You’ll notice that these instructions are very sparse on images. At this time I have only completed the text of the guide. Even though the images will be necessary to make sense of these instructions I am providing them now as an incentive for me to return to finish this guide at a later date.
This is a guide to making a USB powered squid lamp, similar to but not exactly like the one pictured below.
If you would like to commission a fully assembled lamp, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Current pricing is $90USD / $120AUD per lamp before shipping.
I have included some basic price guides including shipping fees, but you can likely source some parts for cheaper! Prices are in AUD. Some of the links are affiliate links – using these to order your parts helps support me!
Used to illuminate the eyes. 1 metre will supply almost 4 lamps.
You could cut individual LEDs from the 100IP30 strip and space them out instead of buying this separate strip type. Filling the entire eye space with a 100IP30 segment is overkill so I use this more sparse strip as a convenience.
You will need access to the following specialised equipment. If you don’t own these yourself look out for your local Makerspace or tool library!
Laser engraving machine
Oven and/or heat gun
You could use your home oven but I prefer to use a dedicated crafting oven.
Step 1: Cut the acrylic
Peel the protective paper from the back sides of the black and frosted acrylic. Leave the paper on the side that faces upwards while in your laser cutter. The paper will provide protection for the parts while we work on assembly.
Frosted parts file: DXF / SVG (Dimensions: 434×219.9mm)
Black parts file: DXF / SVG (Dimensions: 367.58×201.26 mm)
In these files red lines should be cut, blue and green should be vector engraved (ie, cut but with less power).
Blue lines should be a kiss cut allowing for the front protective paper to be peeled off. The green line should be a slightly deeper cut to assist bending of the tentacles.
Step 2: Glue the face plates
Peel the areas of the frosted pieces that correspond to black parts.
You should now be able to align the black pieces with the exposed frosted sections and glue them in place.
I apply the Weld-On 3 by dipping an old paintbrush into the glue. I then touch the wet paintbrush to where the two pieces of acrylic meet and the glue is drawn into place via capillary action. This creates a strong bond within a minute.
⚠️ Wear appropriate PPE when working with solvent glues. Nitrile gloves, safety goggles and a respirator are recommended.
Step 3: Bend the side walls
Preheat your oven to 160°C
Peel the protective paper off the rectangular pieces of frosted acrylic. If left on, these pieces would leave sticky residue on the parts as we bend them.
I recommend working on one piece at a time. Place each piece in the oven and let it sit for about 5 minutes. It should be floppy when you pull it out. If the piece forms bubbles it has sat in the oven for too long.
Form the pieces into shape using the black outline of the face plate as a guide. You’ll be using the long piece to form the top head of the squid, the two identical pieces to make the left and right tentacles and the shorter piece with the groove in the middle of it to form the middle tentacles.
If you cannot fit the full length of the piece into the oven at once you can first bend it by heating it with a heat gun or by placing the piece in the oven with the door open so that half of the sheet can be bent.
If you don’t have an oven that you feel comfortable placing your acrylic into you can heat your pieces using a heat gun. You’ll need to work slowly, bending in sections rather than forming the full shape in one go.
⚠️ Wear heat proof gloves when handling the hot acrylic!
It can be difficult to bend the sheets correctly. I have included some files for jigs that can be cut from 3mm MDF.
To use the two-part jigs, rest the hot piece of acrylic against the bottom piece, then press the top piece into it to create the indentations.
The large jig is designed for the long piece of acrylic to be wrapped around it. Hold the ends in place so that they cool without expanding outwards again.
To speed up cooling of the piece, you can wave the pieces in the air so that cool air passes over them quickly, or blow cool air across them.
Step 4: Cut the socket hole
This guide assumes that you’ll wind the USB cable through a hole in the side of the lamp.
There are alternatives (my current lamp design provides a micro USB socket on the outside) but they’re complicated enough that I won’t go into them in this document.
