This model modification has been in the works for a very long time. I don’t know how long, but I know it was well before October of 2018 that I starting thinking about it. I know that because I went through several ideas before finally settling on one, and that last one I started executing back then. Which I only know because Tinkercad tracks when 3D designs are first created. Anyways, for the full modification, you need to see the
Yeah, I’m just that crazy. I had to make the cursed light rotate. Because that’s what lighthouse lights do. But I will go ahead and give you a 360 rotation of the whole thing as well.
The Lighthouse model itself is rather simple, a fairly good starter model. And there’s not a lot of detail to capture with photos. But the 3D printed parts might interest you, so I’ve included photos of that, too. Along with the electronics and a toothpick. Yes, a toothpick. It was a convenient solution for a minor problem.
Now, I like the model, don’t get me wrong. It’s a good, solid model, and I mean no insult by calling it simple. There’s beauty in simplicity. I actually built this model long ago, before even designing the “stand” back in 2018. Which means that I can’t really talk to the build process itself. I’m sorry. But I will tell you about the fun I had figuring out how to make it light up, and allow that light to spin.
Of course, I am definitely not the first person to add light to this model. I may not even be the first to add a rotating light (though I haven’t yet seen one). But I must give credit to those predecessors for even thinking to add a light. I absolutely loved the idea, but wondered if I could take it to another level. Because I love torturing myself, apparently.
The first problem I tried to tackle was just how to make it turn. I wanted it to be automatic, smooth, “cool.” I looked at motors, but no motors turn that slowly (anything that does turn slowly probably uses reduction gearing. So then I thought about wind-up toys. I even bought a cheap one to take it apart and see if I could recycle it into a driver for the rotation. I probably could, but it didn’t seem like it would be very reliable, and seemed overly challenging. Hahaha. In the end, combined with the next challenge I will discuss, I decided to make it something that was turned manually, by hand. It was only later that I realized that I could modify my design to be turned by the square driving head on the official Fascinations Solar Spinner that I happened to have!
So, what was the next challenge? Well, it wasn’t the obvious one: adding a light. I’d done that on a couple other models, and used my usual go-to: a cheap LED light from the local dollar store. Not my usual tea-light, though. I went with a clip-on reading light, as it was more directional than a tea light, and the tea lights often flicker. Also, it contained a more robust switch, and tiny batteries. Which was essential for the next big challenge of the build… providing power to a light that is rotating.
Yeah, how do you wire up a light that is rotating without twisting up your wires? The solution… rotate everything you need for powering the light: battery, switch, wires, and housing. There is another solution, actually, but that was out of my realm of experience. Basically it is a bearing with electronic contacts between the layers that are uninterrupted when turning. Sounds expensive, right? Yeah. So instead, I designed my stand in such a way that it housed a large circular module that contained the battery, switch, and also supported the light. But it also had to fit under the base.
I took a bunch of measurements of the model base, the size and location of the gap in the base of the lighthouse, and the hole between the tower and the… windowed section at the top where the light rotates and shines from. There’s probably a term for that, one that I don’t know. I also measure the switch housing, the switch itself and it’s travel distance, and the batteries that would be used to power the light. Then I set down to designing a 3D printable stand to match the requirements of this crazy idea.
Thankfully, at that time, I was able to use the 3D printers at a local makerspace that was open to the public (after proper training). I went through several iterations as I fine-tuned the measurements, and added support for the Solar Spinner, and dealt with friction issues. It took me around a month, between redesigning, scheduling a printing slot, and then printing the parts. I finished printing the parts some time in November of 2018. And then… I realized that I had one last hurdle – every other time I did lighting, I was able to use the existing wiring. Not so much this time.
So the mod sat there, incomplete, ever since. I kept thinking I would go to the makerspace and see if someone there would show me how to solder electronics. I thought about asking my father-in-law, who is a master electrician who also knows about small electronics repair. Asking him to do it for me, or teach me how to do it. But he ended up moving to another state. And the makerspace was only open when I was supposed to be at work. I could get away with dropping by early in the morning to start a 3D print, and swinging by after work to pick it up. But I never felt like I would have the time to sit down and learn soldering. Plus other complications in my life that made it difficult.
Neither of those things ever happened. Instead, I got into another electronics project here recently that would be a lot easier if I could handle a bit of soldering (I’ll talk more about that project someday, hopefully not to far off). So I bit the bullet and bought a soldering kit and sat down to “teach myself” how to do it (thank you YouTube). And with that, I spent some time last week wiring up the electronics and somehow not breaking anything! And it ended up looking even better than I thought. The way the shadows of the “cage” around the light move as the light rotates. I love it.
Oh, and because enough was not enough. I hacked together a “battery pack with switch” that I wired into my Solar Spinner so I could do the video without the bright lighting needed to make the spinner turn. I do not recommend doing that, though – it’s not really designed for being modified that way. lol.