Friday, 24 May 2013

Making a plywood display box and casing for the Psychic Fortune Teller automaton

Here's how the wooden display box was made for the Psychic Hive-Mind Fortune Teller...

headTo recap, here's one of the various concept sketches I had pencilled out some time before.  I used this as a mental aide to give me a sense of the plinth-like, sculptural/display-stand vibe it needed.

The first thing to do was to check the size of the parts that had to be stood on the box, and/or fitted into it. This meant sizing up the width based on the width of the shoulders of the automaton, and the width of the sawn-off keyboard.

The image below shows a sheet of rather tasty 5.5mm exterior plywood being marked up in rough, simply by placing the parts onto it, positioning by eye and then drawing lines as guides.

The black square was used to keep it accurate and true on the right angles.

Measuring Fortune Teller keyboard mount

From this, a top board was first cut to width and approximate length (below)...

Measuring Fortune Teller keyboard mount Measuring Fortune Teller keyboard mount

The keyboard was positioned to get the placement right...

Measuring Fortune Teller keyboard mount

The top board was then cut into two parts (shown below). This is because the keyboard needed to be presented to users with a forward sloping angle...

Measuring Fortune Teller keyboard mount

The section that would be used to mount the keyboard is shown below with the paper template attached with gaffer tape.

Marking the Fortune Teller keyboard mount

After marking, a jigsaw was used to cut out the keyboard hole, to allow mounting to the underside.

Fortune Teller keyboard mount

Here is the keyboard, sitting fairly snugly in the board...

Fortune Teller keyboard mount

The laptop shown below is a notebook (i.e. the small ones), so you can see the scale more or less...

Fortune Teller keyboard mount

Jumping ahead a bit, in the shot below you can see the other part of the topboard has been fitted to the forward-sloped keyboard mounting board, with two side boards to make the basic box. It is missing the front, back and base boards. The height was governed by the need to have the laptop open inside the box when running the automaton later.

Also shown below, the head is being positioned to mark out some guide holes to locate it into the base box.

Basic unpainted box for Fortune Teller

From these markings, holes in the top of the box were cut as positioning holes for the shoulders of the automaton to sit in.
Fitting automaton head to box

The shoulders being lowered to test the fit (below)...


And the shoulders sitting in place...

Fitting automaton head to box

Sitting in place the head looked like this...

Head on box

It also needed a loudspeaker. A hole was cut in the center of the vertical front board to fit this. The speaker and its driver amplifier were hacked from a computer audio amplifier. You can see the speaker showing through in the picture below.

The grooves are there to locate the speaker grill. These were cut with hacksaw blade running against a piece of wood to keep them straight along the guide markings.

speaker mount

The shot below shows the speaker from inside the box. The amplifier circuit is in the lower right, mounted onto a wooden housing and secured with screws.

Inside box

Here's the head again, with the speaker showing. (below)

Head on box

Here's a back view showing the laptop open and running inside the box.

Hea on box (rear)

To give it a fairground attraction feel, the box was painted a garish red. The box on the left shows the bare wood with the keyboard and top holes masked off with gaffer tape to stop paint getting in. The right hand shot shows the box after several coats of red paint. This was normal car spray paint. (Acetone based)

Basic unpainted box for Fortune Teller Spray painting box for Fortune Teller

To continue the fairground vibe, the label wording was printed out in large letters (about 90pt I think), cut into strips, then dyed yellow with felt tip pens (Promarkers). Some pseudo-fading was applied with layers of brown and green faint transparent pigment Promarkers. You can't really see this in this shot.

Basic unpainted box for Fortune Teller

The lettering was glued in place with Bostick (clear fumey general purpose adhesive) and was varnished with 3 separate layers of quick-drying gloss varnish to seal it all.

In the shot below you can see the pseudo-aging more clearly. This was intended to mimic varnish yellowed with age.

Painting box

And here (below) is the finished box. The metal foil speaker grid was separately sprayed with yellow paint to match the lettering, then fixed with wire ties holding it in place within the housing grooves that had previously been cut into the box to locate it.

Psychic HIve Mind Fortune Teller

Below is what it looks like from the back with the back board removed. The laptop does fit inside.

Psychic Hive Mind Fortune Teller

Behind the laptop are the arduino board (manages the putton push actions), the audio amplifier and a video signal convertor. This makes the standard VGA monitor output from the laptop work on the TV-type monitor that sits on the automaton's head. The monitor is a closed circuit TV monitor normally used as a  reversing monitor in a car.

Psychic Hive Mind Fortune Teller

Below is a shot of the various things needed to be crammed inside the box. An important thing to note is that the head is not glued onto the base. It can be taken off and is only secured with a bolt. This retaining bolt is visible below on the far left (left of the arduino board). It's a simple threaded bolt with a wooden block threaded onto it, held loosely in place with nuts.

Psychic Hive Mind Fortune Teller

The reason for not gluing the head onto the box is so it can be taken apart for transport. Here it is shown inside a suitcase, just about to be taken to Amsterdam to demonstrate at the MuseumNext conference. The head is inside the box.

Psychic Hive Mind Fortune Teller

and that is it.

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