Drill/cut a large hole in the side big enough for the whole micro USB cable to fit through
Cut an approx 5mm diameter hole then bisect the piece through the hole
The option you pick will depend on which aesthetic tradeoff you prefer. For 1, the large hole will cause the insides of the lamp to be seen from some angles. 2 will have a visible line across the wall where the piece was split into separate parts.
Step 5: Glue the sides
One of the face plates has a slot in its tentacle. Place it face down (with the black acrylic on the bottom, and the frosted on top).
Glue the walls of the lamp to the edges of this piece.
If you cut the side tentacle in half in the previous step, then remember to feed the USB cable through the hole before gluing the walls in place!
Step 6: Make the eye sheath
The eye sheath holds the two plates of the lamp together without any glue! It also holds the LED strips, allowing for beautiful illumination of the edges of the lamp.
Cut a length of 1mm boxboard to 38x265mm. I recommend cutting the long side against the grain – you want to be able to easily bend the long loop. This video explains how to find the grain of your sheet.
Mark two parallel lines 14mm away from the long edge. This marks a 10mm gap in the middle to align your LED strips to. Flip over the piece and mark lines on the opposite side, too.
Line both long edges of the piece with masking tape. The tape protects the edge of the cardboard and provides friction when inserted into the squid’s face plates.
Bend the cardboard in half, then slowly curl the cardboard in the opposite direction of this bend. You are aiming to make the shape of the eye mask of the squid.
It can help to slot the piece into one of the face plates as you work. There should be about a 3mm gap between the ends of the cardboard.
Join the loop with a piece of masking tape on the top and bottom, leaving a gap to allow the LED strip to pass through.
Step 7: Make the LED strip
When working with addressable LEDs, take note of the arrows denoting the direction of the data line.
Start of strip ➡️➡️➡️➡️ End of strip
Cut a length of 100IP30 strip to 26 LEDs long (26cm) – this piece will be called Segment A from now on
Cut a length of 30IP30 strip to 8 LEDs long (approx 26.6cm) – this piece will be called Segment B
Cut a piece of heatshrink, 1-2cm long
Slide the heatshrink over the start of Segment B, and push it clear of the solder pads. Align Segment A and Segment B, making sure to double check the direction of the data line and that the correct terminals are in contact.
The 5V, data and G pads of each segment should meet their corresponding pads on the other segment.
The arrows should face in the same direction, with Segment A leading INTO Segment B.
After joining the strips, pull the heatshrink over the join and shrink it there, providing protection for the connection you just made.
Solder power, data and ground wires to the start of Segment A. These should be about 7cm long.
Once happy with your wire joins, you can shrink a 1cm piece of heatshrink over them for protection.
Step 8: Attach the LED strip to the eye sheath
Crease Segment A after the 13th LED by facing the LEDs towards another and pinching the cut line.
Peel the backing off of Segment A and nestle the crease that you just made in the halfway fold of the eye sheath, lining up the strip with the guide lines you drew on earlier. Now stick down the sides of this segment, taking care to stay between the lines as you wrap the strip around the cardboard.
Feed the end of Segment B into the gap in the eye sheath and bend the heatshrink-covered area back over itself. You can now remove the adhesive from the back of Segment B and affix the strip to the inner face of the eye sheath.
Step 9: Prepare the controller
Connect the Wemos D1 mini into your computer using a micro USB cable. Install WLED to the controller at http://install.wled.me/
Desolder the LED on the board – otherwise the blue light may interfere with the appearance of your coloured LEDs.
Desolder the Reset button (optional – depending on how you orient the controller it may be more likely to bump the reset button accidentally).
Solder your wires from the LED strip to the adjacent 5V, G and D4 terminals. Take care to connect the correct leads to the right terminals! The LED strip has the 5V and G lines on opposite sides, while the Wemos has 5V and G next to one another.
If everything has been done correctly – plugging the D1 into power will light up 30 of the LEDs on the strip in an orange colour.
