Plumbob: The Making

As anyone who knows me will know, I’m a huge Sims 3 fan.  I also love making stuff.  Recently on the Sims 3 Facebook page they promoted their Plumbob paper craft template.  Like any other sim fan lemming, I made one, but I couldn’t stop there…

Let’s back up a bit though.  Even the people who know I like the sims may not know what a Plumbob is.  It is the Green (sometimes Amber, and sometimes Red) Diamond thing that floats above a sim character to show you who you’re manipulating in the game.  The whole premise of the game is that you play a simulated family, 1-8 characters (more if you have special mods) and you can make them fall in love, have children and climb the professional ladder of your choice.

But I’m not going to go into all the fun little details of the game.  What I want to share is my joy at putting my mind to an idea and coming out with an item that is a really close approximation of what I wanted to make.  It isn’t perfect in my opinion, but the artist is usually the hardest critic of their own work, right?  Anyway, it came out nearly exactly the way I wanted it to, only difference was I wanted one that I could change the color on, but one that just lights up green will work.  It’s the color of the plumbob that tells you generally how the sim feels.  Green is happy, Amber is slightly upset or annoyed, Red means extremely angry or sad.  Unfortunately I don’t have the knowledge or materials to create a switch that would allow me to make a plumbob that could change color.  I’m sure with the right tools and a bit of instruction I could figure it out, but this idea was not about to wait as long as it would take to get all the right materials and find someone willing to walk me through the electrical part of the build.  So, the light idea would have to be flexible, and considering I wanted any materials I got to be affordable and manipulation of them to also be affordable, stained glass would be out of the question.

A little off topic, two men of whom I like to call friend both brought up stained glass, and though I can agree that it would be a beautiful pulmbob…no.  Just no.  Think about it, this is supposed to be a Diamond Shaped object.  From the get go the triangles are going to have sharp points.  Yes the metal that would put them together would cover the edges but that doesn’t keep the top and even the bottom from having a point.  Plus I have a two-year old and a rambunctious eight-year old who likes to bring over many rambunctious eight year olds to play.  The glass wouldn’t last a month.  But lets not forget that glass has weight, and for the size I wanted, I would end up with several pounds, and I’m going to put this on my head? AND expect a headband to be able to hold it?  Better be wide, thick and made of steel, which would add more weight to an already weighty piece.  Now one of the guys suggested a plumbob that would hang like a chandelier.  My eye twitches, cause I’d never want to stand underneath that!  I don’t care how sturdy you say all the joints and such are, I’d never get near that, my luck would never hold up.  So, glass no.

There was one fan that made the paper craft plumbob using a thin sheet of projector paper.  I believe they either colored it with a marker or just printed the template directly onto the sheet.  I agree that clear plastic would be the best option, but I would not be willing to walk around with a plumbob that could get wrinkled.  Again, I have a toddler and an energetic young boy, I’m surprised my paper plumbob has stood up as well as it has.  So, the plastic I’d use would have to be thicker.  At first the only thing that I could think of was my husband’s Mountain Dew bottles.  Somehow I’d soften them enough to flatten them then use any bladed object I could to cut it into the proper shapes.  My main problem was, they’d still have some give in the plastic.  But I couldn’t see myself doing it out of pop bottles, I didn’t want to make it out of pop bottles, so my drive to work at making one out of pop bottles was nil, plus, how could I even think of making the plumbob, when I didn’t even have a light source, or a real plan of how to attach the light source properly.

So it seemed that my ideas for plumbob would be like most cool creative ideas I have, and sit in my head for me to look at later and say, “that would have been so cool!”  Then Duane mentioned making a set of dice out of shrinky dinks.  Shrinky Dinks! I smacked myself in the head.  What is a D10 but a plumbob missing two facets?  If one can make dice out of the fun plastic, then you can make a plumbob.  I looked and found that Hobby Lobby carries the crafty plastic sheets, so I planned on maybe snagging some the next time I did my grocery shopping.

Still no light source though.  I looked at everything online from fiber optics, flashlights, to just LEDs…as in the individual bulbs without a battery or lamp.  I was leaning towards making LED throw aways to just sick inside my plumbob, a nine volt battery LED flashlight,  and an LED flashlight that has different color settings.

Now the color changing flashlight was like fourteen dollars.  Marketing this item (the plumbob) would be hella expensive if I were to try, and I was hoping to keep the total cost to me of the plumbob somewhere between ten and twenty dollars.  It would have been difficult to attach to a headband.  Even though it was a mini flashlight, only about as big as the palm of my hand, I would still have to sit it on my head and then attach a plumbob above it.  The taller the piece, the more wiggle.  Considering how much the one I made wiggles now, and it’s not suspended above my head, but attached to the headband directly, I believe the flashlight would not have worked well.  I’d need something more compact.  attachment to the plumbob would have also been an issue because I wanted all the light to be inside, that would mean a quarter size hole at the bottom of my plumbob, effectively keeping it from looking like a full plumbob. by chopping the bottom tip off.  Then I would have to hot glue it onto the face of the flashlight.  I just didn’t feel right putting a cheep plastic, but very cool plumbob and glueing it right onto a more expensive flashlight.  Just didn’t seem like it would look right.  The only thing it had going for it was that the color could be changed.  Sure I would’ve gotten more colors than I wanted, but I could change it from green, to amber, to red at will.  A major plus, and it was the closest I’d come to that kind of capability.

