Opal glass would provide excellent diffusion (producing a Lambertian distribution of the light source), but might be difficult to work with in your lamps. You might try a fabric shop for translucent synthetic fabrics, a photo shop for diffusion film, or Amazon (see http://www.amazon.com/Rosco-Roscolux-Diffusion-Diffusing-Material/dp/B000B73OQY) for some material used in theater lighting.
"...things look more interesting of they aren’t all centered."
In my case, for "interesting" read "Drive me scatty"... I'm a symmetrical kind of guy I'm afraid. But hey, whatever turns you on, baby....
"Ideally I would like to use LEDs as light sources..."
You do realise you can get Led "bulbs" in almost any form factor now - you'd probably be able to get some for whatever fitting your lamps used. Get onto Element14 (new Farnell) and look under Optoelectronics and Displays, then Lamps, then Led Replacement. I just had a fossick on the Australian site and there are heaps, single led, multi led, extra bright, with and without diffusers, etc. Most of them are pretty expensive though. You could make your own diffuser with a disc of greaseproof paper.
I've got some frosted mylar sheets that should do the trick nicely. I'll drop a couple in the mail to you.
You might also check out LED reflectors and lenses on Digi-Key. Go to Product Index, Optoelectronics, Optics - LEDs - Reflectors.
Hi Rick -- that would be wonderful -- also my Chum Alvin suggested sanding the outside of the LED because this would diffuse the light -- and also maybe putting a blog of silver / reflecting paint right on the tip of the LED to block the intense point source...
"Ideally I would like to use LEDs as light sources, because I can easily control...."
You can very easily drive an incandescent bulb from a uP port via a transistor. If you use (say) a 12v bulb from a 12V line to a transistor to ground, when the Tr is on it will be at 100% brightness. You can pulse width modulate the Tr to dim it - it won't be as linear as a LED but it would be quite acceptable.
Just a comment - couldn't you find an old meter (preferably a round face type) to complement your switches and lights? I guess it would not be as visible to an audience though...
I don't know why, but I'd simply never thought of using PWM to control an incandescent bulb -- I was thinking that the bulb wouldn't be fast enough to respond, but at the end of the day a PWM ration of 1:1 (for example) equates to 50% of the power...
I thought of adding an old meter (I have a bunch here in the office) but you couldn't see it in a large room -- which is also why I decided to leave out the geared clock -- but I think it will look great just the way it is (once I've got the lights working :-)
Lamps (because of their coiled filaments) are a bit inductive, so if you PWM them at a very high frequency you just might get strange things happening. But anything in the KHz region shouldn't worry them. They are after all usually fed with 50/60 Hz...anything above that you shouldn't get any flicker.
I once used an auto bulb as an RF dummy load. At 40 MHZ it was quite good, but at 80 MHz it needed a trimmer cap across it to null out the inductance. Cheaper than buying s proper load.
The ultimate machine, of course, is something about the size and shape of a cigar box with one switch on the front. When you throw the switch, there's an angry buzzing inside, and a few seconds later, this mannequin hand 'ratchets' out, and turns off the switch. Then the hand pops back inside, the lid closes, and the buzzing stops.
This is the ultimate machine--almost human. The only thing it does, is turn itself off.
When I was at Boeing, there was a rumor going around that there was a box for the uninitiated. It was welded metal and had one button--and a sign that said, "Do not press this button."
It generally sat there for less than half an hour before somebody pressed it. Contents? A battery, a latching relay, and a klaxon. In that metal box, it was loud. I was told that more than one went into the Duwamish River (which ran close to the plant).
Your switches look like "Kellog Keys", they were standard telephone switches here in the UK until the "Ericcson Keys" came along. The BBC (Our national radio) had an AEI (I think!) built control room from the early 60's which htey ripped out in the 90's. It had hundreds of these, some of which were never even used. I think they were replaced by the flimsier Ericcsons shortly after.
For Lamps, you can drive bulbs or LEDs from the old ULN200* family ("ULN2003" suits TTL) which will take PWM etc. And yes, bulbs will integrate the pulses mech better than LED's, especially for migraine sufferers!
You are correct -- mine each have a bunch of contacts -- some of them are "switch to make" and others are "switch to break" -- plus one of the switches works as a momentary switch if you press it down (when you release it it returns to the center position) and toggle if you switch it up.
They are very, VERY tasty!