Step 10: WLED settings
Connect to the WLED Access point. Default SSID WLED-AP, password wled1234
If you’ve connected WLED to your home network, replace the 126.96.36.199 with the IP of the lamp. You can find the IP address by checking the list of devices on your router, or by installing the iOS or Android WLED apps and searching for devices.
Step 11: Enclose the lamp
Slide the Wemos controller into the slot in the frosted acrylic. This slot provides a snug home for it to stay in the lamp and hides a lot of the shadow that would be cast by the controller.
Check that the cardboard eye sheath is smoothly bent and slot it into the body of the squid (the face plate that you’ve attached the walls to).
The other face plate can now be fitted over the eye sheath. You may need to jiggle it somewhat for it to fit snugly. Be patient and feel for how the cardboard fits into its slot. Once it’s in place the black border of the face plate will be flush with the walls.
Optional: Before attaching the face plate, line the walls of the squid with double-sided sticky tape. This provides some additional adhesion to hold your lamp together while still providing the option to reopen the lamp in the future if you need to do maintenance.
Now that lamp is fully assembled you can remove all of the protective paper! It’s done!
There are a few differences between the lamp in this guide and the lamps I am currently making. Incorporating the below changes are left as an exercise for the reader
The power port. My v4 lamp includes a micro USB socket on the side, instead of threading the cable through the side of the lamp. I also take the 5V power from this socket instead of from the 5V pin on the Wemos D1 Mini, allowing me to set a higher current limit in the WLED settings.
This guide advises permanent solder connections instead of temporary connectors. I’ve used connectors like the JST XH2.54 (Dupont connectors would also work) to allow me to swap various parts in and out – this can be good for making and testing many lamps at once or for replacing a single module of the lamp if it is damaged.
At the time, I was running Splatoon LAN events and I thought to myself…
What if… I made squid-shaped lights to match the player icons that appear at the top of the screen during gameplay?
What if… I also combined it with the uptime tracking code in Ikalog to dynamically change the status of each light based on whether a player was active or splatted?
Then at a LAN, we could have a light stationed in front of each player to emphasise what was happening to them throughout the game!
Then I did nothing with the idea. Every few months I’d longingly watch DIY RGB panel videos on YouTube before getting stuck on deciding how ambitious to make the build and then moving onto something else.
When Splatoon 2 came out it set the idea back a bit. Ikalog didn’t receive any updates beyond the Splatoon 2 testfire. In particular, the code to track player uptime in Splatoon 2 needed some creative problem solving; the icons change size based on the game state, making it harder to get a lock on them to determine their correct state. In September last year I did get a version of the tracking working. (I might write a separate blog post about some of this?)
Somewhere in my brain, the Splatoon RGB Light project itched, but it wasn’t strong enough to pull me away from the other projects I was tinkering with at the time. I wasn’t going to be at any LANs for the foreseeable future, so was there any point?
Then, a year later, my dad was working on some lamps of his own – beautiful, intricate wood-carved pieces. I took the opportunity to throw together a nightlight to use with his LEDs.
I literally did the designs for the nightlight on the bus, and had it cut and assembled within an hour of getting home.
It was so simple and effective that I got thinking again about the Splatoon light panels. Even if I didn’t get the gameplay integration working, they were going to look cool on their own!
Before making 8 (or 16, to include Octolings) light panels, I thought I’d start by making a single freestanding lamp, to test the light transmission and generally get a feel for the components involved.
What is a light box made up of? It’s simply a light source with a diffuser. A little distance between the light source and the diffusing material allows the light to have an even glow.
My original mockups for the lamp was a double-shelled container. The RGB light strip would run around the inner perimeter and then pass into another light-blocked area for the eyes, and the space between the two shells would provide room for electronics to be hidden. I ordered a 1m length of WS2812 lights as the light source.
While I have a laser cutter that allows me to cut pieces to accurate size, this design required curved shapes. I contacted 3D Prototypes And Models and Dan quoted >$100 for the printing. The large perimeters being printed up to 5cm tall resulted in an estimated 14 hour print job.
