Here's another possibility -- starting from the center position (which now reflects something like "neither here nor there"), all of the LEDs are dimmer versions oftheir main colors. If we rotate the knob anticlockwise, more and more green LEDs come up to full brightness (top image), by comparison, if we rotate the knob clockwise, more and more RED leds come to full brightness. In this case, maybe the top center LED should fully on with an in-between color when the knob is pointing fully upwards, then it turns red or green depending on which way the knob is being rotated...
Max: It's looking great so far... and those motorized potentiometers look like they'll be really handy for something like this, for a sort of mind-of-it's-own effect.
I've usually found that the lettering on buttons of that type of assembly turn out to be embedded at least deeply enough to make any attempt to remove them turn out rather messy. You can try polishing them off... but if that doesn't work, you might still be able to buy sets of old typewriter keys on ebay as a substitute.
Alternatively, crafting stores ( like Michaels ) used to handle alphabetized buttons ( "charms" or "eyelets" ) made of pewter, from which I've had some small measure of success at creating faux typewriter keys and pushbuttons ( combining them with hardwood plugs ( Lowes ) and brass lamp-check rings ).
For the brass, of course there's Jake von Slatt's Steampunk Workshop site, at which he has documented methods in etching brass for antiquing effects. Some other folks have used his methods to get great results, such as this "Steampunk Synthesizer":
That font I mentioned in the Part 1 comments is called "ws_simple_gallifreyan", ( a zipped .ttf file ) and is available at several sites. It's very basic, but can be put to very good effect if you use it as a manipulatable font in an image-editing program. Rotating, varying the font size, and moving letters as individual "objects" on your background, combined with other effects such as "find-edges" and "emboss" can eventually produce some decent looking script... that would probably look even better when etched into brass.
@Douglass: ...For the brass, of course there's Jake von Slatt's Steampunk Workshop site...
I LOVE that synthesizer -- I keep on going back and forth with regard to etching scroll work and words onto the brass plates ... I'm going to bounce over to Jake's site to take a look at what he has to say...
In keeping with the Steampunk look, I think that the "unlit" LEDs should be all set to a dim yelowish glow. Prehaps with a bit of "breathe" to cause you to envision this in front of a fireplace of gas light.
@ElizabethSimon: I think that the "unlit" LEDs should be all set to a dim yelowish glow.
Funnily enough, I was just chatting about this with my chum Ivan (the guy doing the battery articles -- his office is in the next bay over in this bulding).
I was saying much the same as you -- that in keeping with the Steampunk look, in normal operation the LEDs shoudl be different shades of yellow, orange, and red ... maybe violet also, but I'll have to think about that.
I can't wait to get the brass front panel in my hands -- hopefully we'll finish the layout tomorrow and then I'll have to see how long the machine shop will take...
In that century :-) buttons were often 2-shot molded ie. the text was a separate pinjection molding process. If this is the case you will see telltale signs looking into the back of the button.
As far as hiding the text, these days they print the text onto the background and then heat it with a laser to fuse the dye into the base plastic. Perhaps you can use this method to fuse a recoat with a solid colour??
It would take some experimenting with a laser engraving service that is willing to play or getting in contact with a button manufacturer
OR with all of the 3D printing services out there why not get some new buttons SLA'd, all you need to do is draw up an accurate 3D model and email off the STL file. This is probably your best and cheapest option.
Googling "3D printing services" turned up a whole swathe of them for me. Just don't do FDM or the powder method (can't remember the official name), SLA or polyjet type processes will be best.
@Etmax: In that century :-) buttons were often 2-shot molded ie. the text was a separate pinjection molding process. If this is the case you will see telltale signs looking into the back of the button....
I'm not sure if I can remove the buttons -- I'll have to check that out.
I do like the white because it goes with the white bobbles on the antique switches.
An alternative is to use the metal parts from old typewriter keys and replace the existing inlays with mother-of-pearl ... so many things to try...
@Max, that was a time of having everything servicable. What I'm saying is I'd be very surprised if it won't disassemble. I do understand your desire to keep it looking as "authentic" and "in character" as possible. I'm pretty sure bone is a colour available in 3D prointing. I guess the journey is an important part of this :-)
@Etmax: ...that was a time of having everything servicable. What I'm saying is I'd be very surprised if it won't disassemble.
Actually, I'd have to agree with you on that one -- I'll take a closer look at it as soon as it's back in my sweaty hands (currently it's with my chum Willie who is measuring it with a micrometer and creating the CAD models we'll use to machine the brass front panel),
I like the idea of it being slightly unpredictable, so why limit yourself to showing the status of the potentiometer itself? You could show the 'true' value of whatever you're adjusting instead. So for example when the 2nd potentiometer shows 3 green lights, the 1st works normal, but if it shows 4 or more then the true value of the 1st is multiplied by 1.5, but for every 3 LEDs you move it the 2nd potentiometer loses an LED (but doesn't move the pot, if it's 6+, then the pot gets moved but the LEDs stay the same). With the acceleration (or deceleration) effects you can also use the bottom 3.