The nine volt battery flashlight is just an LED in a plastic cap that snaps on top of a nine volt battery.  The plumbob would still be slightly suspended above my head, but it would be shorter, and more easily encased in say a nine volt shaped cup that I could make out of more shrinky dinks, colored black, and hot glued to the headband.  The caps cost about five to eight dollars each, depending on where you got them from.  The plumbob tip would not have to be cut off nearly so much to fit it over the LED bulb, and with three separate caps I could make a red, green and amber plumbob to attach to each.  Then changing the color would involve uncaping one and attaching another.  Problem is it would involve carrying three separate plumbobs for one accessory, which would reduce the size I was hoping for each plumbob to cut down on the volume being toted around.  Changing the battery would be a breeze though.  We run into the same money problem as before, though.  Even three caps at about five dollars is still fifteen dollars plus shipping.  One cap could be doable though, and I wouldn’t have felt nearly as odd about attaching a plastic plumbob to a plastic light source.

The final one, a throwaway LED inside a plumbob would be the least expensive, at about five dollars for twenty throw away kits.  A kit includes the bulbs, three volt batteries and simple instructions.  The problem is they are throw aways, so they aren’t meant to last.  There’s no on off switch, so permanently attaching a plumbob to it would be ridiculous.  However I’m starting to think about a hatch idea.  It’s not a bad idea now that I think of it, I’d just have to work on a hinge and snap to open and close my plumbob to replace the throwaway when it burns out.  Ah the gears are at work again!

In the end I did something else anyway.  I was in the Dollar Tree, thinking if I can’t buy what I need from the internet, maybe I could find a book light or something from there to take apart.  Lo and behold, there by the front were safety lights.  These are lights made to clip onto your belt or something when you are out walking, jogging, biking or trick-or-treating at night.  A quick test of them showed that they had on/off capabilities, and two different flashing settings if I so chose.  Inside the plastic casing I could see three LEDs and once I got rid of the plastic casing around them I’d be able to manipulate them into fitting inside a small hole in the near bottom of my Plumbob.  After taking it home and taking it apart I found that it ran on two three volt batteries that were replaceable.  Above all else, I fell in love with the price.  One whole measly dollar.  Even if I did break it beyond repair, I’m only out one buck.  In my world, when experimenting, one must make sure that the amount of possible loss is minimal, it’s just the way I was raised.  I’m happiest when I don’t waste money, or when I’ve saved a lot of money.  Well that and I love to wrap my mind around making things.

So, light in hand, I ran down the strip mall to the Hobby Lobby, and nothing short of a huge price would’ve kept me from getting any, well that and if the only type they had, had been ones with things printed on them, I can’t use that.  Well they had the clear plastic, which is what I wanted, and at about six dollars.  It suggests using a certain type of permanent marker, but I’ll tell you now, sharpie works just fine, and I bought a set of other colors, and they work fine too.  Now, for those of you that don’t know what they are, Shrinky Dinks shrink, just as their name suggest.  Their appeal is that when they shrink (about one-third of their size) they also thicken and harden.  This, ofcorse is their appeal to me, and attachment is as easy as a hot glue gun, though I did try tacky glue…didn’t work.  I wanted my plumbob to be as big as possible, because I knew that everything I put in the oven would shrink.  Since only ten sheets come in each package, two triangles to each sheet was the biggest I could go.  Now that I think of it, I don’t believe I could’ve made it any bigger than that because the triangles went the length of the page anyway.  Only way it would’ve been bigger may have been going diagonally, which I’m still doubtful whether it would’ve been much longer,  definitely would’ve made the rest of the page unusable for the other triangles though.  Several days of cutting and baking happened.  Then came the odious task of filing the edges to slight angles so that they would fit into a diamond like shape.  Thankfully we have an all-purpose tool that has a metal file on it.  Once I had all of them filed properly, I used tape and my paper plumbob (which happened to be the same size as the baked plastic) to make the shape of the top half of the plumbob, hot glued it and tested what it looked like with the light in it.  Then I made the bottom,  this had to have more thought cause I had a lite that had to go into it.  The way the light source was made, I could have half of the bottom be a full plumbob and the other half would encircle the light and sit on the casing..  However, when I glued it together and tried to put it with the top, I found that they didn’t mesh.  This would not do.  I was not going to have an unevenly shaped plumbob.  So I separated the triangles and peeled off the cooled hot glue.  Knowing that I needed the bottom as I had it, and that the top could go together differently to fit the bottom I started by attaching one top triangle to one bottom  ending up with two halves, length wise attached by one piece of tape on the top so that it would open and close like a clam.  Then I put hot glue in the inside cracks, saving the mouth of the clam for last.  I hot glued the plumbob to the light, and attached the entire thing to the headband with a black pipe cleaner and Voila! Light up plumbob headband!

***update*** I ended up hot gluing the light source to the headband directly,and it stays very well.  Now there’s a debate about going as a Sim for Halloween this year.  My husband says he won’t go with me if I do, but what other time am I going to have so perfect a time to wear it?


About Cici Brown
I'm a happily married mother of two and a half. I'm usually pretty bubbly and in some cases, according to my husband, too open about everything. I am and always will be a gamer geek, though I haven't table-top roleplayed for many years. I still manage to hit an MMO or two. My interests include most things geek and Vampire fiction, though not the sparkly kind, that's not vampire fiction. I have goals towards publishing that have yet to be fulfilled but one day...

2 Responses to Plumbob: The Making

  1. Pingback: Random ‘Award’ (I swear, it’s the last chain I’ll ever do!) « Cecilia's Blog

  2. Pingback: Spam is getting creative… | Ladybug's Blog

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