“Ok,” I thought, “I’ll drop the walls to 4cm. I’m willing to pay for one print, maybe I’ll just make the one lamp and end the project there.”
But then I started mocking up how the lamp would look and it felt… too small. I scaled up the design as far as I could to use the full meter of the LED strip. Well now it’s gonna cost even more to 3D print the shell and might be too large for the 3D printers available (not really, but I was starting to look for an excuse to not spend the money on 3D printing when the end goal was to make a number of these things).
Plus, Dan advised that the honeycomb structure of the 3D print would likely show through any illumination from inside the lamp. It was time to tackle things differently…
I have been wanting to experiment with acrylic bending for a while, but the right opportunity hadn’t presented itself. I hadn’t seriously considered it for this project because it seemed too cumbersome to try to accurately bend the pieces. But then I found this video, where the side walls of acrylic lettering was hand-shaped using a heat gun, and I realised this was pretty similar to what I would be trying to achieve.
I asked to borrow my mum’s heat gun, but while waiting for her to dig it up I also had thoughts about making a DIY acrylic bender, or maybe heating up the acrylic in an oven.
Side Story: Toaster Oven
I had a toaster oven that I’d bought second hand to bake polymer clays in (I bought the oven from an older lady named Alethia who did a double take when I responded to her Gumtree post). But after just a few projects the oven had gone unused. So after many years, when I decided I wanted to use it to bend acrylic, I plugged it in and… it tripped the safety breakers in our house.
Tried again, tripped again.
Ok so the toaster oven is bust. Or is it?
I Googled and… there was the suggestion that maybe moisture had built up in the ceramic heating elements, and this was leading to ground leakage. Suggestions to dry them out? Use a hot air gun (still didn’t have mum’s on hand yet) or run it without RCD protection so that it would self-heat and dry.
I looked at the “No RCD” switch under my stove and decided – yeah nah, I better have someone with a little more expertise take a look. After all, did I really want to trust Dr Google with this diagnosis?
So I ended up at the Adelaide Repair Cafe, hosted by Makerspace Adelaide. The lovely folks there helped me to disassemble the toaster oven, to validate that ground leakage was indeed the problem, and to check for any internal corrosion or damage.
One of them did suggest the moisture issue with the elements – based on his own experience of working in physics labs where the equipment would regularly have these issues after going unused for periods of time. So we ran the toaster oven without ground protection and after about 15 minutes it was good to go.
Repair Cafes are great. A fantastic free service to breathe new life into things to save them from landfill – I was so delighted I volunteered to help at their future monthly events.
With that little Sunday afternoon adventure done, it was time to create the full squid assembly!
By now I’d been able to experiment with the RGB strip and the front and back plates of the lamp.
The plates are made from frosted and black acrylic. The black outline has been modified slightly from the original Squid design to allow for the lamp to rest on the tentacles without tipping to the side.
When cutting the frosted acrylic, I kiss-cut the outlines of where the black would be glued, so that I could find the right positions to place them. By weeding out only the areas where the black will be glued, it also reduces the risk of the frosted acrylic being damaged or marked during gluing and other construction steps.
By cutting the eye shape out of the middle of the frosted sheet it leaves a gap that can snugly hold a piece of cardboard. This cardboard serves a few different roles. Firstly, it is the mount point for the white LEDs that will illuminate the eye area. It also blocks the light that white light from blending into the rest of the lamp, and vice versa – keeping the coloured lights from bleeding into the eye area.
Because the cardboard is a tight fit, the two two faceplates can be held together by the cardboard only – and without any of the outer frame being added. Even in the final version of the lamp, I leave one faceplate unglued for easy future opening of the lamp.
This first mock-up of the barrier around the eyes is a bit messy, but for the final version I bent the cardboard along the grain so the curves came out nicer. The edges are also covered in tape to help with fitting into the gap in the frosted acrylic.
