Thursday, August 18, 2011

Light-up radio

This radio was created for a production of The Double opening this weekend at Babes with Blades (for those not familiar with Chicago storefront theatres, they are a group of female fighters and stage combat experts who do plays designed to feature women and swords, and they have a great time doing it).

This play is a backstage comedy set in the 1940s. In between scenes, during the blackouts, a radio announcer narrates recent Broadway gossip. During those moments the director wanted the radio to glow.

Side note- pay attention to how much light is going to be on a radio or other electronic device before deciding to invest the time and money into making it light up. If the radio was being hit from the front with theatrical lights, any bulb I had placed inside (no matter how bright) would have been useless and totally washed out.

 I started by pulling off the back cover of this radio I found for $15 at a local thrift store. I smashed, broke, unscrewed, snapped and ripped to remove all of the old radio innards (sorry for no "before" picture). In the process I also, unfortunately, destroyed the fabric that had formed the front of the radio. I replaced it with a heavy orange upholstery fabric for where the speakers would be, and a gold, sheerish, costume satin behind the dial, both of which were scraps from past projects and therefor free for this one.
Instead of working up a totally new circuit for the lights I used a pack of battery powered LED christmas lights (also leftover from a past project). I set the switch on the battery pack to "on" and then cut one wire a little further down so I could insert my own easy-to-use switch into the system.
I attached my switch to the back panel of the radio where it could be easily reached by an actor,
And then soldered the lights and the battery pack to either side.
The lights were taped in place so that when the back panel was re-attached they would sit just behind the dial.
I reattached all of the dials and knobs I pulled off the old radio front. I was even able to remove the decal in the right corner from the old fabric and insert it into the new.
When the lights go out, the glow is pretty cool.

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