Antiques & The Arts

DIY Halloween Haunted Tombstone Radio

Not something you want to hear
in a empty hotel in the mountains. Deland again from Learn To Make Make To
Learn and all of those great haunted creepy sounds you just heard were coming
from this. This is a Halloween prop that I created and it’s basically a haunted
tombstone radio. So let’s take a look at how I built it and what it does. The
overall construction is 1/2 inch and quarter inch MDF. Now the nice thing
about MDF is it’s affordable—so you can make a lot of mistakes with it and not
feel like you’re breaking the bank. It machines or mills really well and all of
these parts are cut on my table top three-axis CNC router. It’s dimensionally
stable so, over time, none of these parts should warp. And it has a nice smooth
surface for finishing so you can paint it you can apply veneers
this vinyl applies very well and you know it works out really well
without a lot of sanding a lot of muss a lot of fuss. The downside to MDF is it is
not exactly the strongest material. It’s a little hygroscopic too, so that means
that, you know, if this were exposed to moisture it has a tendency to be a bit
of a sponge and can swell and distort a little bit in that respect. These parts
are pretty thin and so, if this took a pretty strong blow to one of these
pieces right here, these would break pretty easily. These knobs and the bezels
are all 3D printed and then just primed and spray-painted with a hammer
bronze color. These are just standard regular old LEDs. The knobs are really
just for show with the exception of the center knob which is the power switch
and it’s just connected to a rotary switch in the back.
This little domed part is from a clear Christmas ornament, the kind that you get
for crafts at the local hobby stores, and then in back the dial is a found piece
of artwork online from a old radio and then some clock hands on a little acorn
nut for the dial. Around the dial, on the inside, are four candle LEDs the kind
that randomly flicker and have a nice yellow glow to them to give sort of a
flickering effect for the lighted dial. Now, one of the things I could have done
is attach the hands to a gear motor or maybe a stepper motor and then
controlled that so it looked like it was tuning itself. There is a tuning track as
part of the audio files that is sort of scanning up and down stations. It’s
probably something that would have been a lot of effort for a reasonably little
payoff because I don’t think anybody really would have noticed it. People
aren’t getting right up on this thing and looking at it. Now, if this were a
prop that was used in some sort of a setting where people were going to be
right up on it, that might be something worth considering. The fabric is just
regular upholstery fabric that I found at a craft store that looked sort of
like speaker grille fabric. You can actually find reproduction speaker
grille fabric online but that, again, felt like a little bit of overkill for this
project. This is not by any means a reproduction of a tombstone or cathedral
radio and so, you know, in the spirit of is more than enough. That’s really the
front of it. So, what I’m going to do now is I’m going to spin it around and we’ll
take a look at the back and start to get into the guts of
the thing. So there’s not a lot to look at on the back. It’s enclosed with this
panel and, really, the only thing of note is this particular cutout. it’s there for
a purpose and it’s not there for heat dissipation or sound what it’s there for
is to play a part in the overall effect that this prop has inside which we’ll
look at in a minute are a couple of bright white LEDs and there is a audio
track on the sound effects board that is the sound of shorting electricity when
that track plays those LEDs flash really quickly in sort of an asynchronous
manner and the purpose of this opening and this mesh is to basically just cast
an interesting set of shadows on whatever might be behind this the mesh
provides a little bit of diffusion and obviously these shapes just make that
shadow a lot more interesting if it weren’t for that I could have just
either kept it open or closed it off with a piece of regular old apply the
power cord is here this is a five volt wall transformer that powers the trinket
Pro the sound effects board and amp and all of the LEDs so the next thing I’m
going to do is pop the back off and we’ll take a look at the electronics
looking at the inside there’s not a lot going on now in the good old days the
inside would be filled with big vacuum tubes and transformer power transformers
and mechanical connections to the knobs and the dials and just big chunks of
metal and good old timey electrical stuff in a digital age we really just
don’t need that much space anymore so all of this is just just for looking at
you can see a little bit more of the construction we’ve got half-inch
CNC cut MDF that forms the framework it’s separated by a you know some little
cross braces and then the whole thing is in a couple of layers of matboard now
one thing I found out what the map board is that I initially covered it with one
layer and what was happening is some of the areas where there was not a lot of
support in the curves there’s no cross bracing and there were some gaps between
the between these two front and back frames the map board was kind of
flattening out and so what I ended up having to do was laminated another layer
on top of it and you can see that it it’s really not sticking quite as well
as it should which doesn’t of course bother me at all you know the lesson
there is that AI should either learn to glue map board together more effectively
or I could just use a heavier weight material and so probably something like
a heavyweight tag board would work really well oddly enough at the local
craft stores near my house they’re really just there aren’t you know they
don’t sell a lot of that sort of gray chipboard or heavyweight tag boards so I
just ran with the matte board happen to have some on hand the way that this
works overall is the power comes in from the 5 volt transformer runs to our
rotary switch which is connected to our knob in the front and then up to a
little perma proto board in the back that has some resistors for the LEDs and
then serves as a bit of a you know Power Distribution Center for the remainder of
the boards for the project the LEDs are right here for that shorting electrical
effect and we’ll talk about those more in a minute and then our two speakers up
here if we look at the electronics from bottom to top we have a an Adafruit 5
volt trinket Pro we have an Adafruit sound effects board and a little amp
audio amp for that the sound effects board drives to our speakers one thing
to note these sound FX ports come in a a pretty good variety of flavors and one
of those actually has amplification onboard so if I wanted to simplify this
down to just a couple of boards I could have used that one and eliminated the