After recording the above video, I decided that I could also put the coloured lights on outside surface of the cardboard wall. This meant that I no longer needed the shell to hold the light strip, and with the light being directed outwards… why not allow it to also shine through the outer walls?
So my plan of bending 2mm black acrylic – which would be both easier to bend because of its thickness and (maybe) also because its colour would more easily absorb the heat – became a plan to bend 2mm white acrylic. But that didn’t transmit the light to my satisfaction.
The 3mm frosted (same as the front and back panels) became the goal. I decided to bend the acrylic in 4 segments, to avoid sharp corners. One for the ^ of the squid head, one for each of the sides, and a single curved piece on the base of the lamp, avoiding the pointedness of the individual tentacles.
Forming the Plastic
I made jigs to help form the heated acrylic. My first attempts to bend the acrylic over a jig didn’t work out well because the my gloved hands had trouble guiding the acrylic into the right position. So I added walls to the jig to hold the acrylic. I also added a guide to align the top piece into the bottom piece when pressing the halves together.
For the smaller pieces, I placed the bottom piece in the oven together with the acrylic piece to heat together. Annoyingly, this would affect the fit of my MDF pieces – the MDF would change shape in the heat and the joins would go loose. But other than this, the jigs were pretty effective – provided the acrylic was able to get soft enough. (“Soft enough” seemed to roughly correspond with “when the assembly appears to be smoking” but I need to find a better metric because fire and noxious fumes = bad).
The large piece over the squid head was a pain because it was too large to fit in the oven. I heated it from the ends with the oven door open and slowly it was able to bend enough for me to fit the whole thing in. A light etch in the middle of the piece allowed me to align it correctly with the jig.
The pieces aren’t bent perfectly, but they’re good enough. I glued them to one of the faceplates and the basic lamp is done!
Circuitry & Software
My LED controller software is wled – run on a Wemos D1 Mini, an ESP8266 board.
wled’s built-in colour palettes and effects are perfect for this use case, and it has a JSON API that I can use push updates from IkaLog if I ever get that integration going.
I chose a 5V LED light strip so that I could run the D1 on the same power source. The lights use 18W per meter and the plan was to use 1m per squid so I sourced a 5V 4A power supply. I didn’t use any logic shifter or resistor in my circuit… probably should, though.
I forgot the data line on the LED strip is directional when I did my first cut-up-and-resolder – which I could have gotten away with without realising if I’d happened to get it right.
The socket fitting was mounted low and centrally, so that the wires coming off it would not be visible through the frosted acrylic. The hole for the socket was cut after the acrylic was bent, and I cut a clear “washer” to affix it to. The end result is a socket that sits nice and flush with the wall!
Unfortunately, in the process of doing the final wiring and soldering… this happened.
Can you tell what the problem is? When trying to buy a bit more space to move the parts around, I unfastened this nut. Then once everything was reassembled I forgot to screw it back, and with the power plugged in the nut created a short circuit.
I fried most of my LEDs from this mishap. I salvaged a few unused ones and hey the lamp still looks… ok with partial lighting, but that’s the reason why the photos at the top of this post have a dark patch across one side.
In The Next Episode…
Thoughts for future builds:
Maybe I don’t need that extra loop of LEDs for extra brightness, it actually looks passable with only 12 LEDs (apart from the missing corner). Plus the original idea behind using three loops was so that I could provide data from either end – but that’s moot when the data line is directional.
I need to find a way to make the wire connections without needing to permanently solder things down. Manoeuvring in limited space when everything is stuck together is a pain. Even when we took apart the toaster oven, those connectors had slide on terminals… maybe I need to do the same. So spade connectors, LED strip coupling and header pins on the D1…?
To do the full 4v4 team light panel build, I think I’ll move to a 12V LED strip so that I can chain multiple panels off the same power supply. Using 12V LED strips will require extra components to step down the 12V that will power the LEDs to 5V for the the D1, as well as a logic shifter to convert the 3.3V data line to 5V (I’m getting away without a logic shifter for the 5V LED strip but it sounds like one will be needed for a 12V strip.)
