My Dad

When I was very small, my dad’s side of the bed was furthest from the door, but if I had a nightmare, I would creep around to his side to climb in. I don’t know if it was because he was so tired from a physical job, or a softer touch than mum, or what, but he always let me in. He was my safe space.

When I was a bit bigger, (and health and safety wasn’t an issue like it is now) he would sometimes take us in turns to work with him. He’s a carpenter, so we’d be on building sites and in houses making things. One stretch, probably a summer holidays, I went with him a few days in a row. There was a kind site manager who would bring around jam doughnuts at lunchtime, and we’d eat them and get sugary faces. We’d sit together where we (he) had been working, with packed lunches and the very special treat that was the doughnuts. I don’t know who that kind manager was – we just called him the Jammy Dodger man.

When I was 8, he baptised me at the church I attended until I left home, and where they still attend now. The water wasn’t particularly warm and my dress was damp from a friend’s baptism the day before, but he held me tightly and I was safe.
Around the same age, my mum liked to have figurines on the mantelpiece. One day, I knocked one down and the head cracked off. I told Dad, and he found glue and we fixed it together. She noticed immediately of course, and I still got into trouble, but I clearly remember him not being angry and calmly helping me.

When I was 11 I was due to take entrance exams for secondary schools. Dad was the one to take me, and I had two in one day. He dropped me into the first one, and waited. I came out afterwards stressed and incredibly worried about the next one. We got in the car and he gently asked me if I was ready for the next one. I wasn’t, and so he let me skip it. We went to the shop instead and he bought me treats for doing the first one, and the other one was never mentioned again.

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When I was a teenager, things were classically more tense, but Dad (and Mum) were always happy to join in the fun. He taught me basic car maintenance, very basic carpentry, and when he was building the extension to our house, he taught me how to lay bricks. There’s a good-sized section of wall that I built, and somewhere behind the stuff in the garage there are bricks with our names on, though they might have faded by now.

During that same building project, I tripped and fell, gashing a leg. I was 14 or 15, and Dad scooped me up and carried me inside, like I was 3 and had fallen off my bike. I remember crying with my head against his shoulder, Mum had a quick look and we went off to hospital. Nothing was broken but I have a sizeable scar. I don’t really remember the fall or the pain specifically, I just remember Dad gently carrying me in.

When I was 16 and started dating boys, he did not seem to be a fan. He took time not to come across too much of an I-Will-Kill-You dad, but I knew he could (and would) bring it out if I needed him to!

When I was almost 20, he took me to that same church, and walked me down the aisle. I remember sitting in the car on the way there and talking, he had packed chocolate and bottles of water, and gave me last-minute tips and so much love I’m surprised it didn’t leak out of the windows. He also organised my own personal Secret Service for when I arrived – some of my friends in dark suits and glasses with earpieces – who opened the car for me and gave me a good laugh in a nervous moment. We didn’t link arms (my dress was too big and poofy!), we held hands instead as he gave me away.

Since then he has never been more than a phone call away and is my go to when I need to fix something, or jump-start the car and can’t remember how to attach the cables, and he calls me at least every Sunday night to catch up. He is the most wonderful Grampa to my boys and their cousins, He helped teach me to drive twice, once at 17 and once again at 27. He gives me directions for driving even if I say the Sat Nav will get me there. He will tell me jokes he’s been sent or about funny videos he sees on Facebook. He still tells me about his work, and I still find it interesting. He tells me the goings on at their church and will make people say hello to me if they’re at his house when I call.

He is still me hero, my rescuer, my safe space.

Dad, I love you forever. Happy Father’s Day!

Your Tomboy,

Tink x

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Five

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This monkey is FIVE. Mr B the third, the last of my babies, full blown 5 years old, full time at school. It has snuck up on me this year, there has been a lot going on, and suddenly, birthday season was upon us again.

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(I know dude, I did that face too.)

