Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Schoolhouse Rock Illuminated Planets - NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART...


Director:   I think we should do Schoolhouse Rock this year.

Me:  Oh, I remember those videos.  I loved them!

Director: I'd really like the planets to light up...  Can you do that?

Me:  Sure.  (I can't resist a crafting challenge...)

I really had no idea at first how I was going to do this, but when someone throws out a challenge like that I have to take it.  In the end, it worked out (thank Goodness!!)...  all 23 light strings worked, you could see the lights through the surface of the planets (I was worried the spray paint might block it out) and most importantly, no one batted anyone in the head with a planet by losing control of the pole it was mounted on...  awesome!

So if you're not faint of heart, you might want to make yourself some planets...  just for the heck of it.  Just remember to give youself LOOOOOTTTTSSSSSS of time. 

Here's what I used to make the basic shapes:

You need heavier gauge garden fencing, and some lighter gauge "poulty wire."  I used the one with the smaller holes - the holes were about 1 inch in diameter. 

I then cut strips of the heavier gauge wire to make a circle - the first part of the sphere for each planet.  I left some long pieces at each end so I could make loops to attach the ends together.

Next, I cut a shorter piece to round out each side.  If you cut the piece too short, you'll have a flat circle.  If you cut it too long, you'll have yourself a nice oval.  Good luck, this part was a pain in the ass.  Oops - did I just say that?

I just had to put this picture in here - see me bending the wire with my thumb?  take my advice and wear the leather gloves.  Your thumbs will thank you later.

No so bad, right? 
Next, you'll need to cover this wire ball with the smaller gauge chicken (or I think Home Depot calls it "poultry" wire)  This is the killer stuff.  It's much easier to bend, but when you cut it, the wire pokes out in all directions. 

Did I remind you yet to wear the gloves even though it's harder to work with them on than off?  Wear them. Wear them.  Wear them!

I don't have any pictures of this chicken wire stage because I was too busy poking myself with wire and patching myself up with bandaids to snap any pictures.It's not difficult - just cut a piece of chicken wire that looks as if it would cover about half of the planet.  Then wrap all the loose (pointy) ends around the nearest piece of heavier wire.  Don't forget to WEAR YOUR GLOVES!  If you are making planets on poles like I did, leave a hole at the bottom for the pole.

Oh wait, here's a picture of Saturn with chicken wire on it...

Oh, and I used gold, sparkley Christmas ribbon for the rings.  I glued it on to the wire you see here. And I wore my gloves.  by that time, I had smartened up. 

After the chicken wire, you're going to cover the planet yet again, this time with quilt batting.  I used quilt batting because I wanted something that was airy but yet with a little thickness to it so that you couldn't see the wires through the fabric.  The fluffiness of the batting diffuses the light.  Heat up your glue gun.  You can use a low temperature glue gun, but the fibers of the batting will stick to the gun, and piss you off royally, making a holy mess all over every surface within 3 feet.  Your spouse may comment that he hopes the blobs of glue come off the kitchen table.  They should, just wait for them to dry and chip them off with your fingernail.   So if you use a high temperature glue gun, get ready, you'll probably burn yourself with hot glue... unless you wear your gloves.

I tried a few methods with this - don't bother to sew a covering of fabric on it - takes WAY too long and it's no easier than just gluing batting on the wire directly.  This is how it worked best for me:  Cut a round piece of batting, big enough to cover about half of the planet.  Drap it over the top gently.  Don't drip hot glue onto the wire - most of it will just fall right through and land on the floor (does that glue come off carpeting?  Hopefully...) Instead, find the thick wire nearest to the edge of your piece of batting.  fold the batting back, and glue the underside of the batting in a line where you think it will touch the wire when you lay it down flat.  Wait a short minute for the glue to cool a bit and become more sticky and less lethally hot.  NOW, fold the batting down and stick it to the wire.  Works like a charm, but still wear your gloves anyway.  Overlap pieces of batting, but not by too much.  Your seems will add dimension to your planets, making them look like surface cracks and stuff.

Last, but not least SPRAY PAINT!  Spray paint lightly, and remember this is a prime opportunity to make URanus jokes.  The kids and I got a lot of mileage out of the name URanus.  "What color is Uranus?"  "I don't know, I've never seen it, but I imagine it should be green."  "IEWWWWW!!! hahaha!!"

To light your planets, wrap battery operated light strings around the closet poles you have already painted black (oh, did I foget to mention that? and yeah, closet poles are expensive).  make sure the switches are accessible from the bottom of the planet - on the pole.  Between the colored lights on the poles and the spray paint on the covering, you can get a whole host of colors for your planets.

Don't forget to attach them securely to the tops of the poles.  If you don't, you're sure to have one kid bounce around too much (as we did during rehearsal) and pop a hole right through Uranus with a pole.  Ouch.

This was my vantage point during the play.  When the kids took the planets ontstage, I heard the audience say "OOOOooooo" and start clapping, and you know, it was all worth it.