Oh gosh if I do want to get that game integration working I should probably work on that code now before any Splatoon 3 footage appears and affects my motivation again…
What started as a flippant remark turned into a little project! Thanks to Toad for inspiring this undertaking.
The suits are: Eggs, featuring golden eggs from Salmon Run. This is a nice, simple substitute for the original “coin” themed suit. Bamboo,featuring the old-men of Splatoon. While Captain Cuttlefish is represented via only his bamboozler gun, DJ Octavio stands in proudly as the 1-bam. A traditional Chinese set would depict a sparrow perched on a branch; here Octavio holds a stalk of wasabi. A Japanese set would more commonly depict a peacock – I enjoyed working some of the concentric circle details that might normally go into the peacock’s tail into Octavio’s helmet. Snails, featuring my morphed rendition of a sea snail, doing its best to look like the character è¬ – ‘myriad’. (Toad said it initially struck him as being a boat – I guess as a nautical theme it works, though it doesn’t scream “Splatoon”). The character suit represents currency increments of 10,000 – when I was thinking about high-value stuff in Splatoon, sea snails sprang to mind!
I think these suits give us a nice little tour around some of the main areas of the game.
It took a bit of brainstorming to work out the dragon tiles but John suggested tying them into their loose suit associations – the green dragon is most often associated with bamboo because of the green hand, which leaves the red dragon paired with characters and the white dragon to go with balls. Luckily by the time he suggested this I had revised the eggs suit to contain more blue, so the colour association was present when he made the suggestion – though now I want to make them even more blue!
Following the colour patterns, John suggested a Steel Eel could be used to depict the frame of a white dragon. He also suggested using Inklings and Octolings for the remaining two suits – while I took an inkling for the red dragon, I decided to try something different for the green.
With the bamboo suit being inspired by the rivalry between Captain Cuttlefish and DJ Octavio, I preferred the idea of giving a little more limelight to Cuttlefish rather than a generic Octoling. In addition, the Octolings you encounter in Octo Canyon tend to be red, so I didn’t really feel right making them green.
I decided to play with the Cuttlegear logo and hint at that while also attempting to mimic the ç™¼ character. The left side of the character is meant to represent one of Captain Cuttlefish’s medals. I’m not totally happy with the current draft but it’ll do for now.
The winds are currently placeholders – I think that my handwriting is a bit ugly. I’d like to think of some thematic stuff to replace them with – so far I’m dwelling on thoughts of locations in Inkopolis Square… or something with the great Zapfish, since it got bumped from being one of the dragons…
Finally it might be fun to include a few extra tiles – perhaps the idols as season/flower tiles? Though I’m not sure how well I’d be able to pull them off with this colour palette.
Some squids with food on their heads, in imitation of the Splatoon 2 region mascots used in the European Championships and Japanese Koshien tournaments. The style was surprisingly difficult to emulate.
Here are some rejects. The Kitchener bun was the original inspiration for the whole undertaking, so I’m sad I couldn’t make it recognisable. The Milo Dinosaur was just a hurried little fun thing.
I owe a bunch of art to people, and I’ve kinda been putting off doing the art during Blaugust because it feels like each one is going to take more than a day to complete. Time to pull out the sketches and get on top of it!
For some reason, drawing this guy’s hair made me think of Mr. Kiasu, even though there’s no real resemblence. (Why is there no Wikipedia page for Mr. Kiasu?)
I did some poster art because I was hype about Squid Game at BAM!
Battle Arena Melbourne is Australia’s largest fighting game event. It’s being held this year from the 18th to 20th of May at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Center. This year we’ll be joining the fun, running Splatoon 2 events throughout the weekend!
I’m pretty proud of this artwork. The sketch, lineart, flats and draft background were all completed in a single session on Monday, with touchups done over the next couple of days.