Glowing light bulbs in my hair: help me wear this piece of art
August 20, 2011 8:33 AM   Subscribe

Help me create a functional light bulb crown! I saw this amazing sculpture at an art walk this week, and I'd like to make it into something wearable for Burning Man. My guess is that I can start by buying this type of bulb, but I need some advice beyond that. Wiring type and strategy? Batteries? How about affixing them to my head? I have long hair and could do something creative with little buns - I want to secure everything in a minimalist way (no baseball hats) so that the focus is on the lights.
posted by red_rabbit to Technology (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't see how you're going to power something like that from batteries. That looks like more than 100 watts going on.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:46 AM on August 20, 2011

I wore a lighted costume in a parade once & we had to wear two heavy brick batteries on a harness. They were each about a third the size of a car battery. Maybe your power source will have to be worn in a backpack or something...
posted by jenmakes at 8:56 AM on August 20, 2011

What's your budget for this? If you use LED bulbs you could cut down the battery power requirements by 90% or so. LED bulbs should also run cooler than incandescents. They are kind of expensive, though.
posted by jedicus at 9:02 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

You'll probably want LEDs for this sort of thing. They'll need significantly less power, translating to much lighter batteries and MUCH less heat. You'll probably also want to work with only 12v. Though safety is a tertiary concern to burners, 120v is scary for something portable and right next to your head.

So what you actually looking for 12V (or lower!) LED Candelabra or chandelier bulbs.
posted by cr_joe at 10:08 AM on August 20, 2011

Best answer: LEDs, definitely. The power requirements for that thing are high and the heat would cook your head.

LED-powered christmas lights like these will give you a similar effect. I'd fashion a close-fitting headdress out of something like baling wire and zip-tie the xmas lights to that. The same vendor also has battery-powered lights, so you don't need to rig up an AC/DC converter—they don't have the nice big false-bulb over them, but you might be able to rig something up.
posted by adamrice at 10:24 AM on August 20, 2011

It seems like the tricky part is getting that nice huge bulb. One option: buy a battery powered string of christmas lights like adamrice suggested in the desired color. Next, get a bunch of regular old incandescent bulbs andin the shape you want and hollow them out. You might be able to fit the LED bulbs inside the old glass bulb. I'd probably use bobby pins to stick the wires through my hair, but you can probably come up with a more elegant solution.
posted by cr_joe at 10:50 AM on August 20, 2011

You really do not want to be messing with glass bulbs on the playa -- if anything breaks, and it definitely will, it will be a gigantic pain to clean up. Even worse if it's on your head.
posted by xil at 11:37 AM on August 20, 2011

LED battery operated party lights or tea lights. The tea lights could be attached to a mesh bathing cap with good glue. String lights could too, and you could put extra twist on the cord, so that each light would stick out on its own. It's a cool picture, and I think it could look very nifty.
posted by theora55 at 11:40 AM on August 20, 2011

and this looks helpful.
posted by theora55 at 11:45 AM on August 20, 2011

Nthing LEDs. You can get a bag of 100 superbrights on E-bay for $4 or $5, but that may take longer than you have. You can get them in various colors and mix and match to get exactly the effect you want.

LEDs typically need a resistor in series with them or they'll soak up enough current to pop. Also note that LEDs are one way current gates - an LED wired backwards won't light up. Here's a good calculator to walk you through choosing resistors - some of the deals on E-bay come with resistors.

If you want it to burn steady just wire up your LEDs and your done. Making it flicker is a little tougher and is going to require running more wires up to your hat or wearing a bunch of tiny circuit boards on your head (which you might be able to bury in your hair but I think are mostly going to be a pain.

Sculpt the flame shapes from something translucent (I'd use Styrofoam if this was a one time thing, but it you want it to last the week you probably ought to go with something more durable. Or you could just make backups.) and build the whole thing on one or more Alice band type headbands using some heavy wire as both conductors and superstructure.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:42 PM on August 20, 2011

Response by poster: Please excuse the ridiculously long delay in my response! A huge *thank you* to all who responded with the LED lights suggestion. This ended up being a cheap, light and cool solution. Here is what I went with, now 8 bones on Amazon.

The sad part of the story is that my order was down to the wire, and these shipped a day late, so I wasn't able to make the crown/headdress before leaving for Burning Man. Maybe next year (and will post a pic of the results if I do). Good call, theora55 - love the idea of using a mesh bathing cap for this.

The silver lining is that I was able to use these to take what was a kind of slapdash Halloween costume effort to the next level! I went as City Mouse (my partner was Country Mouse), and we had fashioned the NYC skyline out of cardboard and attached it to my shoulders. The magic happened when I threaded the lights through little holes I'd cut into my jacket and up into the buildings - the windows lit up like a real skyline at night! Here's a pic.
posted by red_rabbit at 2:12 AM on January 3, 2012

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