Fifth Element: miniature stones now illuminated!

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Mike Rush

Well-Known Member
A few years ago a very kind member here - whose name I forget, somebody help me out please! - offered these casts of the Fifth Element stones in miniature. Did you ever do anything with yours?



Here's what I did with mine. ;)

I wanted to have a go at painting them but I was worried about messing it up, so I thought I might as well make myself backup copies first. Then I thought "wouldn't it be fun to make them in the open mode", as you never see replicas like that.

I took some screencaps and drew up plans for my estimate of how big the glowing tops should be. My idea was to make clear tops and somehow light them from below with LEDs in the correct colours. At some point I realised I could save myself a lot of work by simply making the whole stone, with its top, in clear resin. An LED concealed in the stone would transmit the light up into the top. That was the theory, anyway.

To make the moulds I would need to modify my stones with masters for the top section. So, lacking any CNC or fancy gizmos, I began by casting myself a long prism of resin, in a foamex trough I quickly put together at about a 120° angle.



This prism was then chopped into four pieces, each of which was sanded down to the correct size and then polished as much as I could. These were then lightly but securely glued to the tops of the stones.



An RTV mould was then made, of all four stones. If I was doing it again I would have moulded them individually, as removing the casts from this big chunk of rubber is quite a task!



Then, using my experience from another recent project, I poured casts in clear resin. Once out of the mould I couldn't resist trying one out. Here I'm simply holding a torch to the base of the stone.



Yes, there are lots of bubbles. What I learned through testing was that for once, bubbles are good! You need them there. If the casting was perfectly clear, the light would have nothing to bounce off and the effect would be negligible.

I drilled holes from the base of each stone to nearly the top, the correct size to take 5mm LEDs.



I cut tiny trapezium-shapes from foamex, sanded them down so that they were all the same size, and glued them to the centre of each top edge. These represent the little 'locks' which swivel down before the special effects kick in. :)

I masked off the clear top parts, taking the opportunity to tape a tongue depressor to each. (Always nice to have something to hold while painting.) I also remembered to mask off the hole at the bottom, as if paint had accidentally sprayed inside it could have ruined the project!



I sprayed each stone with white primer, then a coat of black to try and cut down the light showing through from inside. Then primer again as a base for the colour, then about three shades of Tamiya acrylics to give the aged stone effect. I'm not that good with paint but I was quite pleased with the result.



I hadn't really thought about what kind of base to do for these. All I really needed was something they could stand on, which I could hide batteries inside. Looking around I found this cupboard light (from the pound shop). I realised it could make quite a nice base, plus it already had a battery hatch!



I checked the back, hoping for the usual screws so that I could take it apart. No such luck; it seemed to be either glued or welded together, and certainly not designed to be disassembled. Oh well, it was only a pound - I inserted a screwdriver through the battery hatch and, with a hammer, shattered the light-diffusing dome. I removed the plastic and threw it away. This left me with an open-topped round base. Looking inside I found that sure enough, there were four posts which had been permanently glued into their sockets. I didn't mess about trying to unglue them, just used a Dremel to sever the posts! I removed the light bulb and wires, and saved the switch for later. :)

I took some black plasticard and measured and cut a disc which would fit snugly inside the rim. I wanted to reinforce it from behind, and I found that an old CD superglued to the back was the perfect size. :) I then laid out and drilled four holes, and wired up the LEDs to some batteries and a switch. Finally I could put everything back together. At the moment it's just a dry-fit, but in time I might glue the back on or add screws or something. The switch is loose inside the battery hatch for now - whether I find a better place for it remains to be seen.



I think the white is too incongruous, so I may spray the base black to match the plasticard, or perhaps a sand colour. I haven't decided.

At last, I could press the switch and:



There it is. All four stones ablaze in the right colours (I hope). Sadly there is some leakage through the paint - which is amazing when I think how many times each stone was painted - so I will consider ways to insulate the sides of the LED to reduce the light in all directions but up.

