Peter Sorensen spins a tale of post-Halloween woe, agonizes over nearly every design decision he makes, and along the way still manages to make a damn fancy light-up LED Cyclops visor.
Greetings, fellow geeks! It shouldn’t come as a surprise but Halloween is my favorite holiday of the year. The chance to create a costume, adopt a new persona for an evening, party it up with my fellow geeks and drunken ne’er-do-wells… what’s not to love? However, this year – due to lack of time and funds – I failed Halloween. Terribly. I had so many plans, so many designs, so many costumes. It began with something huge (“I wonder if I could make a Spider-Man 2099 suit!”), then it slowly devolved (“Ok, not enough time for that… maybe a Nolan-verse version of Jason Todd!”) and devolved (“oh, too expensive… maybe Cyclops!”) and devolved (“screw it, I’m going to just toss on a fake moustache and glasses and go as a hipster“).
C’est la vie. As geeks, we can’t let simple things like a missed opportunity get us down. Time to brush off your inspirational quote of choice (“why do we fall, Master Bruce?” and whatnot) and get to work. I still wanted to build that Cyclops visor and despite my woeful lack of ruby quartz crystals and synthetic jewel bearings, I managed to put together a functional visor that lights up for just under $30. Let’s get to it!
(A) 1 12v Battery (available everywhere, often used for hearing aids)
(B) 1 “N-style” Battery Holder (approx. $1 at Radioshack)
(C) 1 Pair of Cyclops-Style Glasses (available for $5-10 online, depending on style)
(D) 1 Momentary Micro “Detect” Push Switch (approx. $1 at Radioshack)
(E) 1 Strip of Red LEDs ($10-$25. I used these, but you can use any 12v LED strip)
(F) Earpieces From Sunglasses (Removed Carefully)
(G) Lens From Sunglasses (Removed Carefully)
(H) 1 “Silly Winks” EVA 3mm Foam Sheet ($.99/sheet at your local craft store)
• Soldering Iron & solder
• Masking Tape
• Dremel Tool and/or Drill
• Sharp Utility Knife or X-acto Knife
• Hot Glue Gun
Before We Begin:
When designing any gadget, your primary concern should always be to maintain a fine balance between form (what it looks like) and function (what it does). In the case of this visor, the form is already dictated by whatever glasses or goggles you buy. I chose a pair from Amazon (gifted to me through my Amazon Wishlist by Grant) that already looked like something Scott Summers would wear, so all I had to do was figure out how to fit everything inside of them.
As for function, I wanted something that could light up at the push of a switch but would still allow me to see (as these would be mostly used at parties or in the occasional video). I could have added much brighter lights, or a single panel of red EL (electroluminescent) sheeting but it would have been much bulkier and I would be functionally blind while using it. So, unfortunately I had to sacrifice a bit of form (it doesn’t look exactly like the comics) in favor of function (I can still see while wearing it). As always, find your own balance and feel free to customize or adapt this design to suit your needs.
The first step is to attach the battery holder to the earpiece of the glasses. Take some masking tape and apply it to the right earpiece (or left if you’re sinister) and then mark two dots where the wires from the battery holder line up on the outside. The tape is to make drilling easier and to keep from marring the surface of the earpiece. You want to line up the battery holder so that there is a small lip above the earpiece (this is where the switch will sit in later steps). Drill the two holes (Fig 1a) and remove the tape. Then, feed the wires through the holes (Fig 1b) and glue the battery holder to the outside of the earpiece (Fig 1c) using hot glue.
Here is where the EVA foam comes in. EVA (or “closed cell” foam) is a truly great and versatile material for geek crafts. It comes in a variety of colors and thicknesses, is easy to cut, and with the heat of hot glue it actually melts together slightly to make a very solid “weld” between pieces. It’s often used in cosplay to make complicated pieces that still need to be flexible (you can see a great example of that here). For this project, we’re going to use it to a) build up an area where we can put the LED lighting, b) create a “wraparound” effect for the visor, and c) add an extra layer of cushioning between the wearer and the electronic parts (12 volts won’t hurt you, but it’s always good to err on the safe side and protect your work from accidental breakage or malfunction).
Push a piece of the foam along the inside of the glasses and mark off the outline of the frame and then add any details you want by hand. As you can see in Fig 2a, I originally thought about adding more of a “flair” to the top to make it look a bit more 80’s-ish. After cutting it out using an X-Acto knife or sharp utility knife (Fig 2b), I didn’t like the look of it and ended up trimming it down. Remember to cut on the inside of your lines and leave an area for the lens, as this piece is meant to fit inside the frame. Once you’ve made any adjustments, put the lens back in the frame and then attach the foam to the inside of the frame using hot glue (Fig 2c).