He’s hilarious, and a whirlwind, mad and wonderful and difficult all at once. He’s finally enjoying reading – slowly, carefully, with minimal patience, but enjoying it! He flies into everything, resulting in bumps and bruises (and most recently 3 VERY bashed teeth) and he gets up and carries on. He loves movies and popcorn, hot chocolate (once we convinced him to try it) and biscuits. IMG_2872[1]Almost as much as he loves vegetables in general, and broccoli in particular. He will always eat his veggies, and will happily help his brothers if they think they can get away with it. He loves school, and dinosaurs, and Lego, and anything that makes him the same as his big brothers.IMG_5621

He’s a carbon copy of Ethan. They have the same smile, the same face. It’s like an action replay of Ethan, five years later. Except they are not so alike in personality – Ethan is careful and gentle and thinks a lot, Henry is boistrous and rough and tumble and thinks afterwards. They get on like a house on fire though, most of the time, and they both get on well with Sam (again, most of the time. Hey, siblings. it’s never 100%.)

Speaking of Sam, he and Henry are alternately thick as thieves and mortal enemies. They are usually in whatever pickle is happening together (either allies or enemies), and probably 50% of the time when we go to bed we find either this, sometimes the pair of them in one of their beds. Or once, they swindled their grandparents and we came home and they were all asleep in Ethan’s room. My favourite memories with my sisters are silly things like this, I love seeing it in the boys.

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He loves animals, any kind. He’s gentle with them in a way that, watching him in his normal interactions, you might not think possible. Even with that crazy look in his eyes! He dances, and sings, and laughs. He’s excited by small things, a sweet produced from a pocket, discovering children’s magazines for sale, a volcano made of mashed potato and gravy. He’s delighted by any gift he’s given, from the hot wheels set to the headphones just like his brother, to the super cheap knock-off lego dinosaurs that he can mix and match the legs for.IMG_5626So chocolate stufffed donut tower cakes, madness, whirlwinds, bruises and bumped teeth and all, We love you crazy monkey.  Happy Birthday, Five.

With Love, Mummy x

P.S. We are constantly telling him he’s not a baby anymore, but secretly, he always will be. I mean, look at this face. IMG_1941[1]

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Ten

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Ten. My wonderful, kind, lovely, maddening, firstie is ten. How can it be that we’ve been at this whole mother-son thing for a decade?

My darling boy, let us see what Ten years makes.

Ten is Football. This one was a surprise, you are tall, and coordination doesn’t exactly come naturally, and you tend to gravitate towards tech. But you love football and football practise, and you work hard at it. Your first present request this year was goalie gloves (which we got for you), a football (which arrived in the mail, addressed to you, from Grandma and Grampa. Very exciting), and a football shirt (Thank you Grandma and Grandad).

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Ten is Technology. Your favourite at school is computing and coding. I don’t understand a word of it (I have fallen behind you already), but you do, and every parents evening we are told that you excel at it and help others. It scares me a little, because I am not ready for this pre-teeny interest in tech and computers and the internet and all the stuff that that entails (but oh gosh do I have to stay ahead on this one).

Ten is Silliness. Ten is you learning the boundaries of how much silly is fun and how much silly will drive me crazy. You walk the line, alternately frustrating and hilarious in spades. You pun with the best of them, you’re quick at it too, quick to laugh, even at yourself, but you’re (mostly, you’re only a human ten year old boy) careful not to make fun at someone else’s expense. Which brings us to…

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Ten is Kind and Gentle. Oh my goodness, do you know how to be kind. You are the first to check if someone is ok, particularly when I shout ouch (regularly. Your lack of coordination is clearly inherited), and you are always first to try and distract an upset younger brother. You held that chick for Henry when he wasn’t ready, and kept trying to help him. You tell me you love me, randomly and often, and also not randomly. You see when I am getting frustrated, and you tell me then. You see when I am tired, and you tell me again. You wont hug me at school anymore (I understand) but at home you do, and you ask for them. I love it, and I love you for it.

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Ten is Bacon Sandwiches for birthday breakfast, thanks to your Dad. I was panicking about my exam (and mornings are not my strong point), so we sat together quietly at the table, eating our bacon sandwiches, me with ketchup and you with barbeque sauce (to you bbq sauce is life) and I thought, HOW are you ten? how have you become so much, when I made you from scratch what feels like not so long ago? And we smiled at each other, finished our breakfast, and carried on the day.

Ten is also a donut stack cake, again courtesy of your Dad, as mishaps meant I was in A&E with Henry (he’s fine), but you understood, and ate donuts, and stayed up a little late, and planned your birthday sleepover.