Now I see the photos I realise some of the tops aren't 100% straight but as I said, I was trying to do all this with just eyeballs and sandpaper. I haven't seen it at night, but so far it looks pretty good. When I first switched it on it reminded me of Christmas lights, which is a shame but I think unavoidable unless you know what you're supposed to be looking at.

The other criticism I have is that the green LED (Earth) is a bit too close to blue, kind of a mint green. I'd rather have a nice pure leaf green.

Or grass! Trees! Crystal! Any kind of green you can...

Bzzz-zzz-zzzz!

:lol
 

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division 6

Master Member
Very cool little project.

I've wanted to make a set of full sized area lights like that for some time now.
 

zorg

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
one of the coolest things i've seen on here.

i think they recommend using silver paint to stop light bleed.

how did you keep all the bubbles in?

-z
 

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Alan Castillo

Master Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
This is so, so cool, and thoroughly original !! :cool :cool :cool

Imagine that on full sized ones :thumbsup
 

Trilogy

Sr Member
They work to great effect, Mike. Very nicely done.

The base does indeed require a little attention. As you say, perhaps a sand colour to complement the stones themselves. As for the lights, inserting a piece of metallic/foil paper cut and rolled to the desired size may help to prevent leakage whilst also enhancing the strength of colour and brightness.
 

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Nexus6

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
This is TOTALLY excellent. I still have my miniature stones from the original run, & I've been pondering how I wanted to finish them up. This project of yours is FAR beyond anything I had dreamed up.

Frigging BRAVO!!!

Or should that be: SUPERGREEN.
 

Garthok

Sr Member
Another amazing job. They look fantastic..gees I use that word a lot on the RPF.
Now you need to sculpt the Fifth Element in the center
 

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Mike Rush

Well-Known Member
Thanks all, glad you like them. :)

Zorg, the bubbles take care of themselves! I have no vacuum or pressure equipment so when I mix the resin some air gets in, and when I pour the stones this is what I get. I have no control over it except for how vigorously I stir the resin. In fact I did another set after this in which there are lots more tiny bubbles, more like a fizzy drink. I think they look better than these when the light is applied to them.

Re the light leakage, I did a test on a spare stone before I made these four, and what I found was that a coat of black and a coat of silver were equally effective at stopping light. Neither was perfect, but I thought the subsequent coats of paint would stop it down completely. How wrong I was. :confused

I have now tried removing the LEDs and wrapping the sides (and back end) with black electrical tape. This cuts the light down to zero as far as I can see. However as soon as I re-insert them the stones light back up again, almost as much as before! I think what's happening is that the light from the top of the LED is bouncing around inside the clear stone and coming back down. I suppose I could drill my channels further up so that the LED is closer to the top of the stone and there's less room for reflection, but I kept them short because I really wanted to make sure you couldn't see the LED itself from the outside.

I think the only option would be to go back a step and not have the whole piece in clear resin - if I pour the top part in clear, let that set and then without removing it pour the rest in beige (or black) resin, that ought to cure the problem. But it's a bit more work.

Anyway, regardless of that I tried painting the base part to get rid of the white plastic. Here's one I did in black:



and here's one in a sort of stone-y effect:



I can't decide which I like better but they're definitely an improvement on the white. :cool
 

Berserk

Well-Known Member
they look awesome dude, do the 5th Element with a super bright led coming out the mouth.

On to a theoretic question though, isn't this technically recasting? You took someone else's work and recast it, then made a couple of alteration. Is that ok?
 

Trilogy

Sr Member
Anyway, regardless of that I tried painting the base part to get rid of the white plastic. Here's one I did in black:



and here's one in a sort of stone-y effect:



I can't decide which I like better but they're definitely an improvement on the white. :cool
Though one could argue it takes a little attention away from the stones themselves, I prefer the latter.
 

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