Now to make this bad boy light up. The red LEDs I chose came in a long, flexible format with adhesive backing. If you look at Fig 3a, you can see where it’s made up of the LEDS (A), a resistor (B), and copper attachment points (C) where you can also cut the strip. Cut the strips into two sections (to go above and below your eyes) and then solder the two strips together (Fig 3b) making sure to connect positive (+) to postive and negative (-) to negative.
I chose this kind of LED lighting strip because it’s something that anyone can use without having to know a lot about electrical design – just make sure to only cut the strip at the indicated areas, and you’ll be fine. If you’re a bit more advanced, you can wire up your own LEDs and resistors and then heat shrink them all together inside a clear tube. If you’re a little less tech-inclined and want a different effect, try looking in computer shops for lighting kits (most lights inside your computer also run on 12 volts) or in auto shops for accent lights (also 12 volts, sometimes used for license plates or motorcycle accent lighting).
Here’s where it starts to get tricky – trim the negative (-) wire on the battery pack (the black wire) down and solder it to the micro-switch (Fig 4a). Then, solder the bit of wire you cut off to the output of the switch and run it out towards the glasses. Take the positive (+) wire (the red one) and run it alongside the negative wire and tape it down (you’ll glue them both down later, but for now you need some slack). Then, solder the positive wire to the (+) terminal on your LED strip and the negative wire to the (-) terminal on your LED strip (Fig 4b) to connect the circuit.
Think of an electrical circuit like a circular stream of water – electricity flows from the battery to the positive terminal (the red wire) into the LED strip and then out to the negative terminal (the black wire) and back to the battery where it starts all over again. The switch is there to act like a dam – when the switch is pushed down, the electricity can flow freely and the loop continues, lighting up the LEDs. When the switch is open (not pushed down), the stream is broken and no electricity gets through.
Screw the right earpiece back onto the frame, and then – using a line of hot glue on the inside rim of the lens – gently attach your LED strips to the glasses (Fig 5a), making sure to leave a decent amount of space between them (this is where you’ll see through). Once you’ve got the LED strips glued down, re-attach the other earpiece (Fig 5b) and glue down any loose wires. Use a little dot of hot glue to affix the push-bottom to the top of the right earpiece (lining it up against the lip of the battery compartment). Hot glue is not a conductive material, so don’t worry about getting it on your wires or soldered joints. Now, at this point we could just pop in the battery and call it a day and feel happy having only done the bare minimum. However, like pieces of flair – the bare minimum is simply not acceptable.
Let’s make this visor wrap around: using the glasses and your own gigantic melon as reference, draw and cut out two side pieces, two bottom pieces, and two top pieces from the EVA foam – making sure to leave a rectangular cut-out in the top-right piece for the switch. This may take a little trial and error as you adjust the pieces to fit your temples and cheeks, but you can see the basic shape in Fig 6a. To construct the wraparound, hot glue the side pieces directly to the earpieces (Fig 6b). Then, glue the top and bottom pieces to the side piece, earpiece, and glasses following the lines in Fig 6c. If you left enough room when you cut your foam padding back in Step Two, the top and bottom pieces should glue down flush with the edge of the glasses.
As with previous steps, take a piece of your EVA foam and wrap it around the inside of your glasses and mark off the outline (Fig 7a). Cut out the shape (remembering to also cut out a strip to see out of) and do your best not to run around pretending to be some kind of Odyssey-inspired version of The Lone Ranger (Fig 7b) (“Hi-yo Cerebus – Awaaaaay!”). Lastly, remove the adhesive on the back of the LED strips and attach the foam panel to the frame with a bead of hot glue along the entire edge (Fig 7c).
Don’t worry if some of the hot glue squeezes out of the seam while attaching the panel – you can always use the metal tip of your hot glue gun to heat it back up and smooth it along the edge.
There you have it – a functional piece of myopic eyewear fit for wearing to your local ComicCon or simply heading down to the closest geek bar to try to pick up stray psychic red-heads. As you may have noticed, I painted mine yellow and black (for the old school look) but you could leave yours black, paint it chrome, or go all out and start building little details and grooves and stuff on there (I recommend hot glue, bottle caps, and assorted dollar store toy parts). As always, you may have noticed that I left empty cavities inside the visor that you could also fill up with any number of additions or changes. Maybe you want to rip a soundchip out of another toy and wire it in there for a good hearty blast noise? Maybe you want include a second switch so that the lights can be on all the time? Whatever you decide, have fun with it. Pop in the 12v battery and enjoy!
“Damnit Logan! This is the last time you clog up the shower drain!”
Peter “Slim” Sorensen