Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Crane vs. Crane

How could I get my cranes to glow? The answer was obvious. Ask John.

John works in my office, and is a PhD in physics-ey stuff. Not particularly in electronics, but he’s a pretty good person to go to if you want to ask about how anything works. Plus, he watches the Discovery Channel a lot, and that’s good enough for me.

We came up with a couple of ideas, which were much better than my rather over-excited “tie them all to fairy lights!” suggestion. Next up were discussions on the actual cranes – we had to know what we’d be lighting before we could decide on how to do it.

Last time I made 1000 cranes I’d used everything from scrapbooking card to takeaway menus. There were even pages from books and stickers in there. This time round, I wanted plain white (the installation is supposed to represent peace and hope, so all pure white reinforced that), and something that was easy to fold (folding card over and over is hard on the hands, and this time, I had a deadline). It also had to be fairly cheap and easy to obtain, and as the cranes would be strung up, weight had to be a factor.

I narrowed it down to two main options for the paper to make the cranes out of:

- Printer paper. The pros of this are that it’s cheap, plentiful, and easy to fold with. Cons are that it doesn’t come in squares, so I’d have to make larger cranes (I’d originally been planning cranes made from 6”x6” paper, which is the standard size of the origami paper I usually use) to square it off easily, or I’d be stuck fiddling with it for a while making sure I was cutting out a perfect square. It’s also fairly thick, so I wasn’t sure if the light would shine through it enough.

- Origami paper. Standard origami paper is pretty easy to come by around here. It’s lightweight, thin (so light shines through easily), and obviously by its very nature easy to fold. It also comes in a standard square, so I could fold straight out of the packet. However, it’s much more expensive than printer paper (around £1 for a 100 sheet pack) and it comes in lots of colours, so even if I fold it “inside out” (so the white on the back of the paper is on the outside, and the colour on the inside) the colour will still glow through if it is lit from inside, and there will be some colours in a pack I can’t use (brown and black, and possibly other darker colours, as they’d swallow up the light inside), which again would make it more expensive.

After lots of test runs of making cranes of different sizes and different colours, and shoving a handy Christmas light into it to assess light distribution, I decided that the printer paper was a better choice all round, as the larger cranes didn’t detract from the effect so I could square it off easily, and I preferred the all-white as it was a clearer connotation (can you have a clear connotation?) of the peace message I was trying to put across. The Christmas light didn’t shine through brilliantly, but it was a small yellow old-style bulb rather than the LEDs we’d been looking at, so I wasn’t too worried about it.

I’d just made my first prototype light-up crane!

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