Wednesday 29 March 2017

Making signs for Blazing Swan

Over the past couple of months myself and a couple of friends have been making signs for our theme camp, Moon Base, for Blazing Swan 2017. The main signage will be going on our entrance way (pictured below).

Making the sign body and wiring up the electronics took the vast amount of time in this project. There was several hours of milling to make the various parts of the sign. The lettering inlays are made of lightly spray painted poly-carbonate sheets I cut out in my mill.
The sign below is for our (water) bar.  All of the signs were cut on my CNC mill and are made of veneered plywood marketed as Formply. I used this after trying MDF and the Formply cuts much cleaner as it chips a lot more than the MDF which turns into more dust sized particles.

The signs will be mounted above our entrance way to our camp on a sheet of plywood so I have epoxied some nuts on the inside of the signs so I can bolt them onto the entrance without any visible fasteners.

The signage will be out in the elements for several days so I built the electronics into a sealed ABS box. All the connectors are reasonably waterproof, if the weather gets ridiculously wet I can easily detach the box and bring it under cover. We are using a Teensy 3.2 micro controller to drive the main logo and MOON BASE signs and an Arduino Pro Mini micro controller driving another smaller sign.

I attached all of the LEDs to the milled out pieces of plywood and painted all the necessary areas white to reflect the light as much as possible. The logo has 5 individual strip driven through an Ethernet cable with a two core power cable. The MOON BASE signs use microphone cable and connectors which are cheap and readily available.

I used silicone to attach the poly-carbonate lettering to the main body of the signs. Double sided tape and short wood screws hold the backing onto the main body. After assembling I then went and painted a couple of layer around the edges and sealed the gap between the backing and main body. This should all ensure the signs are weatherproof.

My friend Jon wrote the Arduino sketch to run the signage so all points for the animations go to him. The source code can be found at We used the FastLED library to drive the LEDs at the low level.