Monday, October 25, 2010

Mannequin Leg Lamp

The 1983 movie A Christmas Story supplied the idea for this project when I happened upon a ladies mannequin leg at a local store. To clarify, the leg was for sale and I did pay for it.

So, in the movie A Christmas Story the father is awarded a leg lamp for winning a contest. Technically, the winning answer is supplied by his wife and when the prize shows up she is less than enthusiastic about it. But, the father is quite smitten with the leg lamp and the movie takes place in the 1940's so it's all good.

Here, I have just found and purchased the leg. As you can see, I am quite happy with the find.

I took the leg shoe shopping. Although I didn't find any shoes there to fit I did get some good information. The ladies at the store, who got a good laugh out of shoe shopping for a mannequin leg, said I would need a size 6, 4" heel. I suspect it is closer to a 6" heel that would be necessary.

 A local thrift store had these shoes available. Not a perfect match for the lamp in the movie or even a good match for the leg as it needs a higher heel but the size was right and so was the $3.60 price tag.

Halloween seems to be a good time to make one of these lamps as body parts and costume clothes are necessary ingredients. The stockings came from a seasonal Halloween shop. Sexay...

Here you can see the leg manufacture info it says RPM Industries, INC Shoe Form Division Auburn, NY. The designation #W-47 is probably the model number. You can also see that I have added a piece of poplar wood with a clearance hole for the lamp parts about to be installed.

With the parts from a donor lamp installed I could run the power cord.  I drilled a clearance hole in the leg approximately in between the inferior extensor retinaculum would be if this were a human leg.  Once threaded through the interior of the leg I tied a knot in the cord for strain relief.  Then I wired the bulb socket so that the center conductor was the AC "hot" wire and the threaded part was the AC "neutral".

One of the things I was struggling with design wise was how to mount the leg in the shoe on a base so that it will stand up and not wobble around.  I thought that a shoe like the one I found would be enough to strap it down and in the end it was ok, but I was a bit disappointed to find that the strap has a piece of elastic on it.  So, as it stands now, I have screwed the sole of the shoe to the base and have a little riser temporarily to make up for the slightly short heel.  The base of the lamp is a piece of locally reclaimed black walnut.  For now it is unfinished but I will pretty it up one day.

The stockings are infuriatingly difficult to stuff in the end of the shoe against the slippery plastic mannequin leg.  You can also see the local black walnut base here.

Here is the nearly finished product.  As you can see it is not an exact replica of the one in the movie.  For instance, my shade with the added tassels is a bit different and the leg in the movie was, um, meatier?  But, differences aside, anyone who as seen it thus, far immediately recalls the movie A Christmas Story.

Hur, Hur...

This is by no means a project of great technical achievement, but it was a heck of a lot of fun to build.  There is something to be said for spontaneous projects.  I did not set out to build or own one of these lamps - or any lamp at the time, but I found the leg and had a few hours to kill.

In the movie the father uses the words "glorious" and "magnificent" to describe his lamp and if I am honest with myself, truer words could not describe this lamp.  I find myself looking at it with satisfaction and sometimes turning it on just to have it on.  The pictures, unfortunately, do not do it justice.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

School Bell

Having several irons in the fire has never stopped me from opening the door when opportunity comes knocking. Ok, so this school bell didn't exactly "find" me so much as I was out at one of my usual haunts Treasure Mart looking for neat treasures when I came across IT.

It was labeled "School Bell - $8.00" and that was it. It rattled when I shook it, which turned out to be a mounting screw, surplus to requirement, left inside. Despite the mysterious rattle and the rusted condition of the bell it was too good of a find to pass up.

As you can see here it is labeled "The Autocall Co.". It also says [0].22 Amps, 24 Watts and 115-60. The last designation I take to mean 115 volts at 60 Hertz aka standard US AC voltage/frequency.

Immediately after getting home I opened it up to discover the bell's simple design. A spring dampened plunger in an AC solenoid. Each half of that 60Hz sine wave causing the plunger to move to and fro; ringing out that familiar and much awaited signal that class was over. This time, however, there would be no "Pete, please see me after class.". Shenanigans will abound.

The bell came with two 14 Ga. wires, one stranded the other solid, attached to the solenoid. Testing the bell by jamming these wires into an outlet controlled by a wall switch proved that the bell works. Not a surprising revelation after the visual inspection. However, needless to say, jamming bare wires into an outlet is not a long term solution to powering this bell and they were removed in favor of a two prong plug which you can see in the above pictures.

This thing really is quite loud. The microphone on my camera cannot pick up the audio too well until the amplitude falls within range.

Now, I have several ideas on what I will do with this bell in the future but I imagine nothing just yet. I think the application will present itself when the time is right. Perhaps an alarm to alert you the refrigerator door has been left open for too long. An alarm clock? Maybe use a PIR sensor to trigger the bell for a couple seconds anytime it "sees" a person enter a room. Or it could ring each time an email comes into my inbox. Certainly this serves as another reminder that an inductive vehicle detector loop is desirable in everyone's driveway. And of course with Halloween just around the corner it could be used to just plain scare the living daylights out of some poor unsuspecting soul. Let me know in the comment section what you would do with a school bell of your own.

A brief word on safety. Although this is called a school bell I believe they are also used in fire alarm systems. If nothing else I believe some people might interpret the sound to mean "DANGER". With this in mind I only activate the bell where those that can hear it are aware that the sound is not intended to signal any type of emergency condition. I encourage you to consider this possibility if you happen to come across such an item to play with too.