As for the colors and effects, maybe you can use blinking at different speeds to further differentiate the states. So the LED blinks faster until your turn the pot enough to fully turn it on.
@Samuel: I like the idea of it being slightly unpredictable, so why limit yourself to showing the status of the potentiometer itself?
I think I've got a bit of this in that -- once you've set up the initial conditions/values for your inamorata -- if she changes one of the motorized potentiometers -- after a few seconds the others will adjust their values to compensate. But I will ponde ryour ideas -- th egreat thing about thsi engine is that it's all under software control, so we can try a variety of different algorithms.
@Samuel: As for the colors and effects, maybe you can use blinking at different speeds to further differentiate the states. So the LED blinks faster until your turn the pot enough to fully turn it on.
Good idea -- in fact I'm also going to do some of that with regard to the LEDs lighting the vacuum tubes -- there's going to be some sort of proximity sensing capability -- when someone approaches the engine, the LEDs will respond in some way -- possibly by cycling faster.
Max...those motorised pots are very nice....I tried to get a couple recently when a supplier had them on special, but they had sold out :-(
Love the bobbly toggle switch...but what is the copper thingy above it?
For your telephone switches you could try a brass polish to get rid of the letters. The stuff we have here is called (strangely) Brasso. It's very mildly abrasive (so will remove scratches etc and probably paint) but very finely so, so it will give a nice finish. I have used it for removing scratches from meter faces. You may need to use very fine emery paper first (600 or better).
@David: Love the bobbly toggle switch...but what is the copper thingy above it?
The bobbly switches are really tasty, but from the front you will see the nuts used to attach them to the panel -- I'm hoping to use the copper dome things (with slots milled in them to accomodate the movement of the switches armatures) to hide the nuts and add more visual interest.
@Max,Antedeluvian - toothpaste also contains mild abrasive - probably slightly coarser than Brasso, but it should also do the job, or maybe use both - toothpaste first then Brasso to give a nice shiny finish.
You stated in your article that the potentiameter that you're using only has 300 degrees of rotation. The limited rotation would then prevent you from lighting 3 of the LEDs on the front panel. Since the NeoPixel LEDs that you're going to be using are individually addressable would it make sense to equate the potentiameter position to the number of LEDs that would light up?
Using a ring of 20 LEDs and a 300 degree potentiameter one LED could be lit for every 15 degrees of pot rotation. The trick here would be placing the output of the potentiameter on a ADC circuit (some examples can be found in the Rasberry Pi community) which in turn would feed the LED controller. With that working not only would you be able to light all 20 LEDs, but you could also assign different effects to potentiameter position. Say every 10% increase in pot rotation changes the brightness level, or above a certain pot range the LEDs begin a "breathing" routine. One could even set the LEDs to "count" in binary. With each LED representing a bit the ADC output could be used to light LEDs as follows:
With one equal to on - 0001, 0010, 0011, 0100, 0101, 0110, 0111, 1000...
@Templar nice ideas, there are all sorts of effects you could do along those lines. Maybe when the pot position is changed (ie you detect a different level with the ADC) the leds could go wild for a while (rotating patterns etc) for a few seconds, then settle down to indicate the level. The more complex the changes the better :-)
Years ago I read how they used a sandblasting pen (turned way down) to clean the Dead Sea Scrolls. Here is on example of a micro-sandblaster (http://www.scmsysteminc.com/sandblasting.php ) although I don't know where you might borrow one.
I like your buy one before deciding to use it approach. There's so much you can't tell until you've got some wonderful (maybe....) piece of equipment in your hand.
I like to do this myself; often, I'll add a cool connector I haven't played with to an order, or buy some groovy automation stuff from eBay if the price is right, and sometimes it will get used in production later.
I can't do that with expensive stuff, but when buying from our distributors, we'll sometimes use eval P.O.'s.
Really? Max, you're showing your youth! I've only seen a couple in real life, but I think I have one "somewhere in the basement." They were often used as a visual indicator of signal strength when tuning in a station on old radios. Later we had meters, then bouncing Vacuum Fluorescent Displays, and now we have bouncing LEDs or LCDs.
@Stargzr: They were often used as a visual indicator of signal strength when tuning in a station on old radios.
They do look really tasty -- I don;t think I can add them to the main panel, because that's pretty much in the final stages of layout, and I don;t want to incure the "Wrath of Willy" (the guy who is kindly creating the 3D CAD drawings for me) ... but maybe for the Male Engine ... this could form the main display -- the big green dot in the lower-middle of the panel on the upper box (click here to see what I'm talking about).