Thanks for the input, comments, and advice everyone!
I just gotta say that, today, this project JUST GOT REAL (ghostbusters
But first, the other day I got a few things done. First and foremost, I verified that you can run the Spirit LEDs and Sound hardware on the 3.3v power out from an arduino. This is great, because it means I can power both my servos and the stock sound/LEDs with a single power source. There's a chance it may shorten the life of the components, but so far I see no indication that this is the case, and I've run it for about 3 hours total. Here's a demo:
I also ran the trap on a 9v battery for about an hour. I was curious how well a 9v would fare after knowing I could run everything through the arduino's power, and it did okay. Towards the end of the hour the LEDs were getting a bit dimmer, the servos were moving a bit slower. So if all you need is an hour at a time, I suppose a 9v battery would work. But for a full event/night where you'll be using the trap on and off, having to stop to swap out a 9v battery may not be ideal. That said, I'm pretty sure you could mod the current battery compartment to hold a 9v if you wanted, so swapping it out wouldn't be too hard, I suppose.
I also got quite a bit done on my trap handle replacement the other day. To start, I got a 3/4" Forstner Drill Bit
at the hardware store for $10.28. Since I'm not including tools and such in my running total, I figure mentioning the cost in the post when I talk about them will help. The reason you need a bit like this is it makes a REALLY smooth, clean cut. So I used that and I measured out where the middle of my poplar 3/4" square dowel was and, starting close to the top of the dowel, I drilled in as carefully as I could to make the hole RIGHT in the middle so it would perfectly fit the 3/4" poplar round dowel I got. It took a couple tries, but since I started at the top I didn't need to lose much wood each attempt. I just moved down an inch or two and tried again. That hardest thing was making sure I drilled straight all the way through, so keep that in mind. If you have a drill press, I'm sure it would make this step MUCH easier. Here's how it turned out:
Once I was happy with that I put the square dowel in a vice and placed the round dowel into the groove I had just cut with the drill bit:
I then drilled down into the dowel, very carefully, with the help of a friend who helped keep the round dowel steady. Just take things nice and slow and make sure your bit is the right size (and length!) for the wood screw you'll want to use. I used one of these #8 1 5/8" screws
. So, once you get the hole drilled through both the round dowel and into the center of the square one (you'll do this all at one time), go ahead and countersink down a little bit to give some room for the screw head so the screw is just slightly below the surface of the dowel, so none of it is sticking up above the curve of it:
I went a little too deep, so don't go as far as I did! The great thing about this is, if you use a star-head screw like I did, it looks VERY close to the hex-head screw that some trap handles have in the same place, so when you paint the whole thing black it'll look pretty dang close to how it should.
Now you'll want to put some wood glue on the two dowels like this (I used titebond III):
Then drive the screw into the wood dowel, nice and slow, paying close attention to whether or not the dowel starts to split. If you made the right size of drill hole, you should be fine. But if you notice any wood start to split, STOP, back out, and redrill your holes. If you see no sign of splitting, drive your screw through until you see it just peek through:
Now seat the tip of that screw into the drill hole in the other dowel and make sure things are lined up nice, and then continue to slowly drive the screw in. Watch for splitting, stop of anything happens. Once the screw head is seated, don't overtighten to avoid splitting the wood. Things should feel sturdy, the handle shouldn't wiggle, but you don't want to screw in too far and split your wood. Smooth out any excess glue and then let things dry:
And that's how I did the handle.
So TODAY I had a few hours to just go out into the garage and work on things. I tried to get pictures along the way, so here we go:
I've been taking things a bit slow to kind of absorb what my plan is and really get to know the ins and outs of the trap. My biggest hope is to leave the structural integrity of the trap stronger than when I started, and I think I made some great progress towards that today. Also, I've solved my problems with accessing the servos after the trap is closed, as you'll see.
So, to start, I wanted to make a few pieces to go on the trap itself. A piece to go on the top back of the trap, and a piece to go onto the bottom of the trap. Both of these will cover holes I'll be cutting into the actual spirit ghost trap.
