LARP: Torches

Introduction

A couple of months ago I saw this post by the legendary crafter MagpieB0nes. I didn’t think much of it, in fact looking at the method I figured the light would be rather static and dull (although the overall aesthetic was amazing)! Fast-forward about a month and I’m discussing with the manager of a certain LARP what props I could make to make his quests more interesting. One thing that was brought up was the lack of safety involved in fighting around real fires. I instantly knew what could be done!

Preparation

The first step was to design the torch. This is one of those designs I did in my head. The basic plan was to use flickering LEDs inside a plastic tube, surrounded by the aforementioned flames, stuck on the end of a shortened beanpole, with the wiring and bindings obscured by cloth representing the ‘soaked rag’ that’s often found on old fashioned torches.

The next step was to get the materials together. All electronic components, tapes, glues, cable ties, and the plastic tubing were from eBay. All fabrics were from Fabric Land. The beanpoles weren’t actually beanpoles, I helped my neighbor demolish a thicket and in return he let me keep the wood.

The circuit:

The circuit parameters in this case were as follows:

  • The smallest maximum forward current was that of the flickering LEDs at 30 mA
  • Each LED pulls 3 V (there are three of these connected in parallel)
  • The battery is 9 V

This meant I needed a resistance of at least 300 Ω. I opted for a 330  Ω resistor. This is the circuit diagram:

This was prototyped on a breadboard and tested with a multi-meter which read 28 mA:

It was then soldered together and insulated with shrink tubing. All sharp edges and exposed wiring was hot glued for safety.

UPDATE:

I have realized the errors in my ways. In the ones I’ll sell, I’ll protect each LED with its own 110 Ω resistor. That way if one LED breaks and the current for the remaining two resistors increases by a sixth each they won’t also blow or overheat.

The flame

In the initial two prototypes, the tube was not frosted and so the individual LEDs were visible through the fabric. Frosting proved to be a successful method of hiding the LEDs:

Without frosting, the individual LEDs are visible as glowing patches, making it clear that this is not a natural flame.

With frosting, though patches of light are still visible, they’re more dispersed and mixed, giving the effect of a natural flame.

The initial plan with the cloth was to create an enormous loose heap of yellow around the core then hot glue the rest of the fabric over it and melt it together with a flatiron as suggested in the above instructions. This however proved impractical and gave unaesthetic results. I therefore opted to twist two layers onto the core and stitch it in place with a simple three point staple stitch. Unfortunately the amount of red fabric emerging from the top was too much (it was not illuminated), and the yellow around the core was poking out and uneven in places:

In the final prototype I only let the second layer of yellow go half way up the core, and only stitched it at the the very tip (with it not extending far beyond the tip of the core). Finally, the red fabric only emerged a couple of centimeters above the tip of the core, but was stitched at the tip of the core, allowing it to hang loosely:

Operation and ease of use

Originally the circuitry and switch was concealed under a hessian sheet fastened with a button, but this was found to be unsightly as well as being fiddly in the dark, and so the switch was positioned such that it could be reached without opening the casing. The final prototype has velcro in place of a button making it easier to open, as well as a second strip of velcro allowing one to conceal the flame when not in use:

The results

Here is a video taken of the finished product (prototype 3) in the dark:

 

2 comments

  1. Becky says:

    This looks fantastic and the write-up is excellently detailed so it could easily be replicated. Marvelous job!

    • NajeyRifai says:

      Thanks for your kind words, Becky. The plan is that people read these guides and try to make, or even improve the project.

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