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So Happy Birthday Mr Ten, you clever, funny, wonderful, kind boy. You will always be my firstie, no matter how big you get. We must be doing something right.

I love you,

Mummy x

 

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Mother’s Day 2018

My Mother is an amazing woman. Yes, everyone says it on Mother’s day, so let me give you some truth – Mum and I have had an extreme rollercoaster of emotions to get to me knowing what a boss she is. I got a lot of my qualities (good and, er, less good) from her – her love of music, punny jokes, water in general and the beach in particular. A determination devolving into stubbornness. A need to prove myself. Above all else, a fierce love for ‘my people’.

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Headstrong and stubborn, I was by all accounts a difficult child who went on to be a fairly horrendous teenager for a while there. Mum and I had some intense times. We had difficulty understanding each other, which was slightly ridiculous as the answer was clearly in that we were so alike. Here’s the thing though – I always knew she loved me. I knew that she was in my corner, ready to fight for me in any way necessary. She would take down any opponent however she could, and here’s a story of when I really realised it.

When I was 15, I was having a particularly awful time at school dealing with some people who, for whatever reasons, did not like me. One day I snapped, lied to the office staff about an appointment, walked out of school and went home. Mum was working at the time, and wasn’t due to be home for hours. I planned to wait it out, hide away from the world for the day, and start again tomorrow. I didn’t have to tell her I played hooky. It wasn’t the first time (oops, sorry mum, pretty sure you didn’t know that), and I’d dust myself off and could try again. Except I didn’t, and I couldn’t. As I walked in the door to our house I found I had reached the end of my rope, and I needed someone to take over. The remarkable part is that, as I picked up the phone and dialed her office number, I wasn’t even slightly afraid. I needed my mother, and I knew that she would be there for me. Trouble would be coming, but I knew it wouldn’t be from her (or Dad, I might add).

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I told her everything, through sobs, and after a little comfort, she immediately got on the phone to the school and read them the riot act. Side note: Having been on the receiving end of said riot act, I can confirm that it is formidable and kind of like that feeling you get when you open a hot oven or get off a plane in a hot country. You will be blasted.

She sorted everything out, and less than two weeks later I would be attending a different school, who had previously refused me entry but suddenly catchment areas were no longer an issue, and I was in. She had done it all for me. I didn’t have to talk to anyone about it, no one (other than a few key staff members) at the old or new schools knew the reason I’d be moving, I would be able to tell my own version of the story and become myself however I pleased. Now, this part of the story is wonderful. The happy ending, but it’s not the only part. The next morning was a school day. I had hoped I’d be allowed to stay home, for a day at least, to avoid the situation,  the people, and the pain. That is not what happened, school move arrangements were still being put in place and I needed to attend where I was until they were. I was gently told to get up, to get dressed and ready. I did, with the occasional tears of worry and fear sliding down my cheeks. I would not be allowed to skip out, that was not the way the world works. I had been given a pass on my afternoon of truancy, that had been my time to wallow and now I would have to fortify and get on with it.

As we got ready to leave, she slipped a token into my hand. It was a small red wooden heart. She told me that she would be thinking of me, and that she loved me, and that when it got hard (when, not if – smart woman), I could put my hand in my pocket, hold that heart, and know that she loved me. I made it through those last 10 days or so, knowing the unstoppable force behind me. More importantly, she taught me that I could get up and carry on. That I could go back to a horrific situation, take charge of my part of it, hold my head up, and move on. It was not as bad as I’d thought, and I think had I not gone, my first few days at my new school would have been more difficult. After all, how hard can a new school be when you’ve spent the last 10 days facing the people who ridiculed you to the point of running away?

Going that day was difficult, but it wasn’t until I had my own children that I learned how hard it must have been for her, knowing that I was scared and encouraging me to do it anyway. She never let it show, but I bet that day was just as hard for her as it was for me.

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I watched Wonder Woman last night and there’s a line where Hippolyta says to Antiope, “You will train her harder than any Amazon before her. Five times harder, ten times harder. Until she is better than even you.” My Mum is Hippolyta. Not only does she command a horde of warrior women (I’m one of 6 sisters), but yes, she pushes us. She trained us hard, she helped make us who we are, and continues to help us whenever and however she can.(Does this make me Wonder Woman? I’m good with that.)