amp all of the wiring is basically header and jumpers and the reason I like
to use the header pins and jumpers is a lot of times I may want to either
reconfigure a project or the project may actually seem like it’s working and then
it suddenly is not working and I need to figure out what I need to change or I
want to cannibalize parts for another project and so this allows me to really
quickly just yank all this wiring just right out take the boards out and go and
put them in to something else which is a lot harder to do if you solder directly
to the boards a little bit more work but you know gives you more flexibility down
the line now back to the LEDs so one of the main effects of this besides the
creepy honty weird warble iTunes is this flickering LED electrical shorting now
the reason that these LEDs are separated by distance and they’re kind of bent at
slightly different angles is not that I can’t manage to get these things pointed
in the right directions or put close together it’s so that they actually cast
light in a slightly different direction and spaced differently than if they were
just together or if it was just a single LED so the idea is that by having two
separated and different places one low one high remember that that opening is
right up here so I’ve got like kind of coming up through and kind of coming
straight back through I’m casting shadows a little bit differently on the
wall through that that opening and it just gives it a little bit more depth a
little bit more life when I show you how these flicker and flash you’ll see that
they’re actually randomly flashing not in their asynchronous they’re not
flashing at the same time in the same way so you’re getting sort of a play of
light through that opening in the back and I think it just gives it a little
bit more depth so the next thing I’m going to do is I’m going to try and see
if we can cycle through to get to that static or that shorting track now the
way that the code is set up once it starts to play the audio files it will
randomly select tracks and so I may have to cycle it a couple times to get to the
shorting track it’s also set so that it remembers what it played prior to the
current track and so it will never play the same track again once it’s up and
running now obviously as I’m cycling it it could just play the same thing over
and over and we might be here for a while so what I’m going to do is just
kind of power on and off a few times and see if we can get to that that
particular effect so the little red flashing light indicates that it’s Oh
first try like that ever happens so you could hear a little bit of that shorting
audio file it kicks right into its next audio track
and you could see that those lights were flashing flickering in sort of a you
know random and separate way they weren’t blinking at the same time I’m
going to turn this up so that’s really overall all there kind of is to it
the way that this works is once it powers on we got lucky that time it
actually hit that that shorting track first it will play one of several I want
to say they’re about seven or eight seven tracks on there play them randomly
when it’s the electrical shorting track it flickers and flashes the lights and
then it plays through the remaining tracks never playing the same two in a
row that’s kind of it now this is a probably a bit overkill for just
something that plays creepy tunes you could actually just use something like
this this is just a small little mp3 player I could have put all of my audio
files on this and then a powered speaker put it in there closed it up and hit
play and be good to go we’d obviously have to sacrifice the flickering
electrical shorting but beyond that you know really a lot of that would be
pretty much the same type of Halloween prop for me these projects really aren’t
about necessarily what the quick and easy way is to get to something that
plays scary tunes what this is really more about is learning how to take
things like microcontrollers connect them to a sound effects board trigger
those sounds in an intentional way and then potentially when something happens
do something else intentional like flicker LEDs there a way for me to have
a purpose a project that has an outcome that I’m driving for
and then learn along the way so some of these are a little bit overkill for the
ultimate final effect so take that with a little bit of a grain of salt so let’s
take a minute to talk about the audio files because frankly without the audio
files this is basically a wood grain vinyl covered MDF box with some LEDs on
it with a couple exceptions I found all of the audio files I needed on
archive.org and archive.org is one of those sites you could lose the better
part of the day searching around in it has everything from things like 50s
civil-defense duck-and-cover films to all sorts of period music and I was able
to find some great music from the 30s the nice thing is all of the content
most of the content is in the public domain so it’s free to use and abuse I
was able to pull those files in to audition and then apply some effects to
it things like echo and reverb and in fact I think there are some presets in
Adobe Edition that are literally labeled spooky on top of that what I was able to
do is find a plug-in from a company called isotope it’s a free plug-in
called vinyl and like the name implies it’s there to basically turn your audio
files into something that sounds like old vinyl and so what it does is it
gives the sound some warp so there’s a little bit of a warping to it which is
actually probably one of the cooler parts of it there are some sliders for
crackle and pops and Hum motor hum and overall it’s a very sort of interesting
analog interface and it’s really intuitive and really simple to use so it
takes things like normal audio files like this and it turns it into something
that’s sort of like right strange saucer-like shapes spotted over
Hackensack local authorities contact the Army Air Corps which explains phenomenon
as swamp gas reflecting off of weather balloons please stay tuned for future
updates or something like that for this particular project it actually took that
echo and reverb and stepped it up a notch and really actually sold the old
and the creepy part of it that’s about it
that is the Haunted tombstone radio I hope you found this interesting at the
bare minimum maybe a little entertaining a little informative and at the very
best inspirational please as always subscribe to my channel I have a lot of
projects sort of kicking around in my head and a lot of ideas for future
videos also please visit my website l2m m2l calm that’s for learn to make make
to learn this particular project I have about I think three posts on it that
have things like download sample code sample audio files lots of pictures and
some links to some of the parts and pieces that I used in this particular
project more than anything thank you for watching I really do appreciate it and
we’ll see you back soon

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