Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Chibitronics: Paper Lanterns

Note: This post was originally written last Fall but I didn't post it. Since I'm short on time, I'll post it now. Enjoy!

This is so EASY. I love how these paper lanterns can be hung up ANYWHERE. Seriously, a paper lantern that glows on a battery so you don't have to worry about cords or lines. Hang 'em outside in a tree for a great backyard party!

I have always loved paper lanterns and when they light up, I get all giddy inside! I used the components from the Starter Kit at Chibitronics to make a super simple circuit that you can slide inside the lantern to light it up with battery power! The best part is that the circuit is super simple, it can slide in and out of the lantern, and the top binder clip becomes a hook that you can attach a line to to string it up!

You'll need these items to get started and this makes ONE paper lantern.
Paper lantern (with metal frame)
copper tape
5 LED stickers (white)
3V lithium flat battery (1)
binder clip
exacto knife

I bought my paper lanterns at Oriental Trading Company. I got blue but they come in a variety of colors and the small ones are about 5" in diameter. These paper lanterns come flat and they have a metal frame that gets inserted down the center to hold it open. This metal frame has a loop extension (used to attach a string to hang it up) and this is the important part. This loop is what is going to hold your circuit inside the lantern.

See that metal loop in there? That's what you need. I'm not sure if all brands or sizes of paper lanterns have this so be sure its there. It makes this project quick and easy. Here's how it works:

1. From the cardstock, cut a piece that's just smaller in width than your metal frame, about 1 inch wide and 1 1/2" longer than the frame. You want a piece of cardstock that will nestle inside the frame but be longer so you can fold over the top to hold the battery. Like this:

These are the front and the back of the cardstock with the circuit already on it.
2. You need to make your fold at the top of the cardstock to hold the battery. Just tuck the battery in there and fold over it. Then, remove the battery and crease the cardstock well.
3. Make a slit in the cardstock with an exacto knife. The slit should be big enough for that metal loop to slide through and it should be positioned just under the flap when closed. (You can see it in the second photo above. It's that hole just to the right of where the copper tape ends.)
4. Make your circuit. Using the copper tape and LED stickers from Chibitronics, assemble your circuit. This is a straight forward circuit, nothing fancy. Just lay the copper tape from the negative side in a straight line and fold over to the back. Do the same with the positive battery line. Just make sure the tape doesn't cross or touch anywhere.
Once you have added the LED stickers, just add the battery and fold over the flap. Add a binder clip to hold it closed and the lights should come on. (If they don't, or one or two are flickering, you just need to make a better connection between the light and the tape. I press them down with a bone folder to make sure the stickers are stuck on. I may need to add another piece of copper tape over the top of the sticker if my gap between the parallel lines of tape is a bit too big.)

5. Now that you have this piece, it's just a matter of assembly. Put the metal frame into the paper lantern. Add your circuit by slipping the cardstock down the center and sliding the metal loop at the top of the lantern through the slit in your cardstock. The binder clip is now your hangar and the lights will stay on as long as the clip is in place.
REMEMBER: if you remove the clip, the battery will fall out as it is not attached to anything!

To disassemble the lantern, just remove the circuit first. Unhook it from the loop and then pull it out of the lantern. Once removed, you can take off the binder clip and remove the battery from it. Then, you can remove the metal frame from the lantern to fold it back down flat. All these pieces can then be stored away and used again!
Wasn't that easy?!
Now you can really get creative! You can decorate the outside of the lanterns for extra pop. You can dangle streamers from the bottom of the lanterns for a bit of movement or to make these small lanterns seem larger. These would liven up any party! Personally, I'm thinking of orange ones with jack o' lantern faces for Halloween!

You can find the light stickers and circuit supplies at Chibitronics to turn your ordinary paper lanterns into something extraordinary.

Have a great week!

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