substance with more magic is
duct tape. Its magical properties
go far beyond what mere mortal
words can describe. There is
nothing you can’t accomplish with
duct tape. It is the holy relic of
the crafting world.
Place the MDF panel with the
eyes and mouth cut on top of the
light box. It’s time to create the
segments in the eye. Don’t tape
the cardboard down until you check its position and add
the LED strips. Use three cardboard tubes — like the kind
found in paper towels — to mimic movement of the pupil.
This is going to allow the eye to look left, right, or straight
ahead. Use a cardboard tube that’s larger in diameter in
the middle. This is going to make the face look surprised.
Finally, add a cardboard division above to frame the pupils
which will make the eyes look angry.
An optional part to make the animated display
brighter is to use a sheet of reflective Mylar and tape it
down to all of the surfaces you want to illuminate. Mylar is
the stuff that metallic balloons that are caught in power
lines are made of. It’s also sold as “space blankets.” You
can try to find Mylar locally at an Army surplus store or
strangely enough at a hydroponic store. (Why people
would ever want to send a plant into space wrapped in
Mylar is a topic for another article.) Aluminum foil could
be used as a substitute, but it’s not as reflective. Another
alternative is reflective spray paint.
The LED strips that you want to use for your animated
display are the 12 volt non-weatherproof cuttable strips
(Figure 6). There are waterproof LED strips that are
cuttable, and at first you’d think that these are the type of
strips you’d want to use since this display will be outdoors.
However, the weatherproof version of the strips cannot be
soldered again once cut as they have a rubber coating on
top of the solder points. The non-weatherproof strips have
these solder points exposed, so you can get more
segments out of the strip. Cut the strips long enough to
line the segments, solder wires
long enough to reach the LED
controller, then tape down the
The mouth segments are a bit
more complex than the eye
segments, but it’s not difficult
once you understand the
assembly. From your leftover MDF,
cut out two shapes that match the two innermost pieces
of the mouth (Figure 7). Now, line the MDF shapes with
cardboard as shown. Tape the cardboard to the MDF
cutouts or use a hot glue gun if you don’t mind the
occasional burned finger. There should be three segments
made from the two pieces of MDF. The smaller shape will
be the tongue. This shape will sit on top of the larger one.
The larger shape has two segments. The upper
segment is for the lips that are used to make the M/B/P
sounds. The lower segment is for the lips in a smile
position. Leave the lower piece of cardboard long for the
larger shape as it will be used to create the upper part of
the middle mouth. Add one more piece of cardboard for
the bottom part of the middle mouth. Add Mylar (if using)
and the LED strips like you did with the eyes (Figure 8).
Finishing the Face Front
To finish the face front, cover the front of the MDF
panel with Mylar (again, if using) and cut out holes for the
eyes and mouth. I’m using spray adhesive to attach the
Mylar to the MDF. Use some more LED strips to line the
MDF panel so the entire face will be illuminated. Next,
create some standoffs between the MDF panel and the
diffuser. The diffuser works better when there’s some
distance between it and the lights it’s diffusing. I found
that a distance of four inches works well to remove any
‘hot spots’ created by the LED strip.
An optional part is to use some plastic — like a tarp or
September 2014 47
FIGURE7. MDF pieces for
FIGURE8. Cardboard mouthsegments.