We get along far better than we used to, and she is one of my biggest supporters. After each of the boys were born she came to stay and help me adjust. When I decided to go back to school she was excited and supportive, and regularly asks how my work is going. I can confide in her, and she gives me kind advice and love without judgement, and the tellings-off are much fewer, farther between, gentler and (mostly) necessary 😉 And when it gets late and we’re together, the laughter is loud, long, and usually hard enough to bring on tears.ma

Yes. My mum is amazing. Formidable, wonderful, warrior woman queen.

So Mum,

typed from my fat fingers and said from my chickenlips (in jokes for another day) but most of all from my heart,

I love you x

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One year on

*All posts about Felix were written with express permission from his mother*

A smidgen over a year ago I wrote this post about my lovely friend Jayne and her equally lovely family, her son Felix and his treatment for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. I went on to shave my long hair off and raise £1200 for CLIC Sargent. And I have you lot to thank for it, because it certainly didn’t all come out of my pocket.

So, how’s about an update? Jayne has been doing a 100 day countdown and we’re down to 3! Each day has had a photo, and I’ve got a few to show you. Over the last week or so Felix has been having some finals.

First, his final IV dose of Chemo:

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Then all at once, his final lumbar puncture, spinal Chemo, and the removal of his portacath.

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Here’s the port:

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This allowed IV access for treatment and to take bloods without having to put a new cannula in every time. Understandably he was VERY happy to have it out! And I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this big bunch of balloons!

portoutop Here is Felix’s medicine shelf on Sunday. As of friday, it will be almost completely empty. Hey, everyone needs calpol.shelf

Thank you so much to everyone who donated or otherwise helped me on my tiny insignificant endeavor last June to help wonderful children like Felix to receive help in the future from CLIC Sargent.

One last one, of Rudy and Felix. just over 3 years, and he’s almost done. He’s been so amazing and brave, I’m proud of you little dude, Nothing can stop you!

rudy felix

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Portal Gun – Electronics

The circuitry of the gun was by far the hard part and most complicated. However, it doesn’t need anything more complicated than a basic knowledge of secondary/high school electronics/physics. Trust me, YOU CAN DO THIS.

Let’s get the important theory out of the way first – using LEDs with batteries you need resistors. A good resistor calculator is available here. You’re after the calculated resistance value. You’ll find that resistors aren’t always available in the exact value you need, so round UP. You get slightly more resistance and you don’t risk burning out the LED.

but if you like knowing the maths, read this instructable about how it’s calculated. I like knowing, and did my own calculations (on paper no less!) before buying my resistors. If you’re buying more than one value, learn which are which before you start so you don’t confuse them, they have colour coded rings to show you.

I added my LEDs and resistors in parallel with a resistor for each LED, hoping that if one failed I wouldn’t lose all my lights.

Ok, let’s talk supplies. For your wiring you will need:

LEDs in Blue and Orange. I bought 20 of each as they were cheap.
Resistors for your LEDs
Cat 5 cable – this has 5 pairs of colour coded cable so you know what you’re wiring, it’s fab stuff.
A switch (more on that later)
Battery case and attachment
Soldering Iron (ebay, £7 for mine) and solder
Electrical tape in black and white
Wire strippers.

Here’s my box of bits and pieces, I am quite proud of it!

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You want to wire up each LED in parallel, otherwise all your calculations are for nothing! I’ve read you can wire them up in series, but you then need to compensate with a much higher input voltage from the batteries, which will take up space inside the gun. You do then only need one resistor, but if you break it, the whole circuit can burnout. I was also connecting three different numbers of LEDs to one power source, so by connecting in parallel the values are all the same and it doesn’t go squiffy. I started with the operational end of the device, and started by wiring individual LEDs. You want a positive wire, then the resistor, then the positive leg of the LED. this is indicated by it being the longer lead. then to the shorter leg you want to attach your negative wire. for this part you can leave the negative wire off for now as it will get in the way in this piece. 5mm LEDs fit almost perfectly into a normal office hole punch hole, which is handy for placement. I cut a circle of card to fit the lid end of the black tube (operational end), and tried to evenly space a circle of 16 holes, as I decided 8 LEDs made a good circle of light, and you need orange and blue in there.

