various jigs to hold my work while I solder. Sometimes this can be very frustrating, but I usually find the right technique.
The "land" was made from some brass screen I rescued from a Faraday shield that was used in a short term project to test software when it has bad cell reception. I didn't really have plans beyond the tree and flasher circuit until I found this screen while looking for my torch to do the annealing, but the moment I saw it, the next step formed in my head. Serendipity!
I started by cutting an approximately 4"x4" square from the screen. I then deformed it with my fingers to create the rolling hills effect. Once it was deformed, I used 1/6" brass rod to create a frame for it. I bet the rod to fit the deformations, soldering the screen to it every inch or so.
These rods come 12" long, and didn't make it all the way around the screen. To continue, and close the frame I used a scarf-joint.
As solder joints, scarf-joints are stronger than butt-joints, but in hindsight, I think for any future projects, I will braze this kind of structural joint, and leave the solder for the electrical connections. Under stress they will break, and I also had trouble protecting existing joints when I would solder something else close. Alligator clips went a long way toward sinking the heat away from the finished joint, but this would have been much easier if I didn't have to do so much of it.
Once I had the twisted spiral tree, and the land finished, I realized the screen wasn't going to be strong enough to hold the tree on its own, and the idea of roots formed. For that I would need some "undreground" for the roots.
I started, by making another frame. This one needed to be square, so I got out the cruel master, graph paper!
After a bit of fun...Read more »