So, to start I went to Home Depot and picked up a $5 piece of polycarbonate:
Not only is there enough to do the piece for the whole bottom of the trap, but also for small side panels, the top back panel, and the front of the trap!
To cut the pieces, I measured the trap and then cut into the plastic using a drywall scorer and a utility knife:
The drywall scoring tool actually worked really well on polycarbonate, and I only used the utility knife to more or less finish things off. Just push the scorer down really hard, pull towards yourself (watch for fingers!) and stop when you have to turn towards a different angle. If you plan your cuts with this motion in mind, you can mostly be cutting towards the edge of the sheet of plastic, which makes things easier. So I cut out the bottom board:
At this point I took my dremel cutting tool, with a metal-cutting disk on it, and started cutting out the places in the trap I wanted to cut:
Starting with the top back of the trap, I outlined where I wanted to go, taking care to note where the screw hole goes. You DON'T want to cut that. I suggest cutting around that first, so you know where it is:
Note how I cut around the screw hole first:
Then I carefully sheared the layer of plastic above the screw hole away:
With all that done, I looked to the bottom to figure out where to cut. So far, I've only cut on the side where the circuit board and servos are. I wanted to make sure I didn't cut out any of the plastic that was meant to support the trap if at all possible. Notice in this picture the bits of plastic that you don't want to cut that help support the bottom of the trap (sorry my pictures keep getting rotated by the site I upload them to):
So I lined the area I wanted to cut with painter's tape (probably a good idea on the top too, I just forgot about it when I did that):
TONS more access now when the trap is closed. Now to make a cover for the hole on top of the trap. This was MUCH more complicated. I had to carefully measure the dimensions of the area and make a pieces of plastic to match.
First, I sketched out the shape I wanted on the plastic. Then I used the score and cut method I used for the larger piece for some of the easier cuts:
Once those were done, I took the piece and put it in a vice and carefully cut out the smaller details with a dremel. This turned out okay, but I'm sure there is a better way of doing them:
Finally, I took the handle and put it in place and made sure everything fit. Anywhere that didn't, I used a sharpie to color over what was too large and/or needed to be trimmed, and then trimmed (CAREFULLY, you don't want to cut your fingers) with the dremel and my utility knife until everything fit and looked good.
Next, with the plastic on top in place, I carefully looked where I wanted to put the screws that would hold it in place and provide the cosmetic screw placement you see on the traps in the movies. I wanted three of the screws to be functional in holding the plate in place, so I found the thread size of my screws (M3 x 0.50 screws, btw, I could only find metric) and luckily I was able to borrow a metric tap kit from my father-in-law to tap in the threads. To start, I used a 3/32" drill bit to drill into the spots I wanted to put the holes. ONE THING you want to take note of, is if you put the screws where the screws are on most traps, you will end up drilling right into the plastic for the screw used to join the two halves together, so I scooted them back a bit:
Once I had those holes in, I clamped the plastic firmly in place and screwed through the same holes into the plastic of the trap. Do this VERY CAREFULLY, especially if you want to tap in threads, because you want a straight, snug pass, and plastic is really easy to mess up.
Take a lot of care with the hole in the middle, and carefully clamp the two sides of the trap firmly together, but not too hard! If you clamp down too tight, I'm pretty sure the plastic will buckle and/or break, leading to extensive damage.
Finally, I tapped in the threads, and then put in screws. Lookin good!
I still need to cut the other hole in the bottom I want to cut, drill out screw holes for the bottom plate, and get all that set up, but that's all the technique I used to get this done today. I'll upload a pdf in the next couple days with templates you can use to make all the same stuff I did here and for other parts I plan on doing soon.
EDIT: AHHH! I forgot to add the details on cost!
Polycarbonate sheet: $4.98
3/4 inch square dowel (Poplar): $2.95
3/4 inch round dowel (Poplar): $2.98
Cost for this post