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In the second picture you can see the positive wires (branching out, they’re orange but the joins are covered with electrical tape to prevent short circuits, so you can’t see much orange this close up!), the tiny blue resistors, the back of the LEDs, and the negative wires joining in the centre to be soldered to one negative wire to go back up the gun.

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Here you can see the mess of the blue LEDs (the resistors got covered on these too) with the blue positive wires and blue/white striped negative wires. Then there’s the neat(ish) end plate with the LEDs in place. They wouldn’t sit nice and flat, which is part of the reason I decided to cover the end with a plastic cover, to make it look a bit more finished. Once you’ve connected all the positive wires together and negative wires together for each colour you have to cover all the wiring in the back, without leaving any bare wires that might touch each other. In the end I did a layer of electrical tape over the orange wiring before putting the blue in, and then an extra layer of card on to help hold things in, and more tape.

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Here you can see the + and – wires for blue and orange. Make sure you leave it long enough to reach back to your batteries.

Next, the core. I was going to try to make some kind of diagram to show you the parallel connections for this one but good old google to the rescue:

ledparaYou can add as many LEDs as you like this way. I went for 7 of each colour in separate circuits, and then I used a glue gun to put them in the recesses on the plunger handle. Again, lots of electrical tape to insulate.

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Excuse the awful lap shot, it was daytime and that was the only darkish place to see the light. You can see the battery case and wires there too, which at the end cal simply be connected.

IMG_4738These pairs of LEDs are for the indicator light. They were the easiest bit, just connect in parallel again (don’t forget your resistors) and connect in. Because it’s all in parallel and calculated for the same battery power, I was able to run it off one source, using one switch for simplicity. The switch I used was a on-off-on, double pole double throw switch. If you’re lost, don’t worry! It’s much easier to use than it seems. You can see it in the pictures below, it’s quite small! technically you don’t need double pole (the poles are where you connect the wires underneath) but there was so much getting connected it was nice to have extra bits. You can connect the wires to each other first and then to the switch, so it’s all neat and tidy.

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Double throw – this means you can have the switch on to one part of the circuit and not the other. This means you can connect the orange circuit to one side and blue to the other, so when the switch is in the centre, all is off. switch to one side and it’s orange on, switch to the other side and it’s blue on. Hence it’s on-off-on description. This meant it was easy for Ethan to operate without him having to faff about and look at it! It sounds more complicated than it is! I’m afraid I don’t have pictures of the next bit as I was so busy getting it actually done I forgot. But it’s easy! The positive wire from the power source connects to the central pole(s) of the switch. The positive blue wire for the blue circuits attaches to the pole(s) on one end, and orange positive wire on the other. The negative wires from both circuits simply connect back to the negative wire to the battery. Now you have one circuit, that can be switched on and off at one point. Ta-Da! The battery holder case I bought came with a connector so I can disconnect the batteries and replace if needed. Let’s see the innards:

IMG_4918Ok. You can see the red switch. The green wire is the positive lead to the batteries, with positive orange and blue wires on each side. If you look at the left you can see at the black electrical tape where the blue and orange wires split off for different things. Up at the top is the indicator light, in the centre of the black tube is the core/plunger handle, and at the bottom of the black tube right by my hand you can just see where the wires for the operational end. They go in there, and between the two black tubes down to the end unseen. On the right you can see where I’ve condensed the negative wires down to one orange/white striped wire going off to the batteries. Once everything was connected I could glue/tape it all in place and make a bodged housing for the battery from some foam so it wasn’t knocking about but still able to get the batteries out.

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You can also see the handle I put in there and that the switch is glue gunned into a place near his fingers so he can flick it easily. Handily, the glue also insulates the poles so the wires can’t create a short. With the batteries in you can also see the red positive wire from the battery connector, this connects to the green one mentioned above as they are only short ones. And that’s your lot, electronically. I had an absolute blast making it and learning new skills, I’m itching to try something else now! If you follow the Aperture Science or Portal tags on the bottom of this post, you can see the rest if you’ve not found it yet. Thanks for reading! Any questions I’d be happy to help with, comments below 🙂

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The Portal Gun

Or to give it it’s full name, the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device. Here’s a reference picture of it:

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And here’s ours!

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Let me start by saying I would have got absolutely nowhere without these two instructables: Build your own Aperture Science Portal Gun and Budget Portal Gun from Recycled Materials. These were fantastic and I would definitely recommend checking them out before you start.

Obviously we took a little artistic license, but we’re both really pleased with how it turned out!

Let’s start with the tube-y part with the lights in. I’ll do a separate post on the electronics side of it, so if you want to make it with the lights, don’t glue it all together before you plan out your circuits. I used two of these tubes from Lush for the central black part. tubesI think these actually might have been the most expensive part. Anyway, the top and bottom pop off, and the tube opens up flat. I sketched out the shape of the hole I wanted and cut it out of both. I slid one inside the other to strengthen it, make it black both sides, and to leave a space to insert the ‘glass’ cover and run cables back to the hand end from the ‘operational end of the device’. To make one slide into the other, the inner one had to be opened out flat and trimmed down, with also meant I had to make new slots for the tabs to fit, but it worked. a bit of electrical tape over the tabs to secure the join and it was done. I also taped the join on the outer tube to give a clean finish on the outside. I had to trim the ends of the inner tube down too to get the lids back on, but the plastic was easy enough to cut with scissors

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For the glass I tried to find a similar width drinks bottle or something. I actually had one at home that I had in mind to use, but as soon as I wanted it, it disappeared! I couldn’t find a suitable replacement until I realised a cut down 2 litre pop bottle would do the job. It has a ridge in the middle, but I at least made it straight so it looked like it was supposed to be there! It was two wide so I cut a section out and wedged it between the two black tubes, for now. It can be glued in place later after you use it to hide the wiring.

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The central core was a clear plastic handle from a plunger. I really lucked out actually on this as it was cheap from ebay and had two brilliant recesses where I was able to stuff the LEDs rather than trying to light it up from the ends as I saw on instructables, which looked way harder! I sanded the plastic so the lights would be diffused better. It also just happened to be almost the perfect length. For the operational end, I cut through the lid of the tube and used cardboard and craft foam to hold the LEDs in place. The lids are very thick plastic so I had to use a heated needle to punch lots of holes and then sand off the mess. for the back end of the tube I just put a small hole in the lid to fee the wires through, and a hole in the middle to hold the handle/lightstick.

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To bulk up the end I found some guttering parts at B&Q (hardware shop). I think they were kind of brackets. I removed the fixtures and seals and they just about fit right. I decided to cover the LEDs with a thin piece of plastic and foam so it’d look a bit neater.

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The front white piece is the side of a large conditioner bottle, cut down to size and shape. The bottom edge should really have been curved but again we went for time and money saved. The claws I cut from the plastic left over from the black tubes, and glued together with a small piece of craft foam to cover the join and look like a bracket, two on the white part, and one on the top of the black end. I did the same when gluing on the cables, as they’re not functional. In fact I actually glued them into the same bits of craft foam on the claws.

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The back end was two large bleach bottles. I could only find ones with handles so I had to cut those out and overlap the two (hence the big hole!), and cut the top off to fit the black tube in. After it’s all been glued in place, you can use black and white electrical tape to give really nice clean edges. As you can see there’s a whole mess of wiring to figure out too! I put a length of pvc pipe in for a handle so Ethan could easily hold it and still flip the switch.  You can see on the top of the inside of the bottle where the wires lead to the indicator light (the second picture). The indicator was just a small circle cut into the bottle, and I found a curved piece of plastic to cover it, that I stuck in from the inside for neatness. I think it was from a vending machine pod, with a little toy in. I put the tape on for a stripe and then covered the extra glow through the plastic with an aperture logo. This is a visual change I didn’t love to be honest, but it had to be covered or as you can see the glow looked ridiculous. We consoled ourselves by deciding that Ethan was a test subject from before the big GLaDOS meltdown, so the gun was a slightly earlier model than Chell’s!

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You can also see where I used black tape between the bottle and the black tube to neaten it up.

I used the bottom of one of the bottles to give the end a cleaner look, so it wasn’t just the cut off end of the bottle, and cut a hand hole into the bottom for access. A bit of white electrical tape around the edge stopped it being scratchy and looking messy. I also used white tape to cover the joins of the two bottles and neaten it all up.

And there you have it for the physical build! Check out the second post for information about the wiring side of it. Any questions are more than welcome, if I seem to have skipped any steps or you want clarity, comments would be great 🙂

 

 

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